The Problem With ‘The Casual Cruelty’ Against Women In Video Games

The Problem With ‘The Casual Cruelty’ Against Women In Video Games

Violence against women is an ugly reality that’s all too common, no matter what walk of life people come from. Yet, video games tend to portray it in only a few cliched ways, to create a sense of environment and tone and cheaply get a reaction out of players. That’s a problem.

The latest Tropes vs. Women in Video Games video from scholar/critic Anita Sarkeesian looks at what she calls the women-as-decoration trope in latter-day titles. Sarkeesian breaks down how the trope gets used both in the games themselves and in marketing campaigns meant to sell them. Part of what Sarkeesian finds problematic about the trope is that, in game narratives, these background women’s inclusion in the story don’t contribute anything meaningful to the story but are rather designed to elicit shock or titillation. The games often don’t offer players or main characters any investment in these encounters other than simply playing out a quest line.

Seeing scenes from GTA V, Assassin’s Creed II , Far Cry 3, The Witcher, Red Dead Redemption and other games stacked one after the other does highlight how prevalent this device is in AAA video games writing. Chances are if there’s a woman in a game’s side mission — especially if it’s a female sex worker — something terrible is going to happen to her, just to drive home just how screwed-up a particular character or gameworld is.

“It’s casual cruelty, implemented as an easy way to deliver an emotional punch to the player,” Sarkeesian says. Aside from invoking terrible attitudes about women, it’s also a cheap writing trick. “A lazy shorthand for evil.” That shorthand isn’t just problematic in the games either. The strong similarity of these video game sequences — where gendered violence is framed as an outlying occurrence performed by unequivocally bad men — erases how commonplace the terrible reality is. In real life, women come under assault from all sorts of men.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, and games can be all the more thoughtful and provoking without relying on lazy appeals to ideas of terror and drama. Games that have considered these very real issues in more genuine ways have been all the better for it. Sarkesesian goes on to cite Papo & Yo as a good example of a critical look of child abuse, in part because the story is told from the very real perspective of the main character who is the abused person. The game’s lead character is also the one who changes his own circumstances.

Sarkeesian’s call for more thoughtful portrayals of women’s roles in the plots of video games are honest, salient ones. Yet, even when compared to reactions to her prior releases, some people’s responses to the video convey a lack of appreciation for discourse, with some resorting to harassment and threats. Sarkeesian says she’s had to contact the police.

This video received particular signal-boosting from several high-profile directors and game designers, like Joss Whedon and author William Gibson.

But not even well-liked game developer Tim Schafer left unscathed after recommending Sarkeesian’s video. He was also met with similar vitriol:

The point Sarkeesian ultimately makes — that these games don’t have to reproduce sexual violence and objectification just to try and be realistic and gritty — is a powerful one. Scenes like the ones shown in the video belittle the real-world struggles faced by victims of gendered violence. They echo these real-world issues without the real-world feelings that should be attached to them, creating a troubling dissonance. Video games, like any creative medium, has flaws and areas where its contributors can do better. Discussing those is ultimately in everyone’s interest. Sarkeesian’s critique is a call for games to do better, to imagine better universes and experiences than what exists in the real world.


  • Short cuts to emotional buttons do irk me sometimes regardless of medium. Remember the incredible ’emotional’ scene from the opening of Mass Effect 3 when the games only child died?

    • I agree, and I understand where Anita is coming from in this seems the easiest way to make you dislike a bad guy, “See how evil it is, it kills women !”. It’s a cheap tactic.

      • Pretty much – heavily over-used, and definitely a detriment to a story when handled as a tick-box plot-point. Which, I dunno, I suspect is the whole point of the criticism. Handling something too perfunctorily. It’d be pretty weird to outright eliminate references entirely, and with the praise for Papo & Yo, I don’t really think that’s what Anita’s advocating. The problem becomes, Papo & Yo was ONLY about that thing, which is way, way, way too in-depth for what is likely going to be a single plot-point or influence in any other game. There’s gotta be some middle-ground, which it seems is pretty damn hard to find.

  • I was SO happy with Tim Schafer for calling out all the idiots making horrible comments about himself and Anita.

    I’m going to refrain from commenting about any of this though, really, simply because I’m exhausted that this is even something society has to contend with. Women are almost one half of the world – and one could say, the more necessary half (for the sake of continuing the existence of life, I mean) – and we still get treated like this. It’s just… it’s too early to even think about this!

    Now I’d really like to see the Kotaku community prove itself to be a better class of commenter than the internet at large – no hate, please.

    • Yeah, I’m always trying to stay clear of commenting in these posts because I too am exhausted trying to throw my hat into the ring on this kind of thing. lol, I actually typed up a TLDR length comment, which I just completely truncated to this, cos you pretty much summed it up ever so much more succinctly there…

    • Yeah last time one of her videos got posted here I was shocked to read what some people here think about this issue. Some of those tweets are appalling, particularly the one from Kamal Noor.

    • I’m just over commenting to a crowd that doesn’t want to listen to logic. I find more enjoyment and enlightenment from bashing my head against a wall.

