Miss Anita Sarkeesian has released the first video of her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. As expected, the video presents an emotionally exploitative, mischaracterization of the game design choices in the industry.
The video starts off with Rareware’s Dinosaur Planet, which eventually became Star Fox Adventures. Anita claims that the game was originally going to have Krystal as the sole protagonist. This is incorrect, as the game originally had TWO protagonists. Sabre, a male character, and Krystal. The fact that this isn’t mentioned at all in the video seems like a manipulation of the facts to suit the agenda of the video.
A large portion of the video is spent on the “history of the damsel in distress” which boils down to an extremely generalized sweep over art, literature and early film, picking and choosing examples that can be pigeon-holed by ignoring the full depth of the story and characters. Amusing coincidence, no?
The point where she does get to video games, she focuses on Princess Peach and Zelda, as the quintessential examples of the trope. The only indication of her level of devotion to video games she gives is the old “I grew up on Nintendo” which she discredits along the way with statements like confusing DS titles with “mobile games”. The video also fails to acknowledge an entire class of games in the Mario franchise where Peach plays much larger roles.:
- In Super Mario RPG Peach is one of the main heroes. Playing a very important role in the main quest.
- In Paper Mario Peach is captured by Bowser and organizes her own escape, as well as relaying information to Mario to help him on his quest.
- In Thousand Year Door Peach is kidnapped for the purpose of reviving a villainess. As with the first Paper Mario game, she helps Mario in his quest in spite of being a captive.
- In Super Paper Mario Peach is one of four prophesied heroes, and a main protagonist.
The Mario franchise has more than just the main series games, of which the New Super Mario Bros. games are not a part. The video does not do the franchise justice with this extremely pick-and-choose examination.
The video does briefly touch on captives that manage to play a larger role, during her discussion of the Zelda series. They are labeled “The Helpful Damsel” a term that in itself is ironically belittling the resourcefulness and bravery it takes for ANYONE in such a position to be able to still find a way to fight their captors. She uses this blanket term to cover all of Princess Zelda’s heroics throughout the series.
The entire video appears to be driving the point that unless the female is the main/only player-character, is in full-on god-mode at all times, and never has to deal with any opposition or insurmountable challenge, then she has no value. This super-superhuman is in direct contrast with the very point of games, which is to be challenged, and yes, sometimes they will be too much for the player be they female or male.
I do agree that there is much room for growth in the video game industry and how it tells stories. However, I do not think the solution is as simple as turning Mario and Link into females. Which seems to be the underlying message of this video.
All in all, the background research is a bit lacking, the information presented was not objective, nor did it inform the viewer enough to be anything more than another outraged voice crying sexism or feminism is ruining video games. I hold out hope that the future installments in this video series will be better.