Tropes vs Women in Video Games is Now Live!

It’s an exciting day! Anita Sarkheesian, creator of the Feminist Frequency video series, has released the first of her new Tropes vs Video Games series. If you’ll recall, last year Anita used Kickstarter to fund the new series, and mangry gamers came out of the woodwork to prove to the world that they were misogynist assholes by sending her gendered slurs and death and rape threats, accusing her of scamming people, suggesting she had no right to criticize games, and even making a video game where you get to punch her in the face repeatedly and graphically.

Now that the first video is out and it is, obviously, intelligent, well-researched, and sensible, you can expect misogynist gamers’ heads to explode in parents’ basements the world over.

And btw, not only did Anita not run off with the Kickstarter funds as she was oft-accused, but the men who created the competing fund drive for Tropes vs Men in Video Games apparently did run off with all the money. Lol.

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!


Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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    1. I was just about to crack into that franchise, too. I saw a preview last night that had a little girl running up a hill, and got all too excited that she might DO something. But then she’s a plot device and turns into ashes so Kratos can feel sad.
      I guess it’s back to Skyrim.

  1. It was an enlightening video (as are all of Anita’s videos). I was never much of a video gamer, and did not realize the basis of games like Donkey Kong and Zelda. Looking forward to the next chapter. The Kickstarter fund has been well spent.

  2. Wow I’m really surprised that it turned out the anti-feminists that harassed her turned out to be liars that nicked their donations! MRAs tend to be such kind gentle honest souls as well.

    Sarcasm off, the video was great… Looking forward to the rest of them. Hopefully these will become required watching for game designers…

    1. Well there’s been a saying I’ve been hearing amongst feminist converts recently (female and male) which goes “I didn’t consider myself a feminist when I first was introduced to the concept, but I sure became one after I saw the horrible reaction to the concept.”

      The terrible ridicule I think is a double-edged sword. It makes antagonizers feel good, but it also horrifies a lot of decent people and makes them really question their assumptions for the better.

  3. I missed the Kickstarter campaign. She has done a wonderful job with this. This explains why I never really enjoyed the “rescue the poor maiden” games. My thought has always been: “Why should I be rescuing you, if you can’t do anything to help yourself?” I have always enjoyed games where it was me against the puzzle – not me rescuing someone. Very Well Done!

  4. Wow, deeply impressive work, there are few times where I actually start squeeing during lectures because of how clear, sensible, and awesome they are, the last time I did that was when I watched a video of Deva Woodly’s discussion of marriage and equality at the New School for Social Research.

  5. When I saw that the video was over 20 minutes long, I was expecting to be bored. “How much can you really say about ‘damsel in distress?'” I did not expect her to go into such detail about the development of these games, and I found the bit at the beginning about Crystal originally having her own game very interesting. After several months, it’s clear that she put the appropriate amount of time into this one video, so I’m looking forward to the rest. I only wish I could comment on the video.

    1. Actually, she might have gone on much longer, and covered many more historical sources. I’m sure she edited herself down to 20 minutes on purpose, to keep people’s attention. For instance, I think it’s highly likely that Pauline from Donkey Kong was based on the silent film serial The Perils of Pauline, which later became the source of Nell Fenwick, who, in a wonderfully subversive way, always ended up having to rescue Dudley

  6. Being a longtime gamer and former gaming journo, I’m absolutely thrilled to see this come together and so well. I do wish she had some time to spend on the inherent racist/sexist intent of the “brutish primate” kidnapping the damsel trope of Burroughs, et. al, but that might have derailed an otherwise taut, focused video. Bravo, all around.

  7. I backed her with just a few bucks, mainly to show support as she was already well funded by the time. What made me throw a few bucks at her project was the crazy reactions of her detractors which I think answered the question “Is this something we really need a series of videos to address?” with a clear “It appears we definitely do.”

    Many of her detractors, incidentally, appeared utterly incapable of expressing themselves in any Earth language suggesting to me that, though women aren’t from Venus, perhaps MRAs are from the planet that they’re an anagram of.

  8. I find it so interesting that the trope essentially comes to the video game genre through a cheesy nostalgia for earlier classics in other genres. It’s like a lazy shorthand for “Remember Tarzan? This game is like that.”

    And now it’s reinforced through nostalgia for those original games. Reducing women to an object in such an obviously degrading way essentially persists in cultire because it’s easy and familiar. When you think about it, that’s really twisted.

  9. This was a really good video.

    One of the reasons the trope “works” is because there are male-female differences in the physiology of pair-bonding. In females, pair-bonding recapitulates parturition and is triggered by oxytocin, the same hormone that is released during birth and which triggers the physiological changes that occur at birth, most important of which is maternal bonding and lactation so that the infant will be loved, nursed and cared for.

    In males, pair-bonding recapitulates territoriality and is mediated through the similar and complementary hormone that mediates territoriality, vasopressin. There is considerable cross-talk between these two hormones (and others) and these interactions are not at all simplistic.


