Tropes vs Women in Video Games part one: Damsels in Distress

Anita Sarkeesian has released the long-awaited first installment in her new, improved "Tropes vs Women in Video Games" series. Sarkeesian sought $6,000 on Kickstarter to produce slicker versions of her earlier, DIY series, and she was smeared by vile, angry gamer-dudes who created games where you could beat the crap out of her for the sin of identifying as a feminist and daring to question the portrayal of gender in games. The happy ending to this shameful episode is that her Kickstarter became a good-people vs goons plebiscite, and would up raising $158,922.

The first installment is "Damsels in Distress," and is a smart, well-researched, wonderfully presented history of the woman-waiting-for-a-hero trope through gaming history. It's just in time for International Women's Day, and is a wonderful kickoff for a new series.

Damsel in Distress: Part 1 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games


  1. i swear ‘trope’ is like the word of the month, it seems like every other boing boing post features it prominently or ends up having it regurgitated in the comments. what is going on with this word?

      1. sure, but it seems like the term is being beat to death lately.  Am I the only one who notices this?

        maybe I’m tripping over here

        1. How is this in any way relevant or important? Yes, you’re the only one. Everyone else is busy paying attention to the actual important content.

          1. I’m not. I’m paying attention to the fact that her shirt is made from the same fabric that her couch was in the photo of her playing Nintendo as a kid.

          2. Well, at least we know she didn’t spend the oooooodles of extra cash she received on new furniture.

        2. It’s likely because the internet and all social networking sites are filled with nonstop memes and tropes?

          It’s not like media criticism is a particularly new thing, it’s been going on since long before the printing press.

      2. This does not explain the recent popularity of the word, now does it? An educated person might actual ponder why usage of certain words eb and flow. Do you have a theory as to why the words popularity has increased?

        1. Oh, I don’t know. Do you think perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the tropes are more obvious now because the media, which includes movies and music videos and tv shows and (get this!) video games, are far, far more prevalent and at-your-finger-tips than years past, because of — this may shock you — the internet being far more prevalent and at-your-finger-tips than years past? 

          Tropes are really just exaggerated and stylized stereotypes. Stereotypes are often used because people are lazy and it’s easy (both creators and consumers). This not unique to just the gaming world. This is pretty much common across the great expanse of media that is consumed. Even your local news cable relies heavily on tropes, which is why it’s so ridiculous now. There is even a really great and popular website dedicated to this phenomenon! I’d link to it, but then I’d feel responsible for anyone who missed anything really important because they became lost in the vortex that is that site.

          People are just wanting more diversity and originality and are tired of stupid tropes, especially the more damaging ones like sexism and racism.

          Captain Obvious signing off.

          1. What definition of ‘trope’ are we using here?  When I think of a trope, I think of, say, the United States of America being known as ‘America’.  It seems like the abuse of the poor word started after Television Tropes became popular.  I suppose in the future, this will be an acceptable use of the word.  Many of the words used in Shakespeare plays were invented by him, after all.


          2. I see it more like how psychiatry had terms like “obsessive compulsive” or “anal retentive” which then spread widely among non-psychiatrists. Or people who use “growing exponentially” to mean “growing really fast” because they don’t think too much about math.

            If people had been required to understand the meaning of “trope” before they used the word, it never would have become as popular as it is.

            Like Shane Simmons says below, a lot of people use it in places where “motif” or “cliche” or “plot element” would have been a better fit. The TVTropes site seems to have adopted the definition of “any bit of fan wankery I want to make into a list.”

            Sarkeesian doesn’t appear to be abusing the term too badly, outside of the title.

      3. I’ve noticed that people use “trope” when they really mean “motif” or “plot element”.  Those were perfectly good terms.

        There’s nothing wrong with noting misuse of a word, unless (imho) it’s being used in the good old “you said something wrong or made a silly typo, therefore you are wrong” fallacy.

  2. From what I remember, she wasn’t vilified for the reasons you mentioned (although it might have been the unstated reason for some.)  She was vilified for raising hundreds of thousands, then buying hundreds of video games, followed by (allegedly) sitting on the collection and not producing her research, while instead, going online to complain about her being vilified and thriving on the controversy.

    Now that she’s finally started publishing her research, I guess we’ll see if it was all worth it and if she can actually bring something new to the table.

      1.  I only really heard about the controversy after she posted a picture of herself with a huge stack of games purchased with the money from her Kickstarter.

        Here is a sample of what was being written 3 months ago about her.  And this was apparently written by a woman, so it’s not just misogynist male gamers who vilified her.

        From what I can read now, it appears to be true that she was vilified the moment she put up her Kickstarter (and I agree that what was done then was despicable) but I also read a lot of other things similar to what I just linked to that showed how people were annoyed at her for the way she appeared to manipulate all the media attention. I didn’t have the full story when I posted my first comment above (and I still don’t have the whole story now.)  I guess I’ll just have to watch her videos and make my own mind up about the value of her research.

        1. I only really heard about the controversy after she posted a picture of herself with a huge stack of games purchased with the money from her Kickstarter.

          Oh. Shocking.

          And this was apparently written by a woman, so it’s not just misogynist male gamers who vilified her.

          Women are not immune to doing or saying sexist things, or to supporting misogyny.

          I didn’t have the full story when I posted my first comment above

          And yet you not only formed an opinion, but decided to share it as if it had some sort of merit, and as if the total and utter abuse she received was in any way valid. Lots of unsaid “she deserved it” in your first comment. And no apology, really … even though there is plenty of information available to you about this, you still don’t have the full story but you still brush her off and question her motives. How convenient! And, like I said, totally surprising.

        2. Also, seriously?!  

          but I also read a lot of other things similar to what I just linked to that showed how people were annoyed at her for the way she appeared to manipulate all the media attention.

           I didn’t have the full story when I posted my first comment above (and I still don’t have the whole story now.)

          Why are you forming an opinion about her when you’ve only got really questionable gossip to go on?!

          OMG! People were annoyed and talked about how annoyed they were on the internet! Solid shit, man! You really tried hard when forming and then publicly stating your opinion, man. Good job.

          Brushing off a woman who obviously worked very hard on this project and who is also obviously very knowledgeable in the subject without even having “the full story”?  Yeah, that never happens.

          And the kicker is that you’re even admitting to this, blatantly, and you don’t even realize it.

          1. I read a comment last night on a different site which essentially condensed down to ‘what she’s doing is great, but I don’t trust her because she is too well-educated and her language is too good for me to believe she’s an actual serious gamer. Not being sexist, I just don’t trust her.’

            The ridiculousness going around is staggering.

        3. Why yes, that was a sample of writing, and it was about her, but you and I have no way of knowing that it wasn’t a misogynist male (or self hating female) who wrote it. The reasoning in the comment is kind of stupid. Why does anyone care about the media appearances of someone they don’t care about? If you’re not interested in the kickstarter, don’t donate. If you’re not interested in watching her videos, don’t watch. If a year is too long to do this kind of project, do it faster and better and steal her thunder. Very little clicking about had me come across an individual’s site who either led or was part of a campaign to investigate/harrass her. The site and “Elsa”‘s arguments revisited what you initially mentioned in your first comment, that it wasn’t misogyny, the internet was mad at her for asking for money to buy video games.
          :/ Internet! I command you to buy me a pony! *crickets* See? Nobody cares. I do not buy it. The gist of the site seems to be more based on his (or her) imagined persecution of men by all those mean feminists.I’m not lumping you in with them, but I think they’re pasting a lot of pinheaded junk about her. Don’t get sucked in. I thought her video was worth watching. I’m not linking to that site and giving him/they any bandwidth.

          1. I wish they would have just came out and directly called her an attention whore. It would have saved everyone a lot of time and pixels.

            To be perfectly frank, taking such blatantly obvious gossipy bullshit at all seriously and then using it as some sort of proof — sharing as some sort of proof! — without anything to back the stupid bullshit up is rather pathetic. I very much hope they are just a troll because … yikes.

        4.  ” people were annoyed at her for the way she appeared to manipulate all the media attention”

          In other words, here response when she received a wave of rape threats was insufficiently demure? Man, what a horrible person she must be!

