How Anita Sarkeesian Wants Video Games To Change

How Anita Sarkeesian Wants Video Games To Change

Minutes after I walked through a metal detector — and some time before she was flocked by well-wishers at the best-attended gaming lecture I’ve ever been to at New York University — I recently listened to the media critic Anita Sarkeesian describe eight things she’d like to see changed in video games.

To be specific, she was describing “eight things developers can do to make games less shitty for women.”

The list was a surprise — not really for its content but for its explicit charge for change.

For the last three years, Anita Sarkeesian has been talking about how women are treated in games and has slammed the widespread sexism she sees in the portrayal of female game characters. She’s done this through a series of online videos for her non-profit, Feminist Frequency, and in lectures at conferences and even at some game studios. Her supporters cheer the idea that her influence may transform the medium; her critics fear that. They both infer a lot from her analysis of games, but at her NYU talk she left no ambiguity. She spelled out what she wants to see done, what she thinks game developers should think about doing differently.

Her list was brand new. “You get to be my guinea pigs,” she said as she took to the podium in front of a couple hundred developers, game design students and gamers, “to see how this all works.”

Near the start of her talk, she apologised for being sick and said it was the first time she’d been ill in two years. She fought back a bad cough throughout an hour-long presentation but frequently elicited applause or laughter as she spoke. This was a friendly and game-savvy crowd.

I had attended Sarkeesian’s NYU talk because I wanted to hear her outside of the pre-recorded Tropes Vs. Women In Video Games that she’s been making for the last couple of years.

I’d met her in person briefly last spring, before she won an Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Conference for her work critiquing video games. We’d e-mailed several times when I was reporting stories.

I’d seen most of her Tropes gaming videos, of course, and, frankly, not had much issue with them. Much of what she showed in them — the propensity for games to depict a disappointingly narrow range of female characters, of often using women in games as props to motivate players, of regularly sexualizing female characters to a comical degree — had rung true to me. Her material had rung true to me even as I’d recognised the complications of calling for diversity in creative work and even as I’d noticed that, sure, if you look closely enough, you can find an admirable female character even in a game that is frequently described as being insulting to women.

Sarkeesian is an advocate. She talks about issues that she feels have been entrenched in games but go under-discussed. Throughout her NYU talk I was struck by both her negativity and her positivity. During an unscripted Q&A, she said that modern gaming’s depiction of women was really bad. “It’s very much like one step forward, two steps back,” she said. “There are small things that come up that, you’re like, ‘That’s awesome.’ And then five other things that come up that’s like, ‘Are we still doing this?'” Throughout her description of the eight changes she’d like to see, she repeatedly mentioned games that she thought were handling things badly, but she also routinely highlighted games that she thought were doing things well.

She also kept talking, surprisingly, about how easy change in gaming could be.

  • “Fixing this is, of course, incredibly easy,” she said when talking about games that may have several playable protagonists but offer few, if any, who are women.
  • “Happily, this is another easy one to solve,” she said, when lamenting the sexualised grunting that she often hears from female game characters who are supposedly engaged in combat.
  • A variation, when talking about how male and female characters animate very differently in some of the big-budget games she’s been playing: “The solution is obvious: just animate your women moving and sitting the way real women might move.”

The metal detectors, and the overall heightened security presence at Sarkeesian’s talk, were impossible not to notice. I heard a few attendees mutter about this being necessary or finding it absurd that a talk about women in gaming, of all things, required this kind of presence. An NYU rep told me they hadn’t set up metal detectors for any Game Center talks before. The people who make Dragon Age didn’t get this kind of security.

The added protection, I was told, was “the result of NYU Public Safety’s extensive security audit of the situation,” though NYU did not specify, despite my asking, if they were there in response to any specific threats. I’d previously reported about a bomb threat against Sarkeesian’s GDC acceptance speech nearly a year prior. An NYU security guard stood in front of the audience, watchful, as she spoke.

Sarkeesian never acknowledged the security, and she only briefly mentioned the online harassment she’s received for her work. She fielded one audience question from a guy who said a female Gamergate supporter had been at the talk, had shaken her head at much of what Sarkeesian had said, had left early and, this questioner wanted to know, what Sarkeesian would say to this woman.

“I’m happy if she cared at all and wanted to come,” Sarkeesian said, “but I seriously doubt people from Gamergate’s intentions of coming to an event where I am speaking…I think if anyone in this audience is here for Gamergate they are not here because they genuinely care and want to learn. They are coming here to be, like, ‘oh my god, that woman, that horrible evil woman that’s ruining video games.'”

She said she’d written Gamergate off, that there was no convincing them. She wanted to reach “fence-sitters,” people “who are like, ‘I’m interested, and I don’t know if I agree with you, and I’m curious.'”

As little as Sarkeesian mentioned her critics, I sensed that a lot of the start of her talk was designed to address their criticisms. First, she seemed to be challenging claims that she thinks games make people do things. “When I say that media matters and has an influence on our lives, I’m not saying it’s a 1:1 correlation or a monkey-see, monkey-do situation,” she said, “but rather that media’s influence is subtle and helps to shape our attitudes, beliefs and values for better and for worse. Media can inspire greatness and challenge the status quo or sadly, more often, it can demoralise and reinforce systems of power and privilege and oppression.”

And, second, it seemed to me she was being careful to clarify whether she loves games. In a vacuum, this might seem strange, but the idea that Sarkeesian doesn’t care much about games has been part of the narrative against her. There’s a pre-Tropes vs. Women in Video Games clip, after all, of her introducing a video about gaming by telling a college class in 2011 that “I’m not a fan of video games. I actually had to learn a lot about video games in the process of making this.”

At her talk, she showed a photo of herself as a kid, playing the Super Nintendo with a childhood friend. She recounted her efforts to get her parents to buy her a Game Boy. She talked about getting nostalgic while in college and buying a Super Nintendo to play Super Mario World.

She described her relationship with gaming as “complicated,” credited the Wii for getting her back into gaming and showed a slide of Mario Kart Wii, World of Goo, Guitar Hero and Angry Birds. She said that she knew that some people didn’t consider those “real” games but that she counted them as some of her favourites.

Sarkeesian mentioned her time in grad school, which I believe was the same time she was saying in that clip that she wasn’t a fan of games. “If you asked me at the time, I would probably have said I wasn’t a gamer,” she said. Under her breath she added: “I don’t even know if I want to say that now, but whatever.”

She said she’d “bought into the bogus myth that, in order to be a real gamer, you had to be playing GTA or Call of Duty or God of War or other testosterone-infused macho posturing games which often had a sexist, toxic culture that surrounded them. So even though I was playing a lot of games — these kinds of games — I still refused to call myself a gamer, which I don’t think is uncommon.”

She would later emphasise the idea that “you can love something and be critical of it.” That, she said, “is so important to what I do and is really important to engaging with any kind of pop culture.”

“So, you’ve heard of The Wonderful 101?” Sarkeesian asked her audience, as she finally got into the Eight Things Developers Can Do To Make Games Less Shitty For Women.

“It was released in 2013 for the Wii U. There are seven main heroes. They are all colour-coded. Can you guess what colour the woman is?”

Several people in the audience shouted the predictable answer: “Pink!”

“Yeah,” she replied, and rolled the character intro for Wonder-Pink.

That’s how she set up her first request to game developers: “Avoid the Smurfette principle,” a reference to both having just one female character in an ensemble cast and the character limitations that can spring from that. There are actually some other female characters among the 101 heroes of the Wonderful 101, but of the playable ones, only one is a woman. Wonder-Pink wears pink. In her intro video she’s worried about her makeup. “Because she’s the Smurfette, her personality is: girl,” Sarkeesian said.

She showed a slide of Left 4 Dead 2. Four playable protagonists, one of them female. She complimented the latest Borderlands for upping the number of playable women heroes in each of the original base games from one to two (more if you count the DLC). She showed Team Fortress 2. Nine playable classes, none of them women.

“Fixing this is of course incredibly easy,” Sarkeesian said. “Just give players more diverse options. Giving players more playable female characters is the first step toward female characters, like their male counterparts, being defined more by who they are rather than simply by their gender.”

What Sarkeesian was talking about sounded like a quota, because, well, it is. “At least half of the options should be women and, really, it would be great if it was more than half the options were women, and I know some people think I’m completely loony when I say that.”

I noted her words, about what “should be” and what “would be great” and it got me thinking again about the enthusiasm and anxiety people have about her influence. It’s a tricky argument, right? Would it be bad to have more playable female characters? Would it be bad for a given game not to?

Gamers are obviously debating this. And in my experience, confident creators could deal with this kind of critique, could take from it what they found productive and stand up for their authorial independence about what didn’t mesh.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer, and it doesn’t seem to me like there’s a rule that would work across the board.

As Sarkeesian pointed to fan-art that imagined Team Fortress 2‘s cast as being all women I thought about her position as an advocate. She’d push. Developers, publishers and gamers could hear and decide for themselves what’s best to do.

Sarkeesian’s list of eight things included several straightforward requests. She called for more body diversity in female characters, lamenting the “Victoria’s Secret catalogue” physiques of so many playable women and yearning for the kind of bodies that the male characters in the upcoming Blizzard game Overwatch have.

“The blue one looks cool,” she said of the women. “The other four are similar, long legged, slender, mostly sexualised armour, high heels, lack of pants.” She contrasted that to the men. “The male characters get to be short and stocky or heft gorillas or equipped with a massive power suit. You just don’t see anything approaching this variety of body types in weights and sizes with female characters.”

She pushed for more representation of women of colour in games, and more that are neither reducing such women to ethnic stereotypes nor so divorced from their cultural history that it “is eased or invisible.” She praised Never Alone, a game featuring a female character from an Alaskan tribe. “It should not be too much to ask for for representations of people of colour whose cultural backgrounds are acknowledged and woven into their character in ways that are honest and validating.”

After playing what she said was an audio clip of a female League of Legends champion in combat (above) she called for less sexualised female-character voice-acting/grunting — “start with trying to make pain actually sound painful instead of orgasmic”. And she rejected clothing female characters in cleavage-emphasising armour whose “only functionality is to titillate young straight male player base.” For the latter, she said the amount of skin shown wasn’t the issue and recommended that game designers look to the outfits of real female soldiers and athletes for inspiration. Sarkeesian recommended that designers of fantasy and sci-fi games put female characters in similar armour and uniforms as their male counterparts and praised Dark Souls, Natural Selection 2 and XCOM for having more practical outfits.

Occasionally, as she went through these suggestions, Sarkeesian would mention counter-arguments. For example, she said that impractically-sexualised costumes communicate that a female character’s “value and worth is tied to ability to arouse straight young men.” But she added that some of her critics say that male characters are sexualised, too. She doesn’t buy it, pointing out that it’s common to, say, see female characters’ breasts jiggle and rare to see male characters’ penises do the same.

Moreover, it’s worth bearing in mind the obvious, that she’s a feminist and that her view is that men and women are perceived very differently in society. “Equal opportunity sexual objectification is not the answer here,” she said. “It actually isn’t equal.” Her view of how women are seen in much of society and culture is fundamental to her arguments: “Women are thought of and represented as sexual objects to be used by and for the sexual pleasure of others in society, and men are not viewed that way. There’s no long-standing oppressive construct of men being seen as sexual objects and reduced to that in real life.”

If you agree with her worldview, you’re likely with her on many or all of these eight things. If not, well, you’re unlikely to see much here you can back.

Going through her list, she called for game developers of third-person games to “de-emphasise the rear end of female characters,” which she said after contrasting how Catwoman’s butt sways in the third-person Batman game Arkham City with how male characters like God of War‘s Kratos have their butts covered by loincloths or trenchcoats. By contrast, she praised the presentation of the female character in the new third-person game Life Is Strange. It seemed like a subset to another argument about female character animation.

“Motion capture and animations for female characters often have them looking like they’re walking down a runway at a fashion show,” she said. “It’s as if the person directing the mo-cap session told the model to walk in the most seductive or sexy way possible rather than just asking her to walk the way a soldier or intergalactic bounty hunter or any ordinary woman going about her business might walk.”

Even sitting could be a gender issue, she showed. She ran clips of how male and female characters sit in Destiny, a game that imbues its heroes of either gender with the same capabilities. When the guy sits, he just sits, feet and butt on the ground, knees up. When the female character sits, she lays on the side of her legs. “This is supposed to be a hardened space warrior and yet she is still sitting around like she’s Ariel from The Little Mermaid,” Sarkeesian said. “I mean, what the hell?”

The animation arguments were interesting but also demonstrated Sarkeesian’s emphasis on the critique of what players see, more than what they do. She has certainly been critical of the interactivity that leads players to rescuing damsels in distress, but if, say, developers changed many of the Eight Things she requested in her talk, it wouldn’t make games play differently, if at all. That might explain why her criticisms of gaming occupy a different spot than other people’s criticisms about, say, free-to-play game design, game length, or downloadable content. Those latter arguments clearly and directly pertain to whether a game would be more or less fun or engaging for any player, which for many gamers is the paramount gaming concern.

Arguments about the depiction of women, however, will find a sympathetic ear among those who, like Sarkeesian, believe that less sexualized and more diverse presentations of women will make games more approachable — more fun — for more people. They won’t move people who might linger on the likely fact that changing how characters sit in Destiny or walk in Arkham City probably won’t make those games play any better.

Sarkeesian talked about how a more expansive range of female characters can open games up to new stories and experiences, but she doesn’t flat-out say that it’d make an ok game more fun. That’s not really her point. So it’s easy to see how two people might sit through the same Sarkeesian presentation and think “This completely matters” and “This doesn’t matter at all.”

Talk of gameplay brought Sarkeesian to her final point. She said she’d spoken with “well-meaning” game developers about how to handle female enemies. Many games use violence as their main means of interaction, she noted, and some developers were uneasy about if or how to put female enemies in harm’s way.

“Simply putting women in the line of fire is not in and of itself a problem,” she said. “Everything depends on framing, right? So, with that in mind here are two things to keep in mind when designing female characters. One: avoid violence in which women are framed as weak or helpless. When we critique violence against women, we’re often talking about violence in which women are being attacked or victimised specifically because they are women, which then reinforces or perpetuates a perception that women as victims and men as noble, brooding heroes…

“Two, avoid violence against female characters in which there is a sexualised element.”

She praised BioShock Infinite‘s presentation of a Columbia police force whose male and female cops wear similar uniforms. “The ideal here,” she said, “is to design combatants who just happen to be women.”

Of all of Sarkeesian’s requests, I could see this being viewed as the most well-intentioned but creatively stifling one — Why not sometimes have a sexy female enemy? Why not sometimes let a character of any type be helpless or play up their gender? — and yet it also seemed to be the one where she was trying hardest to find ways through it and where she felt like there were the worst potential negative impacts.

“Don’t make the enemies or villains sexualised,” she said, “because again it creates a scenario in which violence against women is gendered and infused with elements of titillation. Violence against female characters should never be sexy.”

I saw her trying to draw clear lines all throughout her NYU talk, and I could sense what a fraught endeavour that was. As easy as she had suggested some of the changes in gaming could be, so much of this is likely to be controversial — and not just because someone might be sexist. How do you balance creators’ freedom with the need or desire to open a game up to a broader audience? How do you assess which portrayals of women in games attract or repel male or female gamers? How do we truly determine the impact of the characters we see or control on how we relate to those characters or view the world?

