Why Anita Sarkeesian IS Wrong about Video Games

Why Anita Sarkeesian IS Wrong about Video Games

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This is a discussion on Why Anita Sarkeesian IS Wrong about Video Games within the Video Games forums, part of the Book, Music, & Movie Reviews category; ATTENTION! WALL OF TEXT COMING. HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS. Or they're gonna fall. As many of you know (and ...

  1. #1

    Why Anita Sarkeesian IS Wrong about Video Games

    ATTENTION! WALL OF TEXT COMING. HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS. Or they're gonna fall.

    As many of you know (and probably heard me talking about) Anita Sarkeesian is the self-proclaimed feminist from the YouTube channel Feminist Frequency https://www.youtube.com/user/feministfrequency who takes upon herself to explain tropes which are applied to female characters as if she is some kind of hardcore "feminist" version of TV Tropes. I was aware of her for a while now, but I never cared about what she was doing until she started a Kickstarted to do a series of videos on video games, which currently has 3 videos on the Damsel in Distress trope.

    Like it wasn't enough that she is stealing game footage from let's plays and walkthroughs of others Youtubers (as shown here Vicsor's Opinion: Anita's Sources) she doesn't get what is going on in video games or why we feel attached to it or this isn't about a boy's club because more and more women play nor she understands that she is a troll bait with her lack of understanding.

    She came to us, gamers, with a self entitled attitude saying that games aren't as she wishes and they should because she's woman and a feminist, but why is she wrong? What is doing wrong?

    From a gamer point of view and even a human one, she doesn't understands feelings, she doesn't understand that she is the face of feminist to gamers and that gaming is just about playing and being good and/or enjoying.
    In here series, she takes game scenes (like the ones on ICO, Dishonored, God of War and many other games) out of context and judges them as she best sees fit.
    Let's look at her approach to Dishonored, which is a game I know pretty well.



    This is the intro of the 2012 game Dishonored, a first person action game set in the fictional Empire of the Isles.

    This is how much Anita shows of the intro:


    In the game you play as Corvo Anatto, the Empress' personal bodyguard, and yes I said Empress. The Empire of the Isles has it's ruler a woman, the Empress Jessamine and next in line is her young daughter Emily.
    The problem with Anita's interpretation and explanation of the games is that she sees Dishonored has a violent male power fantasy in which the Empress is killed, when in fact she's killed (and spoilers, sorry) because of a conspiracy made by the Royal Spymaster of the Empire. He contacted a man called Daud (the man in red) and his elite assassins to kill the Empress because he wanted to rule, he wanted power, he did not killed the Empress and kidnapped Emily because they're women, it's because they're POWERFUL, they're as politically powerful as a person can get. But Anita didn't play the game, she only saw the trailers, she probably didn't even read the Wikipedia page for the game or the game's Wiki, to know that the Empress was killed over power. Or maybe she knows and chose to ignore it for the sake for her argument (which honestly, I would be surprised).

    To me, Dishonored, feels like a female power fantasy. Surely, most of characters are males and you play as a male, but as you play you'll notice that Corvo is manipulated by everyone, especially by women, into doing what they want him to do because of his emotional attachment to Emily. It's not only his duty and his honor that he is after (or his masculinity like Anita likes to say), he's after the only "family" he got left because he sees Emily as his daughter and to Emily Corvo is her father figure.
    Each important women in the game represent some kind of power that women have/might have in game and/or in real life.

    Let's see how this works:
    Callista Curnow is the caretaker of the future Empress and teaches her what she needs to know to become an Empress, representing the so female power of Education.
    Emily Kaldwin and her mother represent, of course, Political power.
    Lady Boyle holds the Sexual power, especially Esma Boyle. All of the sisters bad expriences seem to go around sex and they seem to use it to hold power in a Victorian-like world. Like her, Madame Prudence holds Sexual power over men, though in a different way, being the owner of the Golden Cat, a brothel and bathhouse.
    Grammy Rags the once beautiful Vera Moray held Sexual power over men in her youth (having men who wanted to marry her fight over her) and holds the power of Black Magic after meeting with a man with black eyes. Of course, she helds Magic power unlike any other man in the game does, being almost immortal.
    Last but not least, is a character from the DLC Knife of Dunwall, Billie Lurk who is the second of the elite assassin group who killed the Empress. She holds Physical power, being one of the most powerful characters in game.

    Anita ignores this by calling the game a male powered violent revenge fantasy in which a man goes after his daughter.

