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Thread: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

  1. #26
    Nintendo Lover Tori's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Though I appreciate and enjoy her work, I have at least a few small quibbles:

    I'm not a fan of her criticism of female characters that are given what's typically considered masculine gender roles or traits. (http://www.feministfrequency.com/wp-...-FINAL-web.pdf) The problem with this line of criticism is that it cedes universals like rational thinking, independence, physical fitness or decisiveness as specifically male traits, instead of useful or healthy habits for absolutely anyone of either gender to employ. While making role models for women that are devoid of other positive healthy habits for a person of any gender typically associated with femininity (cooperation, empathy, etc.) is a valid criticism, the aforesaid criticism is not at all. Take Elanor Arroway from Contact, for instance. She's a reserved person who values rationality highly in her worldview, and is largely independent of everyone else's expectations and intentions during the course of the novel. Is she a "bad" character from a gender relations perspective due to having these traits typically affiliated with men? No, of course not, and if it were, how would we revise it without seriously infringing upon the core of her character as a determined skeptic? We don't solve a false dichotomy of feminine/masculine behavior by revising it (as is illustrated in Table 3), we solve it by ceasing to believe that there's meaningful similarities and differences in two groups of 3.5 billion individuals.

    Another troubling aspect is the reoccurring criticism of violent conflict and plot resolution in video games, film, television, etc.. This, from a storytelling perspective, has very little to do with a patriarchal culture and more to do with how violence is a more direct, faster-paced and visually impressive way of illustrating conflict than, say, conversation. And more to the point, militarism or violence is not an exclusively male domain. Sure, those aren't always a healthy way of resolving conflicts for anyone, but critiquing it because it's typically considered masculine has the same problems as the ones outline above.

    But aside those from digressions, I like the series.
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  2. #27
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Quote Originally Posted by JKLM View Post
    I was gonna say that other M is a perfect example, but SNF beat me to the punch. ._.

    Other M I'm iffy on cause I was kind hoping to give some personality to Samus, who for years was basically a walking tank with no feelings and would strip for players at the end of the game if they would complete it fast enough.

    Then again, I don't know if the personality was worse than before.

    Plus I don't know why they felt the need to randomly enlarge Samus' lady pecs for no apparent reason. I have nothing against her l
    The issue though, is that Samus already had personality defined for her in both Super Metroid, Zero Mission, and subsequently, Fusion. This showcases Samus as one who's not afraid to dive into hostile environments - alone, mind you, with little support or guidance from others - so why does Other M suddenly portray Samus as a whimpering clingy woman who needs her big strong man to help her?

    If anyone wants to argue that "she didn't have any personality", let's take a notable example during the intro sequence of Super Metroid - Samus immediately responds to a distress signal that the space station is under attack, and runs into her old adversary, Ridley, back from the dead. Without any hesitation after escaping from the exploding space station, she has the realization that Ridley must have ran to Zebes, and pursues him there, beginning the events of the game.

    Do we have anything like that happening in Other M? Part of this is admittedly due to a different approach with the game design, but a large part of this is focused on trying to give Samus some defined "character" through words, rather than her actions.

    And that's a huge thing that a lot of games have trouble with nowadays - they want to force a story through words more than actions, and that can get repetitive and boring very quickly.

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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Other M involved Samus (who had previously been viewed as a feminist icon in games) obeying every word from a male authority figure who doesn't care about her. She even turned off vital parts of her suit until he gave her permission to use them. It didn't matter if she needed that Varia Suit, the male authority figure hadn't approved it yet so she had to be a good girl and listen.

    It's an incredibly sexist game.
    Last edited by Superninfreak; June 21st, 2012 at 11:55 PM.
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  4. #29
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Quote Originally Posted by JKLM View Post
    Actually He actually reminded me of a lot of things from super metroid.

    So now I remember what a metroid geek I am, so prepare:

    Ive read pretty interesting theories, but some have failed to explain ridley's strange appearance as perfectly normal in super. To start off; here is a list off the games in order in story:

    Metroid zero mission
    Metroid prime
    Metroid
    ...What does this have to do with the topic?

    This is about the Tropes v. Women project, this is not a place to discuss random facts about Metroid.

    (Also Zero Mission is a Remake of Metroid, not a prequel to it. And Prime takes after the original Metroid)
    Last edited by Superninfreak; June 22nd, 2012 at 12:10 AM.
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  5. #30
    Nintendo Lover Tori's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    THE HISTORY OF SAMUS: A RETROSPECTIVE WITH ATTENTION TO GENDER RELATIONS

    In 1986, a fascinating side scrolling action-game with a focus on exploration in a mysterious horror science-fiction setting inspired by Alien hit the scene in Japan and a year later in the U.S. The protagonist of the game was something or someone that resembled a robot with a dedicated arm cannon, that by developer whim, was decided to be a woman wearing a power suit named Samus Aran.