    1.  I’m pretty sure I remember the attacks happening before the money. In fact, the insane level of vitriol that lead to the story getting picked up which lead to getting so, so, so much money, didn’t it? That’s how I remember it.  Aha, here’s a link (from where I originally read about it, IIRC) about the abuse from before the kickstarter ended.

    2. Are you kidding me?!?

      You need to stop talking about a subject that you really don’t understand. Do some research first and then come back. Learn about the death threats, rape threats, and the beat up Anita Sarkeesian video game. Learn about the 4chan inspired attacks. And you need to listen to the misogynists explain why they attacked her (hint: it was before she bought the video games). Until then, please don’t comment on this topic. Otherwise you will look foolish.

    3. She planned on making a 5 video series from her original aim of $6000, with a due date of approx August. 

      With the money raised far exceeding this, she was able to expand this to a 12 video series. Releasing the first one in March seems pretty reasonable…

    4. Well… you remember wrong, simply stated. The vilification started when she started the kickstarter, which most probably was also the reason that her kickstarter was such a success as all the “omg, she is an evol feminist!!!!” brouhaha brought the attention of the kickstarter to all of those who would like to support it.

      It’s pretty easy to verify, try it sometimes. For instance, from the two links above we get…
      “Funded! This project successfully raised its funding goal on June 16, 2012.”
      and the date for the BB article is three weeks later. Hardly supports your
      “She was vilified for raising hundreds of thousands, then buying hundreds of video games, followed by (allegedly) sitting on the collection and not producing her research, while instead, going online to complain about her being vilified and thriving on the controversy.”
      … unless your assertion is that all the “omg, she is going to cut off our nuts” guys were sitting on the edge of their chairs for three weeks, waiting eagerly for the research, and just couldn’t wait for it anymore.

    5. Whenever she did an interview she was specifically asked about the harassment rather than the project. And damn straight she should complain about the abuse.

      In fact the issue was that she campaigned for a much smaller amount of money and was given “more” than she asked for.

      So she expanded the project. The expanded project took more time. She could have easily done the same project and just swallowed all that money but she expanded the scale of the project.

      1. You know, if she had chosen to produce $6000 worth of project and pocket the rest as payment due for the abuse, I’d be totally cool with that 100%

        But as it turns out she is better than that.

  3. The number of well portrayed women in video gaming is dismally small.  When they try and break the damsel in distress gender stereotype, it is usually by taking the generic brain dead rambo style steroid laden superman, slapping a pair of double Ds on it, and giving her armored nipple pasties.  This is almost as bad as the damsel in distress.  

    I’m struggling to think of a well done woman in a video game.  I think one of the best one’s I can think of off of the top of my head is Alyx from from Half Life 2.  I think the part that made me node in approval the most is in Episode 1 where you get stuck in a train car with a bunch of zombies and it crashes.  Alyx ends up with a zombie on her.  She is fighting it off, clearly scared, but not panicked.  You use the grave gun to pull it off.  She gets out of the car, has a good few moments of ‘holy crap, I need to collect my shit’, and then is all, ‘okay, lets go’ with the right touch of ‘lets do this’ and ‘I’m running out of steam’.

    I really like that scene because Alyx comes off as an appropriately bad ass survivor who, when shit hits the fan, reacts.  What makes it even better is that she also comes off as a human being that that is self aware of the horror around her and needs to take a breather in-between being bad ass.  Without showing a little reaction to the horror, fatigue, and hopelessness of their situtation, the bad ass part is meaningless.  Pure bad ass 24/7 turns a character into a mindless cartoon.

    This is what really bothers me about how women are portrayed in video games.  She-rambo is fine on occasion as a foil to damsel in distress, but it doesn’t contribute much, and it contributes less than nothing when she-rambo is sporting two pasties for armor.  What really contributes is when you have well crafted women protagonist that is, you know… human.  They can be exceptional humans or bad ass humans, but they need some element of humanity left to be anything more interesting than a death robot with breasts.  I can probably count on one hand the number of games made in the past couple of years that have fleshed out human women in them.

    1.  Very, very well said. And the problem with the overly sexualized female characters, regardless of how they’re used in the story (rambo/damsel/whatever) is that it’s a very clear shorthand for saying you’re not supposed to identify with that character, and even more, that the character is mere decoration. Actually, that applies to all media, but watching the video, so much of the absolutely senseless scantily-clad and titillatingly-posed women kind of got to me. (And especially when overlayed with the violence directed at those women. The violence once again being portrayed as sexy. FFS).

    2. To be honest, it’s been a while since a game had a well-crafted protagonist that was anything other than a series of cliches, male or female.  So much of it is essentially leveling up without taking an opportunity to tell an immersive story with characters that you interact with or connect with in any way.  Even in, say Portal (1 or 2), where you find out more about the character you’re playing as you move along, there’s no real emotional attachment with anything other than the box with the heart on it.  While GLaDOS certainly became a deeper character, I wouldn’t say I was emotionally connected to her at the end of our journey.

      The reveal in Bioshock was the closest thing that gaming could be that I’ve seen in years and, much to my disappointment,  they certainly did their best to make sure that didn’t happen again in the sequel.  I’m only halfheartedly looking forward to Infinite, mostly because of the damsel in distress element that Anita is talking about.

      1. “Even in, say Portal (1 or 2), where you find out more about the character you’re playing as you move along, there’s no real emotional attachment with anything other than the box with the heart on it”

        You’re not supposed to be “attached” to her, you’re supposed to “be” her, which really adds a better depth through immersivity.

    3. I think the best inversion of the trope is Elaine Marley in the Monkey Island series.  You play the bumbling hero trying to save the damsel in distress although 9 times out of 10 she doesn’t need saving and Guybrush usually only makes things worse.

      1. Yeah, this is pretty accurate. Elaine is a great, well-rounded lady, especially in the first two games.

        (Also, while we’re on the subject, everyone should play Monkey Island)

    4. Mirror’s Edge works as a good example. If I were any kind of serious gamer, I could probably name a few others, but not many. I bet if you asked 100 people to name a female videogame protagonist you’d get 90+ responses of Lara Croft, aka ‘generic brain dead rambo style steroid laden superwoman with a pair of double Ds and armored nipple pasties.’ Edit: Samus Aran, how could I forget?

      1.  Because she looks exactly like a robot except in the credits where she’s wearing a bikini or undies or something.

      1. Yeah, Bioware in general tends to have well developed female characters. Actually, with Bioware I have a difficult time thinking of any important female character that wasn’t as developed as the male characters. And I can’t think of any significant tropes that they use (I haven’t played all of their games, but I have played most of them).

        Perhaps Bioware should be the model of an inclusive gaming company that doesn’t need to use tropes against women to sell games.

        1.  I do dislike how they constantly make several Asari wear incredibly unpractical cleavage in Mass Effect (Matriarch Benezia/Samara). However, I still think they’re brilliant.

    5. There are more like Alyx. Zoey and Rochelle from the Left 4 Dead serie. Heather from Silent Hill 3. Ellie in Dead Space 2. Jill and Claire  from the original Resident Evil games. Seems like the horror genre has the best female characters.

      Edit:`Elena and Chloe from the Uncharted serie are alright too,

      1. My thoughts exactly. Zoey and Rochelle are pretty excellent female characters.
        Even the one or two times main female characters in the Resident Evil series get captured (Clair in Code Veronica, Jill in REmake, and Ada in 4) it isn’t the drive of the game, it’s for all of 30 seconds in a cut scene, and they arn’t presented as helpless damsels. Ashley in 4 is an exception… but she isn’t a repeat character, and her Damsel presence is offset by Ada who runs around doing her spy stuff.