      • I’m just over commenting to a crowd that doesn’t want to listen to logic.
        I don’t know what your opinion is, and don’t take this personally but, do you listen to them?
        It takes two opinions to have an argument, and while you view your side as logic, so do they. Both sides of the argument need to listen to each other.*
        *of course there’s always some uncooperative people out there.

        • I do listen to the other side of the argument as they say “it takes two to tango”.

          However, when you reply with research, complete with sources from accredited research institutes, only to be told that it’s all wrong because it doesn’t fit in with today’s brainwashed radical feminist dogma, you tend to stop trying to educated those whom do not want to learn.

          To quote the movie Dogma: “You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier.”

          • Yeah definitely.
            I find the problem with many of Anita’s die hard fans, is that they can’t seem to separate the rational opposers to the death threatening jerks and other ‘lunatics’.
            It makes it hard to be heard as a respectful dis-agreer.

          • Why? Because I call Radical Feminism what it is? Because I know and have researched what Feminism is and what a radical off-shoot has co-opted?

            I have an open mind, hell, I agree with a few things Radical Feminist like Anita Sarkeesian have brought up and agree that they need to be addressed. But I also have no issue on calling bullshit what it is: bullshit.

          • at least she is trying to make the world a better place, more than others who cant even admit there is a problem in the first place, MUCH MORE than those who send her and others like her death threats for having an opinion… even if she was a radical Feminist (because if you think she Radical, there is way more radical than her, she seems rather reasonable and well spoken and educated) exactly why is it okay for her and others to get those?

          • Hey, more power to her for trying to make the world a better place and may those scum that do things like send her death threats be hit with the full extent of the law.

            While she seems well spoken and educated, which she is as I’ve taken time to look over the background that she has made available to the public, reasonable she is not. She is along the lines of other labelled “Radical Feminists” like Big Red (Google her, trust me) that throw anything out there that supports their cause, sourced/researched or not, and demand that it is 100% truth of the world. That is what i have issue with. If I was to do the same thing, I would be met with people requesting sources all the time, something she refuses to do. Opinion and belief are not factual truth.

            You have good comments Blakeavon, however I doubt we are going to agree on this at all.

          • I believe @mase has already stated that it’s not alright for her to receive death threats (in a comment further down now). No one here is arguing for that.

          • If you think her brand of feminism is radical, then mate you don’t know what feminism, nor radical feminism is.

      • to make many humans at once you only need one man but many women, that and breast feeding and such

        • To make cordial you only need water, because you need a lot more cordial than you do syrup to make many cordials. I know it’s different and I’m just being silly now, but men are equally as important to the child making phase as women are.

    • Yeah, his videos are lousy. Its like watching a Christian fundamentalist ‘talking science’. Should call him Thunderstump, because most of the time he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

  • As a call for better writing in games, well… duh. Better writing would be fantastic.
    The thing is… what’s the solution? It’ll take someone smarter than me, for sure.

    One problem: You do still want to evoke those emotions when you tell the story, right? And Papo & Yo is a terrible, terrible example of ‘how to do it right’, because the entire game is about the subject which otherwise might run the risk of being casual or incidental. It doesn’t incorporate the issue of child/domestic violence subtly and tactfully into a larger narrative about a different subject, it doesn’t ‘handle the problem well’ as an adjunct to flavour a different story… it IS the story.

    No kidding you can treat something with appropriate sensitivity if you make it the entire focus of your game.

    So how, exactly, do games, books, movies, whatever you care to name, solve the problem of the ‘casual flavouring’ with incidental gendered-violence (or other sensitive subjects), without letting it de-rail the story? How DO you incorporate what is actually something very common in the real world, let alone an exaggerated world+darkness, and avoid turning horrific incidences into something ‘casual’?

    And then there’s the other problem….
    Scenes like the ones shown in the video belittle the real-world struggles faced by victims of gendered violence. They echo these real-world issues without the real-world feelings that should be attached to them, creating a troubling dissonance.
    Which, y’know. Replace some words and you have what we’ve already done to the even more vile and horrific act of murder. What gamer cares about pulling the trigger anymore? Damn, the only times in the last decade I think I thought twice about pulling the trigger in a video game might have been Heavy Rain or Telltale’s The Walking Dead. It’s almost a mercy that the cheap tricks of lazy writing using women victims as a quick emotional payoff actually still elicits some kind of emotion.

    Arguing that continuing to use this cheap trick will desensitize, normalize or endorse its perpetuation in real life really does run the risk of using the exact same logic that critics of video games use to argue that games will turn us all into desensitized killers, so I didn’t think I could support that particular line of thought, but it somewhat contradicts my second-last paragraph about what we’ve done to killing. (Edit: So I might have to go back and re-think a few OTHER subjects as well. Hooray for challenges to long-held perceptions. I suspect it’ll end up being something like, ‘we’ve desensitized ourselves… to FICTIONAL killing.’ Only a deranged lunatic can’t separate between video game murder and real life murder.) So. Where do we go with this? What does Anita’s ideal version of something like GTA5 look like?

    • So how, exactly, do games, books, movies, whatever you care to name, solve the problem of the ‘casual flavouring’ with incidental gendered-violence (or other sensitive subjects), without letting it de-rail the story? How DO you incorporate what is actually something very common in the real world, let alone an exaggerated world+darkness, and avoid turning horrific incidences into something ‘casual’?