    In terms of the earliest promotional material, the oldest was a humorous strategy guide manga in Japan that portrayed Samus as a presumably male bumbling hero. But the earliest material that portrayed Samus Aran more fully was the Nintendo Comics System in 1990, which gave this basic back story in addition to the one we were supplied in the manual of the game in a story called "The Coming of a Hero":

    "In the Galactic Federation, only one being in a million is qualified to join the Federation Police Force. The annals of police history tell of a woman who not only qualified but completed the training course in record time, graduated first in her class...
    ...and became the youngest police officer ever promoted to the elite Star-Tracker Squad! Her name was Samus Aran. Star Trackers! Only one police officer in a million is chosen. Each works alone, hunting down criminals in the galaxy. Equipped by the Federation with weapons and cybernetic superpowers, they are nearly invincible! And Samus was the best ever!
    But then, something mysterious happened in the vastness of space. Without warning, Samus left the police force and disappeared. When Samus reappeared, she would not speak about why she left the force. She became a free agent- a Galactic Bounty Hunter, taking on missions others declared impossible."

    In the rest of the series, she's portrayed as a loner, confident (even a bit cocky), and pretty much a combination of Han Solo and Princess Leia (which is probably what they were going for.) In Captain N, she even has the character flaw of greed and obsession with money, which makes sense considering she's a bounty hunter.

    A few things stand out in retrospect is that she got to where she was by her own volition. It wasn't circumstances at all. She was just so badass, that she took on a position that any being in the galaxy had a trillion in one chance to have. The suit wasn't mystical, it was just tools.

    In 1991, Metroid II: the Return of Samus came out in the US, and in 1992, it came out in Japan. In it, she saved a baby Metroid from death out of empathy in a twist ending. This would be the beginning of the maternal themes in Japanese Samus, though this didn't change the portrayal of Samus at all in the US.



    In 1994, Super Metroid came out in both the US and Japan, portraying the capture of the Baby Metroid by Ridley, a return to Zebes, and the final destruction of Mother Brain with the help of the Baby Metroid. In Japan, a series of humorous four-panel comics portrayed a cute, almost always helmetless Samus being eccentric, clumsy, and very Moe. In the US, a serious action-oriented comic book series based on Super Metroid came out, wherein the power suit's origins are "revealed", as is the tragic backstory of Samus Aran. There's a stark contrast here in why Samus is a heroine than in the earlier comic:

    "A while ago I extinguished two big threats...
    It was my fighting finesse and the Power Suit! That made me... Protector of the Galaxy!"

    Fascinating how her heroism came from her sheer ability in the first comic with the power suit being incidental hardware, and now it's the suit that helped make her Protector of the Galaxy. Not even her training was a result of individual achievement anymore, (though she's still credited with having warrior instincts by the peaceful Chozo) and is only noteworthy because she's a lone survivor, not a badass who surmounted a one in a trillion chance through sheer effort.

    In 1999, she was included in Super Smash Bros., and in 2001 she was included in its sequel Melee, while the series itself went silent from 1994 until 2002. In 2002, a schism was created between the USA and Japan's depictions of Samus.

    The U.S. based Retro Studios interpreted Samus Aran as a silent protagonist whose gun and spaceship did all of the talking that was necessary in Metroid Prime. This is largely echoed in the accompanying comic. Within the game, Samus Aran was almost completely isolated, and moves along in the plot through her own volition. She investigated the Orpheon, and pursued Ridley to Tallon IV for final vengeance against the Space Pirates.

    In Japan, Metroid Fusion interpreted Samus Aran much differently. In this game, she talked to herself more often than not, and was guided by Adam Malkovich, her commanding officer in the Galactic Federation. Adam is the most active and heroic character in the story, ursuping Samus' role entirely. Even in gameplay and aesthetics Samus is depowered (the emphasis on stealth and the Fusion Suit, respectively). This would be the beginning of a trend.

    In the same year (2002), the Metroid manga was released, retelling the story presented in the earlier U.S. Super Metroid comic in chronological order. She's depicted as a victim who is dependent on the Chozo, who had to motivate her to fight; Trauma from her victimization was also a major motivation. No longer is there even "warrior instincts" to her credit. She's pushed along by the actions of everyone else but her own, and got to where she is because of the Chozo. Her superhuman abilities? Chozo blood. Her finesse and skill? Chozo training. Her drive and motivation? Chozo encouragement as well as victimization by the Space Pirates. She was reduced from a one in a trillion badass with unrivaled skill to just a victim in extraordinary circumstances.



    In 2004, the manga was infused into canon with Metroid: Zero Mission, sealing the absolutely critical nature of the Power Suit and the helplessness of Samus without it. Since the game it was based on came out, the Power Suit went from tools in capable hands to the magical artifact that makes the defenseless girl above into a Sentai hero. In the US, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes essentially continued the prior characterization from the first game, as does Metroid Prime 3: Corruption in 2007.

    These two differing portrayals of Samus, the one perpetuated by the likes of the Nintendo Comics System and Metroid Prime, and the one perpetuated by the manga and main series games, finally came to a showdown in Metroid: Other M in 2010. The result was not pretty. Even though it was largely more of the same from Fusion, it was the exact same medium as Prime, forcing players in the U.S. to come to terms with how Samus' character has... "evolved" over the years.