Sarkeesian didn’t lay out those questions, but those are the ones implicit in her critique. Those are the ones that supporters and critics of her views on women in games are likely to debate for a long time to come. Little of this is bound to be easy, and each of her eight requests are likely to stir debate about what gamers want, what developers can or should do, and what makes for better video games that more people will enjoy playing.


  • “If you agree with her worldview, you’re likely with her on many or all of these eight things. If not, well, you’re unlikely to see much here you can back.”

    • Exactly, if you like watching women’s sports, you’ll find a way to watch them, regardless of whether or not they get equal screen time with men’s sports (there’s a commercial reason for that). Anita finds it hard to deviate from her ‘one size fits all’ approach to feminism and also finds it hard to articulate reasonable goals for developers. I overheard some girls on the bus this morning expounding over how hot and beautiful one of their teachers was. Goes to show that there is no gender barrier to objectification. And who decided that objectification is morally wrong? As @bluxy says below – it’s fantasy!

      • I think the point is not that objectification should be done away with altogether, but that the portrayal of woman needs to be more balanced rather than *just* objectification. This is a reasonable viewpoint.

        • You mean that there can be female characters who are objectified as long as there are also female characters who aren’t objectified? I don’t disagree, but I thought we already had that. We’ve got a full spectrum of portrayal from fantasy stuff like Rapelay, Monster Monpiece and other eroge, through Bayonetta and Dead or Alive (powerful AND objectified), to stuff like Mirror’s Edge and Beyond Good and Evil (Anita’s pinup games for female representation). I don’t think Anita has really thought through where she hopes all her efforts will lead to if successful. Do we only want games where women have agency, are realistically proportioned and modestly dressed? I have a feeling that Anita might, in theory. My point is it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Sorry for the rant – it wasn’t necessarily all in response to your post.

          • When you are trying to say nothing needs to change and that there is already good female representation and you need to head back to 2003 and 2008 for good examples, I think that is a problem.

          • well that’s unfair, ok how bout these: New Lara croft, Cassandra, ellie, and I’m not sure when you think the last Bayonetta came out. These are also just off the top of my head. Now name me 4 male leads who aren’t tough guys motivated by more than revenge/justice. The point is not that they don’t exist, they’re just less of them.

          • I think that what needs to change is the attitude of some people who, as soon as they hear that Anita or Zoe or Brianna are doing their thing to promote women making and being positively represented in video games, respond with a cacophony of ‘Anita is ruining video games’. That’s obviously not true. I think that promoting an environment where women are free to work in video games, where video games portraying women as positive and pro-active role models, is an important goal. What I disagree with is the idea that promoting the aforementioned goals necessarily implies that portraying women IN ANY OTHER WAY should be frowned upon. To do so suggests that men are incapable of distinguishing the fantasy of objectification in video games from the way women should be treated in real life. Imagine if we suggested that showing a film like 50 Shades of Gray should be banned because it might cause women to be more submissive to abuse in real life? Women would, quite rightly, scoff at the idea that they didn’t have enough intelligence to separate fantasy and reality.

          • I agree that the attitude needs to change. I don’t think most feminists want no sexuality in games and having seductive, alluring female isn’t a bad thing. But it shouldn’t be the only thing, and ‘girl’ shouldn’t be a character type.
            If the only male character in games was the bumbling I tried but couldn’t get things quite right Dad character that is prevalent in lots of advertising I would be arguing for better male representation is games. Hell I have argued for that better representation of males (well specifically fathers) in advertising and that is something I don’t care about.

            The portrayal of demographics does flow through culture and shape peoples perceptions, which is why a wide range of real characters rather than stereo types is something to aspire to. At the moment to me is seems like games have the same type of stereo typing of women as the 1960s had of the Chinese. There was only one type of Chinese character and that was how many people perceived them.

          • On the topic of “good female characters” by Anita’s definition, how in the hell is Chell from Portal a “good” female character. She has no lines, she has one appearance at the very start of the game that is easy to miss, and she does nothing remotely to identify herself as a woman (some may claim that is a good thing but equality and mature depiction surely isn’t “make women like men, or make everyone genderless figures”, right?). She’s nothing more than a floating gadget moving through space.

          • Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the simple fact that she is female and is not the object in the eyes of the player? She, for what it’s worth, has agency over her own destiny. I do agree with you that the impact she (as a female) has on the player is minimal.

        • I firstly disagree that women in video games are exclusively portrayed in an objectified manner. For example, Lara Croft, Anya (Gears of War) and Ellie (The Last of Us) are all the complete opposite. There’s three games off the top of my head, and they aren’t from the last few years, that is an 18 year period between the oldest and most recent.

          Secondly, I don’t think that everybody’s quarrel with Anita is that her opinions will particularly affect them, it’s just that gamers* don’t particularly like hearing such seemingly narrow minded opinions from someone who openly admits she herself isn’t much of a gamer*.

          It’s one thing to notice flaws within something, but if you can’t admit there is an equal amount of positives – whilst also completely ignoring the equal amount of flaws in relevant counterparts (i.e male protagonists being equally objectified with masculine personalities and muscular modelling etc) then you’ll have a hard time with anyone in your target audience actually listening to what you have to say.

          Gamers*: Not the broad terminology – i.e ranging from the occasional candy crush player to the hardcore “Pro” gamer – but a person who has both sufficient knowledge and experience in video games on a range of platforms.

    • I can agree with some of this but some of it is just oh stop sexualising female characters and well while it’s done to much i believe it still should be done a little heck sexualize men in some videogames while your at it.

      Games should be made for a specific group of people.

      If you want a game where girls have big boobs and are in bikini’s then it should exist
      If you want a game with buff men who look good then that should exist also.

  • To make these changes would require an immense amount of effort on the developers part for such a small minority, it would be irresponsible as a company to

    A. Stop using the age old “Sex sells” approach
    B. Fund all these changes detailing as small things as how a character sits

    I agree they do portray women in games as useless characters only there for the male lead role but to be completely realistic.. its just not business to do so and that’s all these company’s are.. businesses.

    • For the record (and this is the only thing I’m going to say about this): women are not a ‘small minority’. They actually make up 51% of the population.

      • Thanks for the hot tip Shane but it was in relevance to women gamers who are upset by how they’re portrayed in games.. I thought that was kinda obvious but next time I’ll add little drawings so you can follow 😉

        • that sort of logic just broke my brain, just because some people arent as politically minded or vocal that doesnt mean they dont want change or will appreciate it, some times we dont know how much something is broken until we see a change.

          Im not a female and I am not one who is political invested to how woman are portrayed, as much as others. That doesnt me I dont want change, nor am I uninterested. That doesnt mean I dont care about the ‘politics’ of it all, it just means my focus is elesewhere.

          It all comes down to one simple fact… I want the woman in my life to be treated with mutual respect and not have to put up with stupid narrowminded idiots who dont want change simply because it doesnt affect them.

        • Here’s a few thoughts for you @caterpillarmitch:

          Do you think the percentage of women gamers would change if the content of the games was changed to be more accommodating to women and less directed at men/boys? (I think it would)

          Would the percentage of women gamers increase if there were more female characters (both playable and combatant) in games? (I think it would)

          Hypothetically, if the content of games were changed so that women gamers grew to become 50% of all gamers (to roughly match the makeup of the global population), do you think the proportion of male gamers that stop gaming because of the change in content would be more, or less than the proportion of women gamers that have taken up gaming because of the change in content? (I think it would be significantly less – meaning we would have a crap load more gamers)

          Lastly – If the content of games changed to better represent females, and the gaming population of the world increased as a result of the additional females picking up a controller or keyboard/mouse – who is this adversely impacting, is it bad for business, and is it bad for equality? (I’d say the only people who wouldn’t come off better are the bone heads that can’t handle more appropriate content regarding women).

          So I’m just not sure the “immense amount of effort” it would require of a developer would actually be irresponsible for any gaming company, if it would result in greater sales to a greater population of gamers.

          • Dude, gamers were already 48% women in 2013
            Not to trash your other points, because I basically agree with the sentiment, but I think the variety in games is already at a point where anyone, man, woman, boy or girl, can find something cool to play. I encourage any devs who want to make games like Anita wants, but it shouldn’t be the only option.

          • That figure is not accurate for the “hardcore” market unfortunately. That’s why you see games on PC and mobile embracing that diversity while triple A releases remain fixated on the young male demographic.

          • Yeah that’s probably right. So young males are prepared to pay more to get titillated by objectified women in video games. I firmly believe that if women wanted to pay more to have empowered female protagonists, you’d see a shift in the market. Anita is arguing that if you create the supply then you’d get the demand. I think that there is room for a middle ground – such as kickstarter projects with Anita’s seal of approval, for example. If games such as Star Citizen, or even to a lesser degree Shadowrun Returns can get crowd-funded, why can’t Anita and a developer work together to campaign for the type of game that Anita wants? If the market is there, then the project will be funded. Otherwise, Anita would have us suffer the equivalent of positive discrimination, where changes are made for changes’ sake, without having the popular support or the market to support them.

          • To what degree is that true *because* the “hardcore” games are fixated on the young male demographic?

            There have been AAA games that were popular with women – for example, The Sims. Perhaps if somebody was willing to risk the budget there would be more.

            Unfortunately that’s probably a large part of the problem – the money men for AAA games want to stick with what they know works, and what they know works is not particularly feminist in approach.

          • Not only that, it results in overly safe games, period. All we get are endless sequels and copies instead of new IPs, that could champion new, diverse protagonists and gameplay ideas. But yeah, can’t do anything with old scared white dudes holding the purse strings.

            My position this entire time has not been “there’s not a problem”, more “there is a problem, how do you propose we solve it, within the current rules of the games industry”

            How do you propose getting the funding to create this big budget game while also making back enough money to justify this game?

            “‘Push the envelope’? You know who uses that phrase? People who don’t have the guts or the brains to work inside the system: letter writers! radicals! Howard Dean!” – Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

          • @geometrics Increasing awareness of the problem is an important step. When everyone agrees that powerful female role models are important in games, it will be a lot easier for developers to create them. The problem is not that boys are cooler in video games, and we’re trying to get the developers to make uncool characters. The problem isn’t even that boys sell better. The problem is that people really believe that boys belong in the hot seat and that girl characters aren’t as cool. Why don’t female characters sell as well? Because our culture has pushed the idea that male characters are cool/powerful, while female characters are sexy.

            Why do some men have a problem with being a female character? I don’t intend to be offensive… but isn’t it kind of weird? Do men fear that they’ll become more girly if they play games with a female character? Do they really believe boys are cooler? Even men who are really extremely sexist should prefer to look at the back end of a woman… right? Would it be offensive to suggest that there may be some underlying, subconscious homosexuality? Society doesn’t let them express it without changing their views on life, or without denying their heterosexual side. But it’s imaginable that deep down, they enjoy engaging as a male character (and only a male character) because it provides them the homosexual satisfaction that they are denied by being 100% heterosexual.

            Perhaps the most likely/common reason is that boys want to play male characters because they themselves are male, and they relate better to, and feel empowered by, a character that they can relate to. I say, good for them! That’s great. But girls deserve the same, without having to be told that what makes a women great is the color pink and a lot of cleavage, etc, etc.

            Anyhow, people like Anita Sarkeesian are solving this problem by peeing in the pool so to speak. She is sometimes hated for what she’s pointing out, but there’s truth behind it. Pretty soon, people are gonna see that there’s something wrong. All this internet hate is gonna subside, and the truth of the matter will be what sticks around, and culture will adjust.

          • My comment was purely about the business side and how it would be unprofitable therefore unlikely to happen.

            The small minority I was talking about is people who would not buy a game because of the sexism – Again business orientated.

          • Good business doesn’t justify creating a lousy culture.
            The fact that boys sell well causes boys to sell. The fact that boys sell causes boys to sell well. It has to be stopped, and it has to be stopped by responsible businesses.
            Create the culture, and the business will follow.

        • Women are making up a larger portion of “gamers” each year though.
          And changing the stereotyping of women in games isn’t just for the females anyway.
          I’d like to see more realistic, or at least more prominent female characters, and I’m a gay man. I’m sure there’s plenty of other men who feel the same. The amount of people who would like to see a change isn’t such a minority…

          Saying that it’d require an immense amount of effort also is also, simply, not true.
          Games such as Tomb Raider, Mirrors Edge, Final Fantasy XIII, and Beyond Good and Evil prove how easy it is to make a more prominent female lead while still remaining both profitable and enjoyable (your experience with enjoyable may vary).

      • Games are a product, not a utility. In the same way Men make up a fraction of Harper’s Bazaar readers, female gamers make up a small number of hardcore game consumers.

        According to NPD’s Core gaming 2013 report:
        The HD shooter audience is 78 percent male.
        The HD action game audience is 80 percent male.
        The HD sports game audience is 85 percent male.

        If I called up Cosmopolitan and told them to stop misrepresenting males as two-dimensional, steak shovelling, cheating, emotionally stunted morons, and make more articles about male interests, they would laugh and hang up. I am not their target demographic, I do not pay their bills, and as such, I am not a major consideration for their creative and marketing decisions.

        If female consumers want more decisions based on their wants and needs in gaming, they need to stop being loud and start being numerous. That or buy 2 to 3 copies of every game that comes out each, although, with this current climate of re-releases and remasters, that might not be such a lofty goal after all.

        That is not to say there ISN’T a problem with the way women are generally portrayed in video games, but this is much needed information for those who say “half the population is female” or “50% of gamers are female”. Those are misleading figures at best, completely incorrect at worst.

        • The only relevant discussion is WHY so few women play these kinds of games and while the current dialogue is ‘I dunno, GIRL BITS’ the true answer is probably a combination of internal presentation of female-friendly content and external enculturation away from them.

        • Taken to the extreme, it would be like petitioning Playboy magazine to start showing more nude male models alongside the female models. You’d say, what the hell? Why don’t those who want nude males just go and buy Playgirl or something similar. The ‘market’ for videogames is more diverse and fragmented than Anita would have us believe. Some people want objectified females; some people want powerful female player characters – it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

        • I agree.
          I am a little over seeing people point out population is 50% female or gamer’s are 48% female but overlook the target demographic for the game in question.

          Specific Games are targeted at a specific demographic. If that target demographic is males between 16-35 in the US you can be sure the avatar or character makeup is going to try and be as close to that demographic as possible. Ever wonder why shooter/action games with 4 characters have 2 white males, one black male and a girl. If you have a set of characters your going to have half them represent the largest portion of your target demographic (white males between 18-35) then you will have the other 2 match the next highest but mix them so you the non target have something to connect with.

          Is it right from an equality POV… I dont know. Personally dont think it really matters to the people making the decisions. Its business. If you want to change it, you need to show a fiscal reason for the change and unfortunately its going to have to be more than “it wont make a difference”. Right now they have the dude bro games that make shit tonnes of money and they aren’t going to risk the tried and true formula for making shit tonnes of money without the potential for making even more money.

          Not saying this is right or how it should be, but this is the real world where business are there to make money. You want a person to change, reason with them and explain why. You want a company or business to change, show how it improves the bottom line.

          • Studies have actually shown that men are far more adverse to trying products perceived to be for women than women are in trying products for men. A game with less than a majority of males could be perceived this way by young, insecure, teenage boys, definitely.

            Even psychology and consumer behaviour is on the side of these companies playing it safe.

        • But the difference here is that you have cosmo and you have playboy. Different magazines targeting a different market at each end of the spectrum. Currently AAA games are all at the playboy end with nothing at the cosmo end.

    • I would love to see an end to the “sex sells” approach. I don’t buy video games for my penis.
      And if there already IS a sitting animation (hell, they even put in a dancing animation), then surely it shouldn’t be that hard to get it right.