      This is the issue imo. I’m not sure how using it in a game to elicit an emotional response is bad due to it being so very common in the “real world”. Just look at india and the group rapes, then the victims are stoned because it was their (supposedly) fault – that shit is horrifying more so than anything i’ve seen in a game, yet it occurs on a semi regular basis.

      I fail to see how, by using this in a game, it would ever desensitise any rational human being. It’s the same with violence in gaming – the extreme violence i’ve experienced in a gaming over the last 15 – 20 years has not made me any less appalled by the actions of the isis with that child lifting and raising a decapitated head whilst his father took photos.

      IMO there would have to be something already broken inside to ever get desensitised to any of that shit.

    • The last sentence is why people are mad. “Blaargh this is wrong, stop doing it!” Okay, what’s the alternative?

      • Why does Sarkeesian have to have an answer?Significant change requires discussion, awareness of and willingness to address personal bias and so much more. For everyone asking (for example from a comment above) what GTA V ‘should’ look like, I think that’s going about it the wrong way… games are written how they are based on personal biases the writers aren’t even aware of. We need to change people before we can change games.

        • Also, I’m not sure GTA5 is actually a very good example, either. Because, violence aside, it is what it’s supposed to be.

          It’s a very masculine game about masculine issues: the conflict between man, the hunter/warrior vs man the protector/idealist. The war of darker testosterone-fueled urges vs maintaining the social contract that keeps our families safe. The loss of ambition to ‘success’, defining success when it means different things to men and women. (Pretty much the majority of Michael’s story.) It’s about struggling to find masculine role models and bonding structures in a world of single mothers who simply can’t fill those roles – see Franklin and his mother, then Aunt, leaving Franklin torn between the popular road of following ‘the pack’ of his homies and gang obedience (submission) vs the more independent mentorship offered by Michael. Then there’s dealing with the different kinds of love, such as fraternal love, shared unequally between Trevor and Michael and the social stigma/male disinclination to express those clearly, vocally. (Check out Trevor’s tatts sometime. He loved his ‘brother’.) There are potent, relevant, explicitly male stories and issues being handled by GTA5’s narrative (not so much the ludonarrative dissonance in the open-world doing off-ramp stunts with a school bus) which very rarely get any kind of mention, let alone credit.

          You wouldn’t ask Woman’s Day magazine to target the male audience, and you wouldn’t ask GTA5 to target the female audience. Someone not in target group might still get something useful and meaningful out of the reading/playing, a difference in perspective perhaps, but the thrust is always going to be different.

          A lot of the argument I see in ‘inclusivity’ in gaming is that all games should be all things to everyone as much as possible. But trying to be everything to everyone is neither a realistic OR desirable outcome. Diversity is great. When people argue that there IS no diversity, the argument should be that we want more of something else, not less of what we have. Demanding otherwise is what leads people to think, “They’re comin’ for our games, they wanna stop us getting what we like!” Arguing this is what detracts from the REAL solutions, which is making games that speak to the feminine perspective, experience, issues, sensitivities, desires… AS WELL, not INSTEAD OF. Because anyone who tries to argue that they are the same knows literally nothing about the human race. There are many points of commonality, but they are so heavily influenced by the perspectives you come from, that they might as well not be.

        • No answer required. An answer can only come with discussion, like you say. But, like, SOME options would be nice you know. Anything at all.

          I agree with your comment on the whole though, it’s good.

          • A part of what Sarkeesian is talking about is balance.

            It’s ALWAYS the women who are sexualised, almost always the women who are abused. If you’re expressing the casual violence of a game world, why is it always casual rape or abuse of women that we see?

            Game devs have a big toolbox to play with here but they’re only using a small part of it.

            One minor point she makes that I disagree with however. She mentions a bunch of things where we take suspension of disbelief for granted, such as mythical creatures, casual violations of laws of physics, and so on, and asks why we can’t use the same suspension of disbelief where violence against women is concerned.

            However, there are many games that do NOT have casual violation of the laws of physics, or mythical animals, just as there are many where there is no violence against women.

            I don’t think she’s wrong in speaking against the trope. However, the problem is in the abuse of the trope, its over-use, rather than in that it is used at all. She makes the point herself that violence against women is dismayingly common in the real world; omitting it from all games altogether would be an over-reaction. The challenge is in ensuring that it is not used carelessly or casually.

          • The word to describe what you were talking about is ‘verisimilitude’.
            Suspension of disbelief for the fantastic works as long as the world creates – and adheres to – the rules it sets for itself around those fantastic things that don’t work in our world.

            This is why a lightsaber in Skyrim is no less ‘realistic’ than dragons in Skyrim, but does lack verisimilitude, which is a problem.

    • From the video, one of the problems she highlights is the way some games use domestic violence as a recurring side quest, sometimes with the same script. And when there are also side quests with male victims, they generally aren’t domestic violence. Perhaps having a bit more variety in the quests would help: e.g. if it is a woman victim, don’t always make it domestic/sexual violence.

