Here's Anita Sarkeesian's Second 'Tropes Vs Women In Games' Video

Feminist Frequency blogger/video host Anita Sarkeesian is back with the second in her "Tropes vs. Women in Games" series, in which she analyses sexist tropes in video games. The first video in the series looked back at the origins of the "Damsel in Distress" trope, focusing mostly on Nintendo games. The new video puts more recent games under the damsel-scope.

Sarkeesian first gained national attention when she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the series and was subsequently subjected to a prolonged, intense online harassment campaign. That harassment inadvertently contributed to her massive Kickstarter success — her goal had been to raise $US6000 and she wound up with almost $US160,000. Sarkeesian later explained to Kotaku how the extra money helped her increase the project's scope; that initially resulted in some delays, but she now appears to be full-steam ahead.

Update: The video has been taken down. Head here for an explanation.


    I actually like these videos. I don't agree with everything in them but they're none the less very informative and fascinating and Anita is a very smart and interesting person. The secret is to watch them and form your own opinion without freaking out and becoming an idiot. You never know, you actually might have your mind opened a little and be a little more enriched if you watch these with an open mind.

    How do plot devices in video games have and bearing on and/or representation of women in reality?

    I think I am really missing this woman's point... This is all virtual stuff, who freaking cares?

      She explains her position if you watch to the end, at around 20:50. And I definitely agree that media has an impact on you, virtual or otherwise; or I wouldn't read as many books/watch movies.

    I have a feeling the comments on this article are being heavily moderated.

    Sure I agree there needs to be more creative and appropriate female narrative in video games. That said when I look at lifetime evolution of movies, radio, TV, books, magazines and culture in general is it any wonder a male dominated industry is slow to evolve in terms of females.

    Things are improving, especially considering the relatively infant aspect of video games, and simply require more input from female developers, designers, writers etc. After all video games to movie adaptations are only starting to have A-grade writers, directors etc.

    I'd like to see her comment on female edited magazines and their narrative aspects, I find that a strange insight to the female psyche for both publisher and reader. Perhaps that cross media analysis would help shed some light on video games while avoiding the "close minded" knee jerk reactions from male gamers/developers who watch her videos.

    Last edited 29/05/13 10:31 am

    She must of given away the endings of 10 or more games. Where was the spoiler alert.

      There was a spoiler alert in both the video as an annotation and in the description of the video. But yeah Kotaku should've put up a spoiler alert too.

    I felt that female Shepard was a pretty great female character that broke through a lot of the common tropes. Does Anita ever address where games get it right?

      I'd say no. She seems to be picking only the examples and games that support her thoughts and views.

      I think that's planned to be in a future video.

      No because this and the last video were about the Damsel in Distress trope, Shepard was not a damsel in distress so it won't appear in the video.

      Maybe wait until she gets to the final video which has the title "Positive Female Characters!"

      And quite honestly, as much as I love her, Femshep is unintentionly a great female character because the writers had to create a unisex character so that they could use the same dialogue and responses for both male and female shepard. They couldn't rely on tropes that are unique for male or female characters to define them because that would require more time and money. It's the same reason that Ripley from Alien is considered a great female protaganist because the character of Ripley as well as most of the cast were written as unisex characters.

      Only 18% of gamers played as Femshep in ME2. Does it count if 4/5 of the gamers never see it?

        That is insane. FemShep had WAY better voice acting for one thing.

    Once again her choices and use of these games is done only to support her arguments and views. She seems to ignore any point in a series, or games completely, where there is a strong female character in it. Examples: Devil May Cry 2 & the later parts of the Kingdom Hearts series (which, unlike her, I'm not going to spoil).

    Hopefully we see this change in video 3 where she says she is going to talk about the role reversal of this trope. But personally, I think she'll exclude a lot of games and state that a game where there is a strong, well written female lead just does not exist at all, ignoring many games like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Parasite Eve and the like on purpose.

    Last edited 29/05/13 10:48 am

    Well what else does she expect them to do just make every male character gay and its the boyfriend they have to save, it sounds like as long as its a guy who needs saving or what ever its all good, seriously if the main character is a male then generally the NPC they care for is going to be a female.

    It's the unfortunate truth, but whether it be in RL, game, movie or book women(or children) are generally targeted but if that is not used then the only other is to make the male the target but then that just brings in the flip side issue that males are victimized and to feminists that sounds perfectly fine which is very sexist.
    I mean this is such a reach just to make her feminist view sound valid.

    What other plot type does she want them to use. Money? (greed and gluttony comes to mind) Just because its something to do? (murder and bloodshed with no meaning) Patriotism? (that's used by games like COD and BF3 already and action adventure games couldn't use it really). Saving the world could be used and it does but the antagonist needs something to discourage the protagonist from trying and what is the only other thing they care about, "their wife and/or child" but ultimately the world is more important and to save it she may have to be sacrificed.