      • It would need to be all movement, actual work in female character development, more talented voice actors, vast changes to character models / design and clothes.

        All these things would be amazing but at the same time I am realistic that these company’s do not care.. like one bit about who they make people feel unless its affecting their profit.

        • I think the point made here is that all that work is already being done. They are already getting different models, different animations, VA, clothes, etc…
          But rather than have the same brief given to the male mocap actor (tough and confident soldier, angry and aggressive thug, relaxed business man) they are getting the “Walk sexy, sit seductively, etc)
          Teh actual cost to the business is minimal, and if they can get a larger female player base that greatly improves the profitability. Not turning off the number of women who see these sort of things and think gaming isn’t for them is a much greater potential revenue stream than the number of guys who would refuse to buy a game because the female characters aren’t sexualised enough for them.

          • You say that, but why then are shitty games like Game of War Fire Age or Evony marketed like they are? Because if they didn’t market themselves that way then the number of players would drop off dramatically. They don’t market themselves like that without reason.

          • Using sex to sell a shitty product is a different thing, they are using sex because that is all that they have.
            If tomb raider launched with evony style ads I would never have bought it. If the divsion starts a massive campaign of sex sells type marketing campaign it will drop from my most anticipated game to one I don’t want.
            I’m not denying that sex sells, that is basically a marketing truth. What I am saying is that is your game isn’t using that sexualised content to sell, why do you have sexualised content in there. Having actual female characters (aka dragon age) is much more likely to increase the sales of your game, than having a bunch of sexualised placeholder characters. Of course this only hold true if you are selling a game based on the story/gameplay/mechanics not on the amount of boob jiggle you have

          • I used Evony et al as extreme examples, but you only have to look at the poses of female characters on the covers of games (or film posters) to see that there is an element, more or less subtle, of sexual marketing present in a lot of games and films. For example – Nilin in Remember Me. Check out her pose
            Not many dudes have this kind of pose (some do). They are all facing the camera and looking grim and holding weapons. Look at Lightning’s pose She’s got a bare leg at an awkward angle, torso tilted to show off her breasts, etc.

            I’d be interested to see a survey of female gamers to see how purchasing decisions are made and whether the possibility of playing as a female has any bearing on them. The closest I’ve seen is an interview with the developer of Puppeteer where he said that when testing the game on kids (boys and girls) not one of the girls said anything about the fact that the protagonist was male. You might say that’s just because of the ingrained social expectations that men are expected to take the lead, but that is less and less likely these days, especially in first world countries.

        • Plenty of talented female voice actors out there. Jennifer Hale, for example, blew away Mark Meer’s performance as Captain Shephard. And if companies can find the time and resources to properly animate and characterise alien races of all shapes and sizes, then doing the same for the female half of the population shouldn’t be all that hard! To further prove my point, some developers already are doing it; inFamous: First Light is a good example. Beyond Good and Evil came out two console generations ago, but was still able to do it. It can be done. No excuses for lazy developers.

          • Jennifer Hale wasn’t ideal for 80% of the female Shepard creations. The game gives you many options to make young Shepards, yet only a clearly 30+ voice for her.

            I found her voice acting to be incredibly grating for my Shepard, and personally only really saw it working for a minority of Shepards. And the forums tend to show players choosing younger looking female shepards overall. That is, the 18% of all Mass Effect players who chose her

            Good voice acting? Sure. Right casting? Maaaaybe not.

          • Shephard is the commander of the Normandy, and first human Spectre. To get that kind of responsibility, where the lives of a war spaceship crew are in your hands, would indicate years of military experience and slowly gained trust from your superiors over time. So for me, personally, Shephard being 30 makes good sense.

          • I agree with that reasoning. But when they put character creation in the hands of the player, they need to accommodate for both Attractiveness Bias and Baby-Face Bias. They are two design and psychological principles that state people want to see younger looking, more attractive people in their games. Our warped psyches see them as more intelligent, competent, moral and sociable than less attractive people.

            People will, by virtue of human nature and first world culture, aim for the younger, prettier model. Not to mention the issue with giving people the options to change their face but not their voice being pretty restrictive and contradictory game design.

      • Here’s the problem I see with the sitting animation. The male one sits with his legs apart so his crotch is in view. Can you imagine the outrage if a female character was depicted that way? This is unfortunately one of those lose-lose situations. If you have the female sitting the same way it’s sexist because it emphasizes her crotch, if you make her sit “demurely” you’re criticized because she apparently doesn’t sit like a hardened space marine.

    • Such a small minority? Srsly? More than 50% of the population dude.

      Look I love games too. But I can’t be the only one who gets the shits when a chick going into combat is wearing high heels. It’s stupid and unnecessary.

      • What about when a guy is wearing a super tight singlet or carrying, like, 50 guns on his back?

        It’s okay to reinforce negative stereotypes about male violence, though…

        • Nowhere in the article did it say Sarkeesian thought negative male stereotypes were awesome.

          In fact, I’d think a large number of people who would like to see less negative female stereotypes in games would also like less negative male stereotypes.

        • Male power fantasy, not women’s sexual fantasy.
          And seriously? “Negative stereotypes about male violence”? Jesus. Pull your head in.

      • I can guarantee you both my mother and my girlfriend, part of that “more than 50% of the population” don’t care at all about this. They will never be aware of any perceived issue, will never put money into the industry, never observe any changes, neither support or object to either side of the debate.

        So why should developers put money into making them happy?

    • Can’t see how it’s ‘irresponsible’ to resist using sex to sell your game. If anything it’s the opposite.

    • B. Fund all these changes detailing as small things as how a character sits

      Developers are already paying for two sets of mo-cap and animation for the male and female animations.
      It would cost the same to tell the mocap actors to do something else, or the artists and animators to design different costumes etc. next time.

      The business question is Does having sexed up characters scare off female gamers more than not having sexed up characters scares off male gamers?

  • “Happily, this is another easy one to solve,” she said, when lamenting the sexualised grunting that she often hears from female game characters who are supposedly engaged in combat.

    I wonder if she has ever watched Womens Tennis 😛

  • That point about X-Com made a lot of sense. Male or female, same body armour. I never even thought about that while playing, and it seems like sensible body armour shouldn’t be too much to ask for.

    • Sure. I think having demure men and scantily-clad women is a little unbalanced unless the plot calls for it. Why not have buff and hunky dudes along with the voluptuous women – so everyone can get their jollies, regardless of gender or sexual orientation!? Titillation for all!

      It beats me why magazines like Women’s Weekly and New Idea sometimes put bikini pics on the cover though. Seems to me like women like ogling celebrities in bikinis just as much as men do. That was just a random remark – not sure how it ties in here.

  • I completely agree that there should be a stronger presence of women of more substance than the ‘girl’ or the ‘model’ in games. As well as games having more diversity in general. But I don’t agree that there should be rules put in place that state “one must never, ever do X”.

    If videogames are ever to be taken seriously as an art or media form it can’t adhere to rules of such a strict framework.

    • If videogames are ever to be taken seriously as an artform they need to grow, change and have criticism accepted. She’s not setting rules.

      • I agree, I don’t discount what she’s saying at all. She’s coming up with helpful suggestions after making critical judgements. But saying that, she’s only one critic, one person, and what she’s saying shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

  • But she added that some of her critics say that male characters are sexualised, too. She doesn’t buy it, pointing out that it’s common to, say, see female characters’ breasts jiggle and rare to see male characters’ penises do the same.

    While I understand her point it’s disingenous to completely disregard this and brush it off. Men are definitely sexualised in games, though *absolutely* not to the degree women are. But just because it’s not to the same degree does not make it acceptable still. Gears of War for instance, or even DOA games, enjoy promoting roid-bound men with giant chests, heaving muscles etc etc. But, that being said, of course DOA is packed full of giant breasted porn star women, so I’m not ignoring that at all. Just simply stating, that by her stating ‘she doesn’t buy it’ she very much glosses over the idea, removes any credibility of it, says it simply ‘doesn’t exist’ and dilutes any potential issue of bad representation of a gender…

    Kind of sounds familiar.

    • She’s a critic. Critics cherrypick what they want and ignore other stuff in order to put their point across in a stronger light. Age old trick

    • How many people seriously consider Marcus or Dom sexually attractive? I’m pretty sure the list consists of a handful of women, gay men and Vincent McMahon.

      Garrus from Mass Effect has a much, much larger female fanbase than any of the examples people tend to throw out there as sexualised men.

      More importantly, the two points are not equal even if people did accept those examples of men being sexualised. The majority of female characters in games exist to be “the chick”, the romance option or someone to be rescued and most are sexualised. On the other hand, male characters run the full gamut. There’s antagonists, protagonists, damsels and heroes. There’s the goofy guy, the serious guy, the scientist and the jock. Some are sexualised but most are not.

      It’s a completely false dichotomy so Anita is completely right to dismiss it. More importantly, it’s not the point she’s making. If someone is talking about famine in Africa, that doesn’t mean it’s time to start talking about poverty in your city.

      • dude, no. If it’s not the point she’s making and doesn’t need to address it’s existence not how “equal” it is, then the omission of women from a panel would be cool when it ain’t. What she’s doing is diluting the potential affect of media on boys. She could have said that it isn’t what she’s here to talk about since it’s another conversation, she flat-out refused it’s existence and that’s damn wrong. If you don’t think representation in media affects boys you’re wrong. Repeating and espousing a momentously generalised argument doesn’t change that. I’m also trying to understand why anyone would believe acknowledging something outside your argument harms it.

        The word “representation” is also not exclusive to sexualised representation. It can project any look, behaviour, race, gender or ideal as “true” and this affects everyone. Whether girls find them sexually attractive is besides the point, the expectation for boys to act a certain type of “tough” directly feeds into the sexism inherent in the portrayal of women. Changing the representation of women doesn’t address this, it doesn’t fix the attitude boys may have towards them because the entire argument has been dismissed. It’s not in the same way as women but it is entirely ignorant to pretend it doesn’t exist for the benefit of your argument when it is so intricately interwoven.

        Generalising the issue to a laughable degree does nothing for change. Women might have some great experiences where they’re represented the way they want to be and that’s a noble goal but I see it as being short-lived or fraught with more conflict if you don’t also address the attitudes and false truths given to boys as well. I’m of the opinion that hopefully a change in women’s representation will lead to an inevitable change in the way men and boys see or react to women (as well as their own gender). It goes both ways. You can’t say the representation of men, historically in video games hasn’t directly fed their attitudes towards the reasonable arguments of women in gaming.

          • Because its her responsibility as a champion for change in gender portrayal and diversity to understand that men and women are irrevocably linked. And that you cannot separate one gender’s identity from the other’s.

          • They are separate issues that can be addressed by similar means. She’s not a champion for change in gender portrayal, she’s a champion for better portrayal of women.

            People are not obligated to broaden their scope, especially when they’re struggling to find success with a narrow one.

          • But when you are talking about depiction of women in video-games, you are talking about men. When you are talking about sexism, you are talking about the other gender. You cannot talk about one without discussing the other, because in the majority of these arguments, there is one external aggressor (men), and one victim (women). Even though it’s much more complicated than that, that’s what it is generally distilled down into.

            Women suck in games because men suck at making games with women in them. That is her main overarching theme. She’s providing instruction for what she wants to see in games to the current developers of games (overwhelmingly male).

            They are not separate issues. To fix sexism, you need to talk about and directly to the men (and women) who propagate it. You can just agree in a circle with like-minded people. She’s struggling to find success because her scope is too narrow. Her approach is good for generating awareness, but not for generating change.

          • One of the best responses I’ve ever seen, kudos for nailing it that her scope is far too narrow. Well done.

          • To be specific, she was describing “eight things developers can do to make games less shitty for women.”

            Yes, the relationships between men and women are irrevocably linked however her speech was about women. Changing overall gender portrayal doesn’t have to be her thing, she’s already got one all mapped out.

      • As I have said elsewhere. Guys that are huge and strong and muscle bound are not really a woman’s sexual fantasy, but instead are male power fantasies. So basically even they are made that way for dudes. Girls get nothing.

        • Prove that, prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Someone said the idea of ‘male power fantasy’, which no doubt has a basis in reality, but others have taken it and run with it like it’s an absolute and now people cling to it like it’s a holy grail. I think that’s as ridiculous as the idea that no women find muscular men attractive or that all women find muscular men attractive. So I’m sorry but putting forward an absolute like that, is ridiculously unproveable.

          • You can blurt all your vitriol as much as you want. But I need hard proof to say anything.

          • Vitriol implies bitter criticism or malice, there is none, there’s critique, I think you need to learn the definition of it. My critique of it was fair. I asked for that because you attempted to use a blanket statement encompassing everyone. It’s not hypocrisy, it’s you not understanding that when you present a statistic or terminology implying a statistic of some sort, you should back it up with proof or it’s worthless.

        • Not true. My ex really had a thing for Vin Diesel, and huge, strong and muscle bound are definitely adjectives that you would use to describe him. And if they weren’t attractive stereotypes, why would they keep using The Most Beautiful Man in the Cosmos (or equivalents) on the covers of Romance novels?

          Then again People find different body shapes attractive, whether they are male or female. DoA (typically used as ‘sexualised females’) contain sexualised male character. Ein/Hayate and Ryo for those that like the lean muscled pretty boys, Eliot for those that like young boys (Marie Rose could be seen as the female equivalent of him following on a game and revision later), Dennis Rodma… er… Zack for those that like his particular body, Leon for those that like the mysterious muscled Russian… Gen Fu and Bass were pretty much the odd ones out in that they was pretty much the only non-sexualised character of either gender. (Although I’m sure theres someone that has a thing for Hulk Hogan)

    • It is. I’ve had the privilege of working in a number of school and young boys, just as much as girls suffer from image issues. I’ve seen boys as young as 12 being harassed and assaulted for no other reason than they seemed to like sports and he had a Nintendo DS. I’ve seen boys in classes conspire to omit the “gay kid” from the creation of every working group. I’ve seen a boy consistently use sexual violence as a story element in his drama work only to find out later that there was a tragic reason for this. What is expected of masculinity is a heavy burden to carry for some boys.

      Whether her comments on this issue are simply wrong or entirely misguided, it is at the very least damaging to boys like these. Yes, girls have it rough but I shouldn’t have to say that for merely discussing someone else. It doesn’t matter how widespread it is, we don’t ignore one to focus on the other. The issue of representation in media affects everyone. The portrayal of men affect women and the portrayal of women also affects men. It’s these little ignorant things and her hard and fast stance that boys like the ones I mentioned above are worthless in her argument.

      • She’s a woman, so she speaks from a female perspective. Unrealistic body types for men in games may be bad too, but so far no bloke has bothered to get up and do anything about like she has.

        • I’m a guy but I wouldn’t tell someone of a different gender, religion, sexual orientation or cultural background that their problems don’t exist just because it’s not my perspective.

          • She doesn’t say that their problems don’t exist. She doesn’t talk about those issues because her fight is about the depiction of women. She never claimed to be the champion for religious intolerance, so why would anyone expect her to bring it up?

    • It all revolves around the incredibly reductionist idea that “power” only means physical strength and an ability to pulverise your enemies. Which is completely incorrect. There are endless forms of power in our world.

      A male power fantasy (ignoring the laughable notion of every male having the same power fantasy) would be rather different based on upbringing, interests, motivations, etc. than a female power fantasy. For some women, being able to get men to do things for them by exploiting their sexuality IS power. For some men, a power fantasy is being an amazing father to their children. Some women want financial power, some men want the power to make a mean pot roast.