      And if you are going to have domestic violence, the Watch Dogs example seems a bit perverse where you are only rewarded if let the problem escalate and “fail” if you intervene early.

      • I have no problem with the topic being used as the same script. That’s story-telling. It’s a real story and there are no new stories. Deal with it. However, if what she’s arguing is that stories are told well, then that’s laudable. All game stories should be told well. It’s a real shame that they aren’t. I wish they were. By the same token? A bit rough to say, “If you can’t tell your story well, don’t tell it at all.” If you can’t make a great game, don’t make one at all? But… what if they were trying and failed? Pack it up, this can’t be released? Those are questions I can’t answer. It’d certainly reduce the Greenlight spam on Steam.

        As for Watch Dogs… Yeah, it bloody earns its censure.

        Ludonarrative dissonance is pretty strong with Watch Dogs, and it actively impacts on my enjoyment of it. (I only just recently picked it up.)
        I posted in TAY about it pretty much what you mentioned.

        You will have a damn recorded txt conversation of someone saying, “I am going to go to the place and shoot the man,” you will see him go to the place, confront the man, and pull out a gun, but OH MY GOD WORST VIGILANTE EVER if you DARE to stop the criminal before he’s managed to put six rounds into centre mass of the man.

        That, and the whole, “I lost a member of my extended family, which is the perfect excuse to utterly neglect my remaining family and torture and murder strangers,” spiel. It hits especially hard when you’re screaming at the top of your lungs, “I JUST WANT TO MAKE THE STREETS SAFE,” as you engage in a multiple-fatality car chase against a drug dealer, with at least a few families of four caking your wheels in some grotesque pedestrian meat-puzzle.

        Impossible to take seriously, which would be fine if it was Saints Row, which is what they’re going for, but that was not what Watch Dogs was going for. It failed HARD. It is a worthy example in many respects.

  • Another one of these damn articles… Jesus.
    I look forward to when this issue is fixed and a new one is found.
    Speaking of cheap tricks to get emotional responses from an audience…

    • You’re talking about your post right? the one that adds nothing of note to the overall debate? Whose sole purpose is to troll/infuriate thus eliciting an emotional reaction? You can consider this a bite if it helps you sleep better.

      • Wasn’t my intention but thrilled that that is how if affected you! 🙂
        Anything to get the patriarchy one step further to our cause of world domination. Amiright?
        Frankly I am sick of writing paragraphs of information and backing it up with statistics because it is simply shot down as misogyny.

        The points made in that video in particular are poorly researched in my opinion and are terrible examples.

  • Oh looks, it’s an article about Anita’s once a year video series. I’m going to comment because my mind is racing with thoughts but I don’t want to sur the pot this time. I will not say anything about her research methodology, the narrow minded subject matter, the people defending her, or the unwarranted publicity this “article” gives her so I don’t get down voted to death.

    …. I feel better now.

    • congrats for just being part of the very problem, if anyone has a narrow focus it is you, for taking more time to write and mock the issue than watching the video and discussing it like a mature human being

      • Funny, because if I discussed the video like you are saying, I’d still be considered narrow minded because I’m not blindly praising the video. People like myself are in a no-win situation.

    • It’s completely okay to disagree with her, and her methods and what have you. That’s completely fine; I don’t even necessarily agree with every she says, and find some of it a little too narrowly explained.

      My problem just tends to be that people (mainly men) will use Anita as a reason to deride women in video games and generally badmouth them, and that’s not okay. Also, the people who send her death threats? Oh my goodness. Not that you’d be one of them, I’m certain.

      • I’ve tried so many times to refute these videos with facts (and not the cherry picked ones like Anita herself uses) and every single time I see my posts down voted just because I disagree.

        As for deriding women in gaming, I’m not of that mindset that one bad egg makes the whole carton bad. I interviewed a couple of female developers about these topics and had a great discussion on them. I’m all for changing how women are portrayed in gaming, from characters in video games to the perception of female gamers.

        I don’t agree with people making death threats, that’s pretty fucked up and in that situation I feel sorry for Anita. But that’s not going to change my thought patterns about her subject matter.

        • “every single time I see my posts down voted just because I disagree”

          respectfully, you appear to be doing the exact same thing you’re complaining about – putting everyone who disagrees with your own opinion into the same category – you’re cherry picking other commentators’ reasons for downvoting, creating a situation where there is no way to legitimately disagree with your opinion, and ignoring the fact that they might have a legitimate opinion of their own which just happens to be contrary to yours

          • I have done my best to discuss openly with all my detractors, even agreeing with a few. However, the trend seems to be that because I am not in favor of praising Anita Sarkeesian and her video that I am narrow minded and wrong. It seems that because I am a detractor to the subject matter, that I must constantly either apologize or “shut my mouth” on this topic.

        • I say anyone who plays GTAV and cant see the issues it has with women really need to open their eyes and see how truly appalling that game is too women. Yes in some senses very few characters in the game come across well but but how it treats women is truly vile. It is so bad in terms of misogyny, it goes right passed the threshold of being offensive, to unbelievably comically primary school levels of stupidity. now I love the game but gosh every time a female came on screen I sat waiting for them to do some sexist with them. Always.