    Where Anita truly fails is to understand that gaming is not only a bussiness but most of players are male and being male maybe having a male character lose their mother/wife/girlfriend/daughter is more effective to them than is losing their father. For a game to be well done (if it's not a mindless shooter) we have to feel for the characters and it is easy to feel for a female character, especially one that we need to protect and love like Emily is to Corvo and eventually the player.

    This is where she really fails. She lack feelings. She doesn't understand what we feel for the characters or the story.

    In her last video she was supposted to present reserved roles of this, but she presents nothing and keeps on talking about how video games are bad and going to attack indie games like Super Meat Boy! and Glish because of their simplistic save the girl plots and proving to have no sense of humour, so don't lose your time with that one.


    Now that I'm over and done with, you're free to comment, bash me, say I'm right, kick me in the face, ignore me or whatever.
    android654, JoetheBull, Kaisikudo and 6 others thanked this post.



  2. #2

    My opinion on her videos is that I honestly don't think that the problems she points out are very important. I get the feeling that she is trying too hard to find these misogynistic portrayals of women in video games in places where they are irrelevant. Take the Super Mario games for example. I remember when I first started playing Mario games 18 years ago(those were also my first gaming experiences), and neither me nor anyone that I knew cared about the plot in those games. The plot in Super Mario is really simple and perhaps cliche, but that's because the entire point of those games is the game play. When I played Mario games I didn't think that "oh I must save the princess" but "this time I'm going to get through all the challenges of the level and progress!". This also applies to Super Meat Boy which is another game where the plot is irrelevant. It could be anything and it still wouldn't make any difference. Anyone who puts too meaning into the plots of platforming games are just over-analyzing imo.

    Of course there are many games where plot and story are important, but I don't see the point of criticizing story writers for writing whatever they like. They are just fictional stories and I never see them as more than that.If I really wanted to I could of course point out bad portrayal of both men and women in video games, but what would I achieve by doing that? I could for example say that Gothic 1 portrays men poorly, because it's set in a all-male penal colony filled with greedy criminals, barons, drug addicts, mercenaries and lunatics, but rather than criticize Gothic 1 for it's plot I would applaud it.

    Her criticism of video games can also only be applied to the specific games that she has picked, and not to video games in general. Her list of games presented in her videos may seem impressive, but it's tiny compared to the vast amount of video games out there. I'll admit that I haven't played the majority of the games that she mentioned despite having played games of many different games for almost 20 years. But that may also indicate that there was a certain degree of cherry picking going on in her game library.

    Oh and I agree with you that her portrayal of Dishonored is bad. I just don't think there is anything bad about the way that women are portrayed there. Not once did it occur to me that someone could see Dishonored that way, but I guess that's what happens if you play a game to specifically find misogyny.

  3. #3

    I've been waiting for a bulletpoint breakdown of her views on each game. Haven't found it yet.

    Wasn't her point to highlight tropes in games? Of which there are many.

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  5. #4

    I presume you've already watched Thunderf00t's video responses to Anita's claims?



    My main gripe with Sarkeesian, is as you said yourself; her lack of understanding of the games which she is discussing - and her often completely out of context representation of them.

    What I will say to her merit, however, is that when it comes to video game lead characters, female leads tend to rarely experience as much depth or exploration as male leads do. Jim Sterling explains this better than I can:




    The way I see it... the vast majority of claims to Sexism within video games lack any concise evidence, without being twisted and falsely represented. However, the biggest exception to this is some fairly blatant instances of female objectification across a large number of franchises. And why? Because sex sells. Game developers know this - and so they exploit it. That's not me attempting to justify it, of course. It's just the way it is.

    Beyond that, I cannot think of many instances within games, where women are genuinly represented in such a way as to appear inherently inferior to, or weaker than men. Jesus, have you played some of the female characters in the Dynasty Warriors franchise? They're just as powerful and terrifying as the men xD

    JoetheBull, Aya the Abysswalker and Kami Gaben thanked this post.

  6. #5

    I think she has a few points, a few being the key words there. It's covered by too much personal political agenda for my tastes.

  7. #6

    All social issues (in these examples feminism and video games) end up being perceived and thus later presented from one angle or another. The social issues are usually perceived then presented from good intentions, even if they are doing so from a false "correlation = causation" standpoint. (I'm not really taking a side in this case.)

    While video games have historically enforced our society's set standards on what roles males and females should follow, is it the video game designers' fault or is it society's fault? If it's society's fault however, is it not irresponsible for media outlets to continue to foster it? Again, these are just rhetorical questions that people may want to consider.