      Furthermore, to say a character like Joel in The Last Of Us has any real power at all is laughable.

      Here’s a man, forced to do a job by a woman who overruled his misgivings, following the orders of another woman who leads an entire resistance movement and must now lay his life on the line for a young girl at every opportunity.

      Joel has no choice in where he goes and what he does until the very end of the game, and while he can kill others with ease, he never has any say in whether he wants to fight or not. For a man who is a “power fantasy”, dude sure doesn’t seem to have all that much power to me.

      And women can’t flock in droves to Buzzfeed for the latest Ryan Gosling eyecandy article and then say that the shirtless sweaty dudes in fighting games couldn’t possibly be for the benefit of women. Get your story straight people.

      Also, breasts move in-game because that’s what they do in real life. There’s literally a billion dollar sports-bra industry that revolves around this fact. Penises however, tend to stay where they are, unless you’re one of those commando types.

      • In Street Fighter, there is exactly one example I can think of where there’s a shirtless pretty boy. It’s Vega. The villainous narcissist. I don’t know how many women you know but most of them are not flocking to look at Ken and Ryu (and definitely not Rufus, Dhalsim or E. Honda). Whereas practically all of the female characters are considered attractive.

        Also, I’d just like to point out the contradiction between:
        For some men, a power fantasy is being an amazing father to their children.
        Furthermore, to say a character like Joel in The Last Of Us has any real power at all is laughable.

        It’s abundantly clear that Ellie becomes his proxy child and his papa wolf attitude towards her as the game goes on means that there’s a clear example of real power that you’ve already mentioned.

        • You’re right, I misspoke. By “real”, I meant, the stereotypical notion of power.

          As for shirtless pretty boys, check out Soul Calibur and Dead Or Alive.

          • Go through the cast of any fighting game. Do a rough count of attractive men and attractive women. I’d wager that almost all of the women and fewer than half the men would make the count.

            Do you not see the problem there? That there is much more diversity in male representation than female representation? When the problem is that most women in games are sexualised, the fact that some men in games are sexualised does not balance it out.

          • Go through a crowded street in a public space. Do a rough count of what people find attractive. I’d wager that almost all of them will tell you something different.

            There’s more men in triple A games because there are more men playing and developing triple A games. Those are the facts. Women writing men never goes well, men writing women isn’t any better. You are confusing the effect for the cause. We need more women making and playing Triple A games if we want to see positive change.

            That is, of course, assuming that there is a real diversity in male representation in games. Which is debatable.

          • There’s more men in triple A games because there are more men playing and developing triple A games. Those are the facts.

            And there’s no good reason for that. If you think that’s the root cause to this issue, then you’re free to argue that.

            Women writing men never goes well, men writing women isn’t any better.
            To Kill a Mockingbird was written by a woman. J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, there are several great male characters in there. Terry Pratchett wrote the Discworld books, there are numerous great female characters in there. Joss Whedon is pretty well known for his portrayal of women and you can even argue that Quentin Tarantino does a pretty good job (within the bizarre context of his movies).

          • No good reason for that? Yes there is. More males are studying games development, and more are getting jobs in games development. That’s a straightforward reason for why that’s the case. If you mean there’s no good reason for the diversity to be skewed, my argument is “is there a good reason for it not to be skewed?” It’s about interest, and clearly men have more interest in triple a development and games on average than women. The numbers do not lie.

            There’s more female nannies than male nannies. Is that to be viewed as some sort of injustice to be corrected or a result of different priorities and interests?

            As for the writers you listed, yes you’re right, but show me that kind of writing talent in the games industry. There are very few amazing writers in games, because any other medium would be far more suited to their talents and far less constrictive based on financial concerns.

          • @geometrics Okay, is there any good reason why men should be more interested in game development than women? Games are games. Playing is a human activity.

          • @trjn From my perspective, absolutely not. But clearly most women disagree with me. It’s not a case of “they aren’t allowed”, it’s a case of “they simply aren’t doing it”.

            I for one would love to see more women in games development, but they aren’t applying for it, they aren’t studying it, and when it comes to 80% of all HD action players being male, they clearly aren’t even playing it. Not to mention the tiny 18% of Mass Effect players choosing to play as female Shepard. This is what happens when you make options for women in Triple A titles; they largely go to waste.

          • @geometrics Mass Effect sold millions of copies. 18% of several million is a pretty large number, hardly a waste. Not only that, people are inherently lazy. Got the numbers for how many people stuck with the default Shepard?

          • @geometrics 1 in 5 players played Femshep. I was astounded that I could save the universe and not be burly default Manshep. I would say that’s not a waste.

          • @freya

            On one hand I agree with you. But ultimately as a very story orientated game with many fleshed out characters and motivations, I felt it was disappointing that Shepard was so flat and generic. His/Her responses are largely the same to most of the dialogue, and as a result Shepard didn’t really represent a female position at all. She was just re-reading lines said by a male actor before her. There are a few things here and there were the lines are different, but ultimately the opportunity for choice just served to create a weaker protagonist.

            I would have preferred one Shepard, be it male or female, that they stuck to. Because amongst the rich, three-dimensional characters of the Normandy, Shepard’s a cardboard cut out.

            And it’d really come down to cost/benefit as to whether or not female Shepard was “a waste” as I put it, perhaps a little too harshly. If it cost more for the female option to be in the game than it made them back, the publishers wouldn’t be happy. Although one could argue that the goodwill earned by the developer for doing so is priceless, so who knows?

          • @geometrics Um, Jennifer Hale did a much better job than Mark Meer at bringing emotion and interest to Shepherd. Also, Shepherd is meant to be a cardboard cutout because she’s essentially the player avatar. You make the choices, you shape who she is. If she has too much personality before you make decisions, you don’t get invested in her over the course of three games.

          • @freya Yeah, the performance was better, but there wasn’t much scope to be a character outside of a gender-neutral, female skin, or a gender neutral male skin. Sure, you can bang different people, but that was about it.

            There was no actual feminine characterisation outside of those sexual relationships. If you were just reading the dialogue from a blank screen, it’d be tough, aside from pronouns, to discern which gender Shepard was. That’s what I mean.

          • @geometrics I am not sure what your point is? Mine is that it was immensely powerful to have the option to play this three dimensional character who is super rad and awesome and saves the universe and happens to be able to look and sound a bit like me. She doesn’t need to have any more feminine characteristics than she did – she still comes across as a woman. And a badass, which is probably the more important part.

          • @freya

            My point is that Shepard specifically is not a three-dimensional character (at least compared to the companion characters) because of the choice to allow for choice in character gender. You already said:

            Also, Shepherd is meant to be a cardboard cutout because she’s essentially the player avatar.

            So I don’t understand why now you’re saying she is three-dimensional after all.

            I would much rather a female Shepard than a choice between male and female, because then the writers could commit to her being a woman and really flesh her out with a gendered identity, to the extent of a Joel or Ellie or pretty much any character in The Last Of Us.

            But I think the biggest question is why? Why is it important for the character on screen to look and sound “a bit like you”? How does that negatively impact your experience if you can’t relate to someone who is a male, or a different race? And more importantly, what does it say about you that you seemingly struggle to connect with a character who isn’t the same gender or appearance as you?

            You can appreciate films even though the characters clearly are not you, right? I’m not trying to antagonise you or anything, I just hear that “looks like me = good” reasoning a lot and never really understood the position.

            Choice is a cornerstone of the medium, but choice over the actual narrative only serves to dilute it. Some times the choice to be female or male rather than a set character might be one small step forward for diversity, but two steps back for storytelling. The overall product might suffer.

            Either make a game like Destiny or WOW with full customisation and no character identity, or a game like The Last Of Us or Grand Theft Auto V will no customisation (aside from hairstyles in the latter) and full character identity. No half measures.

        • It’s not abundantly clear. Whilst I share the sentiment that Joel becomes a father figure I think it’s abundantly clear by his body language coupled with hers as well as the expression on both of their faces that Joel is the only one who believes this. Ellie clearly has a question of how dangerous Joel actually might be and whether going forward he’s actually protecting her or imprisoning her to a degree. Nothing is abundantly clear here and I don’t think projecting allows you to ignore legitimate narrative possibilities.

          • That’s because Ellie is a well-written character.

            Joel has power. It’s much more personal than many typical games but the choice he makes at the end of the game demonstrate it.

          • The choice he makes is more about his weakness than his power actually. He can’t experience that loss again. He’s too weak to do what’s right, because of his dependence on another person.

            You could slice it every different way to support any argument, but you’re right, it’s because The Last Of Us is a well-written piece of fiction. Many of the problems in the depiction of characters in games comes from the fact that most are not well-written, we have the equivalent of the writers of The Expendables as our most celebrated video-game writers.

            We’ve set the bar low, and like hammy, lowest common denominator efforts in film, the majority of games (and their characters) are over-simplified and under-written.

          • I know this isn’t an argument about the ending of The Last Of Us, but I take exception to your characterisation as “too weak to do what’s right”. The choice he’s presented with is a complex ethical dilemma that has been debated for centuries. That’s even assuming the people framing the puzzle to him are correct and not lying.

            Apologies for thread derailment.

          • But that’s the whole point, I don’t even believe that “too weak” position, but I could make it, and you could successfully counter against it. The point is well written characters are deep, they have layers and decisions that could be interpreted a number of ways.

            That’s what I loved so much about The Last Of Us. It didn’t treat you like an idiot.

    • Well there is a couple of points to this. Firstly there is a large number of different body shapes to male characters, the example of overwatch given above. You can see the same thing in something like street fighter. Big characters like Zangreif or Honda, light quick characters like Ken/Ryu and Vega, musle bound boxers, skiny ole Dalsim. While the female characters are all very similar (I haven’t played in a while and this may have improved but I hope you get the point)

      The 2nd part is that the roid-bound men with giant chests, heaving muscles are not a huge sexual image for women. Check the sexiest men alive type things and the number one comment will be about their smile or their eyes. A much slimer, cross fit style body is more common and the focus is much more on hair than shaved heads.

      Edit: And when you go to lunch between starting a post and actually posting it other people have big long conversation

      • The 2nd part is that the roid-bound men with giant chests, heaving muscles are not a huge sexual image for women.

        That of course, is a major generalisation. Numerous times I’ve heard women who like the same thing, eyes, smile etc talk about how they love a guys ‘guns’ (arms) or ‘a great set of pecs’ for instance. So I’m sorry I don’t buy that at all.

        *edit* Otherwise things like those Fireman calendars sure as hell wouldn’t be so popular 😉

        • And yes, massive generalisation and talking mass market context but people like different things
          Well I’ve been looking at fireman calendars for ummmmm research for this post
          After looking a one or two a number pictures from those calendars the body type is much more sports star than body builder. The reference I was making was from the large mass media lists that are selected or voted on by a large segment of the mass market. If a game was to go out and try to sexualise characters they would go for the most dominant sexualised male image and that is more of the fireman than the bodybuilder.

          As @geometrics there is not a hive-mind that has one type of body size that is ideal. I wasn’t trying to imply that all women find x attractive and all men find y attractive.
          The point is that not all men find y attractive or intriguing so I would like to see more than just y type women in games.

          • Everyone generally would like to see more sizes. I think that’s an absolute must for gaming. Same as instead of predetermined colours, it would be far better to give a colour wheel and allow one to choose their own colour instead.

      • The 2nd part is that the roid-bound men with giant chests, heaving muscles are not a huge sexual image for women.

        Yeah, I’m with @weresmurf, was this decided at the annual worldwide women’s meeting? Is it like a hivemind thing where everyone thinks the same thing once it’s decided? Give women more credit than that, and don’t project your personal taste onto the entire population.

        You think all men love blondes with fake breasts and excessive make up? Do you think all men look at Hugh Hefner’s wives and say “that’s the ticket”.

        You can’t claim that not all women find x attractive and simultaneously say all men find y attractive.

    • “But she added that some of her critics say that male characters are sexualised, too. She doesn’t buy it, pointing out that it’s common to, say, see female characters’ breasts jiggle and rare to see male characters’ penises do the same.”
      Simple test here.

      Spend a day out in a busy public environment with lots of genders of both people walking/running.
      Count what percentage of breasts you see jiggle.
      Count what percentage of penises you see jiggle.

      Now compare this to video games.


      Seriously. BS argument.

  • Games are a form of escapism Anita, if you actually played them you might understand that.
    If you want to enjoy the experience of being a dull woman the easiest way for you to do that is to go about living your day-to-day life.

    My girlfriend likes dressing nicely and is a fan of playing the “hot chick” in games. She’s not upset by the sexualised images because frankly shes confident enough to enjoy that that kind of thing. Maybe you need to change the name of your seminar to “eight things developers can do to make games more comfortable for frumpy bitches who don’t really buy games anyway”

    • So because your girlfriend likes being a sexy chick then so should every other woman who plays games? Your argument is flawed.

      • Same argument – just because Anita says its wrong every other woman should agree with her? That arguments is also flawed

        People should be allowed and encouraged to make up their own minds – not have an opinion forced down their throat.

      • How so?

        My girlfriend is a woman and Anita doesn’t speak for her.

        Anita is personally offended by everything in games that a person could possibly find to be offended by: “women’s grunts are too sexy”, “women sit too sexy” I mean come on, some of this stuff is beyond ridiculous.

        She’s a single issue nutjob, if she was a man and he was whinging about the guys being too muscular, or too competent at fighting, or too good looking or straight then I’m sure we’d all be laughing at his claims that he was making games better for “men”.

        Humans are aspirational, most of the time people don’t want to spend their escapist time playing as the people that they are every day. It’s why popular music is overwhelmingly played by good looking people, it’s why 99% of leading roles in movies go to good looking people and it’s why in MOST cases when someone designs a game character from scratch that character is going to be better looking than most people.

        There’s REASONABLE improvements that can be made to attitudes held within the game community, but nutters like Anita are not in any way the people to implement those changes. Games will get better for average women as more women buy the games they want and more women make the games they want.

        • She’s a single issue nutjob, if she was a man and he was whinging about the guys being too muscular, or too competent at fighting, or too good looking or straight then I’m sure we’d all be laughing at his claims that he was making games better for “men”.

          And yet people are claiming exactly that to try and muddy the waters about Anita’s arguments.

          • They are because it’s not entirely unreasonable to do so.
            The fantastic men of videogames make the rest of us look as inadequate as women like Anita complain that they’re made to feel.

            I mean it would be stupid to waste your time doing so, but you couldn’t argue that your average video game character isn’t a million times bigger, stronger, better looking, more charming and generally more capable than a “realistic” depiction of a person would be.

            Who give a fuck though? Probably only a person who was making a living off being a single-issue loudmouth who doesn’t deserve anybodies time or attention.

          • Anita gives a fuck. The crowd at her lecture gives a fuck. Intel gives a fuck. The developers she’s consulted with give a fuck. I give a fuck.

            Many fictional characters are extraordinary and that’s what makes them interesting. Many fictional women are shoved into the same roles with the same tropes and that’s a problem. Fixing that problem does not harm anyone. It’s not a zero-sum game where better representation of women means that there will be worse representation of men. It just means that there will be better representation of women.

          • So I’m getting the feeling that you take issue with the fact that she’s making money by making these arguments. As if she doesn’t deserve to make money being an advocate. Apologies if I’ve misread your position, but it is an argument I’ve seen a lot of and I wanted to address it.

            Clearly people make money giving talks and appearing in media. This is not new. The argument I described above seems to be that if the arguer doesn’t agree with the position of the advocate then that advocate is useless. Simply the fact that she *is* making enough money to live by doing this implies that some people *do* value her contribution.