    6. “The number of well portrayed women in video gaming is dismally small.  When they try and break the damsel in distress gender stereotype, it is usually by taking the generic brain dead rambo style steroid laden superman, slapping a pair of double Ds on it, and giving her armored nipple pasties.  This is almost as bad as the damsel in distress.  ”


      Dark Cloud 1 & 2, Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, Baten Kaitos: Origins, Clock Tower 3, Haunting Ground, Final Fantasy 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, Disgaea 1, 2, 3, and 4, Rule of Rose, Persona 3 & 4, Odin Sphere, Soul Nomad, Ar Tonelico 1, 2, & 3, Okami, Muramasa, Opoona, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, Mana Khemia: Fall of Alchemy, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Resident Evil 0, 1, 2, 3, and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Silent Hill 3, Fatal Frame, Okage: Shadow King, Radiata Stories, Rogue Galaxy, Super Robot Taisen: Endless Frontier, Ape Escape 3, Fate/Extra, Corpse Party, Eternal Darkness, Drill Dozer, Ni no Kuni, Folklore, Heavenly Sword, Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Phantasia, Boderlands 1 & 2, Radiant Historia, Breath of Fire, Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush Adventure, Golden Sun, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Monster Tale, Kya: Dark Lineage, Devil Survivor, Sands of Destruction, Children of Mana, Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Scurge, The World Ends With You, Magical Starsign, Megaman ZX Advent, Nostalgia, Dragon Quest 2, 4, & 5, Legend of Kyrandia 2, King’s Quest 4 and 7, To The Moon, Resonance, Cthulhu Saves the World, Bunny Must Die, Noitu Love 2, Iji, Knytt Stories, Touhou Project series, The White Chamber, Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, Grim Grimoire, Onimusha: Dawn of Souls, Mystical Ninja Goemon, Goemon’s Great Adventure, Castlevania 64, Mischief Makers, Jet Force Gemini, Dino Crisis, Legend of Dragoon, The Longest Journey, Anvil of Dawn, Costume Quest, Agarest War, Valis 1, 2, & 3, Magical Drop 1,2,3,4,5, Pocky & Rocky 1 and 2, Costume Quest, Blade Kitten, Monster World IV, Portal 1 & 2, Bust-A-Groove, Threads of Fate, Knytt Underground, Sweet Home, Earthbound, Mother 3, Donkey Kong Country 2 & 3, Donkey Kong 64,  Super Paper Mario, Super Mario RPG, Metroid series, The Guardian Legend, Beyond Good & Evil, Mirror’s Edge, Parasite Eve, Kuon, and P.N. 03.

      That enough games for ya?

      1. Cool story Bro,

        What’s that list of titles add up to, man looks like triple digits like over a hundred.

        out of how many tens of thousands didja say?


        1.  This is a list of games I either own or have experience with in some way (Seeing a Let’s Play as an example)  I didn’t go out looking for games, I just went through my collection or looked through my memory. So there being more games is not only likely, it’s guaranteed.

          1. Cool story, bro. Clearly you are super, duper smart and we really needed another lecture from you about a subject you’ve clearly done no research on and know nothing about.

            But you know, if you’re bored, you could just copy/paste some more characters names to prove some point I’m not convinced you understand.

      2. You seem to be a console nut, and I avoid consoles, especially Japanese RPGs, like the plague, so I can only respond the the handful that I have actually played.  That said, you seem to have clearly missed my point, so let me spell out very slowly for you.  Damsel in distress is sexist and dumb.  A she-rambo is not sexist, but still dumb.  A well portrayed female who isn’t a cartoon she-rambo or a damsel in distress who is well portrayed as a human is rare.

        Lets hit the list of the ones I actually have played.

        Boderlands 1 & 2:  No.  These get marked squarely into the cartoon category.  As I said, she-rambo’s are fine, but not human.  You could swap the women in this game withrobot aliens and no one would notice.

        Cthulhu Saves the World:  WTF are you talking about?  Did you miss the “well portrayed women” part that you quoted?  What woman was “well portrayed” in that?  Hell, what male was well portrayed?  Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun game, but it didn’t exactly have deep characterization, which is what I was pretty clearly talking about.  Did you confuse deep “characterization” with “no characterization”?

        The Longest Journey: Never actually played it, but from what I hear it does in fact have an interesting and human female character.  

        Metroid series:  No.  This is a she-rambo.  Not only is it a she-rambo, but you can’t even tell the sex of your character until the end.  If you do well enough in the original you get to see her in a bikini!  Oh joy.  If you consider this to be a “well portrayed woman”, I have nothing but pity for you.  The woman in Metroid is a well portrayed woman about as much as Gordon Freeman is a well portrayed man… which is to say not at all.  When she isn’t stripping into a bikini it isn’t sexist, but it isn’t contributing anything either.

        Mirror’s Edge: Getting better.  This is actually a pretty decent example of a well portrayed female protagonist.  Granted, she is only slightly less of a mute than Gordon Freeman, but there is some character in there.

        You missed Mrs. Packman… and also my point.  My point was that the damsel in distress is a bad stereotype, but that she-rambo, while potentially less sexist, isn’t much of an improvement.  Women characters without a little depth and humanity are at best mindless cartoons like their male rambo counterparts.  What is missing are well portrayed women that are believable. Women in Half Life 2 and Mass Effect is have lines and they don’t veer off into the territory of damsel in distress or mindless rambo character.   They have bad ass and believable personalities that fall somewhere int he realm of believability and there for contribute more than their fair share. 

        The world isn’t completely devoid of female protagonist that are interesting and well characterized, but they are more the exception than the rule.  Like I said, that scene with Alyx in Half Life 2 stuck with me because it was so masterfully done and lacking in most other games.  Female characters that actually have character and fall outside of the she-rambo or damsel in distress trope are rare.

        My point is that you are deftly ignored my entire post. My post mentions damsel in distress obliquely three times. The fucking post wasn’t about the damsel in distress point. The fucking post was about portrayals of women that are interesting and believable. Alyx was picked out because she is interesting and believable, not because she isn’t a damsel in distress. What makes Alyx awesome is that she is human. She reacts like a bad ass, but shows signs of stress and horror. She isn’t a cartoon.

        Blasting off a list of what I assume are mostly Japanese RPGs isn’t a counterpoint. It is a list of either she-rambo’s or women who, while not a damsel in distress or she-rambo, have the personality of a cardboard box. No offense to the Japanese, but they are not exactly known for their anti-patriarchal commentary in mass media or video games. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe you actually have a list of brilliantly portrayed women, but if I, with a Steam account that is worth more than a few thousand dollars haven’t played them, they not exactly main stream.

      3. It looks like you tried to spam a list of games. Most of these have token characters or deeply flawed representations (like the Final Fantasy* or Metroid series). Nonetheless, you did list probably the greatest representation of a female character in gaming with April Ryan in The Longest Journey. Mirror’s Edge also has a decent representation of a female character that is outside of the RPG or adventure game genre (which is rare). So congratulations for that, even though I question your motives here. You should shrink this list down to about ten titles and not include crappy representations. Here’s my list:

        April Ryan in the Longest Journey
        Kate Walker in Syberia
        Commander Shephard in Mass Effect 1-3 (yes, you do have the option of playing as a woman which gamers refer to as FemShep)
        Victoria McPherson in Still Life
        Zoë Castillo in Dreamfall
        Faith in Mirror’s Edge
        Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII

        I didn’t get to ten, but this list includes characters that exist for themselves and not just to empower the men around them. There are a lot of characters that I like that I excluded, like Bastilla Shan in SW:KOTOR, Annah-of-the-Shadows in Planescape: Torment, Princess Ashe in Final Fantasy XII, Clementine in The Walking Dead, etc., because they weren’t the central character or that they could arguably only exist for helping a central male character continue his plot. It is a short list. If I had to do the same thing with men, I’d probably come up with 100 or more entries (though to be fair, I’ve probably forgotten 5-10 good female characters).

        Note: I think Final Fantasy has recently made significant improvements, though all female characters still appear as sex objects. Nonetheless, the Final Fantasy 13 series actually spent quite a lot of time thoroughly developing the women to the point that the men were the less developed characters!

      4.  Yup, that’s a long list of games with female characters, how about a discussion of how One of them is actually a strong character and not just a two-dimensional prop?

  4. I’ve only really started gaming again in the last few years. So I wouldn’t have imagined myself very interested in watching someone talk about them like that. But the depth of her research is pretty impressive, and she’s got a rock-solid case. I’m looking forward to the next installments in the series… (and I’m wondering to myself, how expensive is it to do video that well?)

