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General Gaming  » Damsel In Distress Part 2 / Tropes vs Women in Gaming

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  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10635

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

 
OP  5/29/13 11:19:05 AM#1

I read an article in Google's "Currents" that talked about how hard it is to balance removing offensive content, while at the same time keeping good content that may be controversial from being removed. The article talked about a series of videos under the title of "Tropes vs Women In Video Games"*. Because Google is omnescent, one of these videos came up in my generic YouTube video feed, so I watched it. The video was Damsels In Distress: Part 2 - Tropes vs Women In Video Games. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't a rational discussion of women as they are portrayed in video games. It wasn't even very reactionary. I recommend people watch at least one of these videos.

Anyway, on to the discussion. It seems obvious if you think about it that women are more or less a stage prop in video games, a macguffin to push the male character along and give them a reason for existing in the video game world. There are exceptions, but not too many, especially in big budget games. What struck me was how formulaic and consistent the representations were. My question is whether or not this is necessary. Sure, indie games can break away from the formula, or avoid it entirely, but it seems the bigger budget a game is, the more likely it is to adhere to the woman as a prop mechanic.

Would the gaming public, who is largely male, but with a growing female population accept different formulas and spend as much money on video games if the existing "Damsel" formulas were reversed or abandoned? Would game sales suffer if this mechanic was abandoned?

* The series of videos was mentioned because as soon as they were posted, they were flagged as inappropriate content, removed, and then promptly returned.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  Scalpless

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/22/07
Posts: 1303

5/29/13 11:29:14 AM#2

I've watched the first video and think she's completely missing a very important reason why female characters are often weaker than male characters in video games:

Male gamers tend to identify better with male main characters, so main characters tend to be male. The main character is usually the strongest character, which is why the side characters, including his love interest, are weaker than him. Otherwise, you'd have to wonder why we're not playing as his girlfriend.

This is why, for example, The Prince is stronger than Farah in Prince of Persia. He's the one you control as a player. The creator of these videos used Farah as an example of a damsel in distress and that's very stupid, because she's one of the most useful sidekicks I've seen in a video game.

  Rusque

Hard Core Member

Joined: 6/08/10
Posts: 1722

5/29/13 11:33:19 AM#3

I do think gamers would continue to support and play games without the women as prop trope.

We play games for many reasons, but I'm pretty confident in saying that saving the damsel is quite possibly the last reason to play at all.

No offense to Princess Peach, but I never played Super Mario Bros in order to save her. I played to jump through levels.

 

The real issue isn't the gaming consumer, it's the writing and the story design by developers who may or may not have ever known an actual real live women. I've said it before and I'll say it again, maybe the video game industry needs to include non-tech people into their game design. Artists, writers, philosophers, whatever. People who don't have a tech background have a different way of thinking and viewing the world (shocking concept I know).

Some guy who majored in 3D animation brings out the storyboard for their meeting and goes through it, "and here's where our ninja does a backflip over the monster and lands between it and the scantily clad busty damsel in distress and blocks it's attack at the last second right before impaling it! Yeaaaaaahhh cooooooool!"

 

  Loktofeit

Elite Member

Joined: 1/13/10
Posts: 12278

Currently playing EVE, SMITE, Project Gorgon, and Combat Arms

5/29/13 11:36:17 AM#4

If you went anywhere else with the topic other than Sarkeesian's crap, I would have enjoyed this topic far more.

In a nutshell, why a woman? Because, if you're going to be leaping lava pits, fighting dragons, staving off hordes of undead, dodging traps and sacrificing everything that your character ever was or ever will be to rescue someone or something, doesn't it make sense to do it out of undying love or noble cause?

Is there a more compelling reason to go through hell or high water than to save the object (that's the word that the feminists love to latch onto) of your eternal love? The most respected and beloved member of your town/kingdom?

Would saving a male or an inanimate object have more meaning to a predominantly male audience? Possibly, but you'd need a damn compelling argument for it, and even then you chance losing the impact that the damsel in distress would have. I'm sure there are one or two TV movies on the Lifetime channel where the up-and-coming male is rising to the stars and then he meets a woman who is everything he imagined... or so he thinks. A movie where about 20 minutes in you start to see her true colors, and then by the mid-movie mark she really kicks in the physical and psychological abuse. The unjustly tortured male finds the courage to take the kids and flee her, eternally supported by his best buddy who gave him the courage to break from the chains of this nightmarish prison he was in.

Yeah, while they could make a movies like that for Lifetime, it seems far more logical to stick to the formula that sells. A formula that sells because the majority of the target audience can identify with it.

