While doing some research for this course I stumbled upon this amazing video series called ‘Tropes vs. Women in Videogames’ and I think anyone who is interested in gaming everyone seriously needs to watch it. It was created by Anita Sarkeesian a feminist media scholar who also created the blog Feminist Frequency. The series discusses repeatedly used motifs of female characters in videogames.
Part 1, 2 and 3 of her first episode surrounds the ‘Damsel in Distress’ trope which is used in countless games. Though the whole ‘Damsel in Distress’ thing sounds like something limited to older games and perhaps no longer relevant Sarkeesian reveals how modern games still rely on this tired motif and how much worse and more subversive it has actually become.
Though like Sarkeesian I do not believe people are mindless zombies who will begin to act out whatever they see happen in a game however I do believe it is important to analyze what we take as being normal within games, and why in a medium which is so limitless we continue to rely on sexist paradigms. You would think when game makers have the ability to create such diverse and creative worlds which challenge reality they could also create ones that don’t perpetuate sexist, homophobic and racist ideology.
What really struck a chord with me about Sarkeesian’s videos was the intense negative backlash she received for her analysis of videogames. Though I had grown up playing videogames when I reached my teenage years I promptly abandoned them, surprisingly not because of their treatment of women within games but actually because of the treatment I received from male gamers. I would typically be met with contempt and the suspicion that I was only pretending to like games to pander to dudes. This attitude made me feel very self-conscious and insecure playing games so I just stopped.
You can see this contempt for women in gaming by how Anita Sarkeesian was treated. She was subjected to intense harassment that included death and rape threats. Copies of her image were taken by her harassers who then imposed text with sexist slurs onto them. She discusses this behaviour harassment in a blog post;
“The ultimate goal of this behaviour is to try and intimidate, scare and silence women by creating an online environment that is too hostile, toxic and disturbing to endure.”
Below is a link to the post but please take caution in viewing it because the content is very triggering in regards to depictions of violence against women.
Sarkeesian is continuing her series despite the abuse she has received for it and has announced she will be releasing several more episodes.
The critical analysis of videogames is becoming much more common and accepted, an example of which you can see with the creation of this course. This shift towards taking videogames seriously as a form of media which can be analyzed on an academic level is promising to me and I hope it will lead to the renewed focus on breaking down the oppressive structures in gaming, a focus which can be seen in Sarkeesian’s videos.