    Don't get me wrong I would be perfectly fine if the protagonist was a woman and the husband was taken but in a game that is based on an old story/comic which a lot she mentioned are and the hero is male then the protagonist in the game is going to be male. GOW for example which is loosely based on Greek Mythology(?), Kratos is a "man" and his wife and daughter were killed by the gods (can't recall why), I don't know much about Greek Mythology but if she is complaining about this then is she not in turn challenging Greek Mythology and religion/belief throughout their history.

    The whole damsel in distress plot is a generic worldwide plot that just about everyone can relate to, yes I would be fine if they tried to break it up a bit, 50-50 male and female victims would be fine and if they can find other plots to use it would be great but until people are able to come up with other ideas we are stuck with this trope, its sucks more that its always the same thing, very generic and predictable.

    Feminists like Anita need to step back and objectively look at their views and see the holes in the arguments, yes women have a tendency to be objectified but so do males, not quite to the extent maybe but they are still objectified (possibly by the same feminist women no less), gaming is a very young medium and as movies and books have gradually done games with become more even with male and female lead roles.

    And on a side note, the whole equality issue which this stems from is getting to be a joke since feminists still moan about it when now in most cases equality is a reality, any job a male can do women are now able to do, there is no, "you are a woman and you can't do that" attitude anymore, yes there is still the issue of some companies paying male execs more but those are the very low minority now and women are shooting up the ladders even in those companies to be on par with men in power and money.

    For example, Julia Gillard (female), leader of our country. The USA will either in their next election or within the next couple at least may (most likely) have a female president which to some (not me, but most Americans it is) is considered one of the most powerful if The most powerful seat of power anyone can hold, and there are many other countries that have female leaders these days.

    When women now have or can obtain that kind of standing and power when just 50 years ago it was common place for women to be expected to marry and have kids at 20yrs old I think women's rights and equality has come a damn long way and feminists need to step back, realize and see it and stop complaining about who the the lead character in a bloody video game is.

    That is my rant and response to this, may the flaming begin.

      I don't think the argument of "it's better than it was before so stope complaining" really stacks up here.

      She is a feminist; it is not her job to provide an objective view of the gaming industry. It is her job to critique the state of it and she is doing a really good job of it.

      And I'm not sure us guys can really understand the patriarchal system from the view of minority. Your example of Julia Gillard being PM is evidence of an equal society however I would disagree; evidence of equality is if she were to be treated like any other PM (unfortunately, considering the kind of questions journalists pose + the language used by mainstream media shows that equality is yet to have been reached).

      I think it's a bit like LGBT issues. They may not affect your life directly but it doesn't mean that it doesn't affect anybody. LGBT community doesn't need to objectively outline societal issues - they need to outline the ones they face.

    Continue to brush over all the positive, strong female characters and ignore the fact that these are simply plot devices that would be reversed if the protagonist is female, you will continue to be ignored by the majority as your message is only half said.

    The message you are delivering is actually rather sexist, because bad things happen to both MEN and WOMEN in video games and while you are focusing only on the women instead of the violence as a whole, your message again is incomplete and one sided.

    I'm not sure where people like this are headed with all these examples.. If there were a bunch of games where the heroine had to rescue her poor beaten son after her husbands brutal murder then that would be all "good job devs, thumbs up for you!" ?

    It's just the way stories are - have been for hundreds of years - may as well bring Shakespeare back to life and say - HEY, make Juliet have the sword and beat down Romeos brother for laughs because that is much more acceptable.

    Sure, there is going to be that .1% of males who are siting there drooling at the screen yelling that *random heros wife* deserved that and the game is great cause they got to blast a cap in her head yee haa - but its a minority and the games certainly aren't targeted at them.

    If this lovely and well educated woman made this video as a
    -violence like *show graphic game* is bad and we should control it a bit more-
    I may have been more sympathetic and maybe even agreed, but as an "oh woe is me poor women always cop the weak role" whinge it just annoys me.

      If your example was an industry and cultural norm then I expect we might be seeing a video series about the negative impacts of matriarchal society in video games.
      Part of the telling of analyses like this is to point out that the trope may very well have robust, historied, and esteemed use throughout the last few hundred years, yet that status should not preclude the questioning of why that is the case and if it is reasonable to acknowledge its standing within the gaming medium; possibly with an endpoint of building a new narrative paradigm that values diverse storytelling over the use of tired plots.

      Your response to this series essentially typifies why this type of discussion, encompassing any and all critical monologues and dialogues, is warranted and needed. Discussion and change won't happen with diversionary examples of a hyperbolic male response, or by proffering the 'whingeing academic woman' on how your series would be created.
      Lastly, this discussion is not a platform to vindicate your apparently positive opinion on the status quo of video game narrative. We should be here to discuss issues of game narrative, not to derail conversation by affirming that everything is all right.