"And wikipedia is as accurate as Britannica. Wikipedia is very reliable. You would be hard pressed to find a more reliable source for these kinds of things." -fivoroth

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10635

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

 
OP  5/29/13 11:37:38 AM#5


Originally posted by Scalpless
I've watched the first video and think she's completely missing a very important reason why female characters are often weaker than male characters in video games:

Male gamers tend to identify better with male main characters, so main characters tend to be male. The main character is usually the strongest character, which is why the side characters, including his love interest, are weaker than him. Otherwise, you'd have to wonder why we're not playing as his girlfriend.

This is why, for example, The Prince is stronger than Farah in Prince of Persia. He's the one you control as a player. The creator of these videos used Farah as an example of a damsel in distress and that's very stupid, because she's one of the most useful sidekicks I've seen in a video game.




I haven't watched the other videos. I just don't have the attention span for that kind of exercise. From what you've said, I'd guess the point of the first video is that in nearly all video games where there are male and female characters, the male character is the protagonist, the male character is also more powerful and the female character is nearly always either helpless, or subordinate to the male character.

Without getting into the whys and the larger social implications of this, is this a necessary formula to sell video games on the scale of a AAA game? Could Prince of Persia have worked as Princess of Persia, or with mechanics that had the player playing as both the prince and the princess? What if the Princess were the more powerful character, and the Prince was assisting her, rather than having her tag along?

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  Scalpless

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/22/07
Posts: 1303

5/29/13 11:39:22 AM#6
Originally posted by Rusque

The real issue isn't the gaming consumer, it's the writing and the story design by developers who may or may not have ever known an actual real live women. I've said it before and I'll say it again, maybe the video game industry needs to include non-tech people into their game design. Artists, writers, philosophers, whatever. People who don't have a tech background have a different way of thinking and viewing the world (shocking concept I know).

Many/most big-budget video games are written by actual writers. One of the most glaring examples of this is Rhianna Pratchett, who has written lots of great video game stories, including the story of the latest Tomb Raider. And yes, she's a woman.

  Scalpless

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/22/07
Posts: 1303

5/29/13 11:50:31 AM#7
Originally posted by lizardbones

I haven't watched the other videos. I just don't have the attention span for that kind of exercise. From what you've said, I'd guess the point of the first video is that in nearly all video games where there are male and female characters, the male character is the protagonist, the male character is also more powerful and the female character is nearly always either helpless, or subordinate to the male character.

Without getting into the whys and the larger social implications of this, is this a necessary formula to sell video games on the scale of a AAA game? Could Prince of Persia have worked as Princess of Persia, or with mechanics that had the player playing as both the prince and the princess? What if the Princess were the more powerful character, and the Prince was assisting her, rather than having her tag along?

 

Have you seen all the "why do guys make female characters in MMOs?" topics? Some people have real trouble identifying with a female character. I don't know why, exactly. I'm not one of them. My video game characters aren't me, so they can be girls or bears or tentacle monsters for all I care. However, I can say that many of these people aren't sexist. They're just more immersed in their video games and feel weird "being" a girl. The Prince of Persia is a prince because if he were a princess, these people wouldn't want to play the games.

Playing as the less powerful character often doesn't work gameplay wise, because the more powerful one gets to have more fun. For example, PoP is a platforming game, so the main character has to be the one who does all the platforming, while the sidekick is there mostly for banter.

  Panzerbase

Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/20/13
Posts: 431

5/29/13 11:54:34 AM#8
Sorry I don't see how being politically correct or a feminist has anything to do with video games, but keep preaching. 
  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10635

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

 
OP  5/29/13 11:55:03 AM#9


Originally posted by Rusque
I do think gamers would continue to support and play games without the women as prop trope.

We play games for many reasons, but I'm pretty confident in saying that saving the damsel is quite possibly the last reason to play at all.

No offense to Princess Peach, but I never played Super Mario Bros in order to save her. I played to jump through levels.

 

The real issue isn't the gaming consumer, it's the writing and the story design by developers who may or may not have ever known an actual real live women. I've said it before and I'll say it again, maybe the video game industry needs to include non-tech people into their game design. Artists, writers, philosophers, whatever. People who don't have a tech background have a different way of thinking and viewing the world (shocking concept I know).

Some guy who majored in 3D animation brings out the storyboard for their meeting and goes through it, "and here's where our ninja does a backflip over the monster and lands between it and the scantily clad busty damsel in distress and blocks it's attack at the last second right before impaling it! Yeaaaaaahhh cooooooool!"