          Its a such a shame because with its audience size and popularity it had a chance to make a real difference how women are portrayed in gaming but no, they didnt just drop the ball at every point, it completely ignored it at every turn. things arent going to change until a huge company like this makes huge strides.

          Now I dont believe or agree with everything in this video and yes a lot of people cherry pick to prove a point. That doesn’t mean the issue doesn’t it exist. Like that huge amount of people in US who see events in Ferguson as not being about race *shakes head* just because something doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean its not real.

          All videos like this do is ask you to stop and think about what you are seeing and playing. They dont require you to agree with them all the way. They just require you to stop and ask yourself and your friends, is this treatment of 50% of the population, really that good?

          • Anita is correct in terms of how women are treated in video games, I will not refute that. Women are either used, abused, rescued, or are window dressing in a lot of games, especially the GTA series and this must change. However, there are other games with strong female characters that can carry a story and entertain on higher levels than male characters (or male counterparts in some games) without needing to be sex appeal. All this I agree with.

            What I constantly disagree with is the way these things are cherry picked and presented as a “be all and end all” approach to tackle these issues.

    • Or, you could open your mind, opinions and intellect and quietly – and civilly – argue your points about her methodology etc.

      Instead of being the spark that sets the fire of anger off, try writing out why you think her video series is lacking, then remove ALL emotion from it. Build your argument, argue it well and you will avoid 99% of trolls. You’ll still have people disagreeing with you (hell, I once met someone who disagreed with me about the colour of the SUN) but at least you won’t have people screaming at you about being a terrible person and how your parental lineage should be called into question.

      Welcome to the other side of the comments section – the one where we have constructive discussions which may change opinions and minds.

      • Done that many times, still get down voted and treated like satan here. Heck, my original comment is about as emotionless as I can get and tries to avoid making any comment on the subject matter, but it’ll be in negative standing before lunch.

      • I don’t even care about changing minds as much as just getting some kind of awareness of how complicated the status quo is. Say… the environment. It’s all well and good for everyone to come up with the ‘solution’ (“We should all go green, replace all our coal power with wind and solar! High-fives all around, job done, let’s go treat ourselves to fruit smoothies while we complain about how idiotic and corrupt everyone is for not immediately implementing our over-simplified solution!”), but life is just… always, always, always so much more complicated than that.

        And it’s not even about finding out who’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but understanding differences and sometimes – unpleasantly – accepting that you’re not the target market anymore. Like whenever I grumble about DLC/pre-orders/F2P/properties converting from single-player to esports focus, etc.

        Worse is when you stand for something, when you do fall on the ‘right’ side, but you want to make sure your allies aren’t going into battle with cardboard armour by harping on points that aren’t as strong or self-evident as they think they are. Or people who try to argue based on emotion, with people who compartmentalize dispassionately. It’s like speaking another language, and everyone gets cranky that they’re not being understood or that their values, or weighting of those values, are being taken into consideration.

        Fuck we’re a mess as a species.

        • *lights up cigarette*
          *eats junk food, tosses the oodles of plastic wrapping in the bin rather than the recycling*

          What do you mean, we’re a mess as a species? We’re doing really well!

          *slyly drinks hipflask hidden in desk as he’s working a dead end job that’s about to no longer exist, for people who don’t care about his personal circumstances, just so they can get richer while he tries to eek out a minor existence of simply not financially struggling*


  • If you watch thunderf00t, you’ll gain a better understanding of Anita Sarkeesian Though I wouldn’t be surprised if this comment is deleted like so many others

    • you commented this already – again, disagree

      in all the videos I watched he’s doing the exact things he’s complaining about – cherry picking information, being extremely passive aggressive etc etc

    • Thunderfoot has continually trotted out poorly reasoned arguments and vague generalisations on the topic of women, and is certainly pushing an agenda.

      You’ve cited him twice in this thread, what are the merits of his view on this topic?

    • I saw a great tweet on this suggesting that if she’s able to ‘cherry pick’ from so, so, SO many games, it aint cherry picking, it’s a trend.

    • Add that character to the gigantic pile of good female protagonists that’ll never be mentioned in one of Antia’s videos

      • I think thats big part of the problem. Perhaps a more constructive route would be making the positive the spotlight (existing strong protagonists and positive portrayals etc), rather than taking the “shame” route.

        • That’s one of the major issues with Anita though. She did the same in her Uni thesis, where she pointed out a whole bunch of negative female traits in TV shows, but lacked the ability to show positive traits.
          If I can find the link to it for source, I’ll comment back here.

      • …but that’s not actually the purpose of her videos? It’s Tropes vs Women in Games. That’s the actual purpose. It’s to explore and examine the repeated negative depictions of women in video games.

        • Yes that is the purpose and that is the problem, as stated before Anita only looks at the negative and doesn’t offer a positive as an example as to how we can fix this problem or how ideally Anita would like woman to be portrayed in video games.

        • To present a problem without a solution is like throwing a stick and wanting it to act as a boomerang.

          • Nope, it’s like setting out to examine the repeated negative depictions of women in video games. Critiquing something doesn’t require you to fix it.

      • She’s accused of cherry-picking when she goes with the much larger trend, so she should instead highlight the much smaller one that would definitely be cherry-picking?