    So... Would they prefer if there were no relationships in games? After all, lest we forget, the greatest driving force is love... So it makes sense that its a common plot device.

    She may well be right (or not) about many things, but the damsel in distress trope is hundreds (or thousands?) of years old. It's endemic in all ancient mythology.

    Probably because women are the key to population propagation (you don't really need many men for that). Men are relatively expendable and so they fight instead of the more valuable women risking their lives.
    So men are larger, stronger, more aggressive, etc, and it all snowballs from there.....

    So, according to Anita, any kind of violence against women in a video game, regardless of context, subliminally sends a message that it's ok to go out and commit violence against women in the real world. And that games are too violent and don't offer enough alternative non-violent 'problem solving' options.

    Well there goes 25 minutes of my life I won't get back.

      Well, according to Straw Man Anita, yes, what you said might be true.
      However, a quote like this would indicate a contrary stance:
      "likewise, engaging with these games is not going to magically transform players into raging sexists. We typically don't have a monkey see, monkey do cause and effect relationship with the media we consume".
      Actually, having not once stated or implied a causal link between video game narrative and real world violence probably speaks better for itself than a quote. Then again, perhaps you are conflating the issue of cultural acceptability and a preconceived notion of that message.

      I don't believe the magnitude of violence was called into question in that video. What was suggested is that core gameplay mechanics can impose restrictions on narrative. An appropriate critique of that function can be found here: "when violence is the primary gameplay mechanic, and therefore the primary way that the player engages with the game world, it severely limits the options for problem solving. The player is then forced to use violence to deal with almost all situations because it's the only meaningful mechanic available, even if that means beating up or killing the women they're meant to love or care about".
      That quote, like the last one, was pulled from the video. It's an interesting point cobbled together from the prevalent argument that games are unnecessarily violent, or that violent mechanics are an easy route for player investment. Quite an issue when we have a AAA industry that is essentially driving the direction of gaming with recursive violent themes, and the summed elements that make up the rest of the industry for whom violence becomes a contemplative mechanic.

      Getting to the end of this, thanks for bringing up those fallacious arguments, I really appreciate what you've brought to the discussion. It almost feels like the largest hurdle, and source of your lost 25 minutes, was a case of obstinate comprehension.

        Actually, having not once stated or implied a causal link between video game narrative and real world violence probably speaks better for itself than a quote. Then again, perhaps you are conflating the issue of cultural acceptability and a preconceived notion of that message.

        "It's especially troubling in light of the serious real-life epidemic of violence against women facing the female population on this planet. Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States, and on average 3 women are murdered by their boyfriends, husbands and ex-partners every single day. Research consistently shows that people of all genders tend to buy into the myth that women are the ones to blame for the violence men perpetrate against them. In the same vein, abusive men consistently state that their female targets deserved, wanted it or were asking for it. Given the reality of that larger cultural context, it should go without saying that it's dangerously irresponsible to be creating games in which players are encouraged and even required to perform violence against women in order to save them."

        So we have a bunch of stats about real world violence against women and then a comment about how dangerously irresponsible it is to create games which have violence against women. Seems clear to me.

        Getting to the end of this, thanks for bringing up those fallacious arguments, I really appreciate what you've brought to the discussion. It almost feels like the largest hurdle, and source of your lost 25 minutes, was a case of obstinate comprehension.

        Wow, it's been a while since I've seen a case of intellectual douchebag syndrome this bad.

          "how dangerously irresponsible it is to create games which have violence against women in order to save them."
          Bold text represents important information that was selectively omitted.

          The pulled quote is the conclusion to a section on an extension of the *"euthanised damsel" trope that utilises aberration or subjugation of the damsel to force a combat scenario, culminating most often with the death of the damsel. There are two pertinent observations within these contextually integral selections: the first, of the euthanised damsel, is that she often begs for death and even thanks the player character with her dying breath, interpreted as "these women are asking for it, quite literally"; secondly, the core element of the narrative is the use of violence to return a female to her senses.
          When these observations are reflected against the pulled quote, as they would be for a viewer who watches the video in sequence, rather overt parallels emerge between them and the cultural myth of women being somehow deserving of male perpetrated violence, and the statement that abusive men consistently state that their female victims deserved, wanted or were asking for it.
          The dangerous irresponsibility in question is the advocacy and/or reinforcement, even if unintentional, of current culturally held beliefs that the responsibility for violence against women is on women. Indeed, it is troubling that an issue as serious as violence against women is dealt with in such a flaccid and lazy manner as it is in video games.

          Whether as a pulled quote, or within its intended context, there is no suggestion of a causal link between violence in video games and real world violence.

