Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

May 28, 2013 -

Update #2: The video is back up!

Update: the video has been removed temporarily by YouTube. Visiting the link provides the following message:

"This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube's Terms of Service. "

We'll have more on this as information becomes available, but clearly someone related to one of the many games highlighted in the video has made a copyright claim.

Original Story: Damsel in Distress: Part 2 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games, the second video in the crowd-funded video series from Feminist Frequency (Anita Sarkeesian) is now live on YouTube (thanks EZK). According to the author, the second in a series of three videos exploring the Damsel in Distress trope in video games takes a deeper look at what she calls the "dark and edgy" side of the trope in more modern games and how the plot device is often used with graphic violence against women. You can check out the video at the aforementioned link or watch it to your left.

The author points out that the video may contain imagery that is offensive to some and not suitable for young children. The video may also contain spoilers. See the video notes on YouTube for more information.

 


Comments

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

While i'm not saying a bad thing about what she's trying to push there with her point, but a simple counter point does exist in many cases.
 

I get the feeling she's trying to say these tropes are strictly designed by men as a driving point for other men in their entertainment.

In many situations women are just as guilty of creating these tropes, or reinforcing them, themselves.

Case in Point, "Twilight". A girl deliberately gets into damsel mode and has two strapping men fawn all over her while having to keep her safe yadda yadda.

#1 gender in that fanbase? Women...

Drama movies/television, books, and many "chick flicks". All designed/directed for/at women, primary audience.. women... Primary story driver... guy chasing a girl, saving girl, fighting to help girl, or girl swooning over guy and going crazy trying to get his attention.

"Love" is the actual trope. And fact is that it being a woman is kind of the only way to drive the story and purpose home to anyone, male or female.

I don't see why it can't be reversed, but thats a LONG history we're shooting to change....

On the plus, Some games have done that. Such as the newest Tomb Raider where Lara is left to save the guys while they end up in all the danger and scampering about like worthless morons as she saves the day.

All in all, i do hope she's keeping a bit more open minded about this than the video feels at first look... because these tropes aren't merely the machinations of some egocentric manocracy (sry had to inject some futurama in there)

they're deep rooted in history, and often were built more for a girls fairy tale, or drama book/story. The sudden draw into modern culture really isn't much of a surprise, nor that its been re-geared toward a functional driving force for male characters in these games. 

 

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

they're deep rooted in history, and often were built more for a girls fairy tale, or drama book/story.

Hmm, there's a really fine line between things being made 'for girls' and things being made to reinforce gendered stereotypes. See all the recent brouhaha about science/engineering/construction toys being put on the 'for boys' shelf.

In many situations women are just as guilty of creating these tropes, or reinforcing them, themselves.

That's because this stuff is insidious. The trouble is that, as Anita says, the media we consume affects the way we think, and the patterns created by strong and overused tropes are damningly limiting - not just for female characters, but for male characters, too. When tropes become the norm, they almost become expectations. There was an article recently doing the rounds on tumblr by a writer expressing their frustration with trying to write a particular scene between a man and a woman because no matter what he tried, he kept falling into tragically overdone tropes when trying to represent the female character and her backstory and her relationship with the male character.

As a woman who casually writes, both prose and comics, and has done since I was tiny, I can tell you that it was only last year after a lot of feminist discussion had come to the fore that I sat back, took a look at my work, and was astonished by how many sexist tropes had wormed their way unthinkingly into my work. I've been working on a collaborative project for a couple of years now with another woman, and about 80% of our main characters are male. The majority of those main characters have mothers and sisters who have been tragically killed off (or 'fridged') in order to create some emotional impetus and motivations for them. The few female characters who have survived tend to be quite tough and aggressive (aka 'masculinised').

I didn't set out to write anything sexist, and it's still a good story that I've enjoyed working on. It's just that until very recently, these expectations around what female characters can do in stories because of the overwhelming background radiation of the media were unconsciously steering my hand. When you're constantly being told stories in which women, when they exist at all, are passive characters without any meaning except as a plot device for a male character, it becomes hard to actively imagine anything else. Likewise, because male character development is often written to hinge off of romantic aspirations and relationship chasing, it's hard to envisage scenarios in which men aren't chasing ladies. You will see the embodiment of this in every hollywood movie, where the guy always gets the girl, wants the girl, rescues the girl, is hurt by the girl, and cannot, except in rare cases, have a platonic relationship with a lone female lead unless they're bloody related.

I'm not saying there aren't people who genuinely enjoy these tropes, and that these tropes always make for bad writing. They don't. After all, I've been moved to tears by some of the games in the video above. The emotional impact of games like ICO has been very real for me, even if its basic premise is 'boy rescues sweet innocent helpless girl'. But again, to quote Anita, a trope becomes a cliche when it is overused.