    So that's the story of how Metroid: Other M came to be what it is: the result of two very different perspectives on the culture provided by two different cultural lenses crashing together with a sickening crunch in the realm of gender relations.
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  6. #31
    Currently Obsessed with Primary Colors JKLM's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Quote Originally Posted by Superninfreak View Post
    ...What does this have to do with the topic?

    This is about the Tropes v. Women project, this is not a place to discuss random facts about Metroid.

    (Also Zero Mission is a Remake of Metroid, not a prequel to it. And Prime takes after the original Metroid)
    Hold on. I did not mean to post that. I started writing and then I realized that it had nothing to do with the topic. Thus the incomplete post.

    Deleting if you don't mind. I really dont know how that posted. This really doesn't help my previous infraction. XD

    EDIT: last time I ever do anything on my iPod. I accidentally deleted my first post here. ._.

    Also I know that metroid prime was after the original. I use zero mission INSTEAD of Metroid. The "metroid" on that list was going to be "metroid prime 2". But by then I realized I was rambling.

    I also did enjoy the Japanese manga style comic strips with samus. I never exactly considered them "cannon" so per se, though.
    Last edited by JKLM; June 22nd, 2012 at 11:58 AM.

  7. #32
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    The point is, in regards to bringing up Samus, was that she - was - an example of a female character that's more than just fanservice, that she has an identity and a character to her as well.

    This, however, had changed when modern times had caught up and storytelling had to be applied to her, bringing up Other M and going back to that. This not only changed what people thought of Samus in this "canon" entry into the series, but also destroyed the perspective that she was this strong independent woman capable of diving into danger alone and not having to rely on anyone else - let alone her big strong love interest abusive jerk man to come save her when she needed it.

    As shown with Tori's above text - Samus had gone through some changes in storytelling(though I'd still wager that Samus would be doing the job there begrudgingly taking orders from her CO, as she says so herself, and even defies orders from time to time anyway), again, most notably in Other M.

    That's a bad portrayal of a woman in video games, and isn't that what this whole documentary series was going to be about in the first place?

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  8. #33
    Currently Obsessed with Primary Colors JKLM's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    I would think Samus even then was a shade of gray. Sure, she was very strong earlier on. Even though Other M attempted the whole maternal aspect of Samus' long list of sorrows, it still doesnt do it quite as well Super Metroid does it. In Super Metroid, she is kind of given a more of a motherly bear type of personality. When her "baby" was taking away, she went almost beserk and went to take down Ridley. There is so much subtle stuff conveyed in that game which makes it amazing. The entire time, it is kind of like Ridley is toying with Samus, literally bringing back ghosts from her pasts. It becomes more blatant when Samus hastily takes down Draygon, only to discover she was just a mother trying to protect her children. Which then led to a gruesome battle to the death with Ridley (in which Samus spares no mercy, and gruesomely DISMEMBERS Ridley at the end of the battle. Other bosses just blinked away, Ridley fell apart Piece by piece.) Only to discover that her baby was already long gone. It can be argued that this "mother bear" aspect might be a little sexist, but it is at the very least a stronger trope than usual. ESPESCIALLY compared to the more whiny aspect in Other M.

    And yet, all is kind of void as you are rewarded with Samus stripping down to a bikini at the end.

    I think its safe to say Samus is definitely an odd shade of gray in this topic.
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  9. #34
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Quote Originally Posted by JKLM View Post
    I would think Samus even then was a shade of gray...
    The problem once again comes with the presentation. You're essentially repeating what's already been said, but you're giving the fanservice reward for speedrunning too much credit to its own name.

    The fact that one can give Samus much more characterization in a game with little dialogue(counting the "monologue" from Samus in the intro) shows that one can characterize a female more through her actions and less through words words words. The fact that they tried to give her more of a personality in Other M yet somehow managed to make her look much less heroic/daring in the process says a lot.

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  10. #35
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Quote Originally Posted by Superninfreak View Post
    I watched a couple of the videos she's already released.

    They're okay. Her videos are much fairer than I expected them to be, though I don't fully agree with her arguments (ie. she'd go after certain tropes as inherently bad while I'd argue that they have their place, and occasionally she'd bring up an example where I thought the trope was justified).

    So she's much more nuanced and less extreme than I initially feared, which is good.
    There was really nothing to indicate she'd say or do anything extreme apart from the visceral reaction from some corners of the gaming community.

    Stereotypes are pretty much always bad basically because they stem from white, straight male 'observations'. Although feel free to provide an example of good stereotypes.
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  11. #36
    Putting a cap in your benefits Forum Moderator Superninfreak's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    While we're talking about Metroid I'm reminded of a couple other interesting ways Nintendo has handled women.

    Princess Peach is gaming quintessential damsel in distress, but she got a bit of development in the Mario RPGs. It still wasn't anything to write home about, but she did seem somewhat independent. Of course, then Nintendo released Super Princess Peach, where Peach had to save Mario. Ordinarily this would be an interesting reversal, but Peach goes about it by using the power of her emotions, which is kind of an unfortunate design choice. I'm honestly surprised Nintendo released Super Princess Peach with how blatant the misogyny was.