            Even if she wasn’t making money from it I would argue that her contribution is valuable. After all, many people didn’t make money in their lifetime, but have made substantial contributions to society.

    • Women who don’t like playing the “hot chick” (which usually is the ONLY woman) aren’t necessarily women who don’t like dressing nicely. It is also not about confidence and I’m confused about why you’d think that is so.

      I am a woman, I love playing and buying games. Especially ones with good representation of women. Being represented by figures that are constantly sexualised is actually quite exhausting and weird.

      • My partner actually enlightened me to this a while back.And kind of equated it to how I don’t like playing Call of Duty because I hate being the gruff guy. When I bought her LA Noire, Cole Phelps is such a specific type of old insecure guy that I think only men can find an excuse to empathise with and she hated playing it despite loving it in theory. She just couldn’t bridge that biological gap like I couldn’t with Remember Me. Her favourite series is Assassin’s Creed but it’s ironic one of the series’ best characters was female whilst appearing in the worst game.

    • I recently got my girlfriend into Telltale’s The Walking Dead. As she played through season 1 I remembered this constant dialogue of “make more women in games, make people who look like me, blah blah blah”.

      So I asked her “Hey, how do you feel about playing as a black male in this game as opposed to a woman?” She looked at me like I asked her the stupidest question she’d ever heard. “What are you even talking about? It’s fine!”.

      And when I was playing season two, as a female character, the only problem I had with it is that adults were putting so much stock in the opinions and actions of a 12 year old girl, not that I couldn’t enjoy the game because I didn’t see a facsimile of myself on screen.

      She was right, it was a stupid thing to ask.

      • I think it probably was in that context. I’m not trying to be rude, but that game is a singularly poor example of what is being discussed here. Lollipop Chainsaw might be a better choice. Even then, as you’ve pointed out many times before, your girlfriend might be 100% comfortable and even happy to play as that character.

        One of the reasons anecdotal evidence is frowned upon is because you’re more likely to come in contact with a biased sample of the full population. Specifically you’re more likely to interact with people that think like you. A much more interesting result would be “What percentage of women playing Lollipop Chainsaw were comfortable playing as that character?”

        Obviously I’ve singled out Lollipop Chainsaw here which is a little unfair as nothing is produced in a vacuum and some might argue that Lollipop is quite self-aware in it’s depiction of a certain female stereotype. Please substitute your favourite example instead.

        • Yeah good point. I’m sure a proper sample size would skew the results more in favour of your argument unfortunately.

  • While I agree with Anita that there should be more variety of female bodies in games, her example of Overwatch falls a little short. There’s nothing to say that the dwarf character is not female. Any reader of Terry Pratchett would know what I mean.

    • Or Lord of the Rings, where it’s mentioned that the female dwarves have bigger beards than the males!!!!!

  • I have no problem with women in games, I like to play as male characters though as that’s what I can relate to. I’m confused though, originally she seemed to be pushing for more women in games. If there was a game that didn’t have a woman in it, that studio were SEXIST PIGS (see Assassins Creed). Now there actually were women in games but there’s not enough ‘strong’ women in them?

    I think what drew a lot of initial criticism of her criticism was that it seemed she was trying to force women into games where the developer didn’t write women into games for whatever reason. All of a sudden, feminists were shouting at games studios to re-write their own intellectual property to please them for a game chances are they wouldn’t even play.

    At the end of the day though I’m not sure what her main point is. The way women are portrayed in games as far as I can tell isn’t having a negative effect on every day people. I’m not seeing WoW players decking out their daughters in skimpy armour because that’s what’s in the game. If she actually wants to tackle what affects how people see women, why is she not criticising MTV or women’s magazines? My opinion, but I’d imagine Nicky Minaj shaking her ass at blokes ‘anacondas’ is a lot more detrimental than running over a bunch of people in GTA and one of them happening to be a woman.

    “Simply putting women in the line of fire is not in and of itself a problem,” she said. “Everything depends on framing, right? So, with that in mind here are two things to keep in mind when designing female characters. One: avoid violence in which women are framed as weak or helpless. When we critique violence against women, we’re often talking about violence in which women are being attacked or victimised specifically because they are women, which then reinforces or perpetuates a perception that women as victims and men as noble, brooding heroes…

    What about violence against men when they’re ‘weak or helpless’? The age old counter-argument that doesn’t get answered because ‘that’s not the issue here’.

    Even sitting could be a gender issue, she showed. She ran clips of how male and female characters sit in Destiny, a game that imbues its heroes of either gender with the same capabilities. When the guy sits, he just sits, feet and butt on the ground, knees up. When the female character sits, she lays on the side of her legs. “This is supposed to be a hardened space warrior and yet she is still sitting around like she’s Ariel from The Little Mermaid,” Sarkeesian said. “I mean, what the hell?”

    Look at how a man sits on the floor and then look at how a woman sits on the floor. I’d wager if the females in Destiny sat like the men did, someone would complain about that being as though the women are spreading themselves. Nitpicking at the highest order in my opinion.

    It’s also very important to highlight that all of this is her own opinion. It’s her opinion that games need to change. Great. Who’s to say that she’s right? Who’s to say that she’s wrong? She’s a critic, nothing more. If critics had any impact, Transformers 2, 3 & 4 wouldn’t’ve been a pile of steaming shit.

    • “They’re manspreading! Must we copy everything men do? Why can’t a woman sit in a feminine posture and have to be made to sit in a masculine pose???”

    • 1. Feminists haven’t been asking games studies to rewrite IP, just that future IP should have some women in it.
      2. She also discusses other areas of media that affect the perception of women, such as toy ads, GQ, Glee etc. However, Tropes Vs Women in Video Games has been her major focus over the last few years.
      3. She is discussing tropes vs WOMEN. I agree violence against weak, helpless men is bad. However, most (named) men in video games actually often have agency and characterisation and that is part of the difference.
      4. Women don’t sit on the floor like Ariel from the Little Mermaid generally. She’s not asking that men in Destiny sit the same as women, she is asking that women don’t sit like sex symbols at all times.
      5. I don’t think anyone ever said that this is anything more than her opinion, but a lot of people agree with her. A lot disagree too. Critics are often about making you think, as is art.

  • yes we could change games or we could let game dev create the vision they want and if you don’t like their vision you could go play something else instead of forcing world and every one in it to be the way you want guess what their are 8 billon people on earth and their different and find different things offensive some people find hunting offensive should we remove hunting from games to make the bunny huggers happy or perhaps we should remove references to religion because it might offend Christian/catholic /jewish people no we don’t because it stifles creativity people like Anita Sarkeesian need to learn that the reason these tropes exist in video games are because the majority of people who buy these games enjoy these tropes if they didn’t the games wouldn’t sell

    • Maybe more people would buy games if they were different? Maybe the majority of game devs haven’t considered that?

      I know that personally I buy more games where women have agency and characterisation greater than just being “the girl”.

      • Maybe you should start a game development company, hire a team of people who rely on their salaries to pay bills, feed their families, and keep a roof of their heads and then develop a game for over a year based on the assumption that “maybe” more people would buy games if they were “different”.

        Maybe the majority of game devs have considered that the depiction of women and men in their games is less than ideal, but also that they need to respond to what the market is telling them with their wallets.

        Maybe the game devs start out making games that are more diverse in their aims and goals but because they took publisher money, they are at the whims of publisher decisions. And publishers only care about what will make them money.

        And for every person who would buy a game where women have agency and characterisation, there’s 5 teenage boys who are buying the game that has guns and grunting, empty marines shooting at explosions to create more explosions.

        It’s a harsh reality, but it’s one that needs to be recognised.

        • Or I could keep being a doctor and vote with my wallet. This ridiculous argument that if women want change, they should start more game companies has been brought up to woman game devs. Bringing it up to someone who isn’t even in the profession is silly.

          • I’m not literally saying drop what you’re doing and make the next Mass Effect. What i’m saying is for all the wonder if game devs have thought about these things, I wonder if consumers or in this case, critics, have considered the bigger picture also. The reality of money is too large to ignore.

        • People can’t criticise if they don’t create? Come on now, Anita and her audience show there is interest in better representation of women.

  • good article i guess, but i myself take no note of what the character wears, i just check the stats if choose-able and if i can change clothes, i go to the most formal look possible so it looks like someone messed up their business meeting

  • I would love to play a game made by Anita Sarkeesian. its the only way I think I will fully understand her viewpoint on games because I kind of get the general idea that games objectify women I just struggle with what not objectifying women looks like………if you know what I mean. perhaps all game characters should be genderless blobs??

        • Have you actually read the Communist Manifesto? While I’m sure you were just making a point about how all feminists are communists (good one), I think you’ll find they are actually quite different areas of debate.

    • The problem with her view on sexualisation is that she is objectifying women as well. Does she judge real women who dress this way similarly? When you boil it down, Anita is more focused on what women wear than most men are, and proceeds to judge them if they don’t fit her world view. Also I don’t think any character made by Anita would be very popular in the cosplay circuit.

    • If the game is set in reality then the characters need to be from that reality. If your game is set in Big-boob-and-mini-skirts land, that’s fine as long as the men are from massive-cock-and-7-foot-tall island. I guess the easiest way to “fix” this is to have more “normal” people in game design representing all demographics. So more women, men, transgender people, more of everything.

      So I completely agree, Anita, please make a game and show us how it’s done. I’m not being sarcastic, I’m not trying to call you out. I want you to set an example for people everywhere to follow. After all, actions speak louder than words.

      • She has even less experience making games than she has playing them sadly. This however, does not invalidate her arguments. To me though, if you make a game with that specific intention as your starting point, odds on it won’t be a good game, and characters will feel forced and bland as you desperately try to not upset anyone.

      • You say it like the majority of male video game heroes aren’t 7 foot tall muscley penis dudes.

        The important thing is that she make a financially solvent game. It’s all well and good to make a game that is a thought experiment or a interactive point-prover, but decisions made about characters and settings and gameplay in the triple a games industry are all influenced by financial and demographic realities.

        As she has a large number of followers who would support the hell out of it based on principle, she’d need to make it anonymously too.

        • Yes she does have a horde of followers, but she also has a horde (bigger or smaller I can’t say) of people that will hate this out of principle.

          But yes I totally agree, it wont change society over night if it isn’t successful in business. But what’s to say the thought experiment wont grab the attention of other game designers, for and against her ideas.

          This is a fight of game design principles, instead of fighting with words, lets fight with games! Lets all make games the way we want them. Let the indie gates open and flood the market with games that portray people how the developers think they should. Everyone will pick the games they want to play (ideologically or otherwise) and the market will decide how society believes people should be portrayed.

          This could only be good for gamers. It will flood our market with competition, fresh ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways of playing, let the innovation come.

      • A problems with representing every demographic:
        Do you base the representation upon percentages in society or players or the situation the game is portraying? For example: Your transgender comment – apparently transgender makes up 0.3% of the population. Which means you’d need 330+ player characters to mathematically justify one that is transgender. Simpler for male -v- female since the split is roughly fifty-fifty. But (I hope) you get what I’m saying.

        I think you were kinda getting at this point with what you were saying though. I think character design should be primarily informed by game design with some (smaller) concession made to audience. ie: If it’s a fighting game the characters should all look physically capable. If it’s an RPG then I believe you have more scope to design a wider range of characters. If its a fighting game that they’re trying to sell primarily to men then design with that in mind. If it’s primarily for women ditto.

    • I watched some of the episodes of Tropes vs Women a while back. I can’t remember which but I know she outlines some basic game ideas in the early episodes. If you’re genuinely curious I would recommend watching them. I don’t agree with everything she says, but it did at least make me stop, think and understand the kind of games she wants to see. They’re not actually that different.

  • 8 ways to stay in the media and get more money out of rubes:

    1. Patriarchy
    2. It’s not a quota, you just have to make 1/2 the characters female
    3. People were mean on the internet.
    4. Make games no one wants to buy because: Incloooosiveness
    5. Guys can wear no shirts, but don’t show cleavage.
    6. The colour pink is only allowed for homosexuals not women
    7. Various feminist bullshit like women are physically as strong as men
    8. See step 1 and repeat.

  • This has been going on for ages. Just look at Hunter off quake 3 arena, She has big boobs and a g string like bikini. Then look at doomguy, he has big muscles and abs. Now but if you look at other players like Hossman or Lucy, it isn’t sexual at all. You can make mountains out of any mole hills these days.

    On a random note i think they made Ripley off alien isolation a very nice female character.

  • So where does Bayonetta fit into this. Are women allowed to mix sex and violence if they are the ones performing the violence or is this not ok too? Is it just never ok to have a character who is pretty to look at?

    In regards to sexualisation of males she mentions penises? WTF? This to me shows how badly out of touch she is on some things. Sexualisation of males is about muscles, it’s about power. Ask anyone to draw an alpha male and give a banana to the bloke who draws a stick figure with a giant wang.

    The problem I have with Anita is not that I think she is wrong about everything. Some things she is bang on about, women walk ridiculously in a great many games for absolutely no reason. Women who are scantily clad in the middle of a swordfight look stupid (that’s why I love you Cassandra), and there is certainly no reason for them to sit differently to the male characters.

    My problem with Anita is that she looks to take offence in absolutely everything because it is her job. There are a lot of examples, but the starkest to me was when talking about Watchdogs she states as an example of sexism that there are women you can rescue or just leave to be killed and all it does is affect some points. Totally just glossing over the fact that there are just as many men this is true of.

      • That’s sort of it though right? I find that part of the reason women often come off as bland in video games is because it is too dangerous to do otherwise. A man can be depicted as a hulking brute who is also a genius, or a complete moron and it makes no statement. Make a pretty woman a genius or a moron and the focus will be on the fact that she is pretty and how that interacts with her intelligence (dumb blond, or why is even the scientist hot?) and now this infers some wider sickness with society and how we view women in our patriarchal hegemony and oh stuff it just make it a guy.

      • People do talk about Bayonetta:

        I agree that Anita tends to reach further than I think is justifiable, but I’m not sure this is a bad thing. It means that I take my time and evaluate every one of her points. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I disagree, but I always end up with a reason why I took that stance. If all Anita Sarkeesian ever contributed to my life was making me question my assumptions and come up with justifications for my beliefs then I’m happy she’s around.

        • The problem with over reaching is that it alienates people who are otherwise on her side in general. It also makes her appear dishonest, and in my opinion, makes it appear that her interest is actually in taking offense rather than advancing a cause. Put simply, if all the issues she has brought up to date were addressed over night, would that be the end of her or would she find new things to be offended by?

          • Put simply, if all the issues she has brought up to date were addressed over night, would that be the end of her or would she find new things to be offended by?

            That’s an interesting thought.

  • She showed Team Fortress 2. Nine playable classes, none of them women.Just want to point out that Pyro is (arguably) a woman 😛

    Also her complaints about Overwatch seem a bit pointless, it’s not even in Alpha yet, they’ve said there are heaps of characters not announced.

    As usual with her stuff I agree with most of it but usually not quite to the extent she goes, like:
    At least half of the options should be women and, really, it would be great if it was more than half the options were women, and I know some people think I’m completely loony when I say that. I get that there’s a problem atm with around 50% of gamers being female and out of 4 characters in a game, you’re lucky if any are female BUT for most of those games (Left 4 Dead was her example) the main demographic is still males… Why would you make 3/4 of the characters female?

    Personally I probably wouldn’t care (assuming they were decent characters) but marketing-wise it doesn’t seem like a great idea.