 




I've played through Alan Wake, and until I watched this video, I would not have said the game was about saving the Damsel, because through most of the game I forgot why I was going through all the Darkness. So, I can see how that's the motivation for a character, but at the same time I can see how it's not a motivation for playing the games. I think I would have enjoyed the game just as much if Alan was just trying to get back to his wife, not save her. I think. I can't really be sure because I've never played a game where getting back to the female was the goal rather than saving her.

Friends of mine have played God of War, and other than a mention of the back story, avenging the wife and child was never really mentioned. They weren't playing the game because the revenge fantasy thing, they were playing it for the game play.

I can understand a game selling better if it contains something, regardless of the content, but I really wonder if this type of thing has an effect on game sales.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  Rusque

Hard Core Member

Joined: 6/08/10
Posts: 1722

5/29/13 11:55:28 AM#10
Originally posted by Scalpless
Originally posted by Rusque

The real issue isn't the gaming consumer, it's the writing and the story design by developers who may or may not have ever known an actual real live women. I've said it before and I'll say it again, maybe the video game industry needs to include non-tech people into their game design. Artists, writers, philosophers, whatever. People who don't have a tech background have a different way of thinking and viewing the world (shocking concept I know).

Many/most big-budget video games are written by actual writers. One of the most glaring examples of this is Rhianna Pratchett, who has written lots of great video game stories, including the story of the latest Tomb Raider. And yes, she's a woman.

 

Yeah I didn't want to keep typing forever, but she's a great example of what can be done with a proper writer. Games are getting better now that developers are slowly realizing the games aren't just for 14 year old boys, but they've still got a long way to go.

  Scalpless

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/22/07
Posts: 1303

5/29/13 12:07:53 PM#11

I kind of like these videos, but sometimes she's so over the top. She just called beating up your girlfriend who got possessed by a demon "domestic violence". So what, we're only allowed to beat up possessed males now?

Originally posted by lizardbones

I've played through Alan Wake, and until I watched this video, I would not have said the game was about saving the Damsel, because through most of the game I forgot why I was going through all the Darkness. So, I can see how that's the motivation for a character, but at the same time I can see how it's not a motivation for playing the games. I think I would have enjoyed the game just as much if Alan was just trying to get back to his wife, not save her. I think. I can't really be sure because I've never played a game where getting back to the female was the goal rather than saving her.

Alan Wake spoilers:

 

The later chapters of AW (I think they were originally DLC, but I played it on PC) actually do focus on getting back to your wife.

  AIMonster

Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/31/08
Posts: 2016

5/29/13 12:26:26 PM#12
Originally posted by Loktofeit

If you went anywhere else with the topic other than Sarkeesian's crap, I would have enjoyed this topic far more.

In a nutshell, why a woman? Because, if you're going to be leaping lava pits, fighting dragons, staving off hordes of undead, dodging traps and sacrificing everything that your character ever was or ever will be to rescue someone or something, doesn't it make sense to do it out of undying love or noble cause?

Is there a more compelling reason to go through hell or high water than to save the object (that's the word that the feminists love to latch onto) of your eternal love? The most respected and beloved member of your town/kingdom?

I agree with you here, but I think the problem is it's predominantly males saving females for this reason.  There are very little instances of the roles being reversed.  Why is it that male protagonist is always saving a female character or having a female character being a prime motivator and not the other way around.

Would saving a male or an inanimate object have more meaning to a predominantly male audience? Possibly, but you'd need a damn compelling argument for it, and even then you chance losing the impact that the damsel in distress would have. I'm sure there are one or two TV movies on the Lifetime channel where the up-and-coming male is rising to the stars and then he meets a woman who is everything he imagined... or so he thinks. A movie where about 20 minutes in you start to see her true colors, and then by the mid-movie mark she really kicks in the physical and psychological abuse. The unjustly tortured male finds the courage to take the kids and flee her, eternally supported by his best buddy who gave him the courage to break from the chains of this nightmarish prison he was in.

Yeah, while they could make a movies like that for Lifetime, it seems far more logical to stick to the formula that sells. A formula that sells because the majority of the target audience can identify with it.
I think the point is the industry should try to break away from that formula because it is sexist.  I know I certainly wouldn't care if roles were reversed and there was a female protagonist who had to save a male character or was motivated by the deaths of her husband and son.  If we truly want to evolve the media then we need to stray away from the usual tropes and sexism.  The average gamer demographic is becoming increasingly female and we should start making more games with strong female protagonists if we want to sell more anyway.  It's an untapped market and a lot of it is due to the extreme sexism in video games driving away potential female gamers.  If the "damsel in distress" was just as often a male as it was a female this would be a non-issue of a trope.
Also while I'm sure there are plenty of Lifetime movies that have similar concepts to what you've described above, and while I'm not expert, I'm pretty sure there are Lifetime movies that have male protagonist and supporting characters that aren't viewed as negative, weak, victimizers, or victims of abuse.