    Tetra from Wind Waker was actually a very independent person who knew what she was doing. She was usually several steps ahead of Link, who in comparison seemed to have no clue what he was getting into. Unfortunately later in the game
    the second it's revealed she's the descendent of Zelda, she just hangs out in Hyrule for the rest of the game and lets Link handle things, only to get kidnapped by Ganon towards the end. Not exactly consistent with her previous character.


    Nintendo seems to go back and forth between progressive portrayals and...less progressive portrayals, sometimes within the same game.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyanide_ View Post
    Stereotypes are pretty much always bad basically because they stem from white, straight male 'observations'. Although feel free to provide an example of good stereotypes.
    I didn't say anything about stereotypes, I was talking about tropes, which are completely different.
    Last edited by Superninfreak; June 22nd, 2012 at 04:30 PM.
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  12. #37
    Too ignorant to be an oil tycoon VIP Curus's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Quote Originally Posted by Superninfreak View Post
    While we're talking about Metroid I'm reminded of a couple other interesting ways Nintendo has handled women.

    Princess Peach is gaming quintessential damsel in distress, but she got a bit of development in the Mario RPGs. It still wasn't anything to write home about, but she did seem somewhat independent. Of course, then Nintendo released Super Princess Peach, where Peach had to save Mario. Ordinarily this would be an interesting reversal, but Peach goes about it by using the power of her emotions, which is kind of an unfortunate design choice. I'm honestly surprised Nintendo released Super Princess Peach with how blatant the misogyny was.
    I have seen an interpretation of the game which states Princess Peach is portrayed less as hysterical because she is utilising her emotions as weapons etc., which implies controlling them. I don't quite believe it, but I've not played the game either. I figured you just might find it interesting. Maybe give it your magical seal of approval or somethin'.


    Either way, what I find really interesting about Princess Peach and her characterisation is the reaction of some fans toward it.
    I mean lemme give a little example from our very own forum. A Mr. King Zant (wow, double title yo) has a picture in his signature featuring Peach getting punched in the face by a berzerk Mario. And based on some of the responses in the Avatar/Signature Rating thread, there are more than enough people who like this signature, with high ratings and comments confirming that, yes, it is about Peach getting punched.

    So I asked him why, and he said he hated Princess Peach.

    I asked him why he hated her, and he said (paraphrasing here):
    "She's a flat character. In most games she has no characterisation and exists purely to be rescued. In the games where she is given a personality, it is usually passive and one-dimensional."
    I asked him if he would feel more personable towards the princess if she was given a fuller characterisation in a later game. So far, he hasn't answered, presumably because he is a huge wuss (DISCLAIMER: I do not believe King Zant is a wuss. At least not without repeated offenses >:3).

    Anyway, so: The hate of Princess Peach. I do not think it is just Zant who hates the flat, stereotypical monarch - at the very least, someone else had to have enough investment in the idea to make that picture. But if these are the common reasons for hating her, well, I think people have caught on to something - Princess Peach is a plot device far more than she is a person.
    But these folks who hate Princess Peach do not hate her creators equally. They do not hate the way she is written, hate the stereotypes that inform her, they do not go out and demand we get a better damn princess with some actual backbone or our money back. They simply hate her. Perhaps because it's far easier to hate someone fictional than it is to hate a bad writer, because they tend to be real people with real thoughts and feelings.

    So to summarise - this isn't just some thing made up by scary women on the internet who take things too far omg (>:3). Regular-ass dudes catch onto it. And, sadly, choose the easy route which requires no analysis. That is what interests me about the Princess Peach deal.
    And, for that matter, since I know this forum is full of early adolescents with relatively, uh, conservative upbringings (or whatever the word is for an upbringing that makes kids call any risqué joke in BitF 'disturbing') - 'disturbed' by some of the 'fanservice' and sexualisation in games? Congrats, you're in on the conspiracy now!


    Also, can I just express some small satisfaction that we are now actually talking about things in this thread instead of basically speculating about videos that don't even exist yet.
    Last edited by Curus; June 22nd, 2012 at 05:39 PM.

  13. #38
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Peach is a pretty bad character, yeah.

    I don't usually mind her quite as much as some other examples though because Mario (outside of the RPGs, but Peach is a little more developed in those) only has a "plot" as an excuse for the adventure to start, and because damsel in distress is so ubiquitous that I don't think using that trope is necessarily malicious.

    That doesn't excuse doing it, but I think other examples like Tetra are more upsetting. Zelda tends to handle this worse than Mario, since it has an actual plot, and since the damsel in distress is usually done to make competent female characters powerless towards the end.

    Also, I actually have played Super Princess Peach and it really is actively sexist.

    Finally, while I agree that Peach is a bad character, I still think having a picture of Mario punching her has some unfortunate implications itself.
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    Phonetics do wonders. Forum Moderator Eltrotraw's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    I think the main thing that was covered about Super Princess Peach was already touched upon, mainly that Peach could use her emotions - Joy, Gloom, Rage and Calm - to help her travel through all the levels of the game. The game itself was clearly trying to pander toward more casual players, seeing how easy it was to beat the game and the lack of difficulty the game presented itself with.