    • I think her point about overwatch has a little merit to it in general when talking about the diveristy of male characters whilst all the females look like anime waifus. The problem is that if you took that big fat guy on the left and made him female, you’ve probably just made the least popular character.

      All of my female friends who play games when given the option to make a character make one that they consider to be pretty. My GF has something like 16 toons on SWTOR and never once picked the big body type. As you say, marketing wise I’m just not sure it makes any sense.

      • Not only that but character creators also have the mission to make recognisable characters, even better if it’s at a distance. For some reason, knowing whether female/male is important to us when we get that ‘snap’ of recognition.

        Overwatch couldn’t really add a big woman in because she’d likely not fit on the battlefield, and if they made her big and muscly (like the big guy on the left) she’d look hardly like a woman at all.

        • What. Most of the men in the Overwatch pictures are 2-3 times the size of the women. You could easily make a bigger woman who is the size of the men.

          • Sorry I’ll be less politically correct. Overwatch can’t really put fat or unfit women into a game where arguably characters need to be physically fit (fantasy elements not withstanding). You could easily have a woman the size (height) of men, but my argument is that character designers would still need to make them look like they can fight, and like women.

          • What about the rotund fellow on the left side of the Overwatch picture in the article? His gut looks like it could fit at least two of the female characters in it.

            It is possible to have a lot of bulk AND be physically fit.

            The Overwatch devs could put any character in and rationalise it however they want – I’d love to see an unfit character who possesses a a magical relic or technological marvel that allows them to compete at whatever physical level without altering their body – but that’s not going to happen for whatever reasons.

          • What.

            There’s a big fat guy in the picture in the article, along with a thin ninja and a muscly marine and a squat…something. Why can’t there be a similar diversity of female characters?

          • For both of you above, did you see I mentioned that guy? Look at that big guy, is he fat? Yes. Look again, is he incredibly muscular? Yes. Now I suppose I’m only guessing here, but huge, fat, muscular are not attributes I think many would associate with femininity. I’m not saying that the devs couldn’t, or didn’t try to have such a female character, what I’m saying is I’m not surprised that she would be nixxed for the very reasons I said.

          • Give me Sasha Kaidonovsky in a mech suit version of Cherno Alpha
            Give me a female Elephant or minotaur
            Hell chuck another chick in the mech and just give me Sasha Kaidonovsky on her armour

            Nobody is saying fat or unfit females in there, there isn’t a fat or unfit male character in there. But there is a range of different male character types and shapes.

          • Don’t pretend I was the one making the decision. These characters go through multiple people (possibly men) before being approved. All of them with different opinions and reasons.
            For all I know (and was postulating) was that for that nice sumo lady example, in somebodies eyes, didn’t work at 200 in-game meters and therefore might not have been approved.
            Silly? Yes.
            Understandable? Yes.

  • Anita can be overly sensitive to portrayals of women in games, sometimes she gets too black and white with issues that are clearly more grey.

    It doesn’t help, however, when normally sensible Kotaku commenters become incensed and get even more black and white – making out like she’s some kind of extremist, wants 100% non sexualised women in games etc. Rational discussion is the only way forward; making sweeping generalisations about her apocalyptic all-women future-game hellscape is just gonna keep the argument looping forever.

    The core idea of what she’s saying is valid.

    • “making out like she’s some kind of extremist, wants 100% non sexualised women in games etc”
      “Don’t make the enemies or villains sexualised,”

    • That’s the problem with the issue as much as the speaker.

      “Did you do anything to help equality?”
      “You must be against equality.”
      Cue internet fight.

  • Who are these people out there that see something in a game and have it influence their everyday life? I fundamentally don’t understand.
    Should there be more women characters in games and less sexualized characters? Yes? Maybe? I don’t know.
    On the one hand they should be able to make as violent a game as they want without censorship, but on the other hand they should follow moral guidelines about how they portray female characters?
    I don’t get it. The game developer has a vision, they create a game, if it’s any good I’ll play it.

  • As a female gamer who at times has felt frustration at the portrayal of females in some particular games, I understand Anita’s arguments. I also liked how she did acknowledge that there have been some shifts to diversify characters in particular games.
    Like it or not, video games as a form of media does influence its community and at times, the greater society beyond it. Whilst I don’t personally mind a bit of sexualised charisma in characters, there isn’t anything wrong with opening up the opportunity to create a broader diversity in who we can play. Businesses that continue to push the gender-stereotypes can and do reinforce those ideas and values that we continue to have in society. I myself tend to be a culprit, as I catch myself surprised and shocked knowing that there’s another female player playing the same MMORPG game I am playing. In the years that I’ve been playing video games, it’s fantastic seeing more and more females playing and engaging actively in the community.

    Businesses can rise and fall based on what the community wants. Diversity doesn’t mean that it has to happen in EVERY game, but for the games where there is the choice to play multiple characters, I think that there should be a broader range of choices that can be created. I think a lot of the holding back does come back to this fear that the game won’t sell. But I don’t think we’d know whether that happens or not until it gets put out there.

    • I’m not sure why women are seen as a kiss of death in games. I mean studies show that when actually given a choice, the majority of players, both male and female will choose women. (Jennifer Hale maybe had something to do with that) Choice is never a bad thing.

      • I don’t think they are considered the kiss of death generally, It’s more that I don’t believe them to be the kiss of life. I don’t think any games are made objectively better by the forced inclusion of women into the narrative. I hate the thought of an artist sitting there with a vision and thinking “oh shit, I don’t have enough women in this! I better add some in.” and just artificially jam them in.

        They hired Jennifer Hale because they thought she was the best for the job, as it turned out she was better than the other guy (anyone actually know his name? haha). To me she is a great example of what happens when you let talent play out. Making sure the field is set so that women can do that is what I’m behind.

    • just remember that if you say anything slightly negative against Anita or her views on kotaku then it will be down voted to hell by all the white knights

      • Only if what you say is completely dickish. And if it is, then you deserve the downvote. This isn’t a specifically Anita-related thing. There are numerous example on these pages.

  • As a “girl” gamer, I am one of the rare few who loves the females in most games. I play mostly female characters when there is a choice. I find it hilarious to see the boobs bounce about and fail. She has a point to make the females more realistic but where is the fun in that? To see men design their female characters is a high light for me. All they are designing is their dream girls. They are unrealistic and far fetched. There is no way in hell that any female can do the things in real life that they do in games. My problem with it all is that guys start trolling us gamer girls. I have had death threats, abuse and god knows what else because I am female. I have had to change accounts, stopped streaming and change ign’s because of some of the hate I was getting. And no they weren’t 15 year old boys. I had grown men bitch at me and call me filthy things in game because I can head shot or fight or play better than them. I get that everyone trolls and says things in the heat of the moment in game. I have a mouth on me too. But to contact me afterwards and tell me that I will be found and raped, strangled and left 4 dead in the gutter gets to me. Banter is banter but ffs that is too much. What needs to change is most men out there. Their ideas of a gamer girl. And basically how to treat women in general. The day I play a game without threats of rape and abuse will be the day I die. Once guys stop that then the gaming industry may (hopefully) follow suit.

    PS. I am not blonde I have big tits I am not fat, and i dont wear skimpy clothing to attract people to watch my streams. Thats my other pet hate… Girls using their body to get attention and more hits… But thats another subject entirely.

  • Can I just be the first to say; as a male gamer to date I have never played as a character that even remotely represents me? I don’t have a 6 pack; I’m not insanely fit, I don’t know how to use any weaponry whatsoever and finally I’m not white. I think the only thing I’ve ever had in common with a male character in any of the games I’ve loved is the fact that they are male. So I will concede her the point that at least half the characters in games should be female.

    Outside that all her arguments strike me as polarizing and fanatical in how they attempt to find fault. Men aren’t sexualized by their junk jiggling; they’re sexualized by the girth of their chest or the tautness of their bum. In the real world getting to that physique takes ridiculous amounts of effort and is completely unrealistic for an average human being; much the same to how games portray women. At least 70% of the male characters in Overwatch have physiques I could never relate to and seem to look that way just for self appreciating eye candy.

    The irony of all this is games across all genders only represent a portion of the population that hardly plays them. The fittest/hottest and overly sexualized real life people I know have little to no interest in games whatsoever; heck at best my guy friends play FIFA but they’re the ones represented in the same games she critiques for women.

    If she really cared about women equality there are much larger and more important battles to be fighting. If she really cared about representing under-represented populations in games she wouldn’t pick women as the minority alone to represent. And if she really wanted to make a difference she would to treat the cause of the issues she’s raised not its symptoms.

    The games development industry is pre-dominantly male; meaning their views of what women think/feel/act like is what comes across in the games they make. Look to change the core diversification of the people making the art; get more women in developing games so their views can come across accurately as well as their fantasies; because that’s what’s happening here in regards to male representation.

    Edit: I’ve never had or tried to have an opinion about her; however the more I read the more I feel she’s fighting a cause just for the sake of fighting. Nothing she says/does shows she actually wants to have an impact but rather just wants to make noise. You don’t make change from the top of a soap box. As I see it she’s just the opposite less represented version of GamerGate; both fuelling each other flames.

  • The Wonderful 101 could definitely have done with more playable female characters on team. But it’s also a homage to ‘Sentai’ shows (power rangers etc.) and so Wonder Pink is very deliberately a stereotype, as that’s pretty much how these shows work.

    Avoiding characterisations as ‘girl’ may be a good idea, but those attributes (like caring about makeup) are not anathema. There’s plenty of real-life people with those stereotypically sexist qualities, so it would only make sense fictional characters also have them.

    She points out that giving players more diverse options is easy: it’s not. It’s easy to think up, and less difficult if you planned it ahead of time. If, for some reason a game needs to double it’s characters to achieve equality then that’s a crap-tonne of work – more models, more animations, more audio and more optimisation. I still think it should be done, but I will understand when devs don’t.

    Would it be bad for a given game not to?
    That’s the crux of it. The whole reason this mess is so controvesial is because the ‘desired good’ is loaded. If you’re not doing what’s ‘right’ you’re doing what’s ‘wrong’, and since you’re haven’t helped equality; you’re now against equality. Terms like sexism, racism, and misogyny become projected onto both the media and therefore its consumers, and shortly after that become thrown about as insults.

    The ‘Victoria Secrets catalogue’ is actually sensible; fighters and warriors need to be in peak physical condition. So men will end up typically (and stereotypically!) muscular, and women typically lean. Their outfits/armour ends up being a bit more ridiculous, but that depends on how fantasy it is. Don’t get into the whole ‘male power fantasy’ and ‘male sexual fantasy’ bulwark as if all this stuff is distinct. Every character sits somewhere on a graph of power and sexual fantasy depending on the viewer.

    And she rejected clothing female characters in cleavage-emphasising armour whose “only functionality is to titillate young straight male player base.”

    And gay women! Don’t leave them out.

    She doesn’t buy it, pointing out that it’s common to, say, see female characters’ breasts jiggle and rare to see male characters’ penises do the same.
    False equivalency! This argument always makes me so mad. For a start: boobs and penises are not equal both biologically and in inherent sexuality. Unlike genitalia, breasts have historically changed in sexual modesty over the centuries and certain cultures attitudes to toplessness simply highlight this today. We can also show waaaay more boobs on TV than we can penises and vaginas, proving that the exposed breast is both less offensive and more freely titillating than genitalia. Second: penises will not jiggle like boobs. Breasts vary in size and are placed on the chest in a way where motion during energetic activity like running and jumping will make them fly. Cock’n’balls are usually smaller and nestled near constantly in clothing mirroring heavy-duty sports bras (jocks & jeans). As mentioned in a previous article – reducing boob-jiggle may work, but eliminating it will not, as it becomes ‘unrealistic’. We’ve got bare-chested men and women in games, but if you want more waving boners then I advocate for more undulating cameltoes.
    *Bonus* The crotch region is where multiple limbs meet, making it a difficult place to rig/animate on a 3d model; whereas the chest is pretty flat and much simpler. Placing new geometry and bones to animate it is quite painful in a crowded area. For reference see – janky hair and tentacle animations.

    “Women are thought of and represented as sexual objects to be used by and for the sexual pleasure of others in society, and men are not viewed that way. There’s no long-standing oppressive construct of men being seen as sexual objects and reduced to that in real life.”

    Nope, I disagree. While the years of oppression did exist thanks to humanity’s biological and cultural evolution. That does not discount the simple capacity to objectify for both sexes. We’ve seen Calvin Klein ads, Magic Mike, Mills & Boon. Women may appear to objectify men less often due to whatever preferences they hold, but it happens every day.

    When the guy sits, he just sits, feet and butt on the ground, knees up. When the female character sits, she lays on the side of her legs.
    You really telling me nobody would sexualise that squat pose? Also some women sit like the latter. Admittedly I don’t expect warrior women to sit like that.

    “Don’t make the enemies or villains sexualised,” she said, “because again it creates a scenario in which violence against women is gendered and infused with elements of titillation. Violence against female characters should never be sexy.”

    I can’t agree with this. This is an artistic distinction that could be employed as desired by artists/designers. Also overt sexuality in villains is quite powerful in entrenching their character.
    First is Perversion. A sexual deviant would usually bring distaste, a sense that the villain is not of sound mind and dangerous. Second is Power. Someone who possesses self-awareness and confidence in their sexuality may revel in it, even using it to influence others. A strong ‘gives no shits’ woman proudly demonstrating sexual prowess is powerful and no afraid of you.

    • As a queer woman, I don’t find sexy the majority of the things in video games that are put there for straight dudes to find sexy.

      • That’s cool, everybody’s different. Just thought it would be good to not focus on such a singular distinction.

        • Yeah that’s fair enough, too. And I am sure there *are* some gay women who do find it all attractive. (Just not me and queer lady my gamer friends. 😉 )

  • I actually totally agree with her views in a general sense but as someone who specifically works with media representation every day and has extensive education on the topic, she’s flat out wrong on so many specifics that whilst I can take away a general message whilst ignoring some claims, I can really see how people could disagree.

    Again, critics of her are still seen as people who don’t support women and this is a sickeningly dangerous trend. It’s not about men criticizing women, it’s about an individual being infallible to critique. I mean let’s say she completely misuses the word “representation” at times. Someone who corrects it is legitimately seen as evidenced by the article above as someone who doesn’t share her views. My partner is a media professor and whilst she shares a similar sentiment, disagrees with her on specific critiques of representation. Women have a range of views and she doesn’t represent everyone on every specific detail and I don’t think opening herself up is akin to enabling danger, which is demonizing a group before the fact. I really feel like this overall lack of communication really harms our potential for collaboration. I’m not really sure what comes of never scrutinizing one specific individual yet everyone else under the sun.

    Yeah, representation of women in games is horrendous and whilst i share her general sentiment that change would make things less shitty for women in games, I’m not sure how yelling a bunch of things most industry people would call misguided and projection across a room of supporters over and over again can progress any further. She has a high enough profile now that a conversation or interviews perhaps with male developers could go a long way in bridging this gap. It really just doesn’t seem like she’s willing to actually accept that people usually won’t be swayed to any argument unless you use some measure of empathy towards part of your audience. How do you enable engagement and trust on a large scale when someone with a noble sentiment is offending a portion of the audience with ignorance? Is that supposed to disable their ignorance? If so, how?