    Edit: This sure gives some context to the film, _Wreck-it Ralph_. Vanellope Von Shweetz looks a lot like Peach and Zelda and all the others, but she’s no distressed damsel! (other tropes she embodies, though, would spoil the plot)

    1.  Yeap but -SPOILER ALERT-

      .. she’s still a bloody princess at the end of the film.

      I groaned at that part, even if she shed her princess clothes in the next scene. It was still lame.

      1. So….. she was briefly a princess, and promptly transcended the narrow, binding constraints of that role and chose to retain her hard won personal character.  She actively, personally TRANSCENDED the trope.  How is this a bad thing?  

        1. Vanellope is a key character to the movie, she has her own back story, her own story arc, her own motivations which may clash with the main male character’s goals, she’s an excellent example of a strong independant character who both helps, and is helped by the titular character. There’s a reason she features strongly in the trailers.

    2. But that’s…not a game? And she’s still a princess in the end, as pointed out. And not the star of the movie, either. I mean, I loved the movie, and I do believe they tried to make her a really cool female character and I totally adored her, but it was still pretty limited because of the limitation of games in general.

      Still… not a game, though.

      1. Right. Not a video game. It’s a movie about -not just one videogame- all the video games we grew up with! So what the filmmakers have to say about the female characters in video games is relevant to the conversation. Both Vanellope and Calhoun are modeled on stereotypical characters, but they manage to reference those tropes without staying stuck in those roles. Calhoun’s back-story in particular served to give her character some motivation and dimension far beyond the badass bimbo we’re led to expect. (And if an 8-bit relic like Felix wants to date beyond his resolution, who are we to judge?)
        I expect Sarkeesian will eventually reference this film as an example of storytellers getting it right. 

        1. It’s still just a movie though and while a lot of fun, not particularly important to games OR movies. I mean, it was great, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t all that ground-breaking. Shrug. It just seems rather off-topic to me.

      2. Disney’s not known for making very progressive films, nor thematically consistent ones. Remember, this was a movie with the theme that there are ‘no real bad guys,’ where the climax involved a moustache-twirling villain turning into a monster bug and getting thrown into a volcano.

  5. I’m happy to see that she is back posting videos. I recommend anybody who likes this video to look at her archives. She is surprisingly good at explaining feminist topics clearly without talking down to you or making it a conflict. I think one of the reasons she was initially attacked might have been because of how effective a communicator she is. She wouldn’t have been such a threat if she wasn’t so effective.

    1. I had the opposite experience – I really liked this video, so I watched an earlier video she did on Lego and… it was really poor in comparison. It managed a few insightful points, but mostly seemed an opinion piece / blog that waved away Lego’s research when findings were awkward, assumed Lego just didn’t know anything about anything and that it was obvious the sets could not succeed, and so never addressed the thoughts raised if their research-influenced designs hit their market bullseye. (Which it seems to me they very much do, though I’m only judging by the stores near me). A scattering of good stuff, but overall not very useful, so I didn’t look further. I assumed the kickstarter funding made a huge difference in allowing her to dedicate kickass research time and resources, but from your comment, perhaps I just hit a bad video.

      1. I’d focus on her tropes videos then. I didn’t get the same reaction from the Lego video that you did (and I think it is a great example of the problems of gender divisions in toys), but her tropes videos are more on topic.

      2. Curious to know how people feel about the “girl-oriented” Lego sets.  I just have regular Legos for my kids, but my girls have eyed the pink-and-pastel sets with curiousity.

    2. While this video was very comprehensive, as somebody new to a lot of the feminist topics she’s handling I wish she’d spent some time exploring the impact of these tropes and what makes the stereotypes negative or harmful. Considering the video series is called “Tropes vs women” I was hoping she’d reach outside of the games themselves into how the tropes impact the female gamer experience, but the video felt more like a history report.
      If anyone can point me in the right direction for more information it would be appreciated.

  6. I think it was less because she was a feminist gamer and more because she was a hack who cherry-picked her arguments while ignoring any positions contrary to her own. Case in point: This first video (which, despite the $158k budget, looks exactly like any of her other videos at first glance) focuses on three Nintendo games, mostly The Legend of Zelda (Princess Zelda) and the Mario Brothers series (Princess Peach), while ignoring the most prolific female character of any Nintendo game: Samus Aran.

    Here’s someone with a funny Tumblr URL who explains it in more words than I do:

    1. Are you responding since she is attacking male privilege? It seems likely.

      Unless you missed any context of the video, she was talking about the damsel in distress trope. Just because there are female characters in other games does not negate this trope. She’ll talk about other tropes later, as well as giving positive examples (you’d know this if you watched her other videos). Oh, and as far as Samus, in case you forgot, the better you scored in the game the less clothing she would wear in the ending (down to a bikini). Great counter-example, idiot!

      1. Oh, and as far as Samus, in case you forgot, the better you scored in the game the less clothing she would wear in the ending (down to a bikini). 

        Talk about cherry-picking, heh. (Not you, him.)

      2. Yes, it is true that the trope is not negated simply because there are other female characters. But that wasn’t what I was going for; part of the problem is that she only focuses on these two characters, both of whom have shown to be competent characters on their own in other games in their respective franchises. It might have been a better choice to have skipped straight into the material she is saving for the second part: the modern, subtle examples of the trope.

        And just because a choice is made to portray a character in revealing clothing, it doesn’t negate all the other positive traits of that character. The objective of “Metroid” is not to see Samus in a bikini, a one-piece swimsuit, or a catsuit, but to defeat Mother Brain, Ridley, Kraid, Mini-Kraid, or whatever the hell was supposed to be the final boss in “Metroid: Other M”, a game which deserves a video all of its own. I don’t recall seeing the game in her stacks of games that she bought, however. I might be wrong, though.

        Does anyone have that picture? I wonder if anyone did the math to see how much the games cost.

        1. It might have been a better choice to have skipped straight into the material she is saving for the second part: the modern, subtle examples of the trope.

          She went into the history first, for a reason, so that people who are new to this concept will understand the concept.

          Maybe wait for the second installment?

          1. Metroid was released in the 1980s, before mass communication methods such as Usenet or message boards or YouTube comment sections. Back then, it was extremely unlikely that anybody even knew of any surprises upon beating the game within a certain amount of time, or even if beating the game got you anything beyond a “Congratulations!” screen. To see Samus in a bikini, one would have to beat the game in under three hours, which would require a lot of practice and timing for (in retrospect) what would be a very little reward.

            In any case, it also might be worth noting that the original booklet materials for “Metroid” described the character as a male. A player would be unaware of the truth unless beating the game in under five hours, at which point she would remove her helmet to reveal herself as a (very low-resolution) woman. Beating the game under three hours would reveal her wearing her leotard. Beating the game a second time, this time playing the game without her armor, would finally reveal the bikini ending.

            One can argue that the bikini ending is still a “prize” to be won, but in the early days of video games it’s less of a reward and more of a mark of accomplishment. Congratulations, video game player. You’ve seen a pixelated woman in a bikini. But it’s almost time for a new episode of “Jem and the Holograms”, and it’ll be a cold day in Hell before you miss an episode of that again.

          2. One can argue that the bikini ending is still a “prize” to be won, but in the early days of video games it’s less of a reward and more of a mark of accomplishment.

            How did you convince yourself of that having a woman strip down is not objectifying women, but just another form of a trophy? Do you consider real women to be trophies? Or the ones who wear bikinis?

            I’ve played many games and won many trophies. But I guess substituting a bikini clad woman would have been the same without any sexist objectification, right?

          3. One can argue that the bikini ending is still a “prize” to be won

            No shit, Sherlock!

             but in the early days of video games it’s less of a reward and more of a mark of accomplishment. 

            And that mark of accomplishment is a woman stripping naked the better you perform in the game.

            You’ve seen a pixelated woman in a bikini.

            What, do you think that a generic “woman-figure” as a prize** is somehow better? Or new? Playboy makes big bucks off of generic-sexy-woman-figures. This is not new.  The fact that it’s not in high-def does not make it any less objectifying.