      • Actually, if you look at the kickstarter page for women vs. tropes, Sarkeesian has listed the episodes that she’s planned to do. And one of them is going to be Positive Female Characters. She’s gonna get to it eventually.

    • Hey, it’s not THAT bad so far, aside from very minor passive aggression. Imagine how much worse it would be if this was posted by fan-favourite, Patty Hernandez lol

      • asking us to question what we think is acceptable treatment/portrayal of women in gaming is not Feminism. They are talking about common human decency.

        • yeah i agree – i was just assuming, from other convos on similar topic, that OP was thinking ‘subject about portrayal etc = feminism. i’m out’

          • Actually I read it up to the first video of Anita Sarkeesian at which point lost complete interest, listening to here is like listening to a religious extremist I just can’t do it.

            I am all for womens rights and the whole shabam, all tho the old days of making a real change are dead and gone. The face of feminism in the public tends to generally be very angry women not willing to except any viewpoint aside from their own this includes other women! Admittedly Sarkeesian only has one of these two traits which makes her slightly more bearable than a lot of the others.

            common human decency ha!
            Video Game Characters != Human

            Video games don’t need to be moderated by this sort of non-sense they are not humans, they are pieces of code skinned in textures, killing a man,woman, child or animal in a video game does not represent how you act or feel IRL, 20 odd years of experience have taught me it just a game.

            Not to mention this is the only website that feels the need to continually push this agenda… but I guess that all comes down what circles you move in.

            Discussing the treatment of ‘people’ [very loose term] in games in like arguing that Mannequin should have the right to vote, it is a moot point they aren’t real, they don’t have rights.

            In saying all that, I completely respect anyone’s right to an opinion and to say what ever they like, and I will die for their right to do so, In this situation tho, I am just over the ‘Femenist Gaming Issue’ constantly being pushed on Kotaku, I really enjoy the site aside from that but I just think it is probably time to move on and get back to what I love about gaming, not debating weather these pixels are being degraded because they have more pixels on their chest.

            Thanks for all the fish.

  • From what I learnt over the years is that there is a lot of mysoginy out there in the gaming community. Just last WEEK, there were debates about a female character’s looks in a type of sports outfit. I mean look at some of the popular manga out there: berserk: lead female character used to be a badass, but now is a total shell of what she used to be, terraform mars: female characters are killed off first in any new arc. I mean the amount of abuse that female minor characters ingame is horrifying, I mean the sex workers get it worse, all they wanted to do is support themselves & family, but yet they are ALWAYS killed when they get a mention. The issue with this violence against women in gaming is that to people who have a limited understanding of the world, if they see this without understanding the implications, then they will normalise it as an acceptable behavior & may have a chance to commit to that behavior in real life. Plus if they do that behavior against young girls, the girls will be traumatised & well, they will be mentally unstable & their lives will be ruined before they even started. I mean what gaming to combat this trend of violence against women is tell the implications of what they did. Plus I look forward to another sarkeesian article

  • Video showing a lot of good points as to why there is still a lot of objectification within games. The situation is still very bad but at least the market is changing, albeit very slowly. Though we have more people coming around realising how stupid it is to place women in those positions we are slowly but surely getting a narrative worth telling whether it be about women or not all.

  • The discussion is important. I’m just sick of the bullshit that comes with it. I’m sick of the extreme attitudes either side of the debate presents. No one should be treated the way that Anita has been treated. I don’t agree with everyone all the time, but I treat their opinion with respect, because that’s what they deserve and what I expect. It’s abhorrent and disgusting that people get treated like this something as fucking trivial as VIDEO GAMES. Anita, I don’t agree with you all the time, but you deserve respect for tackling an issue that you care deeply about.

      • That’s not the point I’m making. Whether or not she’s a reputable source, that doesn’t change the fact she is vilified, threatened with violence and abused from extremists on an almost daily basis for voicing her opinion. I even said I don’t always agree with her, but she’s human. She should be treated with respect.

  • This is probably the first time I’ve actually agreed with one of Anita’s videos. This IS a cheap plot trick, and I’d much rather see more games try to either use it less, or tackle it in a more nuanced manner. Though, I’d almost say this is equally indicative of a simple lack of GOOD writing in video games generally, just as much as it is an indication of sexism etc.

    That being said, it’d be refreshing to see Anita at least *try* to cover some of the positives that do exist. I also lol’d at “scholar.”

  • I want to call bullshit on her with the watch dogs example. Either she didn’t fully research the game or was manipulative with how you play those side missions and what happens with them.

  • I don’t see anyone having an actual conversation here, all I see is white knights downvoting anything that does not agree 100% with the “weak female” they are trying to defend. Then downvoting anything that does not agree with her extreme views. This is the same problem she has created herself where comments and voting is disabled on her own channel because she’s too up herself to debate people.

    • haha, you downvoted most of my comments – one of which was just a question to the original post – hypocrite much?

      you’ve categorised everyone who disagrees with you as a ‘white knight’ (which, btw, shouldn’t be a pejorative) or a “weak female” (wtf?) defender – it’s easy to just box up peoples’ opinions into groups so you don’t have to deal with the subtle nuances of their opinions – if you want an actual conversation, this isn’t the way to go about it

      • I’m a firm believer that everyone is a hypocrite. Stating that you are not a hypocrite is the most hypocritical thing you can say. Yay paradox!

