Tropes vs Women in Video Games

Thanks to Melmoth (who learned of it from Thade) at Killed in a Smiling Accident, I got wind about Ms. Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter campaign Tropes vs Women in Video Games.

Personally, I think the TV Tropes site does a better job highlighting gender based silliness.  Actually, it highlights all trope silliness regardless of gender – but it’s all there, and in probably more detail than videos can provide.

I recognize that this is the video era, and that a website looking like it crawled out of the 90’s with ads plastered left and right isn’t going to appeal to a wide audience.  Because of that, I hope those 12 videos she produces will make some people stop and think even for a little while.  Best of luck.

I worry though about the message.  I don’t think tropes are all bad.  If they are the only option available, then that’s an issue.  But, there is every valid reason for a Bayonetta to exist, just as there may be for your favourite zombie shooter.  Both have their demographic and they were made well-aware of whom they exclude.  The customer who’s not into fan-service can avoid the former as their public message is consistent.

The real problem comes from either

a) a lack of choice or

b) a bait and switch.

When you’re marketed to all and the male characters have a wide gamut of armor types and coverage while the female armors are all high-heeled with midriffs exposed – that’s a problem.

When half-way through the game, the developers release an update patch that ‘sexifies‘ the female options ‘due to popular gamer-girl demand’ – that’s a problem.

MMOs are special.  We sometimes get both at once.  Lucky us.

Female gamers – and women in general – are people.  That’s all there is to it.  No one wants to feel boxed into a role someone else wants them to play.  Whether it is sexy nurse, house-wife, or macho ‘femshep’ tomboy is irrelevant.  Everyone is going to be different in their likes and wants as there’s no one ‘gamer-girl’.  The industry can’t say it’s trying for broad appeal and then turn around and pigeon hole everyone based on their vital voting statistics.

The Sims 3 has it right – everyone can have any job, has options in all clothing styles, can look fat, slim, athletic.  Real care (and a lot of effort) was made to be inclusive and it shows.

“We Can Do It”, J. Howard Miller, 1942

Sadly, the focus on the tropes themselves does a disservice to the overall message of equality.  Bayonetta is going to be the poster child in the video series but that’s not where the problem lies.


By all means, take a look at Sarkeesian’s project and back her if it resonates with you.  There’s two days left, although it’s well funded by now.  As a disclaimer, I’m not backing it despite mentioning and recommending it.

There’s also the other matter of Sarkeesian being the victim of a lot of grief these past few days.  If you feel inclined to donate because of that, I’d like to throw out the reminder that awesome charities against cyber bullying exist that would welcome the change.

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