Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Tropes vs. Women in Video Games - Thoughts and Reflections

Was it all worth the money and the wait and the drama? Read on, and find out.

It seems like it's been ages, hasn't it? Since Anita Sarkeesian started that Kickstarter for the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games and that entire ... thing ... started up. Getting past all of that, putting it all behind us, it was only last week that the first video finally came down the pipe, detailing part one of the Damsel in Distress trope:

So, the very short verdict is that, well, it's okay. It certainly could have been worse, but I believe that it certainly could have been better as well. Perhaps I'm not giving the series a fair clip, after all there is another episode of damsel in distress content to cover. At the same time though given the circumstances I cannot help but feel that this series is going to be scrutinized heavily either way, so there's no reason for me not to do so myself.

The video itself is, well, alright. After waiting such a long time and seeing some of what was said in the interim I was actually bracing for the worst. The damsel in distress is a strong presentation, but it mostly fails to really delve beyond the surface of the actual presence of the trope itself.

For example, it's true that Dinosaur Planet, retooled into Star Fox Adventures, was changed to have the focus on Fox instead of Krystal, the original female protagonist.  However, while the video attributes it to the idea that Miyamoto strong-armed it into being the third game in the Star Fox franchise. This isn't wholly correct. The development on Dinosaur Planet had gone long enough that the game was going to be released on the GameCube instead. Also, it was known that Rare would be leaving Nintendo soon for Microsoft, having just been acquired by the latter.

With this in mind, Nintendo thought that it would be best to incorporate the game into a franchise that would prevent Microsoft from simply using Rare to easily port the game over to the Xbox. This was part of the motivation, the other was that despite being well received from a critical review standpoint, the last few games that Rare had released in terms of platformers, Banjo-Tooie and Conker's Bad Fur Day, underperformed when it came to actual sales. Due to this, Nintendo believed that incorporating Star Fox into the game would allow it to be a stronger seller, which it was.

That's not to say that Krystal's role in the game wasn't minimized, because it was. At the same time though, watching the video you'd come to the conclusion that it was done solely because she was slated to be the female protagonist in the game and for no other reason.

Likewise, the video points out that Princess Peach and Zelda are often portrayed as damsels in distress. The thing is that these are facts that everyone knows already. It doesn't really extend to anything past a surface level discussion that says "this is happening, this is bad", it doesn't extend itself into an actual discussion, instead it seems to be content to stay as it is, and I find that to be fairly disappointing considering the high hopes I had for this series at one point.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, after all, there is a somewhat legitimate reason as to why the comments have been disabled. Still, it stands as more of a promise of what could have been, than a realization of what is. I will be watching the other videos as well, but I don't think that unless something changes that I'll be commenting on further.


  1. Uh hi, I just wanted to point out that the reason Anita made the "Tropes vs. Women" series wasn't to entertain, but to inform.

    The fact that you're "reviewing" her work just gives me the impression that you see her as just another hysterical woman ranting about "that entire ... thing", which everyone else refers to as the legitimate (yes, quite real and legitimate) debate regarding the roles of women in videogames.

    What you could have done instead (if you actually cared about this debate, who knows) would have been to elaborate upon the questions posed with your own thoughts. That way, instead of trashing her work, which I'm sure you know has been very taxing for her mental health (or perhaps you don't), you could have contributed to a fair and respectful debate.

    As to the "after all, there is a somewhat legitimate reason as to why the comments have been disabled" line you wrote here: how would you like to be called "fuckface", "bitch", "manwhore" or "cumbucket" at every given opportunity, while trying to gain equal footing with the opposite gender? That's her reality, and that will be her reality for a long time to come if we don't stand up for equal rights for women.

    Or maybe you don't really care.

    1. I can understand your concerns, and you raise some valid points. It is true that I could get into the actual reasoning behind why I feel that her videos thus far have failed to deliver. At the same time though, there have been many other people, on Youtube especially, that have already taken it upon themselves to ask these questions and rebut her position.

      Although I agree that the abuse that she has had to put up with is completely unwarranted, I still find that her closing the comments section of her videos was something that shouldn't have been done. Certainly there will be comments that need moderation. However, without being able to comment and debate at the place where the video is actually posted, I feel that much of the impact, and indeed the point, of said videos has been lost.

      As I have mentioned before, I contributed to her Kickstarter, so I'm not someone who wanted this to fail or be underwhelming. Still, those sum up my feelings so far regarding the videos. Anita has said that she wants these videos to educate, to be fit to be used in the classroom. What I have seen so far is absolutely not to that standard, whether it be for High School, or Secondary School levels.

      The arguments that she has made so far lack depth and elucidation. For a Kickstarter that raised over $100,000 I find that the level of commitment and the overall quality of the videos has been unacceptable. I'm not expecting her to cover every single base or argument, however, I have felt that not only has the actual elaboration been lacking, but that she also seems to have gone into this pretty much "knowing" what she was going to say, regardless of what the games she played presented to her. To craft a thesis and then only acquire complimentary evidence for it while ignoring all else is not a good thing.

      In the end, to put it bluntly, if I hadn't have cared, then I wouldn't have been disappointed enough to comment on the matter in the way I have. Perhaps it's not enough. Then again, I fail to believe that what she's done is enough to truly bring meaningful debate to this topic anyways.


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