The nature versus nurture argument with regards to the impact of the media on us (do we create media according to our natural inclinations, or do we create based on expectations generated by the media we consume?) is a huge one, but I'm a personal believer based on my own experiences that the media influences us, and that a lot of gendered stereotypes are not natural, but socially trained. That's why discussions like those Anita raises are so important. Simply creating awareness of these tropes and allowing them to be identified enables writers to review their own work with a more critical eye, and simply ask why they are writing something the way they are.

It can only lead to better, more diverse writing going forward, for male and female characters.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

Like i said, its def not something i don't agree with. She  does drive a point, but as you point out, it does become a question of were we so overexposed its expected, or is it just something in our nature?

When you think about it, one of the biggest driving forces in life has always been considered the love of another. As love will make a person do crazy things for no reason, just to be noticed/heard/known. It can work in either direction, a man going after a woman or woman after a man, or hell, man for a man, woman for a woman (again props to the new tomb raider in this regard!) In most cases naturally its a hormonal thing, but for humans its a much larger issue.

There just aren't that many driving forces in nature that will push any creature through great lengths just to find a means to the end. In nearly any species male members will fight, and often die, just to impress a female. Just turn to the discovery channel at any time for examples of this. Humans just have the added oddity we'll go the extra mile with heavy emotional attachment to the point of near insanity should that person we love be lost, especially in a not-so-friendly manner such as the mentioned, and sickening IMO, girlfriend in a refrigerator. 

The only real trope left once you remove the actual nature/hormonal (depending on the angle you wish to take i suppose) driven part is that in most media its always the male character going crazy over the female, either trying to save or avenge them.  At that point is where the writer can make the changes, but the impact on the audience will differ in how the approach is taken. When writing a story the writer obviously wants to make the most impact possible on the target audience and get them to feel for the protagonist and that persons problem. Using "love" (not necessarily women)as the catalyst for this often is the strongest, and most natural, response since there aren't many that can't relate to that single issue. Other items just won't stick at all with the majority or even make sense as to why a person would do anything they do in these forms of media.

From this point on it does end up a matter of expectation driven by media offerings in the past. But that same problem can exist ANYWHERE in life. Who you vote for, what religion you follow, what newspaper you read, what tv shows you like, etc.... 

Its a sad part of human nature that we are like any species in the "monkey see monkey do" regard. We're just as trained in our basic beliefs by outside influences as most domestic animals are. But that too is a natural reaction. Eye openers like her vids are a great way to see things from a different light, but theres always two sides or more to every story, and all sides need be heard before any real conclusion can be drawn by the individual. This is where most media truly fails, and even to some extent her video, as it often paints a pretty grim picture as if these are personal attacks against women, when it just isn't that simple. Even her actions and videos can be considered a tempered design created by her peers influence rather than her own mindset. 

How much of it is her own, and how much of it is stuff she was told?

What i refer to is, while she carries strong points, without the counter argument added in full, many people will take the video as a straight forward slam against men in all regards as if theres a mass conspiracy to abuse women virtually and breed the concept its okay to do it literally. She almost states its the purpose of her videos, and thats not exactly a clean way to get started. But perhaps she's deliberately trying to create the controversy with others due to another oft used trope in media, no publicity is bad publicity. Create a controversy and get it heard, then let the opposed advertise for you for free.

I even had one college professor at a time show a video just for this purpose trying to enforce their views upon the class without any chance of a counter argument being placed less you risk your grades. Instead you needed to dissect the "facts" from the given video and find other examples of it out there. End of discussion and the professor wasn't open to discuss it, despite many counter points did exist, and the video was very much laden with inaccurate and obscured information that broke its entire purpose once examined closely rather than taken "as is".

 

In the end, nature trumps nurture. Fire is hot and no amount of coercion is going to convince a person otherwise when put to the test.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

According to the author, the second in a series of three videos

Wait.

She got over 25x the funds needed to do the series, had promised 13 videos and a "classroom cirriculum" instead of her initially-planned 5 videos, spent over a year making a video that should have only taken 2 days (which was eviscerated and deconstructed/debunked by other in less than a day), and now she's only doing 3 videos about the "objectification" of fictional women in fictional games (designed for a male audience), rather than actually focusing on actual legitimate issues of sexual harassment, abuse, oppression or rape of women in real life?


Yeah... she really needs to get her priorities straight.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

spent over a year making a video that should have only taken 2 days

She was playing pretty much every game she features in her videos. She had to compile clips, write scripts, edit footage, etc etc. Let's see you do all that in 2 days.

now she's only doing 3 videos about the "objectification" of fictional women in fictional games

No. This is video 2 of 3 in the Damsel in Distress series. She still has more planned. The other videos will tackle other themes in video games involving women.

rather than actually focusing on actual legitimate issues of sexual harassment, abuse, oppression or rape of women in real life?

