Tropes Vs Women in Video Games: Part 1 Damsels in Distress
Anita Sarkeesian's first video in the much ballyhooed Tropes Vs Women in Video Games has finally been released. The verdict? Acceptable. There's really nothing that offensive in the video at all, as it's mostly just a history of the "Damsels in Distress" trope and how it's used in video games. It's fact based and fairly interesting to watch.
The only two criticisms I have are as follows:
1. As someone who's done a LOT of research into the making of Donkey Kong (primarily for the short Flossed In Time storyline that I illustrated for Brent and Dan www.brentalflossthecomic.com/f… ), I can say without question that her info about how Popeye came to be turned into Donkey Kong is wrong.
Donkey Kong came about because Nintendo of America's president Minoru Arakawa placed a large order for Radar Scope, a popular Japanese game). By the time the game arrived in New York, months had passed and interest in the game had waned, leaving thousands of unsold units stored in a warehouse. Behind in the warehouse rent, Minoru begged Nintendo of Japan's president Hiroshi Yamauchi for a new game, which led to Shigeru Miyamoto being assigned to create a new game using the Radar Scope's hardware.
Nintendo never "failed to acquire the license" to Popeye. They actually produced the game.... after Donkey Kong. In fact, it was while waiting for the licensing rights to be acquired that gave Miyamoto the time to work on Donkey Kong. When Donkey Kong became a huge hit, Miyamoto was reassigned to work on Popeye.
2. The only other criticisms is her rather harsh words towards Shigeru Miyamoto. The way the video plays out it kinda makes him seem like a devious, conniving, and scheming tyrant who oppresses women with his constant use of the "kidnapping the princess" plot device. Naturally I don't believe for a second that Shigeru Miyamoto ever set out with the goal of oppressing women.
But outside those two criticisms, there's really nothing that offensive about the video at all. Her assertion that female characters are often portrayed weak and unable to fend for themselves is entirely valid. And this is especially true when it comes to Zelda and how her role reverts to the damsel in distress trope after being enormously beneficial during both Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. To be honest, that always bothered me in both those games. Zelda finally reveals herself after helping you out the entire game in disguise, and the second she's in her "princess" outfit she gets kidnapped and is helpless. That renders all her bad-ass heroine character development null and void.
So too are the faulty reasons for not including Princess Peach in the NSMBWii and NSMBWiiU games as a 4th playable character ala Super Mario Bros 2. Nintendo has jokingly said that the reason she's not playable is because writing the code for how her dress moves would've been "too problematic," which is a pretty bullshit excuse considering how Peach is a playable character in Super Smash Bros with no advanced dress programing to boot.
Of course, despite how straightforward and reasonable this video is so far, we have yet to see what the rest of her series will be about. Naturally she left off characters that were strong and independent, like Samus or Laura Croft... because they ARE strong and independent and the video isn't really about that.
I really don't think that gamers needed to throw such a vehement hissy fit over her proposed video series. There are going to be a lot of complaints and people freaking out, simply because so much controversy has surrounded Anita Sarkeesian's kickstarter... mostly from gamers trying to discredit her before her series came out, like some sort of reflexive defense mechanism. All that hatred bubbling up makes it VERY hard to have an intellectual discussion on the subject without devolving into outright sexism and bashing against Anita for issues NOT connected to the info she's providing. You want to know why she blocked comments on her video? Because people have sent her actual death threats for speaking her mind and because anytime anyone talks about Anita, she's usually the subject of ACTUAL SEXISM. That's kinda proving her point, guys. Might wanna try to calm down and stop that?
I'm gonna watch the rest of her series, and I'm sure I'm gonna find more to criticize and disagree with. I've never completely agreed with her views, and frankly I would have taken the subject from an entirely different angle, but I do think that talking about sexism in video games IS actually necessary and beneficial to the medium. This was seriously nothing that needed to be blown up into such an outrageous controversy, and the complete lack of wanting to engage her on an intellectual level shows how incredibly immature the gaming community actually is.
She is not gonna take your games away, guys. She's not even advocating for taking away skimpy outfits and sexy characters. Talking about issues helps us resolve the issues, and it's a demonstrable FACT that the gaming industry as a whole tends to treat women in particular rather poorly. Be they a character, a game designer, or a gamer playing the games. I guess what I'm saying is... stop freaking out. EA requiring always online DRM in single-player games is more damaging to the gaming industry than Anita talking about sexism tropes.
Priorities, people, priorities.
Sidenote: I actually kinda like the mock "outfit" they gave Peach in the thumbnail and end of the video. Reminds me of when she dressed up as Luigi for the Super Mario World comic that debuted in Nintendo Power back in 1992.