    • Fine, you want a discussion?

      You don’t think casual cruelty against women is an issue in games? You think Sarkeesian is incorrect? Well, if that’s the case, you’d be able to provide an argument that refutes the evidence she provides.

      Defending Sarkeesian isn’t “white knighting”- it’s defending a well argued point, and it’s ensuring that the argument is about the content, not ad-hominem attacks.

      I don’t think there’s anything “weak” about how these videos are presented.

      And I certainly don’t think she’s extreme, by any measure.

      How about where Sarkeesian is under no obligation to provide a forum for discussion under her own videos? That’s like arguing that every TV show should have a comments section on your TV

    • so you’re suggesting that agreeing with someone’s view that maybe… just maybe an entire industry presenting a whole gender as nothing more than :
      a) eye candy, or
      b) a victim for you & your manly cock to rescue with your testosterone, is probably getting a bit old & is in fact quite a bit degrading, is in fact a bad thing?
      something to be looked down upon?
      you’re suggesting that supporting 60% of the human races’ desire to be treated as equals & with dignity is ‘white knighting’?
      something to be seen as a weakness?


      you are the problem.

      anyone who doesn’t see that there is a problem here, or has their head too far up their own arse to care, is part of the problem. utter selfishness, small-minded, mysoginistic wankery.

    • because she and any other female (and male for that matter) who questions this highly vile subject gets the worse possible comments from all sorts of even more vile people who hide behind the screen and say things to women they are too gutless to say to them (thankfully) in real life. How many times do we see this on the news in the last year people getting death or sexual assault threats in comments sections or on twitter. Guess what those things are just as disturbing digitally as they are in real life.

      I dont agree with everything she says and in some senses once you start looking for patterns you will always find them but one doesn’t need to look too far to see how appalling women are treated in gaming. To say nothing of forums etc. (head over to ign and choose I dont know, say the story about Lindsey suing GTA. Ignore the story itself and read those comments and tell me there isnt a problem with gamers attitudes to women and every time others see them as a ‘joke’ it makes us just as guilty.

      We arent white knights, just decide mature humans beings who treat 50% of the population as good as we treat the other 50%. I feel no need to defend such women as the one in video, she is doign a good enough job of it herself, I just refuse to sit back and say everything in the world is great and all the women in it are super.

      • because she and any other female (and male for that matter) who questions this highly vile subject gets the worse possible comments from all sorts of even more vile people who hide behind the screen and say things to women they are too gutless to say to them (thankfully) in real life

        Welcome to the internet

    • Yeah, that’s it. All this, this negative backlash, of the people threatening her with violence, yeah… that’s all her fault. Must be.


  • Makes me sick to see the threats & comments that so-call gamers make.

    Here’s a video that I saw on the CheezBurger network about how the problem isn’t exactly about gender but the do with the terrible quality of writing & character development in games as well as how much PR & marketing tend to ruin things.

  • Wow, a video from Anita I actually agree with…
    I’d never seen that Hitman advertisement. That was disgusting. Whoever thought that was a good idea I hope was fired shortly after. Also, not being able to help those females in Watch_Dogs that were stabbed in the chest and so obviously not dead… that is just stupid.

  • Heroes punch men. Villains punch women. Thats how society thinks these days, regardless of the medium.

    Note: I support anita’s efforts and agree that changes need to be made. I just question the efficacy of some methods.

  • I think one of the big problems with this issue is that Anita Sarkeesian is the one bringing it up. No matter how sane her current arguments are, I always have flashbacks to the atrocity that was Trope vs Women in Games episode 2, and tune out what is being said.

    She doesn’t deserve the extreme level of hatred she gets though.

  • I agree that there’s much casual cruelty against women in video games, especially in certain genres. But that’s still not as bad as the casual cruelty against men in the real world.

  • I agree and disagree with various things she says, and I don’t particularly like her, but man. I’d rather be on her side than the man-children who vilify her. Because of their immaturity it’s now impossible to thoughtfully criticise anything she says, they’ve shot their own arguments in the foot.

    It’s shit like this and the Zoe Quinn slut-shaming thing that I’ve really, really started to dislike video gaming. Sharing a hobby with some of these hateful people makes my skin crawl.

    • This kind of thing is why I spend significant amounts of time not following gaming news or the like, and why I don’t game online. I am too tired for this kind of thing, and frankly I see and deal with it enough in other avenues in life and on the internet (and that shit really wears you down). I mean, when I saw this video’s article in the top stories part I actually groaned out loud thinking of the kind of shitfest the comments would be. They’ve… not been quite as bad as I thought they’d be, but there’s still some people in here who need to take a good hard look at themselves.

  • OK, bear with me for a moment because this might sound crazy, but how about … just don’t do it? How would Dishonored or Assassin’s Creed or Watch Dogs have been a lesser game if you just took out all the sexualised violence against women? Are we really that uncreative that it’s impossible to signal that this is an unpleasant place without first reducing women to sex objects, and then abusing them? You can’t show us that bad guys are bad by, I don’t know, having them beat up men? Or women who are wearing clothes and have some capacity to attempt self-defence? What vital purpose does killing sex worker NPCs serve in a game about being an awesome pirate who kills Templars?