    Moreover, it’s worth bearing in mind the obvious, that she’s a feminist and that her view is that men and women are perceived very differently in society. “Equal opportunity sexual objectification is not the answer here,” she said. “It actually isn’t equal.” Her view of how women are seen in much of society and culture is fundamental to her arguments: “Women are thought of and represented as sexual objects to be used by and for the sexual pleasure of others in society, and men are not viewed that way. There’s no long-standing oppressive construct of men being seen as sexual objects and reduced to that in real life.”

    This is the general sense that I agree with. It’s only when she starts delving into specifics when it starts to fall apart.

  • For arguments sake…

    While Pink is the only female out of the main 7, all 101 of the Wonderful 101s can be chosen to be the actual controlled character. Also, Immorta plays a significant role, is controllable and has her own unique transformation; the bowgun.

    Unlockable characters include Alice, Jeanne and Bayonetta.

    That’s not to say that the Wonderful 101 is a particularly good example of diversity in games. However, it is another example of Anita bending the truth to make her points.

    • Fun fact (that has little to do with this subject): Up until about 100 years ago baby boys most often were dressed and associated with the colour pink, and girls with blue. Pink was seen as a stronger and powerful colour, whilst blue as more delicate and dainty.

  • I would just like to share some of the comments on the Facebook link to this article.

    “They’re just games, bitches need to chill.”

    “ERGH! Goddamn. This woman has her sticky fingers everywhere.

    It’s non-entities like Kotaku giving this idiot more fame and credibility than she deserves, which is none.

    She isn’t a gamer. She’s a gender studies major that somehow managed to turn that study choice into a career, albeit exploiting the lowest common denominator; getting people pissed off about shit she doesn’t care about.

    Professional activist hard at work. I wish there was a hell for you to burn in, Anita. I really do.”

    (The same guy 20 mins later)

    “Professional activist, and for a period, professional victim. Scum of the earth. She is literally one of the most worthless human beings in existence.

    Her only skill, if you can call it that, is critiquing other people’s work and how it doesn’t adhere to a standard.
    If she was a man, she would have nothing. All of her money/fame/influence comes from her being a woman, and complaining about that very fact.

    Why don’t you make a fucking game, you talentless moron? Oh, that’s right, because talentless morons don’t actually DO anything. Just tear down other people’s accomplishments.”

    The genuine anger some people feel over this issue is worrying, to say the least. What is wrong with some people? How can you get so angry over one person you’ve never met?

  • Men and women aren’t equal, but equal doesn’t mean one is better or worse then the other, men and women are different, both physically and socially. Male characters in games are just as stereotyped as females it’s just that Anita is a feminist and has an agenda, that is why she is hated, if she just did a series about tropes in games and drop the feminism part, I don’t believe she would have gotten so much hate.

  • You bring a lot of yourself to the protagonist as you play. Regardless of gender or meaning imposed on us we make up our own reading more than film I would think. There is a great opportunity with games to make an impact regarding stuff like this but any quota or list of rules doesn’t help.

  • I honestly don’t care about how a non-gamer wants games to change. Good luck to her and anyone who supports her, but I’m not listening.

    • Cool.
      She said she’d “bought into the bogus myth that, in order to be a real gamer, you had to be playing GTA or Call of Duty or God of War or other testosterone-infused macho posturing games which often had a sexist, toxic culture that surrounded them. So even though I was playing a lot of games — these kinds of games — I still refused to call myself a gamer, which I don’t think is uncommon.”

      She would later emphasise the idea that “you can love something and be critical of it.” That, she said, “is so important to what I do and is really important to engaging with any kind of pop culture.”

      Also, you don’t have to be part of a medium to be a critic of the medium. Roger Ebert, for example, doesn’t make movies. Many food critics aren’t chefs. Gaming is a bit weird in that a lot of fans for some reason define themselves as gamers.

      • Give up now. She has. As in engaging with GGers whose mind is set. You can’t change them. They don’t want to listen so they won’t listen. There is nothing that you, a random person on the internet, can say to change their minds.

  • boom

    Before her big hit with FemFreq, Anita took a class on how to run conventions in the best way to squeeze as much money as you possibly can from the people who attend them (this is literally what the class promises to teach you). Run by an infamous con artist and, together with failed actor “Bart Baggett” and another known scammer who wrote several books for con men and pick-up artists (one repeatedly referring to all women as sluts), she ran fraudulent tele-seminars about “Determining business success using handwriting” for the next three years for a company that was repeatedly accused of fraud. The seminars themselves tried to convince people that by using people’s handwriting they can become successful, spot people lying and control people’s actions. This went on for three years, during which, the seminars were endorsed by multiple organizations and fake PR firms set up by Anita and Co., as well as the people who took the same class and were themselves running the same scam (for example these people who promise to help you lose weight via hypnosis).
    When the con was finished, it changed into a pyramid scheme, wherein everyone, “passed on their knowledge” to some unsuspecting git before deleting all (or in this case most) of the evidence.

  • She doesn’t want to change games, she wants to change the people that consume them, and that is what people react against.

    At the end of the day, being represented in video games is not a human right. Video games are a form of entertainment, and video games are products that are sold to consumers. If you want to sell something to people, it needs to be something that they want, and if you want to sell something to adolescent boys, it helps if it is sexualised and violent.

    What she is essentially saying, is that a product that does well with its target market, and which its target market enjoys should be socially engineered so as to make it more palatable to her and those like her. It’s essentially the equivalent of demanding that Cosmopolitan magazine, Sex in the City, or Clementine Ford’s articles be changed from what their audiences like to something that is more appealing to 15 year boys. It makes no sense. Why should a product that people enjoy be amended so as to appease people who don’t actually use them?

    If there is a market for games directed at women, or any other market group that you care to think of, then the market will eventually fill it, because people like to make money, just like you can watch any kind of show of TV that are all targeted toward different demographics. If you don’t like the products targeted at you, but instead enjoy products targeted at a different demographic, that is fine, but it doesn’t give you a right to demand changes to that product.

    In the end, I think she and others with similar views to her are upset that 15 year old boys on the whole objectify woman, swear a lot, insult each other a lot, threaten a lot, are angry a lot and like nothing more than blowing stuff up and looking at boobs. The games reflect the market, the market does not follow games, people have been the same for a long time. Which takes me back, after this long rant to my original point, what she wants is the users of the games to be different, which makes those people angry.

  • This is a situation where money will talk. Game making is a business and as long as developers feel that they’ll make more money following the current model, that is how it’s going to stay. People who feel strongly about this issue, which admittedly I am not one of, need to vote with their wallets. It’s the only thing that will count in the end.

    • You’d think so wouldn’t you? But let’s take say from about 15 years back or so… The Sims or one or usually more expansion packs, was in the top 10 best selling games for years. It’s buggy as anything, EA treat their customer’s terribly, and yet… it still sells. Why is that? Games developers continuing to make games the same way are just not interested in certain markets – they are targeting specific demographics that don’t include those markets and presumably have budgeted for this. When they think of their customers they do not think of those markets. Those markets need to understand that if they purchase that product that is not intended for them they will have an experience that is meant for a different market but that is all that is on offer.

  • I truly believe if Valve made female characters in Team Fortress 2 Anita would have been among the first trying to break down their doors in a rage all because she saw a clip of one of those female characters getting blown to pieces during gameplay…

    While a lot of her points are valid, some of which I wish didn’t even have to be mentioned solely because they’re common sense, from what I have seen of her commentary and the likes I’ve always come away with the same feeling, “You can’t do this to women… But whatever about men.”

    That’s really my only issue. Someone calling for gender equality, but feeling like they actually want some sort of gender superiority. Sure it could just be a case of her sticking to a focus because there’s really not a lot of need to fight for men on these issues, but still… I just can’t really back someone that I get an impression like that from.

    • Or you could read the article:
      “Simply putting women in the line of fire is not in and of itself a problem,” she said. “Everything depends on framing, right? So, with that in mind here are two things to keep in mind when designing female characters. One: avoid violence in which women are framed as weak or helpless. When we critique violence against women, we’re often talking about violence in which women are being attacked or victimised specifically because they are women, which then reinforces or perpetuates a perception that women as victims and men as noble, brooding heroes…
      “Two, avoid violence against female characters in which there is a sexualised element.”
      She praised BioShock Infinite‘s presentation of a Columbia police force whose male and female cops wear similar uniforms. “The ideal here,” she said, “is to design combatants who just happen to be women.”

      • so that doesn’t really negate his point. In the randomness of TF2s chaos you think it unlikely that some form of violence with a sexual connotation would ever happen if there were a female character? It already happens with the male ones.

        • A general impression vs a direct quote to the contrary. She has no problem with the depiction of violence against women in the right framing. The chaos of TF2 is consistent within the framing she outlined.

          I’ve never seen anything to show she’d break down Valve’s doors over this, especially when she’s praising Bioshock Infinite for the exact same thing.

      • Yeah because we should all base our opinions on people off a single article about a single event and never, ever look at more information before making any judgements.

        You could actually try reading my comment… I mentioned my impression was based on what I have seen of her, not just this article. And definitely not one select quote from it, even that last sentence you quoted doesn’t just automatically erase the “Equal treatment of women, you know, until they’re treated better than men…” impression I get from most of what I’ve seen from her.

        And like I said previously, that impression I get could merely be down to her staying focused on one point so the argument just seems to very much favour one side and the other be damned.

        • It’s a select quote that directly addresses the point you made. She has no issue with female characters being the victim of violence in general. It’s specific depictions she has a problem with. If she praised Bioshock for having female enemies, why on earth would she have any issues with that being the case in a game like TF2?

          Can you actually show any instances where she has called for gender superiority? An impression on an online comment has little value compared to a direct quote from the person the impression is of.

          • My point was never about her having issues with violence against women in general. It’s about the fact that it’s all “Treat women better!” or “Make things less shitty for women!” I also never said she actually called for gender superiority.

            The issue I have is because there’s very little from her in the way of “Treat everyone equally.” or the likes… It’s all women, women, women. Make everything better for women is all well and good, which understandably is needed in a lot of areas, but it makes it look like to some people that women are ALL she gives a shit about.

            Her approach above all is what I get my impression from. It’s all, “Make this better for women… women need this… women need that… women should have this.”

            Honestly, “8 Things Devs Can Do To Make Games Less Shitty For Women” sort of comes off as “Because who cares about guys who want better games too.”

            Perhaps a simple “8 Things Devs Can Do For Women, And Make Games Better For Everyone.” title might work? She could’ve easily done something like that and still given the exact same speech… Because it’s an OPINION piece. She believes she’s making things better, for women at least.

            But I guess that title wouldn’t get quite as much attention now would it?

            Personally, I’d love more games that didn’t have a fucking bikini-armour fetish. But this charge of Sarkeesian’s is apparently only aimed at improving things for women, so fuck me right?

          • My point was never about her having issues with violence against women in general.
            You did:
            I truly believe if Valve made female characters in Team Fortress 2 Anita would have been among the first trying to break down their doors in a rage
            I also never said she actually called for gender superiority.
            And yes, you did:
            Someone calling for gender equality, but feeling like they actually want some sort of gender superiority.

            As for the rest, you just don’t get it at all, do you? She’s a feminist. She has a show called Tropes vs Women. Her entire point is that she is arguing for the betterment of women. Making things better for women is not a zero sum game. It doesn’t make things worse for men to make things better for women.

            Making better games for women makes better games for men too. She does not have to change the title of her speech to reflect that. It should be self evident.

            Male representation in games is a separate issue that she has no obligation speaking about. Anyone else is perfectly free to start their own series about it (and many have in response to her).

            So yes, fuck you. If you cannot wrap your head around this simple concept, there’s no point talking to you.

          • First, my initial comment was a statement of how I genuinely believe she would respond in such a situation… The overall point was never about that though, I even state as such in the first comment with “That’s really my only issue.” after talking about how she appears to me to come off like she could care less for anyone or anything that isn’t a women.

            Once again I NEVER said she actually called for gender superiority. Actually read the comment. It’s merely the feeling I get from a lot of her stuff. Not once did I say she ever actually called for gender superiority.

            And for the third time now, I can accept the feeling I get is merely because she has chosen to focus purely on women in this situation to the exclusion of anything else. I just think it’s the wrong way to approach it, feminist or not, because you can come off looking like you could care less about anyone else… And why would anyone support someone who, to them, appears to only give a shit about one lot of people but not the rest?

            That’s how she strikes ME from what I have seen of her videos and read in articles like this, it’s my opinion. Just because you don’t like it, don’t start talking shit and twisting my words to fit your own narrative.

            And you accuse me of not being able to wrap my head simple concepts… Absolutely laughable.

          • I think I get we’re you’re coming from and I think I partially agree – she’s so intent on women that it can come across as marginalizing men. Keep in mind though she is focusing on one area as her area of ‘expertise’. Elsewhere she does share and promote other issues of diversity in gaming and media from ‘experts’ (or at least other focused people) – eg Racial issues, sexual identity issues. There are also points there like another poster said that apply to males to – eg body image. She would have done herself a favour to acknowledge that when she commented.

            I can’t help feeling she’s trying to change the world by trying to change gaming. So worlds in gaming are just a reflection of real life mostly. Only exaggerated or creatively distorted for interest/fun/art/interaction. At the end of the day as the article says the developers and the gamers will make up their own minds.

            The whole thing feels a bit like a “can we play too?” thing from the girls. Hey if the big boys don’t want to play with you, suck it up princess. That’s life. Which is why women choose to play different games mostly. If developers don’t want that market they don’t want that market. If they do want that market then the things she is saying are kind of obvious.

          • So yes, fuck you. If you cannot wrap your head around this simple concept, there’s no point talking to you.

            Stop that.

          • Anita Sarkeesian is allowed to focus on making games less shitty for women. I was under the impression her youtube series was called Tropes vs Women in Video Games.

            You are welcome to lead your own charge or fund a charge or support a charge improving overall gender equality. I have a feeling that it won’t happen without some improvements for women too, so Sarkeesian’s aims will probably help both.

  • I’m sick to death of this woman.

    How can you be so critical of something that you have publicly stated you don’t even enjoy or regularly take part in?

    This is a woman that would complain that McDonalds Hamburgler character teaches kids to steal.

    She’s an absolute moron. In regards to her “women grunting” comment, have you heard female tennis players? And for that matter, have you heard male tennis players? I’m pretty sure that a male grunting in video games still sounds overly-sexualised if that’s how you choose to look at it. And that’s the problem, she just can’t look at anything in a positive light, shes overly pessimistic and can find a fault in everything.

    Women in video games are modelled and dressed with the same frame of mind that men are. Women are put into attractive looking clothing/armour whilst also still being able to be a strong “kick-ass” type of character (which many women would see as empowering, not sexist). Men on the other hand, tend to be big hulking soldiers who don’t know what sleeves are. Which if you ask me, has the same effect intended.

    I’d like to play a game with Anita called “prove the pessimist wrong”. I just made it up.

    You point out a fault in the game that you find sexist against women, I’ll show you how it isn’t. Or alternatively, I’ll show you an equally sexist male character.

    Gamers have withstood (and still withstand) the ignorant older generations who think that violent games create criminals, and we will withstand – whilst simultaneously ignoring and disregarding the opinons of – ill-informed bigots who have nothing better to do but criticize something they clearly do not understand.

    Good day.

    • lol. Did you listen to the embedded voice track above? Do so as it’s really funny. And people *do* recognize sex sounds as compared to fighting sounds. I am sure you can find a ton of examples. Seriously just have a listen. It’s hilarious 😀

  • Though i agree with some of her points i say this.

    ” Create a game company with these principles , Then see if your games are unique enough to make a difference.”

    Game Design is Hard .

    In this market it is really hard.