I actually figured this was being a bit too hard on games in general and should have mentioned games that try to break the stereotype in more detail, but apparently that's going to be the case in Part 3, so that was an interesting video to watch.  Thanks to the OP for linking it.

Raptr link because it's the cool new trend:

  Icewhite

Made History

Joined: 7/11/11
Posts: 6495

Pink, it's like red but not quite.

5/29/13 12:42:31 PM#13
Originally posted by lizardbones

I read an article in Google's "Currents" that talked about how hard it is to balance removing offensive content, while at the same time keeping good content that may be controversial from being removed. The article talked about a series of videos under the title of "Tropes vs Women In Video Games"*. Because Google is omnescent, one of these videos came up in my generic YouTube video feed, so I watched it. The video was Damsels In Distress: Part 2 - Tropes vs Women In Video Games. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't a rational discussion of women as they are portrayed in video games. It wasn't even very reactionary. I recommend people watch at least one of these videos.

Sometimes called the Gwen Stacey Effect. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WomenInRefrigerators.

The Perils of Pauline (1914)...a long history. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBJdikQnpzw

In other words, a not-unique-to-mmos problem, but one to be aware of.

Self-pity imprisons us in the walls of our own self-absorption. The whole world shrinks down to the size of our problem, and the more we dwell on it, the smaller we are and the larger the problem seems to grow.

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10635

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

 
OP  5/29/13 12:58:16 PM#14


Originally posted by Scalpless
I kind of like these videos, but sometimes she's so over the top. She just called beating up your girlfriend who got possessed by a demon "domestic violence". So what, we're only allowed to beat up possessed males now?

Originally posted by lizardbones I've played through Alan Wake, and until I watched this video, I would not have said the game was about saving the Damsel, because through most of the game I forgot why I was going through all the Darkness. So, I can see how that's the motivation for a character, but at the same time I can see how it's not a motivation for playing the games. I think I would have enjoyed the game just as much if Alan was just trying to get back to his wife, not save her. I think. I can't really be sure because I've never played a game where getting back to the female was the goal rather than saving her.
Alan Wake spoilers:

 

The later chapters of AW (I think they were originally DLC, but I played it on PC) actually do focus on getting back to your wife.




It's not that in a game the player had to punch their girlfriend in the face to free them from the demon, it's that in most games where a character gets possessed by a demon, it's become the case that the possessed is a girlfriend or wife, and they all must be punched in the face or killed in order to be freed. They're just a prop or a plot point.

Not having been party to or a participant in domestic violence, I can't say I've ever been offended by or even been triggered by stuff like this in video games, but I can see how someone who had been a victim would look at that scenario and have a reaction. Why couldn't the hero kill demon lords, collecting their hearts and use the hearts in a ceremony to free the girlfriend or wife? Why does it have to be a punch to da face, every time? Why does the woman nearly always have to be the victim?

Or change the context a little bit. Instead of killing the wife or girlfriend, the hero now has to kill their child to "save" them. It's justifiable because the child is possessed, and cannot truly be saved from the demon, only prevented from damning their soul by death. That would certainly have a more emotional impact, but if it's done, it's not done nearly as often, because it crosses a line and would be offensive. Go in the other direction and make it a boyfriend or husband who is the possessed, and it seems less likely that guys would be offended, even if it were a common mechanic. They'd probably be the first ones to hit the A button to kill him.

I'd like to be clear that I'm not sure violence in video games, regardless of where it happens, how it happens or who it happens to even matters. We're not creating psychokillers with video games, and we're not creating misogynistic monsters either. I'm not even sure I'd go so far as to say we're reinforcing these types of behaviors. There's even some evidence that virtual actions, violent or otherwise can moderate or minimize the behaviors that are so offensive, in which case having them in video games would be beneficial, no matter how offensive some people found them. All of this is well beyond my ability to really discuss in a logical manner. I do think it's good to be aware of these things, even if action isn't necessary or taken. Which is why I post stuff on internet forums. :-)

Alan Wake:
I've gotten through the first Alan Wake DLC, and have taken a break before playing the second one to finish the latest Silent Hill. Which is conspicuously absent in the list of Women vs Video Game tropes. Other than mannequins, I don't think there's any violence towards women. The only women in the game pretty much outclass the protagonist and fighting just isn't an option. So it is possible to write a decent game that doesn't use those tropes.

