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Game Design From Outer Space

Helpless princesses waiting for the male hero to rescue them: Anita Sarkeesian analyses this cliché, one of the most common tropes in video games narrative.

Tropes vs Women in Video Games

Anita Sarkeesian: Tropes vs Women in Video Games


[This post was originally published in Italian on Girl Geek Life]

Feminist Frequency is a video blog created and hosted by Anita Sarkeesian who analyses pop culture from a feminist point of view: which gender stereotypes are perpetuated by media? Feminist Frequency looks critically to movies, books, tv series and advertising (e.g. LEGO for girls).

Tropes vs Women in Video Games

A few weeks ago, Feminist Frequency started a new series of videos dedicated to female characters in video games; if you consider the lack of female characters created by the software houses (around the 12% of the main characters), a gender analysis can help you understand the industry and the need of diversity. The series, called Tropes vs Women in Video Games, deconstructs the most common gender stereotypes like the sexy sidekick (or the sexy villainess), the background decoration, women as reward or unattractive equals evil.

The first video focused on the most common trope in video games: the damsel in distress – the maiden in danger – a cliché also used in arts and literature. Anita Sarkeesian shows you the first years in the story of video games through the most famous princesses: Pauline e Peach (saved by Mario) or Zelda (saved by Link).

The damsel in distress trope is easy to find: damsels are often powerful men’s daughters or sisters who are kidnapped during the first few minutes of the game, and they are functional to the hero’s storyline and his growth, while sometimes they are also a reward themselves. Maidens must always be saved by someone else (the male hero) and usually they don’t act within the game world.

But sometimes you can read about extraordinary stories like the one about a dad who hacked Donkey Kong for his daughter switching the stereotypical roles: now Princess Pauline saves Mario.

The Kickstarter Campaign

The series has been entirely founded via crowdfunding: the Kickstarter campaign has reached the $ 6000 within the first 24 hours, and it gained a total amount of $ 160k. Many people who work in the video game industry (e.g. veterans like Tim Schafer) have expressed positive feelings about this project, asking for more diversity in stories and characters.

The Online Harassment

Anita Sarkeesian’s story has been doomed by horrendous online harassment episodes. That hate wave didn’t stop her, but she brought her testimony to TEDx and Game Developers Conference 2013 talking about misogyny and sexism on the Internet. And now she’s working on the next videos of the series.