            **Or, as you say, “mark of accomplishment”.  As if there is a difference.

            As bzishi said, they are treating her like a trophy! I mean come ON.

            I am really, really getting frustrated with even the most obvious, blatant, sexist bullshit being denied.

          4. (No infinite reply chains, Disqus?)

            bzishi: I prefer my trophy women to be encased in a solid gold shell and placed within a glass case in a local high school alongside the football team’s Regionals trophy, personally.

            marilove: Yeah, I’ve never been good at arguing. Also, you spelled it “write”, not “right”.

            bzishi and marilove:  I meant a “mark of accomplishment” in terms of bragging rights. Nothing was permanent in the NES days (except for Zelda save files). Nowadays people have several different ways to show off their gaming e-peen, but all you had in the 80s was the trust of your friends.

            Also, this is completely avoiding the question you two have brought up, but here are the original endings for Metroid:Under Five Hours:
            Under Three Hours:
            Under One Hour:

          5. These photos are NOT helping your case and are in fact solidifying mine. She’s standing there in a bikini and the ONLY REASON she is in a bikini is because the player (assumed to be male, obviously, by the writers) because you beat the game in under the hour.

             I’ve never been good at arguing.

            This is obvious. Common sense and critical thinking skills are needed to be any good at arguing.

            Also, you spelled it “write”, not “right”.

            Yes. I am well aware that I sometimes have a problem with homonyms (likely due to the fact that I type 120+ WPM lol) and I do not always catch it when it happens. But thank you for pointing out the obvious and completely irrelevant typo in an attempt to make me look bad, instead making yourself look petty and foolish. Seriously, dude??

            I give up .  You really are terrible at this.

          6. I’m going to try to simplify the point.
            They could have chosen ANYTHING to be the secret cool thing you see at the end of the game for your bragging rights. To use the simplest possible example, what if it’d been a purple suit? “Did you ever get the purple suit ending? It’s the best ending.”  or maybe “Did you ever get the medieval armor ending? Where she’s in full plate with a sword? Awesome.”Instead of choosing something badass, they chose something skimpy, Why did they make that choice? Because they thought guys would rather see a girl in a bikini than a girl in a badass armor variant.And hey, maybe you, personally, would have preferred the purple suit, or the full plate. If so, fine… that’s also not relevant to the point, which is that the DESIGNERS of games keep making these decisions that are based on sexist ideas. That doesn’t make everyone who plays the games sexist, but it does demonstrate a problem in the industry. 

          7. I haven’t played a lot of console games.  Did play a lot of arcade Ghosts n’Goblins where I remember the protagonist losing his armor and getting stripped to his skivvies was a bad thing, not a prize. 

          8. I get incredibly tired of the whole Samus Aran debate.  Like many media and games, it was a mixed bag.

            1.  The audience for this game was almost exclusively adolescent boys.  So yes, Marketing 101 – girl in bikini = big prize.  This is bad for gender equity, but certainly no worse than other media forms of the day.

            2.  Girl in bikini was also the most capable and effective mercenary in the known universe.  This was a surprise at the end of the game, not a selling point ala Tomb Raider – and an excellent, non-threatening way to challenge common social assumptions about the roles and agency of women.  This was very good for gender equity.

              In the final analysis, I have to believe [ the original ] Metroid did far more to advance gender equity [by presenting a view of women in games that was nearly unheard of in games of the day ]than it did to damage it [ by exploiting femininity in a way that movies, sports and media continue to do to this day – in glorious HD ].

        2. Samus, prior to the ending is just a robot that kicks ass. It is not a man or a woman. It does not become human until the very end where you get to oogle Samus the stripper. The only part of the older games where you can consider Samus to be a woman is where she strips. Of course, she is not a real woman there, she is a sex object.

          As I said before, review Sarkeesian’s other videos. She criticizes negative tropes and then counters it with positive examples, even though they may be rare. She isn’t trying to beat up gamers. She is trying to convince people that we need a more positive culture that is more inclusive of women in gaming. And she points out positive portrayals as a way forward.

          This video that she just released is spot on. There is a major problem in the way that women are portrayed in video games, starting with the damsel in distress (the other tropes will come later). If you don’t see that, then maybe you should watch more of her videos with a less cynical eye. Hopefully then you will wake up and realize that the way that women are portrayed in games and the media are harmful to women in general, and the only way to fix this is to consider them the equals of men as fully developed characters instead of objects, rewards, or plot devices.


            This is the original manual for “Metroid”; she is described as a man, though her “true form is shrouded in mystery.” You play as a person, not a robot. You’re led throughout the entire game to believe that the character you’ve been playing was a man. She does not remove her helmet and/or Power Suit at the end to be ogled, but to surprise the player. It’s not about seeing “some chick” in a bikini. It’s still about playing a game.

            Also, I’m not sure if we’re talking about the original “Metroid” or the franchise overall. Help me out, please.

            And it shouldn’t (and doesn’t) take several hours of videos to learn that women are portrayed unequally in most (if not all) forms of media. But knowing is only half the battle. The other half is actual action. It’s one thing to know that women should be portrayed in an equal light, but it’s another to actively portray them in said light. In my opinion, the best way people can begin portraying women in video games positively is to create their own female-led video games, just as one would create a book, a comic, or a film. Even a simple Flash game can get a message across.

          2. Why, exactly, do you think they put her in a bikini at all? Answer me that. Please. Why would she need to be in a bikini at all? Is she at a beach? Please tell me she’s AT LEAST at a beach! Because woman don’t generally hang out in bikinis outside of the beach or a pool, and most women also don’t put them on after winning dangerous battles.

            So what’s the bikini for, then?

            The fact that, context and story wise, it seems to be *totally* unnecessary (women randomly in bikini for “no” reason** how ~unusual~), it just makes it all the worse.

            **Oh, but there is a reason. Why do you think she’s in a bikini, again?

            And just so you know, the game itself might otherwise be pretty great, I don’t know, although I hear Metroid in general is good so I wouldn’t doubt it. But that in no way makes the bikini bullshit any less sexist or ridiculous.

          3. The bikini is there because your friends will never believe you if you tell them that you got to see Samus in a bikini for completing the game in under an hour. Why? Because they can’t beat the game in under an hour, so they know that you can’t beat it in under an hour either. Nobody can beat Metroid in under an hour.

          4. Jesus on a jumping cactus stick. Are you deliberately being this ridiculously obtuse? Trolling? I really fucking hope so.

          5. I do not believe a gamer’s first instinct upon seeing Samus in a bikini was to run to the bathroom and drop their pants. I believe that their first action would be to run around the house screaming that they just beat Metroid in less than an hour.

          6. @Yaanu: I’ve heard the argument from your last paragraph a hundred times. It basically says: “Please don’t criticize sexism in video games. Just leave us alone and let us objectify women to our heart’s desire. And if this sexism in media and games is harmful to women overall, it really is your fault for not making non-sexist alternatives.”

          7. In my opinion, the best way people can begin portraying women in video games positively is to create their own female-led video games, just as one would create a book, a comic, or a film. Even a simple Flash game can get a message across.

            Yeah, because it’s just that easy! Snap a finger and bam! Your message gets acrossed.

            Also, what does this have to do with the discussion, anyway? Are you saying we should just create and not talk about the games in existence<I? and currently being made? Why can’t we, I don’t know, DO BOTH?

            Do you feel we shouldn’t talk about the obvious problems in current gaming culture?

          8. Are people usually fully clothed under a full suit of armour?

            Yes, or even more than fully-clothed.  Usually you put some padding under it because armor.

      1. The Zero Suit, like the end-game bikini, is not the prize. It is only ever truly seen in three games: Metroid Zero Mission (GBA), where the small graphics size would barely qualify as sexy, much less pornographic; Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, in which it is only seen in two scenes (though the first-person POV wouldn’t help much either); and Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, where your screenshot comes from, and is again not a prize to be won. In fact, when compared to Samus in her normal Power Suit, it’s an entirely different style of fighting altogether.