** ** **

tropes tropes tropes tropes tropes tropes tropes

Gah. I had to get that all out.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  Icewhite

Made History

Joined: 7/11/11
Posts: 6495

Pink, it's like red but not quite.

5/29/13 1:03:10 PM#15
Originally posted by lizardbones

Gah. I had to get that all out.

 

need kleenex?

Self-pity imprisons us in the walls of our own self-absorption. The whole world shrinks down to the size of our problem, and the more we dwell on it, the smaller we are and the larger the problem seems to grow.

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10635

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

 
OP  5/29/13 1:03:47 PM#16


Originally posted by Icewhite

Originally posted by lizardbones I read an article in Google's "Currents" that talked about how hard it is to balance removing offensive content, while at the same time keeping good content that may be controversial from being removed. The article talked about a series of videos under the title of "Tropes vs Women In Video Games"*. Because Google is omnescent, one of these videos came up in my generic YouTube video feed, so I watched it. The video was Damsels In Distress: Part 2 - Tropes vs Women In Video Games. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't a rational discussion of women as they are portrayed in video games. It wasn't even very reactionary. I recommend people watch at least one of these videos.
Sometimes called the Gwen Stacey Effect. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WomenInRefrigerators.

The Perils of Pauline (1914)...a long history. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBJdikQnpzw

In other words, a not-unique-to-mmos problem, but one to be aware of.




I'm glad you brought up MMOs. I don't think this is a common MMO trope. At least not in the ones I've played. I suspect that Eastern or Asian MMOs would tend towards these types of things more often, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, MMOs seem much more balanced. The characters seem to have just as much chance of being a woman as a man, whether they are the victim or the villain. I could be wrong about this too, but again, it certainly seems this way to me.

It's the single player adventure or rpg games that stick to the "Perils of Pauline" type trope.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  Four0Six

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/18/11
Posts: 1098

5/29/13 1:13:24 PM#17

I find my Libertarian Mantra fits so many places:

"Don't like it, Don't play it."

Here again I hear this, "These games are sexist, yet I still LOOOOOOOVE to play them and think they are great.", inhale, "You game developers need to stop making these games I LOOOOOOVE and start to be more tolerant.".

 

If you think something is wrong, you have NO right to speak against it, if you still engage in that something. Let alone cry out for the rest of society to change. Doing the "right" thing is often not the most enjoyable, comfortable, experience. If you want to change peoples behavior, you first need to change your own.

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10635

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

 
OP  5/29/13 2:08:54 PM#18


Originally posted by Four0Six
I find my Libertarian Mantra fits so many places:

"Don't like it, Don't play it."

Here again I hear this, "These games are sexist, yet I still LOOOOOOOVE to play them and think they are great.", inhale, "You game developers need to stop making these games I LOOOOOOVE and start to be more tolerant.".

 

If you think something is wrong, you have NO right to speak against it, if you still engage in that something. Let alone cry out for the rest of society to change. Doing the "right" thing is often not the most enjoyable, comfortable, experience. If you want to change peoples behavior, you first need to change your own.




If you want to discuss video games, you have to play video games. To see the activities they are talking about, and to discuss them intelligently, playing the games is necessary to see everything in context.

It's also entirely possible to play a game and see both good and bad things about the game, or video games in general. Discussing these things is important, if for no other reason than it's healthy to see things from different perspectives.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  jonrd463

Novice Member

Joined: 6/24/09
Posts: 608

5/29/13 2:16:40 PM#19

This all boils down to a control issue. The premise behind this kind of crap is "I personally feel that X is offensive, therefore no one should be allowed to do X"

 

I just laugh, shake my head, and go on a spiteful killing spree in whatever GTA game I have installed at the moment.

"You'll never win an argument with an idiot because he is too stupid to recognize his own defeat." ~Anonymous

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10635

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

 
OP  5/29/13 2:33:00 PM#20


Originally posted by jonrd463
This all boils down to a control issue. The premise behind this kind of crap is "I personally feel that X is offensive, therefore no one should be allowed to do X"

 

I just laugh, shake my head, and go on a spiteful killing spree in whatever GTA game I have installed at the moment.




Do you even understand what's being said here? I'm pretty sure "therefore no one should be allowed to do X" did not happen.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

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