    Looking at the Wikipedia article alone, a few criticisms regarding the game's lack of difficulty:

    So who was this game marketed toward? If this was marketed to give Peach a more "independent" role, seeing how the whole premise of the title is role reversal where Mario/Luigi are the ones kidnapped rather than Peach, then does this mean it was pandering more towards females who could identify with Peach's struggle, or casual players who didn't want a difficult game... or both?

    Keep in mind this is a very important element to consider - the target audience - if we're talking about these sorts of tropes or whatnot being used for women in videogames.

    SNF is right in saying there was some implied misogyny in the game, or at least, the fact that several other reviews and criticisms regarding the game popped up regarding that issue as well - particularly the tools Peach was given to solve her problems, which in this case consisted of her emotions. Going through those reviews again...

    If we're going to however bring up the picture Zant brought up, let's consider how much many of us are willing to accept the idea of Mario punching Peach - for different reasons, but still. Does this mean that we've got a weakly defined character? If we replaced Peach in that instance with another character, would the reaction be the same, or how much would it change?

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  15. #40
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Quote Originally Posted by Superninfreak View Post
    Tetra from Wind Waker was actually a very independent person who knew what she was doing. She was usually several steps ahead of Link, who in comparison seemed to have no clue what he was getting into. Unfortunately later in the game
    the second it's revealed she's the descendent of Zelda, she just hangs out in Hyrule for the rest of the game and lets Link handle things, only to get kidnapped by Ganon towards the end. Not exactly consistent with her previous character.
    This very much reminds me of an analysis I'd heard about Sheik in OOT (can't remember where I read this). It wasn't even really clear if Sheik was supposed to be male or female (and Ruto's comment about a "man named Sheik" doesn't exactly help). This kind of freed Sheik from male/female stereotypes--it didn't matter if this was a man or a woman because he/she was awesome in his/her own right and looked and acted in a way that would be believable for either gender. I probably don't need to mention that Sheik has been a fan favorite even before SSBM?

    Then when the disguise came off and it was revealed to be Zelda (complete with a dress and makeup, which aren't bad in and of themselves but clearly mark her as female), as if on cue she is immediately captured by Ganondorf and begins waiting for you to come and rescue her. What happened to the competent ninja you could never keep up with long enough to ask a question? What changed enough in those 60 seconds to bring about a pendulum swing like this? (It kind of makes sense given Ganondorf's reasoning he reveals during the moment, but it's still another example worth noting here.)

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    Alright, so I don't know if anyone's been paying attention, but starting March we got an episode, and the third episode was just released. If you haven't seen them, please watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6p5A...fjzE62esf9yP61 (A playlist of the 3 current episodes) before commenting. Also note that they are full of spoilers, as listed off in each episodes description.

    Then, let's here what everyone thinks. Remember, this is simply a commentary on how women have largely been portrayed in video games. This is not an attack on video games. I don't think anyone can deny the fact that there are a plethora of games which don't put women in an active role, and are very dominated by men.

    I think we should try to make this a calm discussion. It does not matter whether you are male or female - your input is equally valid and interesting. Let's agree that video games should be enjoyed by everyone, and males and females are equally entitled to play them.

    Also refrain from calling anyone 'sexist'. That is a loaded term and a personal attack. Rather, (because this is a controversial topic), let us assume that everyone means well if they post here. Evaluate only what they say, and its effects. If you think that it has an effect on the popular conception of genders, then feel free to argue why, but only focus on the argument, not on saying that whoever said it must thereby be sexist.

    With that as our code of conduct, let us discuss this controversial topic!

    --------------------------------------------

    My input is that she does a good job of deconstructing the 'Damsel in Distress' trope, and it's social implications.

    However, she also paints an overly grim picture. She fails to spend much time on counter-examples - simply mentioning that some exist but that they are rare. Yet she gives no examples.

    Games such as Metroid or Pokémon get no mention, even though they have stared a female protagonist (or the complete and total option for one) for a very long time, and it saddens me that they haven't gotten a mention yet (though of course, we have only covered the 'Damsel in Distress', which these games don't include). However, she does seem to imply that few games give females a proper starring role due to the Damsel in Distress trope. I think that Metroid and Pokémon, as some of the strongest selling games, should not be ignored so readily.

    Sadly, she also gives a big misunderstanding of the Kid Icarus games. While talking about helpless 'damsels in distress', she has an unnamed image of Lady Palutena, implying that Kid Icarus is just another case of 'Damsel in Distress' - not even worthy of mention. First off, Lady Palutena was taken captive by Medusa (another female of equal strength). Secondly, it is not so much a romantic interest nor a 'powerless female'. Medusa personally holds Palutena hostage - which if Pit were in the same situation he would be equally immobile. Simply because Pit is less guarded, he can gather Palutena's treasures and use her power to defeat Medusa. Afterwards, it is strongly implied that Palutena goes back to the powerful position of Goddess of Light, and peach can be restored. Definitely not your typical damsel in distress, and most certainly not a good example of female subjugation. Moreover, Kid Icarus Uprising presents excellent characterization of all characters, has strong females in the cast, and includes females with full autonomy (including Medusa at the end).