    The whole point of maintaining this trope is to maintain the Patriarchy by getting young men without a GF to be willing to fight to the death (or do other equally stupid things) to get one. Getting rid of excess young men is the most important part of maintaining the Patriarchy, so getting young men to fight each other to the death is the universal strategy of Patriarchal institutions. War as metaphor for action recapitulates this trope. Sports as metaphor for war with cheerleaders as the “prize” recapitulates it too. Lack of opportunity for living wage jobs, male/female wage disparities, shaming men who earn less then women, the war on drugs are all similar routes to the same end.

    1. Wait, what? This is some weird evo-psych bullshit, and extremely hetero-normative to boot. What about gay women? Gay men? Bisexuals? Transgendered people? Etc etc etc etc.

      1. marilove, yes, all of those groups don’t fit into the hetero-normative trope so they get marginalized or killed. The Patriarchy has to marginalize and/or destroy everything it can’t control.

  10. From the linked paper
    “prairie voles that originated from Illinois display behaviors indicative of a monogamous life strategy” BUT
    “prairie voles from Kansas [55, 186] and Tennessee [175, 235] show subtle differences in some aspects of their behavior and physiology”
    Sounds like all the queer voles emigrated, perhaps due to oppression from the vole patriarchy in Illinois?

  11. Seriously though, we have to be extremely careful not to extrapolate too much from animal models to human, where practically everything is under the control of “higher centres”. I am sure Daedalus is well aware of this and was only giving an interesting example.

    I thought one interesting finding of the linked paper was the way that drugs of abuse such as methamphetamine can totally disrupt normal bonding. If confirmed in humans, a means of treatment may be forthcoming.

    1. Jack, you have some data showing that “practically everything is under control of “higher centres”?

      I am sure some people like to think that but the data is pretty good that things like sexual orientation are not under control of “higher centers”, that is sexual orientation is not a choice. But what things are or are not a “choice” and what choices people do or do not make should have no bearing on how people are treated. The whole point of the Patriarchy is to weaken and marginalize everyone who is not the Patriarch. The only reason that matters to the Patriarch is that if you are not him, then you get marginalized.

      1. It was a quick response, perhaps “influence” would have been a better word. You know the examples as well as I do, cortisol, stress, fight or flight, etc. The point was we are not entirely slaves to our hormones. I am sure you agree that biological reductionism only gets us so far. Of course I agree that sexual orientation is not a choice.

  12. Also, even though I enjoyed playing with tanks and war games from an early age, and probably have spent over a year playing Battlezone with my hover tank on the moons of Jupiter, I remain a very strong pacifist. The patriarchy will be very, very disappointed if it has any expectations whatsoever from me based on my computer gaming history. So suck it up, patriarchy!!

    1. Jack, was that year spent in your parents’ basement? Instead of being out IRL with a GF or raising a family of feminists, or otherwise fighting the Patriarchy? If it was, then the Patriarchy was successful.

      1. No it was not, my kids were adults living away from home and it was harmless entertainment – a year of playing time spread over several years. More constructive than boozing or watching TV, I developed some mad mouse skilz! I’m sure most gamers here could tell a similar story.My point is that games do not make you a warmonger or a mass murderer or a tool of the patriarchy.

        However, I did enjoy the linked video and I agree with the points made.

        1. Jack, good for you. I think you are right that most gamers here could tell a similar story.

          But it can be difficult to look into the abyss without the abyss looking back into you. Some who set out to fight monsters become monsters themselves. That is another tactic of the Patriarchy, send people out to fight monsters, then when they become monsters themselves, send still more people out to fight them. The goal of the Patriarchy isn’t to “win”, it is to keep on chewing up young men so as to maintain the Patriarchy.

          1. It’s true, since the release of Halo, needler & energy sword murders from 30 year old basement dwellers have been on the rise.

  13. I am so delighted to see in some of my online spaces that the people that support Sarkeesian now outnumber those who don’t.

  14. Y’know what’s hilarious is the “but Samus blah blah proves this wrong blah blah” argument. It kills me every time.

  15. I thought the video was well-researched and informative. I can also totally understand why the videos comments are disabled on YouTube.

  16. I really enjoyed the video and am looking forward to rest of the series. It also made me realize, that quite ironically, besides its other merits or failings considering the portrayal of women in video games and the intentions of the writers and developers, the motivation of the central character in the recent Tomb Raider reboot basically boils down to rescuing a damsel in distress.

  17. Eeeesh.

    She should have spent some of that money on hiring a director rather than doing it herself, because this concept is seriously lacking in creativity. Could have been a terrific opportunity to make something entertaining enough to actually convince gamers to watch it. Instead this is drawn out, tedious and borderline unwatchable. The long patronising exposition to the “damsel in distress” trope almost lost me entirely. Feels like a blog post with some fancy graphic work. The format of Anita just talking to the camera does not work – it could benefit from some actual interviews.

    It’s a pity because the actual content was pretty convincingly researched and the narration over the game clips works. I do think Anita is the right person to be producing and even presenting, but she needs a director and could benefit from a writer.

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