Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tropes vs. Women is needed

The first crowdfunded episode of Anita Sarkeesian's video game feminism video series is now available and I give it my nuanced support.

One of the biggest criticisms I've heard of Sarkeesian's Kickstarter fundraiser is that she somehow ripped off the public by accepting $158,917 to create this Internet video series. This argument is moronic. While it's true she was already making similar videos, she started a campaign for a mere $6,000 and people chose to exceed that amount. She now has enough money to quit her day job - assuming she wants to. Honestly, she can do whatever she wants with it. It's her money.

I do disagree with many of the conclusions she makes, such as any time she mentions "The patriarchy." Still, the video game world is a target-rich environment for gender issues, what with bikini armor, few female characters and a multiplayer community filled with trolls who repel and harass female players.

Now that I've started playing some games with my friend's 11 year old daughter I see one of the most basic thing she wants is to play as a female character. I'm glad to see more games are offering this, and failing to account for the default-status of male protagonists undermines some of Sarkeesian's conclusions on the problems with damsels in distress.

The plot in many video games is weak and forgettable. They often just need a MacGuffin for the hero to retrieve to keep the plot moving. Often times that MacGuffin is a damsel in distress because the writer was too lazy to think of something original or wanted the story to follow that classic trope.

So why would Sarkeesian be surprised that the male protagonist breaks himself out of jail instead of waiting to be rescued, or that the MacGuffin just sits there waiting to be retrieved instead of freeing itself? These are consequences of the male-dominated protagonist trend.

Still, I'm glad Sarkeesian is doing what she's doing. These issues need to be challenged and I hope she succeeds in starting more conversations on gender in video games.

As a footnote to piece, there's a new video of an edited version of Donkey Kong with Pauline the damsel as the protagonist and Mario as the MacGuffin. A father modified the game so his young daughter could play and enjoy it more. This is exactly the sort of thing we need to attract more female players and move the video game community forward.

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