    I think that the role of female characters in the video game industry shows optimistic improvement. Maybe it's just the games I play, but there has been very little subtle sexism that she mentions. I think Legend of Zelda has taken great strides, Mario could maybe use some improvements (but Paper Mario, on the other hand... Thousand Year Door and Super Paper Mario provide a lot of powerful counter examples to the Damsel in Distress), etc. So I think it's not as grim as Feminist Frequency seems to argue...

    What do you all think?
    Last edited by Eltrotraw; August 2nd, 2013 at 04:22 PM.


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    Phonetics do wonders. Forum Moderator Eltrotraw's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    I'm leaving this as a bump for discussion of the episodes - the Kickstarter's already gone and done, so episode discussion can go here whenever. I see no reason not to put episode discussion in here.

    I have a few things that I can think of saying about her episodes - mainly that she's nitpicking at certain things, the last big thing I remember was her complaining about Fat Princess and Noriko in Playstation Allstars being "unrepresentative of women in video games", but we see some above here with discussion about Samus being another point - but I haven't paid too much attention to really care too much about it.

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  18. #43
    romance option Lady of the Arena Lenore's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Quote Originally Posted by Helios View Post
    Games such as Metroid or Pokémon get no mention, even though they have stared a female protagonist (or the complete and total option for one) for a very long time, and it saddens me that they haven't gotten a mention yet (though of course, we have only covered the 'Damsel in Distress', which these games don't include). However, she does seem to imply that few games give females a proper starring role due to the Damsel in Distress trope. I think that Metroid and Pokémon, as some of the strongest selling games, should not be ignored so readily.
    I do think that she probably hasn't spoken about these franchises because of her chosen focus on the Damsel in Distress trope, but in the case of Pokemon, I definitely think there's something else on top of that. In my opinion, allowing the player character to be either male or female is not, in fact, either progressive or feminist. (And not because most gamers would still quite possibly end up picking the male PC). Especially in games such as Pokemon, where the PC is a near-silent hero and therefore essentially a cipher, the protagonist's gender doesn't end up meaning anything. I think she's rather arguing for more games designed around female protagonists instead of male or interchangeable ones.

    Anyway, I watched these videos as they've come out, so I honestly can't remember that much of what she said, although I do recall having some problems. For instance, let's take her critique of Spelunky (which, disclaimer, I myself haven't played). Do I think it's an issue that rescuing princesses grants you extra life? Not really. Do I think that allowing the player to choose between rescuing men, women or dogs equates women with animals? Not at all. Do I think it's an issue that you're meant to knock the princesses unconscious and try carry them to the exit? Yeah, that's actually kind of problematic.

    I don't think most games which employ a central Damsel in Distress trope are intentionally sexist, but it kinda feels like Sarkeesian likes to make it out to be the case. I mean, rescuing a female character is an easy way of kicking off a plot, and I doubt most game designers would be making use of such a trope because they personally think that women are helpless or useless or whatever. Uncreative it may be - and I'm certainly not trying to defend this trope or its widespread use - but they're just drawing on tropes which are already deeply entrenched in the public imagination. Yeah, it sucks that such a problematic trope which reinforces dodgy notions about gender is so common, but I think it's more a case of developers not necessarily thinking about this and all its ramifications rather than actively trying to contribute to the patriarchy or whatever.

  19. #44
    Mr. Dragmire Snifit's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Lenore, I agree that most developers don't think of the ramifications of using the trope. That's the problem though. I think what she is trying to do is just examine and explain problematic aspects of women in gaming. Yes the "damsel in distress" is a trope and no one truly believes that women are incapable of being strong, but it is still there. People should know that all these things still exist.

    I never realized the implications of Puppet Zelda until I watched her second episode. Now, while I still love the "evil Zelda" I can see how bad it is, on one level.

    There's nothing wrong with liking problematic things. You just need to recognize the problems they have.

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    Member and Part Time Sun God Helios's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Well, the problem with 'posessed' women is if they are overused, I feel. In the case of Legend of Zelda, there isn't a whole lot of emphasis on that, so it doesn't feel as much of an issue of 'needing to exert dominance over a woman' as an issue of how low Ganon is willing to stoop. Especially because Zelda helps you later on.


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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Honestly, I don't think she didn't have her information backed up too well, and was using terms that didn't fit the topic. Don't get me wrong- I think it's a great idea to defend the whole women's rights thing in video games, but... Some of these kidnapped, possessed, and even dead, mechanics are needed for the storyline. Also, there are many counter arguments on YouTube which, as a gamer myself, think are more relevant and use better information than the tropes vs women in video games video. Seriously, I think you guys should check them out. They seem to do more research. Another thing is she kept on assuming what the video game characters think of they're wives. Just because they're angry that their wife/girlfriend got killed, or trapped, doesn't mean that "They have lost an item," it probably means they lost someone that they love. Again, I think it would be a really great video, but it should have been backed up a little more.

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    Member and Part Time Sun God Helios's Avatar
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    Right, I think everyone understands the use within the story as a valid plot development. She argues that it is perfectly fine if women die or are injured as a part of the story.