    Truth be told, if it weren't for social groups (such as feminists and equalists), necessary social change would take a lot longer to occur--even if the groups do not always approach it from the "right perspective."

  8. #7

    I hate that person vividly, she is detrimental to the cause.

    Her goal is to drive a feminist agenda, not to provide balanced and informed content.

    That'd be all nice and well if she was only spouting crap to the feminist audience. But sources that are supposed to know better are covering, and siding with her, which is horrendous.
    JoetheBull and Aya the Abysswalker thanked this post.

  9. #8

    I don't really care that much about feminism in video games or whatever but actually she's usually right and definitely knows more about what she's talking about than the OP. Also the "she stole footage from lets play" videos is the dumbest thing ever lol, who the fuck cares? Just crybaby gamers who aren't comfortable with what she says grasping at straws to discredit her. If someone stole from a Bioshock Infinite LP to make their "top 10 most fapworthy Elizabeth moments" video no one would give a shit. Also, nitpicking her arguments on one specific game doesn't mean she is wrong in general.
    Quote Originally Posted by AyaSullivan
    To me, Dishonored, feels like a female power fantasy. Surely, most of characters are males and you play as a male, but as you play you'll notice that Corvo is manipulated by everyone, especially by women, into doing what they want him to do because of his emotional attachment to Emily. It's not only his duty and his honor that he is after (or his masculinity like Anita likes to say), he's after the only "family" he got left because he sees Emily as his daughter and to Emily Corvo is her father figure.
    First you say the fact that they are women is immaterial to the fact that the game kills and mistreats them, because that happens because of their political power. Next you say the fact that they are women in positions of political power makes the game a female power fantasy, despite the fact that the driving actor of the game is a male, who sneaks around guarded compounds, murders people, uses superpowers, etc. You can't have it both ways, if its not misogynist for powerful women to be killed in the game's story its not feminist because the game has powerful women in the first place. You also can't treat background story events as if its equal to the plot and direct experience of the storyline driven by the (male) player character. The "powerful female characters" are essentially story props to drive the protagonist's action.
    Quote Originally Posted by AyaSullivan
    Lady Boyle holds the Sexual power, especially Esma Boyle....Grammy Rags the once beautiful Vera Moray held Sexual power over men in her youth (having men who wanted to marry her fight over her) and holds the power of Black Magic after meeting with a man with black eyes.
    Ah yes, women who hold "sexual power" through being unscrupulous temptresses who use their feminine wiles to manipulate men away from more noble pursuits, how feminist. I can't believe I'm seriously posting about this topic.
    Quote Originally Posted by Husgark
    Anyone who puts too meaning into the plots of platforming games are just over-analyzing imo.
    Well I think part of the point being made is that in games like these, though the story is not that "important," the central narrative defaults to a certain archetype that is patently patriarchal (empowered man saving the damsel in distress). I would agree that I don't particularly care about that and I don't find it particularly offensive in the context of a Super Mario game or whatever and that its also a pretty superficial and obvious point in the first place, but I don't think its an invalid one. Also judging by the reaction of "gaming communities" (ugh) online to such arguments it seems like her points may not be as obvious to a lot of people as they might be to you or me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Husgark
    Of course there are many games where plot and story are important, but I don't see the point of criticizing story writers for writing whatever they like.
    I really think you're underestimating the value of critics here. Criticism in film, literature, art etc has done much to advance those mediums and provide new insights both to audiences and new artists. The point here is the same as it is for those mediums: To spur developers to make better and more interesting games. This is particularly needed in the game industry since most of the industry's "official" critics are completely bought out mouthpieces for publishers. Someone like Sarkeesian is far more valuable than yet another IGN stooge giving a 9.5 to the latest CoD pile. Though I personally think with a game gameplay concerns should always take precedent over story or narrative ones, the latter can definitely complement or hobble the former in the right circumstances, and its not always a totally clear line between the two (especially in games like RPG's).
    Quote Originally Posted by Husgark
    Her criticism of video games can also only be applied to the specific games that she has picked, and not to video games in general. Her list of games presented in her videos may seem impressive, but it's tiny compared to the vast amount of video games out there. I'll admit that I haven't played the majority of the games that she mentioned despite having played games of many different games for almost 20 years. But that may also indicate that there was a certain degree of cherry picking going on in her game library.
    Well, also, a whole lot of games get made, you can't really focus on all of them. If you're going to talk about games in general and about trends in the industry it makes sense to focus on more well known games which she usually does.
    Last edited by Shahada; 08-09-2013 at 12:45 PM.
    Somniorum, Galaxies and d e c a d e n t thanked this post.