        EDIT: I forgot that the suit appears in “Metroid: Other M”. Again, there’s plenty to be said about that game’s portrayal of Samus, but others got to it before I could. I’ll give you that one, though; the suit is skintight and sexualized within the game’s numerous cutscenes, though I’m not sure if you can actually play as Samus in the Zero Suit in any portions outside of the game’s final countdown sequence.

        1. Man, it must be getting really tiresome moving those goalposts! Perhaps you should take a break.

        2. Metroid: Other M could have an entire episode devoted to it. It seemed likes its writers were trying to counteract the inadvertent feminism that the other games in the series ended up having. It also had the worst writing I’ve ever seen in a professional game.

      2. I dunno if it is sexist in itself, or rather sexualized and objectified by a game designer who is sexist. Are the men in the same game similarly clad/exposed ?

      1. I am not a gamer (though I have played games) but most of my friends (and exes, male and female) are/were. I have no idea who this character is, even though I do know vaguely what Metroid is. That said, I know a LOT of other video game characters, even though only 2 right off the top of my head (well, now 3) are female — Princess Peach and Lara Craft.

        1. Lara Craft is not a character though, it’s a popular game by a guy from Sweden called Natch.

          1. What’s the name of the woman that Angelina Jolie played? She’s a character, is she not? Isn’t that her name? I am feeling kind of stupid right now, halp! :) (I will google, but this is what I was trying to say in my way too tired state last night.)

          2. @Chentzilla:disqus 

            Acid Burn

            I really hope this is some sort of reference I’m missing and is not as hateful and gross as I think it is. :/

          3. I believe it’s not a typo, but (minor) ignorance. A and O are on different sides of the keyboard.

            And, well, thanks for noticing my edginess and smartness. In turn, I admit you also were quite smart to see through my harmless ruse.

          4. Well, it wasn’t a typo so much as totally forgetting what her name actually was, which is worthy of a certain level of snark, but I’m not sure this person is mature enough to realize what that level is. :)

            (I’m often equally terrible with unfamiliar names in real life and you can’t even google then! I’ve seen the first movie twice. I will always probably call her Lara. It’s kind of stuck in my head now.)

        2. Acid Burn is Jolie’s character from Hackers. Sorry for being immature around your mistake, I thought you’ll see through my fooling (the first comment actually jokingly referenced Minecraft). 

          1. Thank you :)

            Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve seen hackers? I saw it a handful of times, too, although it’s been a loooooong time. AND I STILL FORGOT HER NAME. So uh, I’m sorry, too, lol.

            I told you I was bad at names. Haha. Apology accepted, clearly I need to google more often. It would help me save face, too!

      2. Seriously? Man, what the hell?
        Though when the list is limited to Nintendo properties only, Metroid does come in tenth place. That still doesn’t help, though.

        I blame “Metroid: Other M”.

      3. The reason Metroid doesn’t crack the top 100 is that gamers are inherently unable to recognize kickass games.

    2.  Yeah, pretty much everything about that blog, from opinions and writing to design is offensive. They may have used more words, but they’re not funny, and they don’t do any better a job of explaining anything.

    3.  The antecedent of “it” in your first sentence is, what, the rape threats? You’re arguing that anyone who fails to use impartial rhetoric on the internet gets deluged with those? That’s, um, an interesting point of view.

    4. Are you arguing that Samus is somehow a damsel in distress? Or are you illiterate and couldn’t read the title of the video? Why would Samus be at all relevant to that video? I’m sure she’ll show up in some other capacity in a more relevant video – either for her endgame strip-teases, or her pathetic characterization in Other M.

  7. I’m happy to have grown up in the early 1970s/1980s era of video games.  “Donkey Kong” was  ridiculous. And I remember reading articles in “Electronic Games” magazine about how Centipede & Frogger were specifically targeted to women & never understanding that. Then Ms. Pac Man came out… Anyway, I have no idea why anyone who be threatened by someone expressing a POV on anything. 

  8. I have to take exception to some comments by Indian Osaka:  “When it comes down to it, Video Games are the last frontier in entertainment not absolutely owned by giant companies and subsidized by the government.  They have to live or die by SALES.”  Really?  To my mind, some of the best, most progressive games have been made by smaller companies before they were gobbled up by the big ones, who are MORE likely to churn out mindless pap (e.g., Dragon Age Origins, with its amazing character development, uber-customizable avatars, and complex plots, backstories and story lines vs. the bland, hollow, repetitiveness of Dragon Age 2.)  

    “Guess who the main consumer, that is the person who PAYS MONEY for the games are?  White males.” No. They’re as much a stereotype as the damsel in distress.  Yes there are some, of course.  But I’m a 53 year old woman.  My daughter is a 13 year old girl.  My 51 year old husband has played every MMO since Meridian 59 and bought every deluxe edition of every game for the last 20 years. We are all serious gamers.

    “And the ones that sell are violent macho ones…  Like Skyrim” — As a matter of fact, I LOVE Skyrim (and am in fact replaying it for the gazillionth time to take advantage of the Hearthfire expansion.)  It’s violent, yes, but who ever said that fighting the forces of evil is not satisfying to women?

    1. Also, if he thinks video games are the *last* non-corporate entertainment medium he just isn’t paying attention. AAA video games cost as much as Hollywood blockbusters, and EA is no less a corporate behemoth than any movie studio you could name. On top of that, people are doing amazing independent stuff in tabletop games, comics, music, movies, video games… Basically every medium ever has people making things themselves and selling them without any big corporation’s permission. You’d think someone who reads Boing Boing of all things would have noticed by now.

    2. Lynda!

      Actually, I think we’re in agreement. The comments you quote were written by another, and while their opinion was expressed with emotion, it’s not one I agree with; although my own post could have said so much more clearly.

      1. Damn, I’m sorry India Osaka!  That’ll teach me to try to post while trying to get ready to have a houseful of 13-somethings for a birthday party (at which the primarily source of entertainment will be, of course, video games!)  Mea culpa!    

      1.  It’s true. In my own circles I’m a “secret gamer” even though I know most of my people are gamers. I like immersion, and real-life connections in-game mess with that, so my mmorpg is incognito and my single player gaming is private.

        Also not a WoW fan, and don’t want to offend the many I know.

        One family of my family, an Aunt, Uncle (in their 60s) and 3 kids (early 20s to mid 30s) all WoW together, with the kids RL partners/boyfriends/girlfriends and many family friends besides. I don’t want to tell them I play EVE…

  9. I just think it is a little sad that the only seemingly acceptable response to this is to portray woman as hyper violent with the requisite guns, giant swords, etc (e.g. the ass kicking stereotype), of course she will still have skin tight clothing on too.  There seems to be no alternative to these two themes.

  10. As far as I can tell, the information presented is all available on a handful of Wikipedia pages, and while well made, for her budget I’d kind of expected her to fly to Japan and bang on Shigeru Miyamoto’s door and demand he tell her why he’s such a raging misogynist.

  11. One of the most disappointing things on REDDIT has been how this video has been down voted like mad. The comments have been pretty pathetic. Very weak justifications for fucked up views.

    Her points are valid, and I have almost always hated weak female characters that need being rescued in almost all art and entertainment. I can accept it if its a period piece or something, but the hell if I would ‘save the princess’ who wasnt able to assist in her own rescue. I just kinda despise that kinda weakness.

    Princess Leia comes to mind. Sure, she needs to be rescued, but she picks up a blaster, later infiltrates Jaba’s lair to rescue the man she loves, and then joins the attack to shut down the force field, and in general isnt some pathetic thing that needs a man to look after her. and not once does some asshole say ‘yer a girl, stay behind’.

    When I see weak characters who freeze up, who arent crippled, old, or children, but are what should be able bodied and minded adults, i want them to die. Really, you just let yourself get stabbed? You dont lung, bite, scratch, kick, and go down in fury? These are the kinda people I’d not go back for if the zombie’s attacked. And that is what I am attracted to… smart strong people who would be a good ally when the zombies attack.

    I hope somewhere in her series she praises video games that have broken this stupid mold. Resident Evil, L4D, McGee’s Alice, Death Island, Metroid, Halo, Freespace, Nightmare Creatures, The Gia Sisters, Blade Kitten, and other games with playable female heros as well as strong female NPCs.