    So let’s do a moving forward line after you have run a game design company for 2 years with the changes you suggest.

    Its easy to criticise people for what they arnt doing right i say Try it yourself and see if it actually makes a difference.

    Think you are trying to change the wrong thing lets look at Governments and Society changes before thinking about digital pastimes.

  • I don’t usually like getting involved in bullshit, but whatever. been a while since I’ve gotten proper angry & I miss it, so here we go. *deep breath*



    – over-sexualisation of women in media is not exclusive to videogames. however, the ‘target audience’ of games has traditionally been pubescent males. ergo, publishers cater toward that demographic. GUESS WHAT PUBLISHERS! YOUR AUDIENCE HAS FUCKING CHANGED. THEY’VE GROWN & DIVERSAFIED. YOU SHOULD TOO.
    by not catering to all types of gamers, devs & pubs are compounding the issue. sex sells because they’re selling sex. not everyone wants that jammed into their eyeballs every two seconds.

    – the whole reason behind the gamergoat bullshit -the root of the problem- was that gamers tend to get a little…. obsessive. seriously. what sorta person would collect 30000 feathers in Assassins Creed 2 if they weren’t a tad unhinged?
    point is that Gamers identify as gamers.
    & the sad thing is, there are people, who tend to be the problem in conversations like this, that identify ONLY as gamers. the gaming audience expands to include women, they feel like their identity is being changed, they feel threatened, they lash out coz they’re fucking scared of losing their identity. so they attack the perceived threat. but yeah…

    – I am a straight male. I am a gamer. but I’m also a fucking human being with morals & standards. everyone should have the right to not be exploited. & that’s what this is. majority of female game characters are pure exploitation. its pretty fucked up. show 51% of the human race some goddamn respect.

    – if a person feels that there is a problem in the representation of women in popular culture, then that is a valid opinion & sure, you have the right to disagree & conduct a respectful conversation, but you have no fucking right to threaten or belittle them. NO. FUCKING. RIGHT.
    now, expand this, coz its not just one person. imagine thousands of gamers, male and females, share the opinion that something isn’t right. yeah. every single one of those opinions is justified. probably far more than most of the anti-inclusivity arguments I’ve seen, to be honest.

    – I’m out of things to write now.

    – BYE.


    • Neither is a post that throws out a bunch of stereotypical and judgmental name calling at the beginning either….

      Jus sayin.

      • why should I show respect to those who don’t respect, or even physically threaten, others?

        get what you give.

        • That’s strange because I see a lot of to and fro in very calm rational debated replies.

          You seem a bit hyperbolic.

        • Because the audience you addressed that to is theoretical and you just start off with hostility. You infer that anyone who disagrees with you is deficient in some way from the outset. You openly insult anyone who calls themselves a “gamer”. You swear angrily through the whole piece which is actually against the tone of the rest of the comments section.

          Basically you appear to have nothing to add but sarcasm and aggression.

          • no, read it again. I insult obsessive, disrespectful / threatening, anti-inclusive gamers.

            I’m not being sarcastic at all. I mean everything I wrote.
            as for the swearing, I just do that a lot.

          • Does obsessive, disrespectful / threatening, anti-inclusive include anybody you see fit? The whole point of a civil argument is to do away with insults altogether.

          • He insults people who see themselves only as gamers. If people only have one facet to their identity, they aren’t people, they’re just…robots. Like, he talks about how he’s not just a gamer, he has other things that make him him too.
            Which interestingly is kind of Anita’s point too.

            Emphasis added.

          • Why defend this? It starts with the assumption that the majority of the people here will be “12 YEAR OLDS, ASSORTED MYSOGINISTS[sic] AND VARIOUS OTHER NECK-BEARDED GAMERBOYS”. With the caveat that there may be some people left who aren’t. Have you read anything in the preceding comments that suggests this?

            Anita says she wants to win over the people in the middle. That’s people like me who feel that some of her arguments have merit, but resent the assumptions made about misogyny and our social lives. Can you not see how people spouting nonsense like this is counter-productive to this goal?

          • Well, yes, there is misogyny in some of the preceding comments.

            I can understand how you feel people talking like @35 has is counter productive, but I also understand his frustration.

          • If he had actually directed it at anyone then fine. But he has just rolled up and unloaded. Like I said, this is counter-productive in talking to the people that he purports are worth talking to. And also, yes there is some misogyny, my point was that the comments section is hardly toxic in general. So it certainly doesn’t warrant a sweeping broadside with no target.

        • Probably because that’s how you show you’re the better person, and worth actually listening to.

          • yeah, I’d considered that. tried it repeatedly, didn’t get any reasonable engagement, so here we are. I’m done trying to convince people who don’t wanna be convinced. note I’m just venting my frustration at them.

          • Pretty understandable… I usually try, and mostly fail, to avoid discussions like this purely because people/fanboys with blinders on go apeshit because they can’t accept someone has a potentially negative opinion about something or someone that they cherish.

      • He also says hi to functional members of society. I like to believe that I’m included in that, and maybe you should too!


      – The target demographic is STILL teenage males in triple A games.

      – I agree that defining yourself by a single interest is an unhealthy and utterly boring thing to do, so you’re right on that point

      – Just going to link some casual exploitation and objectification of real, human males by a hugely popular female-centric website:

      Objectification is a normal human behaviour. Whether or not that aligns with your moral worldview is irrelevant.

      – I’ve seen zero threats from the comments here. Perhaps a few belittling remarks, but hardly enough outweigh the thoughtful debate had by most of the people here, so i’m not sure what you’re talking about.


        there’s a difference between target market & the demographics that actually make up said market.

        threats have been made I the course if this discussion, not necessarily here& now, but it’s all related.

        buzzfeed is not an entire industry. the comparison is tenuous at best.

        • No, 80% is the number of buyers who are male in the HD action market as of 2013 actually.

          Buzzfeed’s just one website, but it is a pervasive one that taps into and distills the current cultural zeitgeist. It’s not everything, but it does represent a lot of what we focus on. But if that’s not convincing you, I just google searched “Zac Efron Beach” and got 8 million results. “Ryan Gosling Beach” was 17 million.

          We objectify each other because it’s necessary for the proliferation and continued survival of the species. It’s literally programmed into us.

        • I just assume that their target market when they have so much sexism is male. Isn’t that what I’m meant to assume? I mean, I would love to play those types of games but I don’t enjoy the sexism so that tells me that those games are not for me, that the product is meant for a different market and I just have to live with that product as is as there is no other product that meets what I would like. Just life really. So typically I ‘modify’ the product for my use to make it more comfortable for me to use – most typically as a female gamer I do not use my voice and pretend to be a guy.

    • Sure a downvote aint a valid argument but it’s way easier than arguing against capslock abuse.

    • 🙂 Thank you. It’s so rare in Kotaku to have an out and out opinion from this angle.

      As a female gamer who has been very badly hurt and upset by the gaming media and guys in games over the years it’s refreshing to hear posts like this.

      You’ll note that Anita has given up trying to talk to those who won’t listen – which is what you’re going to get here sadly.

  • Ehh… Video games are an art form, and it’s entirely up to the artist, the developer or the creator as to how everything is portrayed, just as much as it’s up to the consumer to decide in the event that the portrayal disgusts them not to enjoy, purchase or otherwise allow the art to take up their time. There’s plenty of variety for both the sexes to enjoy, from the unstoppable juggernaut known as Donut Drake to the rebellious and brave Elly; Kratos is a violent, angry spartan in a loin cloth, and Samus saw many a victory before anyone even realised it was a woman behind the helm. I say let the artists speak their narrative instead of pushing for a universal portrayal that fits a list of expectations.

    • Doesn’t mean that an audience can’t critique it and ask for something different though.

      Sure, you can vote with your wallet, and that’s always fine, but asking about and highlighting issues is very valid.

    • BIG difference between art for the sake of art, and art someone is trying to SELL to an audience… Very few companies, especially publishers backing developers, allow art for art’s sake these days.

  • This was a really good read, and I’m looking forward to seeing her talk in Melbourne next month. I don’t envy her the things she’s been through, nor the fine and constantly having to be excessively clarified line she has to walk as a result.

  • While I agree with many of the things she says at a basic level, I think the problem I have with her articles is that sometimes she reads too much into every little choice that a developer makes, where no thought actually exists, and her opinion is obscured by her own agenda because thats in her best interest.

    Example, the sitting animations in Destiny example… the mermaid pose is an issue of female perception in games. No it isnt, its the fact they probably used the male sitting animation as a default and when they saw it on the female and having a woman sitting was MORE OFFENSIVE to woman, so they just added another animation. A woman usually sits in public so people cant look between their legs DUH!!! Its not like a vogue pose, its actually a natural seating posture for someone sitting on the ground!

    I dont trust Americans who have a one side perspective on things like this, they closed minded to many things, gloss over the good to paint everything evil, and see problems where there aint any…. then wonder why the world hates them, and the people that like them appear to be a bit too fanatical.

  • Of all of Sarkeesian’s requests, I could see this being viewed as the most well-intentioned but creatively stifling one — Why not sometimes have a sexy female enemy? Why not sometimes let a character of any type be helpless or play up their gender?

    This. This so much. It constitutes most of my complaints to her little crusade. Demonising certain personality or physical attributes in a complete biased way actually goes against the whole spirit of egalitarianism. It’s like that kind of feminists that lambast men for having behaviours that force women into stereotypes and pre-made roles and then, you see them telling women not to dress or act in this or that way. If you are not truly fighting for real freedom, you are merely aiming to instate a new standard, one that accommodates your own biases instead someone else’s.

    The example of Catwoman is particularly damning to her argument. Selina Kyle is a character very much in ownership of her sexuality and known to use it aggressively as either a weapon in and out of itself or simply to distract the enemy or make them lower their guard. Swaying her butt as she walks is actually a component of her personality separating her from the previously criticised “Smurfette” archetype. (Speaking of which, if liking pink and caring about your make up is a mark of being a poorly written stereotype, it seems that I have some bad news for some of my female friends. See the problem of demonising stereotypes?)

  • Oh and it’s funny that some of her main points were:
    -Amount of female protagonists per game.
    -Ethnic diversity.
    -Body type diversity.
    -Diversity of personality for female characters.

    You know a game that got all of these right? Dragon Crown. But nooo, Dragon Crown is the game with that witch with the super large, swaying boobs so let’s demonise it instead for being objectifying, because you know, in real life there are no women with large boobs and if there were, none of them would proudly display them in revealing clothes, right?

    Yes, they may be tantalising to the young, straight male demographic, but why is that a bad thing in and out of itself? Women like being tantalised as well, and games are becoming better at adding some eye-candy for the ladies, too. (Obviously not swaying penises, as Sarkeesian rather disingenuously suggests. It is ridiculous to compare portrayal of secondary sexual traits to the portrayal of primary ones.) Hell, Japanese games have been catering to the female eye for decades now.

  • You know what, I’m going to go over there and just enjoy the medium.

    Like Anita has washed her hands of GamerGate, I’m washing my hands of all this social/political bullshit. Change, don’t change, add more women, add more looks to women, reduce the amount of men to zero, bigger breasts, smaller breasts, dick bouncing… Do what-fucking-ever you want; but if you’re going to create a GOOD ENTERTAINING STORY, then I’m going to enjoy the shit out of it. However, if you create a bad story, then I’m not going to bother with it. I’m going to “judge” a game by how much I enjoy it, not by some predefined checklist. If your game has a one eyed latino female who rolls around in a scooter because she’s the size of a hippo as the main character that can engage me on a level to which I’ll enjoy the story your game has to tell, then sweet, I’ll buy it. Same goes if you have a stick with balloons for tits fetishised female or an overly muscled male who makes The Hulk look tiny. You create a good story with good character, then I’ll support it.

    Frankly, all this nit picking bullshit has to end. I’m not going to end it by choosing a side, I’m going to end it by going back to the core of all games, movies, TV, comic books, etc: Enjoying the fucking thing. So call me racist, call me a woman hating misogynist, call me a small minded jackass. call me whatever you want.

    Because at the end of the day, I’m going to be over there enjoying the medium that I want to enjoy. If anyone want to join me over there and just enjoy video games, feel free. Just leave the social/political bullshit in that other area.

  • Oh that female voice sound bit is hilarious! Seriously did they just run out of money for voice actors and rip it off a porno? 😀 😀 That’s brilliant.

    I like her point about just ignoring GGers. Good move. Unfortunately the attitudes they have are the exactly the same sorts of attitudes I have to deal with at work ie stemming from the same place. Soooo… yeah I’m just not going to win there.

    And this bit ” So even though I was playing a lot of games — these kinds of games — I still refused to call myself a gamer, which I don’t think is uncommon.”” I can definitely relate to that. Because none of the games I played were the heavily male type of games. I am fairly sure this means that GGers go back to their arguments of well then leave those types of games alone. And so it goes. We continue to have generation after generation of a visual representation of a sexual beating up/belittling or whatever. Visual images are such a powerful way we get what is important given to us. GGers will have their little daughters one day… and it will be the same thing continuing.

    Nothing is going to change. Too many people don’t care and don’t think it’s important.

  • Er, what a mongoloid. I don’t want my female characters to sound like they’re in pain. Who the hell wants to hear pain and suffering? I LIKE the orgasm sounds. It’s the only point in even having these shrill characters around in the first place, God knows I’m not playing the game for their opinions on social issues.

    • Yep, and I would prefer an ogasmic sound that those stupid winging crying sound like in the Tomb Raider (2013) – I get that is was the beginning but she was so week.

  • well i think one of the ways it can change is for more women to make games for the masses and yes i i know they program these games as well but it needs them to be the boss.I am a 58 year old male so i have played since pong came out, been to many arcades in the 80s……dreaming about them, sorry where was i.I just loved the new Tomb Raider a great female lead is lara croft and there are others like her i play mainly sport games and the moment i am hooked on half life2.I do think as graphics get more real looking this will be more of an issue in other ways as well.It takes place in film as well and i think this will be an issue for quite a long while yet.

  • Get over it!
    This is a game not reality. I get that there are issues that maybe reflect social issues. But images are created in pixels to go on a screen; thus have to use certain gender stereo types. A female has to have breast and a curvaceous figure, sit and move in a feminine fashion or will not be viewed a being female on small screens. Same as a male has a certain stereotypical shape and movements.
    When gaming first started and the pixels were larger, Mario was given overalls and a moustache so we knew he was a man.
    If we do not have some sort of stereo type the how do we learn what is male and what is female. Now with our gender equal society we have boys growing up that don’t know what masculine is. Our teenage boys and girls looks the same.
    Some of the issues that we have as a society when is come to gender equality is the fact that we seem to think we should be the same. Men and women are different. Men need to be able to appreciate the female form as much as women should be proud of their female form; and visa versa.
    In my opinion, taking offence at what others depict or perceive you to be is your own issue and thus you should look at yourself and not try to impose your opinions on others. I do not have any issues with the way women have been or are being portrayed in games.
    Anita has written this and other articles because she needs to finish her degree. She has forced herself to play game when she wouldn’t normally. She says she is a gamer (or changes her story) and the only picture she has is of her as a child.
    I would not call myself a gamer but I started on an apple computer when games like Star Trek used ‘*’ for asteroids, ‘E’ for Enterpirse;’K’ for Klingon ships and you had to manually calculate your trajectory and power to should a phasor. And roll playing games were all in script and you had to use you imagination. Now I can build a sexy character and kick ass across the universe. I say let the games evolve as they will and make people as sexy as you like!
    After all sex is good!

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