The first episode of Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games” has gone live today—which also happens to be International Women’s Day—and it’s absolutely worth watching for anyone who’s ever been interested in video games as a cultural phenomenon, and more than just a hobby.
In the first episode, Sarkeesian applies a critical lens to the recurring motif of the “Damsel in Distress” in the world of video games, and does so professionally, clinically, and with just enough judgment to get her point across. Throughout the twenty minute video, Sarkeesian examines the history of the trope in culture as a whole, and explains the way it’s been adapted by video games, and codified into the number one motivation for game developers to move their protagonists (who are, of course, usually male) forward. What she discusses in the well-researched video is eye-opening and really interesting, shedding light onto concepts that many gamers (who, again, are usually male) may take for granted.
The video series got its start on Kickstarter, where it ran a very successful campaign last summer, easily exceeding its $6,000 goal and earning $158,922 in pledged funds. That said, the campaign wasn’t without incredible hardships. To summarize, Sarkeesian was harassed with hate-speech and threats from video game “fans” who took it upon themselves to punish her for daring to examine an undeniable facet of the video game industry—that there’s inequality between the genders and their depictions and representations. In fact, a rival group started their own IndieGoGo campaign for “Tropes Vs. Men in Video Games,” which barely managed to reach its $3,000 fundraising goal, and subsequently seemed to disappear with the money without creating the proposed counterpoint to Sarkeesian’s project.
Personally, I’m really grateful to Sarkeesian for creating this series, and I’m excited to keep watching the next few installments. I’ve seen some recent examples of troubling depictions of and attitudes towards women in games ranging from Tomb Raider to God of War to Hitman, and written about the red flags these examples have raised. Sarkeesian’s videos seem like they’ll be trying to get to the root of the issue, and try to lay bare the industry’s assumptions about gender in general.
This is the kind of level of discourse of which the video game industry could use much more. I can’t wait to see part two.