  • I understand her objection to the use of this trope, however these games are not making the violence against women seem like a positive thing. They are not attempting to titillate the audience at all; they are there to shock the audience and to reinforce how bad violence against women is.

  • I feel like every time I see such a stupid display of ‘alpha male, roar’ mentality I automatically need to apologize to all women on behalf of said ‘roar’ males. I’m so sorry, this is just disgusting.

  • Rape is real. Sexual violence against women is real. Domestic violence is real. Video games are usually just a reflection of the real world, so why wouldn’t they include these things? They aren’t included to make the game world seem “edgy”, as Anita asserts. They’re included to make it seem like the one we live in.

    To me it is more emotionally disingenuous to not include these atrocities. And while I agree that’s it high time more game developers attempt to tackle the problem of sexual violence head on, treating it like “just another part of the world” seems like a pretty accurate portrayal of reality to most of us.

    • I believe her point is that by including them without commentating on them- just having them there for the sake of it- essentially condones the activity, even if you don’t participate. It’s like if you hear your neighbour next door beating his wife, it doesn’t mean you’re a wife-beater, but you’re not trying to make the world a better place by trying to end it either. The game usually doesn’t “benefit” from its presence, and it just re-enforces into the minds of the players that these things are “facts of life” rather than “something we can eliminate from the world”.

    • Firstly, since when are games about replicating real life perfectly?

      Secondly, people who have been raped, or have had domestic violence performed against them, will play that game. That’s guaranteed. If you put it in there, it needs to be handled delicately, because its a delicate fucking matter. And the point is that games barely handle anything delicately.

  • Her observations aren’t wrong but her content knowledge on the craft of visual storytelling and storytelling in general is wildly misguided at times. This is a story were context matters; if it didn’t then Trainspotting is telling you how amazing heroin is and the depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty is the same as endorsement.

    However, most of these depictions that I feel she’s misguided in are still from the male’s perspective which is closer to where the problem lies. I think games writers are generally pretty aware of gender roles but are somewhat inhibited by the core audience and their expectations. I think the success of both Tomb Raider, The Last of Us and The Walking Dead are some pretty strong steps forward in the representation of gender in games.

  • Don’t include women in a game? Sexist.
    Include women in a game but not the main character? Sexist.
    Make a female character attractive? Sexist.
    Make a female character unattractive? Sexist.
    Make the character a female AND something bad happens to her? Sexist.

    But it’s ok for Joel to go through hell, Drake to be beaten down, Marcus to lose all he loved etc because they’re guys? So much bullshit…

    FEMINISM is SUBJECTIVE and BIASED itself, EQUALITY is UNIQUE to no party.

  • I thought this community was progressive and educated. The majority of these comments make me a very sad panda. 🙁

  • I get what she is saying. I were a lass, I would feel put-off and alienated by some video game content. Guys you cant argue that, and this is a discussion that we have to have.

    Thing is games that allow male gamers to live out the power-male fantasy sell the best.
    Developers and Publishers know that.
    Guys want opportunities to save the ladies, and will decide anyone is a bastard whom hurts a pretty lady. We are simple creatures really. I guess what I’m getting at is not every game is aimed at everyone. And wouldn’t they be bland if they were!

    I enjoyed the video, Opened my eyes beyond my own ignorance, so thank you.

  • Things like the violence against women in games like Red Dead are kind of historically accurate.
    When it is things that do/have occured in real life, I don’t see why it’s so bad to have it in a game. Should we not include violence against women in games and pretend it doesn’t take place in real life?

    Maybe world war II games should no longer feature Nazi’s killing Jews…..

  • I think some of the points she talks about are a little off, but on the whole she has something valuable to say. A lot of the techniques used are really cheap and cliche, and the least bit compelling.

    It’s always something that’s confused me, I’ve never understood why there’s more well fleshed out, good male characters than female.

    Also on a random note, she’s only done these 2 videos, right? Wasn’t it a 160,000 dollar kickstarter?

    • This is the sixth video that she’s made on the topic. It’s just the second in this part of the series.

  • In games like the Witcher, Bioshock, etc, they exist for more than “edgy” writing and world building. They are a critique, a form of character development, providing depths, etc. There are solid reasons.

    The thing is, in games such as Metro, which she pointed out, where a woman is almost raped, she decides not to mention a scene in the game, a few minutes later, where a man is almost raped. I guess it’s okay for a man to almost get raped, but if it’s a woman, it’s offensive and disgusting.

    At the end of the day, as a gamer, I’ll still play it, and roll my eyes at a stupid scene that uses woman to be “edgy”, but I won’t campaign against it just because she says that it’s morally offensive. Again, she forgets to mention the overwhelming other scenes in which both sides are targeted (Watch Dogs) and rips ’em out of context.

    It’s the difference between ham-fisted and clever writing.

    I have to say though, that all those hate messages are slowly starting to unfortunately, prove her right.

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