Perhaps you could focus on tackling those issues rather than rant and complain about others not doing it. Or you could just shut up and let the grown ups talk. I don't care which.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

"She was playing pretty much every game she features in her videos. She had to compile clips, write scripts, edit footage, etc etc. Let's see you do all that in 2 days."

For over $150k, I fail to see why she could not have hired at least one other person to aid her in doing so. As it stands, even cursory knowledge of the games she plays and how she explains them indicates that she didn't spend much time doing research at all- male and female gamers alike have pointed this out. And people do exactly what you have described in that much time as well, without the need of a kickstarter to fund them.

"Perhaps you could focus on tackling those issues rather than rant and complain about others not doing it. Or you could just shut up and let the grown ups talk."

If Sarkeesian were actually interested in an intelligent discussion dealing with real concerns about the abuse/oppression/harassment/rape of women in real life, people would not be having an issue- but to knowingly targeting a market that caters to males and strongly suggesting that because it's a male-preferred market it must be an example of "the patriarchy" keeping women down, as if this were a legitimate concern for the welfare and equality of women, is to point fingers at phantasms rather than actually do any real work solving legitimate problems.

Either way, it's difficult to hold a reasonable discussion when even people like yourself suggest that others "shut up and let the grown ups talk", as if this were a mature response. I still stand by my statement- if Anita is legitimately concerned about gender/sex equality, then targeting video games is not conducive to solving problems.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

Either way, it's difficult to hold a reasonable discussion when even people like yourself suggest that others "shut up and let the grown ups talk", as if this were a mature response.

My flippant response was due to your assumption that she was only going to make 3 movies as well as your assumption that she should be doing something other than what she is doing. An assumption that what she is doing is not important. 

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

I still stand by my statement- if Anita is legitimately concerned about gender/sex equality, then targeting video games is not conducive to solving problems.

You haven't watched this video, have you? She explicitly mentions how these attitudes within games can affect attitudes in other facets of life.

By the way... if you think these videos are so worthless, why are you complaining about how long it takes for them to come out, and how few of them there are? It's as if you're throwing criticisms at the wall just to see what sticks.

Lady 1: My, the food here is horrible!

Lady 2: I know, and what small portions!

(hat-tip Woody Allen)

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

The general point is that she doesn't actually care as much about the topic as she says she does and is instead trying to invoke a response- otherwise, her videos would not be so transparent and easily dissected. She even managed to contradict herself according to her own thesis concern similar matters.

If she were interested in being honest, there'd be honest research. There isn't.

If she were adamant on producing these video efficiently given a budget 25x what was necessary, she wouldn't have wasted a year to release the first video plus a month for the second- but she did.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

It might be news to you, but simply saying her videos are "transparent and easily dissected" isn't going to convince anyone sympathetic to her side. You'll have to either point to such a dissection or summarize it yourself. (And please don't tell me to search myself; I have no interest in sifting through the cesspool of hate to try to find the polished turd that impressed you.) No one's going to simply take your word for it. Similarly with your claim that this isn't honest research. What's dishonest about it?

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

And if you want a good look on how batshit Anita can be- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MQuEjiU2KQ

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

Thanks for those links; it's good to know what some of the arguments against her are.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

I would hardly refer to them as "polished turds". I don't for a minute agree with anybody making death threates against Anita Sarkeesian, but it's apparent that she's not interested in honest research or an intelligent discussion, either.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

It was probably rightly reported for nudity during one of the clips from Dante's Inferno, where Beatrice's breasts are visible.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

Considering that there are a vast number of visible real life breasts on Youtube, I don't think a minor censor bar slip on fake breasts would be fair justification for pulling the video.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

She uses a pink censor bar, does she not?

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

Yeah but in the part where Beatrice gets dragged down to Hell it doesn't move with her.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

It is back now. Probably trolling and they were able to sort it out quickly.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

Actually, there is another warning that comes up when there is a copyright problem, and I think they typically give a name.

This sounds like someone either found content in the video to be offensive, or is sabotaging the video by falsely flagging it.

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

"...clearly someone related to one of the many games highlighted in the video has made a copyright claim."

I'm not so sure about that.  So far as I know, you don't have to provide any evidence that you own or represent the owner of the copyright you're claiming.  My money's on a legion of asswipes abusing the "report this video" flag.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Tropes vs Women in Video Games Part II

That seems likely.  There is a pretty solid group of people who REALLY hate this woman, and a much larger group who give that core a pass by agreeing that she is horrible but they would never go 'that far' themselves.

 
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