    However, what Ms. Sarkeesian is arguing is that many of these stories add nothing past that. It's understood that if the designers actually cared enough to embellish the character of some of these women, it'd actually make a good game. Instead, the trope too often provides one dimensional women who's only purpose is to be acted upon as a plot device. They do nothing, add nothing to the story, other than offer incentive for the "proper" characters (overwhelmingly men) to take action.

    Additionally, it's rarely seen that an important male figure is merely a plot device. They get characterization much more. Male figures who drive major plot points get characterized, hands down. Yet its somehow OK, due to the Damsel in Distress trope, for a woman to be absolutely nothing but a plot device.

    Now I'll be the first to argue that there are plenty of games where this isn't the case - more then Fem Frequency acknowledged. But just because it's a long standing plot device does NOT mean that it is ok to ignore its potentially major ramifications.


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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    I guess it is pretty uncreative to have that as the main plot, but frankly, in reality, losing a loved one is a pretty big deal. I do though, agree that it is lazy and can use more creativity, but that has nothing to do with women's rights, and more to do with lazy writers. Instead of making a good plot, they stick with the original girl gets captured/dies plot.

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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    So far, I've only seen Part 1, and I'm sad that she didn't mention Twilight Princess when talking about games in which the hero gets captured, but then escapes. Link would have been trapped in the castle dungeon indefinitely had the female Midna not broken him free and guided him to safety.

    EDIT: Also, while discussing role reversals, sadly no mention of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, in which
    first Raynor is "killed" to give Kerrigan motivation to use the power of the Zerg to wipe out Mengsk, then when she learns that Raynor is still alive, she uses the power of the Zerg to bust him out of there
    .
    Last edited by Sparklesqueak; August 10th, 2013 at 10:22 PM.

  25. #50
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    Re: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

    WARNING: some of the videos below contain partial nudity, very graphic depictions of violence and other things unfit for younger users - viewing of those videos by minors is strongly discouraged

    Here's a big, big bump of this topic. Sarkeesian released several new videos over the course of 2014, of which the last one unfortunately coincided with the inflation of GamerGate, and has recently stated she intends to start some new series, one to discuss masculinity in video games and one to discuss better representations on women.

    But first I'll post the links to all videos, some together with an appropriate warning, all with a longish to mid-sized summary except for the latest one. Yes, the summaries are strictly speaking unnecessary, but we have seen a collective failure of reading comprehension on the part of some for quite some time.

    Video 1: Damsel in Distress: Part 1
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6p5AZp7r_Q
    The opening video starts Sarkeesian's discussion of the ubiquitous damsel in distress trope. After telling an (often challenged) anecdote about Dinosaur Planet/Star Fox Adventures, Sarkeesian defines the damsel in distress trope as a plot device that places a female character in a dangerous situation so that a male character can save her, as the female character's role is written in such a way that she cannot rescue herself. Most times the damsel of distress is the main device that keeps the story going.
    With a little of the trope's earlier history described, Sarkeesian arrives at early twentieth-century film and the trope of a young woman being threatened by a big ape, which of course converge in King Kong. King Kong's basic plot was adopted in the formative game Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong influenced the damsel-in-distress plots of the rest of the Super Mario series, a fairly influential game franchise itself if you had somehow missed that memo.
    Damsels in distress are often framed as objects without agency of their own and they are regularly portrayed as being stolen possessions of the protagonist. Sarkeesian notes that the damsel in distress is in this traditional version of the trope reduced to a trophy for men to clash over.
    Sarkeesian typifies the other famous Nintendo damsel, Zelda, as a "helpful damsel", a character who often gives the protagonist Link some useful aid and sometimes even plays an active role in the story as a sidekick, but is when push comes to shove forced again into a damsel position.
    She contrasts how women who are by any measure strong and powerful are turned into damsels with how male characters can typically fight or manoeuvre their way out any danger or even prison.
    She gives some examples of how often the trope is rehashed and claims that these instantiations reinforce pre-existent erroneous beliefs about women as the weaker sex (that shouldn't be that controversial).

    Spoiler: Video 2: Damsel in Distress: Part 2 (WARNING for graphic violence, gory stuff and (a wee bit) partial nudity) 


    Video 3: Damsel in Distress: Part 3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjImnqH_KwM
    The third video picks up some of the loose ends of the damsel in distress.
    First Sarkeesian focuses on male versions of the damsel in video games (or "dude in distress"), noting that because female game protagonists are a clear minority, the male counterpart of the damsel in distress is very rare. She goes on to note that there are profound differences between the female and the male versions of this trope. One is that sometimes, as in Super Princess Peach, the female protagonist is immensely stereotyped. The other also has an effect on non-stereotypical instances of the dude in distress is not the same, as female damsels are often construed to confirm deep-seated trite opinions about women whereas the dudes in distress do not reaffirm any widespread cultural beliefs about men. But all in all she concludes that "equal opportunity damselling" isn't a solution for gaming either and that it's best to move beyond the trope.
    Then she moves to another subject, the ironic damsel trope. This one is often invoked in retro or in indie games, but not exclusively so. Sarkeesian raises a number of objections, but a major one is that often these ironic version make a joke at the expense of the damsel in distress and thus merely repeat the trope combined with an unfortunate ending for the female character.
    She is more positive about games that actually subvert the damsel in distress trope in a more foundational way, by revealing that the alleged damsel was in fact actively working to ensure her own freedom/safety all along. But although Sarkeesian considers these games refreshing, their stories still follow the male (anti)hero's storyline.
    Then another kind of alternative for the trope is offered, in which a kidnapped female protagonist saves herself and reaches and confronts the antagonist by her own means. In this case the kidnapped princess becomes an actual agent and receives her own story.
    Sarkeesian stresses that she doesn't think that any aid or cooperation is beyond the pale, and that occasionally needing aid or rescuing is fine. But there is no need to frame altruism to buttress sexist myths.

