My husband knows my rage triggers, and sometimes he sends me things to read or watch just to see my reaction. The latest of these was a 2013 series of YouTube videos from a channel called Feminist Frequencies. Right off the bat I knew that he was baiting me. The only reason I watched it was because it was called Tropes vs Women in Video Games. I’ll put up some links just in case you decide you want to see them for yourself, but they sure got my blood boiling. By the end of the 3rd one I was straight up anger watching. Hate watching is too strong a term in this instance, but I was definitely mad. The whole gist of this series is how deeply offensive it is to women that they are so frequently portrayed as damsels in distress in video games. Last time I checked I was a woman, and I’m not offended. All this series did was piss me off, and maybe point out some lazy writing in games.
First off: the smirking feminist in these videos relies heavily on words and phrases like “systemic sexism”, “regressive”, and “pernicious”. What a great way to trigger my rage impulses before I’ve even had a chance to get mad about anything else you’re saying. According to this woman (who never gives her name, and I’m not going to look it up) relying on a damsel in distress helps to normalize the toxic and patronizing attitudes that men have towards women. She does admit that this trope is actually thousands of years old, and goes back all the way to Greek mythology. Apparently we’re all supposed to be so “woke” now that tying bitches to train tracks should moved aside so that women can save themselves. According to her this trend in video games started back when legendary game designer Shingeru Miyamoto created Donkey Kong. So it’s all his fault I guess. The list of Miyamoto’s wrongs against women continued with Super Mario Bros. Where Princess Peach is kidnapped in 13 of the 14 core series games. Peach is simply an object that Mario owns, and his rescue of her is nothing more than getting his shit back from Bowser. Maybe Peach feels important because of all of the attention. Maybe she just sucks at staying out of trouble. Or perhaps she was trying to get out of this weird relationship with Mario. Then we have The Legend of Zelda series which is offensive before you even play it since Zelda isn’t the main character. All of the Zeldas in the series are dis-empowered by their frequent kidnappings. The only exception was in Ocarina of Time when she cross-dressed as Sheik. But as soon as she changed clothes she got captured by Ganon. This woman actually timed that shit to 3 minutes. She suggests that Zelda get the lead in her own game, and shows art of her holding Link’s sword and shield. Link is the fucking Hero of fucking Time. It’s his sword and shield so tell Zelda to get her own weapons! Double Dragon is also “problematic” because of Marian getting punched in the stomach before her abduction. If some douche beat up my girlfriend and then ran off with her I’d be pissed too. But this is seemingly just another excuse to take power away from female characters and give it to males.
The second part of this anger fest focuses on modern games, and having more female playable characters has apparently not made anything any better. According to the feminist new games are just prettier versions of crude male power fantasies, but actually more violent towards women. She lists 6 games where a male character’s wife is killed and he has to rescue his daughter. Then she lists 5 games where a murdered woman’s soul has to be saved by the male lead. What offended me about that is just how deeply lazy that writing is. She, on the other hand, was most deeply offended by the many games that require the mercy killing of a woman. What bothers me about those stories is that it completely negates the point of the game. I just spent hours trying to save some bitch, and now I have to kill her at the end of the game? She then goes into real life statistics about violence against women. Look, I’m just trying to play a video game, and I’m sure that the writers and developers weren’t sitting around thinking up new and horrible ways to beat women down. It’s supposedly “dangerously irresponsible” to exploit women by requiring violence against them since it makes male gamers think that it’s okay. I’ll admit that she brought up one interesting point. What drives the men in video games containing a damsel is their guilt over their failure and inability to live up to what they see as their patriarchal duty. Revenge against whoever made them feel weak by taking their women away. I don’t know that game writers think too deeply about that sort of thing, but it could be at the heart of ancient myths and legends. Possibly something that’s deep in the subconscious male mind today. Or not, but it was at least she had an idea that didn’t totally piss me off.
So part 3 was supposed to be about games that “flipped the script” on the damsel in distress trope. She could only name 6 games where girls saved boys, and made sure to point out that they mostly came out around the time of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The only female lead she mentions in a positive light is Jade from Beyond Good and Evil. Then she played a Spice Girls video while talking about 90’s girl power. Ugh. According to her dudes in distress are most often jokes since women are fighting against long held stereotypes while men aren’t. Really, there are no stereotypes about men? What about that shit from part 2 about patriarchal roles? Seems like that would count as a stereotype to me. She talked briefly about mods and hacks that people have used on old school games to turn male characters into female ones, but I don’t see how that helps make any of her points. It’s just the same game with a new skin on the main character. And since she couldn’t think of any other games with good female leads she started taking on mobile and indie games for doing the same thing as their bigger budget counterparts. So is she saying that Lara Croft, Samus Aran, Joanna Dark, various tough girls from Resident Evil and Final Fantasy games, Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3, Chell from Portal, and my kick-ass FemShep from Mass Effect don’t exist or that they don’t have enough value? Are they simply ignored because they don’t prove her point of how misogynistic games are? I waited and waited, but she never touched on any of those. She gives girls in fighting games a pass since “they’re on equal footing with the men”, but doesn’t even mention the multitude of RPG’s where you can literally be anyone or anything you want. And that’s what made me really mad. So mad and distracted, in fact, that I couldn’t even focus on the wrap up of the last video. I could see why comments and more information was turned off for these videos. I’m sure she got a lot of hateful trolls who just wanted to scream at her (thanks for ruining everything, and making uber feminists look justified ya jerks), but it also keeps people from giving any kind of constructive criticism or bringing up anything that might go against her agenda.
Given how much the female gamer population has risen in the last 20 years I can see that there might need to be more games geared towards the ladies. I read several articles looking for stats, but couldn’t find a consensus. So between 31% and 48% of women in various polls consider themselves gamers. Some of those articles did point out that many of these women count mobile games as gaming so that’s why I’m giving the spread. The majority of these women don’t seem to play shooters or RPG’s so a lot of them are probably playing sims or puzzle games, but whatever floats your game boat. Are shooters directed at me? Maybe not most of them, but let’s think about who’s writing and producing these games. The gaming industry is much more heavily populated by men than it is by women. How about you quit bitching about it, and go do something about it? If it’s that important to you then do a Kickstarter for a female developed game, and promote that on your YouTube channel? Oh, right. Because it’s easier to tear something down than it is to do something that requires effort. That’s pretty much the basis of my writing career. And don’t bother to call Alanis Morissette, I know it’s ironic.
Links are here, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
2 thoughts on “The Role of Women in Video Games”
I don’t claim to understand the psychology behind it, but I prefer playing male characters in rpg’s. It’s escapism, and sometimes I like to escape all that lady stuff. I just want to play the game without thinking about my junk.
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Lovely blog youu have