Battle Of The Sexes: Men Vs. Women In Video Games (Part 1)
March 24, 2013

Battle Of The Sexes: Men Vs. Women In Video Games (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, a video was posted on YouTube that caused a huge controversy among the gamer masses. Anita Sarkeesian, a speaker from the channel “feministfrequency”, took a huge stab at the industry by accusing it of masochism.

On March 7, feministfrequency uploaded “Damsel in Distress: Part 1 – Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” This video is the first in a series started by Anita Sarkeesian that is supposed to point out the flaws in video games that promote sexism and masochism, or at least unintentionally influence young men into it. Her first episode focuses on the “Damsel in Distress” trope.

Effectively, the trope is defined as ‘a woman who is placed in a perilous and helpless position, and requires another person to come to her rescue’. In most cases, this would be a man, the hero of the game.

She begins by talking about a developing Nintendo 64 game named, Dinosaur Planet, which was to feature a blue, female fox named Krystal (sound familiar?) as its protagonist. Krystal could use magic, fight with a staff, and take on the vilest villains. Dinosaur Planet was cancelled and reworked into Starfox Adventures for the Nintendo Gamecube after Shigeru Miyamoto (who Anita seems to target a lot) joked that it should be the next installment in the Star Fox series. Krystal was still in the game, but after a few levels of playing as her, she quickly was captured, and Fox became the main protagonist on a quest to save Krystal, whom he instantly falls in love with after seeing her in suspended animation.

AFTER explaining all this, she starts to outline the history of the trope, dating back to totally relevant Greek mythology and the Middle Ages where men would go on quests to save women in an act of chivalry. She mentions the 1913 short Barney Oldfields Race For a Life where a lady is tied down to a train track. She also talks about Popeye, and King Kong, and how they became the inspiration for Donkey Kong, one of Miyamoto’s first big hits.

She also focuses greatly on Princesses Peach and Zelda, two of the most iconic females in all of video games. She talks about how Peach has been captured by Bowser in all but one main series Mario game, the other one being Super Mario Bros. 2, which wasn’t even intended to be a Mario game during its development. She mentions that Peach got her starring role in Super Princess Peach, but completely ignores it in order to make her point. Princess Zelda is somewhat different. She plays helpful roles in many of the later Zelda games, often giving Link assistance as Sheik or Tetra, or speaking to him telepathically, but ultimately, is still captured. She dubs this the “Helpful Damsel” trope.

She goes on to mention several Helpful Damsels, and several more non-helpful ones. Two more significant points she makes are her attacks on the re-releases and remakes of Sonic CD and Double Dragon. Sonic CD shows Amy Rose, a girl who follows Sonic around, being kidnapped by Sonic’s evil robot form Metal Sonic. Double Dragon, and each of its re-releases show Damsel Marian being “battered and damseled for each generation to enjoy.”

She ends by saying that she loves Nintendo, and she grew up playing it (and many of the titles that Shigeru Miyamoto created). But she points out that these games are all very regressive to the perception of women and normalizes masochistic mentalities that women are to be sheltered and protected by men. She hopes that over time we will begin to see many more female protagonists in modern video games, including Peach and Zelda.

In Part 1 of this blog, I outlined all of the main points of her video in as few words as I possibly could. Check back for Part 2 where I’ll discuss general opinions and reactions across the Internet, and Part 3 where I talk about what I think.

Image Credit: Phil Jones / Shutterstock

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