          *The section on the euthanised damsel can be found at 12:27, and the observation on the extension pattern begins at 16:58.
          To add some perspective, the pulled quote begins at 18:55 and ends at 19:42.

            The dangerous irresponsibility in question is the advocacy and/or reinforcement, even if unintentional, of current culturally held beliefs that the responsibility for violence against women is on women. Indeed, it is troubling that an issue as serious as violence against women is dealt with in such a flaccid and lazy manner as it is in video games.
            Whether as a pulled quote, or within its intended context, there is no suggestion of a causal link between violence in video games and real world violence.

            Why juxtaopse it with the statistics on the violence that men perpetrate against women then?

            And what current culturally held beliefs that the responsibility for violence against women is on women are we talking about here? The cultural belief in western countries is that, outside of self defence, any kind of violence against women is wrong. In fact it goes further than a cultural belief, it's a matter of law.

      No, it's not regardless of context. She settles this early on with the example of one-on-one fighting games. This is about games that have/attempt narrative.

      No, she doesn't suggest there's any subliminal messaging, only that saturation of the media with disempowered or victimised women may not be helping the problem.

      And yes, most of what she's pointing out is obvious; I don't understand why people get so worked up about this. All she's doing is highlighting patterns that are there for everyone to see if they take the time.

        I think the reason people get so worked up is that she is not simple presenting a pattern, she is taking one side of a very real broader issue and excluding the balance or positive aspects of the bigger picture.

        There are also games and developers out there that are doing the right thing by offering both male and female options of character and story arc. Just as there are many people out there who are willing to enjoy a story without turning into a chauvinist sexist male.

        Perhaps, for clarity, I should have said regardless of the context of any kind of narrative instead.

        She does imply a link between violence against women in real life and violence against women in games, calling violence against women in games 'dangerously irresponsible', although backtracks a bit later on saying that game creators are probably unaware of the message they are sending.

        It's not so much that she's pointing out the obvious, but rather saying any kind of narrative that includes violence against women is bad. She wants a sanitized PC version of the gaming industry where any gaming narrative involving violence is only depicted against men, or no violence is depicted at all.

        The irony is that depicted violence against women is such a powerful plot device precisely because most men abhor violence against women in real life, and have an overwhelming desire not to see loved ones hurt.

      Actually I believe it was more violence against women where they are essentially powerless. So the exception made was fighting games featuring female characters whereby violence against them is not objectionable given that they are active participants in the violence.

      I think there is a valid concern in that whilst exposure to "misogynistic media" doesn't necessarily cause misogyny, I think the greater threat is that it can subtly normalise misogyny.

    So, having your wife/daughter in a hospital, and having to combat others to retrieve the cure medication, would be a conventional "damsel in distress".
    If, however, you take too many violent methods to retrieve the medication, your "cured" loved one could reject you as a monster... requiring you to re-play the game looking for the least-violent solution.

    It's obvious she is a hater, hates video games, hates the internet. I'm surprised nobody has noticed yet. Doesn't accept youtube comments and sensationalizes negativity to get views.

    Obviously she is a byproduct of natural selection, she wants to hate and through a lot of trail and error a feminist has figured out how.

    People like to see her as some kind of liberator, but this is not true. She is not a woman free from oppressing 'tropes' just look at her face, she put so much money and effort into making it look like a mannequin. Just google images 'mannequin face' and tell me she doesn't look like that.... Not very natural and down to earth at all. It all costs money to look like that, money that fuels pharmaceutical companies, who buy advertisements in girl magazines, in turn fuels that 'perfect image' - further distorting a girls view on life, causeing girls to suffer many types of mental ailments that are carried through life.

    Ultimately she is a hypocrite, instead of helping young woman of tomorrow be liberally free, she instead twists everything into a form to help outlet hatred, which has been sucked up by the public, in turn makes her lots of money.

    just saying most of the things she used is WAY out of date WAY out of date i think she should give mirrors edge or fem shep maybe even the new interesting protagonist in remember me actually ever since playing the back story she is much more of an antagonist

    I really don't understand this. Anita's research is absolutely terrible, and has essentially drunk a bottle of bias before attempting to make these videos. Heck, Anita screwed up why guys should hate Twilight, without realising that Bram Stoker's Dracula was based of Vlad III, who was notorius for being violent- which is why vampires are usually violent. Not even getting into her blatant disregard for historical context in games. Dante's Inferno comes to mind. Sorry, but until Anita actually starts doing proper research as to why we do this, her videos are rudimentary.

    Ah. Moderation. Do you moderate by using a bot? If so, I have no clue why I even bother sometimes. Since I've stated my obvious distaste with what Anita stated, I doubt this will get through. I really don't understand the Internet at times. You get trolls. If they really bother you that much, give them a warning or something. Don't screw up the rest of us.

    Last edited 04/01/14 11:57 pm

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