    I should mention that my mom had a thing for post holocaust movies that included a lot of rape, and in many cases revenge for rape. Her favorite movie was Nail Gun Massacre. There is a documentary on these types of films called Machete Maidens. Its on teh nexflix. Watch it. These women kick ass. Sure, there is lots female nudity and to that I only say they should of balanced it out with more male nudity. One of her other favorite movies was Caligula for just that reason.

    As far as the super sexy vixen heros… I’m ok with that when it fits what is going on. I have always had an issue with ‘female armor’ in games and art. Now dont get me wrong, its pleasing to the eye and I love sexy women, but i have an issue suspending disbelief in many cases. Lora Croft comes to mind. Short sleeved shirt and shorts in the jungle? Yeah, if you want bot flies all over you body and enjoy itching after a day of trumping through the fucken jungle. Now, this makes perfect sense in the game space bunnies must die, because the main character is thrown into having to save her sister, not so much when it comes to an educated woman adventurer. What she had to say about double dragon is true for the wrong reason; the game was always ass, the only good thing going was the panty shot. Again, i’d rather add male sexual elements (i’m not gay) than remove female sexual elements. Add a cock or 50 to balance it out.

  12. Sarkeesian’s highest stretch goal was $26K; she got $158K. She received over a hundred thousand dollars that did not fit in her three-times-extended plan. 
    That’s hardly an invitation to criticize her production quality! Rather than stopping her project and figuring out how to improve its quality SIX HUNDRED PERCENT, she’s continued making the videos that people want. If you get upset that overfunded projects don’t automagically scale up, you should be critical of the Kickstarter fundraising model, not the projects themselves.

    1. Yeah, I don’t get the complaints that ‘this just looks like her old videos.’ What, was it supposed to be shot in IMAX because her kickstarter went past its goal? 

      1. She’ll be around presently to each viewer’s home to retrofit your computers with 3D technology and Surround Sound.  

  13. I wonder what she will do with the money, There’s no way she needed that much to make youtube videos that everyone already makes for free. She should have kept the $6000 she originally asked for and give the rest to charity.

    1. The people that pledged the money didn’t pledge it for charity. They pledged it for her to make research about game tropes. Now she can expand that research. And the “for free”… so your employer doesn’t have to pay you if he or she can find somebody doing the same you do “for free”?

      I really find it interesting, though, how people are so worried about what she will do with the money. Could you explain why?

      1. Because she’s a woman and therefore even though people willingly gave her money, she’s has nothing worthy to say so she doesn’t deserve the money, and also she’s a greedy gold digger, because duh.

    2.  I dont see why. Those persons didnt give away money to charity themselves, it was given to her for the production of this. What she does with it is up to her as long as it goes towards the pledgers initial wish.

    3.  If I wanted her to donate the funds I gave her to charity, I would have given it directly to charity. I’m greatly satisfied by what she’s put out; too bad so many others think she should keep quiet. If they’re so offended, go watch harlem shake videos.

    4. Why are you wasting time commenting?  Shouldn’t you be out somewhere, donating your time to charity?

  14. She completely ignored that in Double Dragon Neon Marian was both a boss and lands the killing blow on the boss.  While she was setup as the plot of the game, it was done more to keep the game themes than anything else. But maybe she ignored it as it didnt fit in the damsel in distress trope she wanted to imply the game kept commiting to this day?

    1. Marian was kidnapped as a plot device. Did you miss that part or are you being intentionally obtuse? Did you miss Sarkeesian’s point that you empower the male protagonists by disempowering Marian. Further disempowering her, she was as a slave turned into a monster. Once defeated, she aids the protagonists with “the power of love“. At no point is she a real character. She is just an object and a plot device.

      Edit: Oh, and if you go to the end of that video, you can watch to protagonists fight (“Fight for her affection!”) over who gets to carry her home like a trophy.

      1. Ofcourse Marian was kidnapped as a plot device, its a remake of an old game. All of those are replicating the original assets, while also upgrading it by making her show off as more powerful and reliable than any of the two brothers, who she upgrades and sends “to the future” to kill off the skull boss.
        She then lands the finishing blow herself. Both the fight for Marian affection and marian being kidnaped are part of the original game that were kept in order to keep the game themes.  Without those they wouldnt feel like a remake. What is implied throughout the whole sequence is that Marian herself is controlling them and is stronger than both put together, that was the twist added by the creators of the remake, this was a cool nod that acknoledged the game origins while getting some subtext there. 

        The game itself is based of eighties movies cliches, most of the games of the era were, to criticize games for basing on the culture of the era while ignoring that they were also the forefront of gender equality as characters like Athena, Samus, Chun Li, Blaze, Tyris Flare and even jill of the jungle were taking part of the screens is disingenuous. I hope that the next instalment touches upon those.

        1. She was never a developed character! Ever! Do you not get this?!?

          It isn’t about how strong she is or about her secret “power of love”. It is about her existing for the sole purpose of giving the protagonists a purpose! If a undeveloped female character is kidnapped for the sole purpose of giving the male protagonist a mission, regardless of her secret powers, then she is fulfilling the damsel in distress trope. This is what occurs in this game. Case closed.

          1.  And I never said she was a developed character? I said that in a remake they implied more characterization for her, and criticizing them for using her in the remake of a old retro game based entirely around her being kidnapped but not pointing out the tongue in cheek ways they characterized her to escape from the trope is unfair. Wayforward did the best they could to remake an admittedly old game, to be critical of them but not regard anything they included that sets them apart is bogus. An extra line where Anita had said “in this game unlike all the others Marian actually finishes off the boss.” instead of dismissing wayforward completely would be more than reasonable.
            But hey keep going CASE CLOSED . im sure that works well with everyone you ever try to have a reasonable discussion with.
            Dont bother replying, after a reply like that I am surely not going to bother reading whatever else you say.

          2. An extra line where Anita had said “in this game unlike all the others Marian actually finishes off the boss.” instead of dismissing wayforward completely would be more than reasonable.

            No it wouldn’t! You don’t get it. Nothing they did changed the damsel in distress characterization. Marian is no less a damsel in distress than before. So why should Sarkeesian need to discuss this? Face it, you have a grudge against Sarkeesian and this was the only way you knew how to express it, by nitpicking and pretending that it makes her a hypocrite. It doesn’t. She is 100% correct here, and the portrayal of Marian is more troubling than before because the developers knew about the sexist characterization but then tried to acknowledge it by a pseudo-characterization with fake empowerment while touching nothing about the actual characterization that makes it so sexist. It fooled you, obviously, but it doesn’t fool the rest of us.

          3. Bzishi.  You are insane. I had never heard of this person before this video, yet you are accusing me of having a grudge against her and claiming that the only way I had to express it was to post on boingboing about it. Then in the next line you accuse me of being fooled by Wayforward. So I have e a grudge against Anita AND I was fooled by wayforward? You seem to know a lot about me that I didnt myself! thanks for informing me!

            To misconstrue anyone that doesnt agree completely with you as holding grudges is weird as heck. Good luck with getting yourself sorted out there.

          4.  @facebook-682876919:disqus Fine, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. I’d say that >90% of gamers know who Sarkeesian is and know about the death threats, rape threats, tirades, and attempts to discredit her or call her a hypocrite. If you read any major gaming publication in the last year you probably would have come across a dozen or more articles inspired by the attacks on her (or attacks on her defenders). But you may be one of those rare gamers who simply hasn’t heard of her. Nonetheless, your nitpicking and refusal to listen to her points definitely reminds me of those people who were trying to “expose” her. When her attackers couldn’t get away with direct misogyny, they resorted to more passive aggressive methods, some of which you can see in this forum. Your initial post and your refusal to acknowledge the definition of a damsel in distress is eerily similar to those types of coordinated attacks.

          5. I watched this video thinking I was going to disagree with her, especially about Zelda. On of my favorite games is Ocarina Of Time, and in that, Zelda is an awesome helpful ninja through most of the game. Still, it was pointed out that immediately after she turns back into her “normal” form, she gets disempowered in exactly the same way. This video helped me realize that even when a game is better in some small way, it’s usually still shored up by that central disempowerment theme.