    Video 4: Ms. Male Character
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYqYLfm1rWA
    The subject of this video is the presence of female characters who by approximation are little more than a special case of their default or already established male counterpart - which is most blatant in character design. The framework for this story is the origin of Ms. Pacman from Pacman.
    Ms. Pacman was distinguished from her Martian counterpart by an array of standardised, socially constructed gender signifiers - some attributes (lipstick, bow, beauty mark, long eyelashes) and a colour (pink). Such attributes or colour codes were also adopted in other games and indicate what the gender of the character is. The problem is not with certain colours, styles of dress or apparel per se, but that this makes a socially constructed binary distinction between genders (wherein males are unmarked and female are marked) appear as factually given (reification) and limits creative design. There are male gender signifiers, but they aren't enforced as much.
    The next point is a brief aside but is invoked when female personalities are formed by shallow (rather sexist) stereotypes about women (personality female syndrome).
    A colour often used for gender coding can be used for male characters, but other gender signifiers only tend to be used for males to portray them as in some way effete, typically in a way that makes fun of homosexuals or transsexuals. [Note: Up until the 90s homophobia predominated in a lot of developed societies, the 80s even saw a backlash in the US and the UK as a result of the AIDS epidemic. This context makes it difficult to see stereotypic jokes of this kind as benign.]
    A fictional universe can also have something of a gender imbalance. If this ratio can be formulated as one female to the rest of the population or other group, the Smurfette principle is at play. The result is that males are normal and default, while girls are the exception.
    The trope doesn't have to take place only in the game itself. Sarkeesian gives the Mass Effect series as an example of a game that avoids the Ms Male character in-game. But she states that the advertising establishes the male Shepard as the default option, with only token attention given to the female version who is identified as the Ms Male character through marketing. Finally, she gives examples of other female characters that avoid the Ms Male character trope.

    Spoiler: Video 5: Women as Background Decoration: Part 1 (WARNING for nudity and quite some graphic violence) 


    Spoiler: Video 6: Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 (WARNING for nudity and quite some graphic violence) 




    Here's the link about Feminist Frequency going to expand the series:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technolog...nity-gamergate

    Cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian is planning to follow her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games YouTube series with a new project in 2015 exploring representations of men and masculinity in games.

    Sarkeesian revealed the new project in the annual report for her Feminist Frequency organisation, as well as her plans to launch another new series focusing on positive female characters in games, while continuing to point out negative examples with new episodes of her existing show.

    The organisation is aiming to build on nearly 5.8m views of its YouTube channel in 2014 – a year in which Sarkeesian became a target for harassment from some elements of the online Gamergate campaign.


    This opinion on what Anita Sarkeesian does and doesn't strive for is worth checking out as well:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technolog...ism-censorship

    “It’s both possible, and even necessary, to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.”

    Almost every episode of the YouTube series Tropes Vs Women in Video Games includes a variation on these clear and unambiguous words. Spoken by the cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian, they provide a foreword to her discussions of the games industry and its treatment of female characters. The content of these videos shouldn’t really be that controversial; it is Sarkeesian talking to camera, providing a feminist reading of certain aspects of popular games – in the same way a feminist film critic may study popular cinema. And yet, Sarkeesian needs security guards whenever she makes public appearances – that’s if she’s not forced to pull out of speaking engagements due to bomb threats.
    On criticism of the Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games series:

    But the portrayal of Sarkeesian and other feminist writers, designers and academics as pantomime villains, allows the gamer communities involved to avoid disucssion and analysis. It allows them to more easily rally against her. Frustratingly, this environment disallows discussion about what the Tropes vs Women videos are actually arguing. “There are clearly valid critiques to make of Sarkeesian’s work [...] we tend not to see those,” says Ian Bogost, game designer and academic. “Instead we see way out of line Internet abuse.” Anthropy agrees. “It’s tough, because how do you open a nuanced discussion of someone’s work when another group is loudly shouting for her head?”

    While some gamers may demonise and abuse Sarkeesian for her attempts to address a broad audience and to highlight the fact that games aren’t as inclusive as they could be, there are other gamers who want to critique her work for not going deep enough, for failing to be intersectional and for presenting a sex negative perspective. But this is all lost amid the white noise of online hate.
    Last edited by Villerar; February 5th, 2015 at 06:40 AM.

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