            So I think any of the nonsense about Marian, which from what I’ve seen is a million times more flimsy than Zelda’s role in Ocarina, can be compared to the whole Zelda thing that Anita explores in depth… where temporarily giving a character a modicum of power doesn’t fix the central problem. Of course, I was giving people a lot of credit. Maybe most youtube viewers are incapable of making that kind of logical connection. Apparently, Anita’s only mistake was giving people on the internet too much credit, and not explicitly laying out her point in small words. 

            If she’d said something like “Token moments of power, like when a female character becomes a one-shot mini-boss or when she displays some gimmicky power in one instance in order to advance the plot for the heroes are frequently employed, but they don’t reflect any sort of serious shift in power for the game.” would that have helped?Because she said almost exactly that, during the section where she talked about how the female character will sometimes help out with magic. Seriously… listening comprehension, people!

          6. Ah, yes. She’s insane! What, are you going to call her hysterical next? I am catching far too many of your dog whistles. Try harder!

            Also, seriously, if you didn’t hear of her until today, why aren’t you spending some time researching what she’s doing, and what she’s done in the past, before making grand opinions and assumptions about her and then spewing them for the public to read? You admit you don’t know much about her project, so, what is your point?  Hmm?

  15. I’d be pleased as punch if we had more games like the Portal series. The overly macho FPS games have been big for 20 years now. Moar thinking games, please!

  16. Mass effect has some good female characters, also the Baldur’s Gate games.  Not many others that I can think of.  I like the video and would have donated to the kickstarter if I could have.

    The comments even here in BB are indicative of what an uphill battle she is fighting.

  17. I was hoping she’d go into an analysis of Braid (in particular the ending!) and what it says about the trope. But I honestly don’t know what conclusions should be drawn from that game.

    1.  Well, Braid is an indie title that only a small percentage of gamers have played. I don’t think the damsels in distress trope is in all games but it is prominent in quite a few.

      1. I hope she gets into Braid too, but you’re right, and she even says as much. Not all games employ this trope. She’s just saying many popular ( though also many unpopular ) games do. And, while those games are fun, the trope they use to get the action going is problematic.

    2. All Braid’s ending does is SPOILER ALERT reverse the player’s expectation of which side of the game they are one. The damsel in distress is still the object being contested by two men. The player just ends up being the bad guy.

      1. David- I think you’re basically right, but I also think it’s more complicated if only because Blow intentionally and straightforwardly evokes the damsel in distress theme as a theme and then sort of deconstructs it. By forcing us to acknowledge that the kind of straightforward canned narrative presented in video games where you can “get the girl” through perseverance isn’t always real, and that this perseverance can sometimes be damaging and or “bad” in the language of the game. It doesn’t really counter the trope as much as call it into sharp focus and asking us what it is normally telling us. I do think that there is a discussion of the the damsel trope in Braid – because it is the character’s objectification of her that pushes her away – at least that’s my interpretation.

  18. Peach is an active and relevant character in multiple Mario games such as Paper Mario where she helps Mario from affair and makes multiple attempts to escape from Bowser, Super Mario RPG where she joins your party and Super Paper Mario where she is a main character and part of your party and Super Princess Peach where she is the main character and has to save Mario.

    In the Zelda series Zelda did have her own game (wasn’t that great tbh), in more recent entries of the franchise Zelda has been given more depth especially in Skyward Sword and Spirit Tracks where you literally couldn’t complete the game without playing as her (she was trapped in a suit of armour) even in Ocarine of Time Zelda appeared before you in the form of a badass ninja called Shiek where she would assist you and as Zelda she helped you been Ganondorf in the final showdown. You could argue that Link is frozen in time as he is the silent male who simply abliges to the fact he has to save the princess.

    In the story mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl Zelda and Peach actually team up and make a competent and effective team while Link and Mario almost kill each other due to a misunderstanding.

    Even so for nes games saving a women had no sexist malice involved it was simply a plot device that the developement team wouldn’t waste their very limited space with character depth and intricate plots.

    Also Video games in general don’t really make much of an attempt to give their characters much depth. For example men are portrayed and ripped, violent, badass, psychopaths such as Kratos, Dante, Travis Touchdown, who just kill for the lols. Also in fighting games there are as many ripped, good looking, shirtless men with 6 packs as there are beautiful scantily clad female characters.

    To be honest I find the situation of women in games to be improving in current times with female characters such as Lightning, Chell, Alyx and (rebooted) Lara Croft. By analyzing games that were released over 20 years ago of course there are going to be some outdated views.

  19. Throwing my $0.02 worth in:

    I think there is a larger issue at work in the patterns of “women being portrayed in lousy ways.”  

    Speaking *very* generally, it’s often been like this through history.

    For example, in Ancient Greece — as I recall — the playwright Euripedes deliberately sets up Electra as being completely useless in his play named after her.  She doesn’t accomplish much beyond bemoaning her fate, while all the other characters are busy doing things.  

    (I wrote a screenplay based on the tragedy, and the notes were: “The girl’s a zero,” which was sort of the point of the myth/tragedy/screenplay.)Meanwhile, Euripedes portrays Electra’s mother as a sort of the opposite pole of evil-female-media-portrayals: dangerous, violent slut.  

    Which was sort of Euripedes’ ironic point: “Look at how poorly we portray women in our culture!”

    So, this is not a new problem.  And we’re still asking the same question. 

    Perhaps it is because women aren’t usually the ones writing/filming these stories.

    Or perhaps it’s because women have better things to do than write stories.  

    Or, maybe, it’s because when they do write stories — like J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, etc. —  the authors are typically villainized (at least initially), either in ad hominem attacks, or via their stories, which are basically said to be vehicles of evil.  

    For example, the vehicles-of-evil thing regarding Harry Potter stories goes without saying, despite extended spiritual/Christian metaphors and patterns throughout.  Similarly, Bella Swan goes from being a typically nervous teen through an extended, hero’s journey/spiritual metaphor to become most powerful being in the natural and supernatural worlds, yet is widely criticized as weak, a “poor role model,” a “victim of abuse,” etc., etc., etc. 

    Comparatively, warrior-class Katniss, who personally wins far more than her wildest hopes, is left mentally-disturbed and broken, seemingly unable to enjoy any of the happiness she’s earned — a permanent victim, despite her “victor” status.  I get that dramatic irony, but while her character steals failure from the jaws of victory, she is still widely praised as a being “wonderful” role model.  Murderer or not.

    So I see some humanity-wide perceptual problems here, with successful women — in any story — viewed as a threat/undesirable.

    And… I’ll just wait here while the Twilight trolls come out.  Step right up.

    1. “For example, in Ancient Greece — as I recall …”
      Wow! How old are you?
      (sorry, I couldn’t resist)

  20. I think I might have missed the point of the video. I watched the first 1-2 minutes where she laments that the UK game developer Rare made a game about a male fox rescuing a female damsel in distress, because Nintendo told Rare to make it that way, but she does not seem to mention that Rare followed up with an even bigger game (Kameo) featuring a female lead rescuing male “dudes in distress”

    Am I missing something? 
    Is the goal to collect a bunch of money to film a PSA to tell us that Japanese people are backward compared to westerners?

    1. Are you missing something?

      Yeah, the fact that doing a good deed doesn’t negate your previous bad deeds!
      So according to you, the existence of Kameo completely negates what Nintendo did with Crystal in Star Fox?Kameo was made by Rare, just like Dinosaur Planet. It was Nintendo’s misogyny that killed Rare’s original idea and made it a sexist piece of shit.And according to you, that shouldn’t be acknowledged or discussed, because Kameo.

      Also, you seem to have a poor grasp of story structure. Anita CLEARLY states that this will be a 12 part video exploration of all themes, and yet you want it aaaaaaaall crammed in the 1st one.

      Ridiculous children, I tell ya.

  21. >> I watched the first 1-2 minutes

    >>Am I missing something?

    Yes – the rest of the video.

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