  10. #9

    Quote Originally Posted by Husgark View Post
    My opinion on her videos is that I honestly don't think that the problems she points out are very important. I get the feeling that she is trying too hard to find these misogynistic portrayals of women in video games in places where they are irrelevant. Take the Super Mario games for example. I remember when I first started playing Mario games 18 years ago(those were also my first gaming experiences), and neither me nor anyone that I knew cared about the plot in those games. The plot in Super Mario is really simple and perhaps cliche, but that's because the entire point of those games is the game play. When I played Mario games I didn't think that "oh I must save the princess" but "this time I'm going to get through all the challenges of the level and progress!". This also applies to Super Meat Boy which is another game where the plot is irrelevant. It could be anything and it still wouldn't make any difference. Anyone who puts too meaning into the plots of platforming games are just over-analyzing imo.
    I feel that she has good points, but I cannot take her seriously because of her arguments and the way she treats gamers, ignoring the rising numbers of female gamers who enjoy these games.
    Games like Mario or Super Meat Boy! aren't about the plot, are about surpassing yourself and your friends, see who beats the game first and has the highest score. SMB! has the most wonderful cartoony art and music, but still most people play it because it's hard and to prove themselves. Nobody gives big thought to SMB!'s plot, we save that for The Binding of Isaac because the game deserves that.

    Of course there are many games where plot and story are important, but I don't see the point of criticizing story writers for writing whatever they like. They are just fictional stories and I never see them as more than that.If I really wanted to I could of course point out bad portrayal of both men and women in video games, but what would I achieve by doing that? I could for example say that Gothic 1 portrays men poorly, because it's set in a all-male penal colony filled with greedy criminals, barons, drug addicts, mercenaries and lunatics, but rather than criticize Gothic 1 for it's plot I would applaud it.
    I criticize because I love, but I don't say Silent Hill 2 is a bad representation of men because of James Sunderldand, it would be stupid to use such a tragic event as an argument to say that men are evil, same with Caim from Drakengard or even Nier from NieR Gestalt (surely Caim is not the best example, but he's not evil or abuses women despite his madness).
    Anyone who had someone they love in some kind of danger (death, or just danger or illness) will understand why this trope works when well done.
    It's the same with Dishonored. If you had a loved one taken way, you'll understand why Corvo goes into so much trouble and lets himself be manipulated and almost killed for Emily.

    Her criticism of video games can also only be applied to the specific games that she has picked, and not to video games in general. Her list of games presented in her videos may seem impressive, but it's tiny compared to the vast amount of video games out there. I'll admit that I haven't played the majority of the games that she mentioned despite having played games of many different games for almost 20 years. But that may also indicate that there was a certain degree of cherry picking going on in her game library.
    I could criticize newer games like Shadow of the Colossus for using the only female character, Mono, as a simple plot point for the main character, Wander, but I rather applaud his devotion to this death girl and his tragic end. I can see why this might be taken as a bad thing for women, but I understand Wander and his feelings and that why this trope still works now, the player gives a fuck. It's not about being the best for some of us any more, it's about caring and Anita doesn't understand that which worries me deeply.

    Her criticism of video games can also only be applied to the specific games that she has picked, and not to video games in general. Her list of games presented in her videos may seem impressive, but it's tiny compared to the vast amount of video games out there. I'll admit that I haven't played the majority of the games that she mentioned despite having played games of many different games for almost 20 years. But that may also indicate that there was a certain degree of cherry picking going on in her game library.
    She picked games that are popular or with characters that are popular, she's not picking the right games.

    Oh and I agree with you that her portrayal of Dishonored is bad. I just don't think there is anything bad about the way that women are portrayed there. Not once did it occur to me that someone could see Dishonored that way, but I guess that's what happens if you play a game to specifically find misogyny.
    Women are very well portyared in Dishonored, strong powerful. It's one of the few games that I know that shows that protitutes are sad people instead of making them glamorous creatures of the night.


    @Vic I have of a few, but it's handwritten.
    JoetheBull thanked this post.

  11. #10

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaisikudo View Post
    I presume you've already watched Thunderf00t's video responses to Anita's claims?
    Yes, they're amazing answers. I follow him on YouTube now.

    What I will say to her merit, however, is that when it comes to video game lead characters, female leads tend to rarely experience as much depth or exploration as male leads do. Jim Sterling explains this better than I can
    I've used Jim's videos as a supporting for my arguments about females being feared in gaming and sexism in video games but it always back fires because Jim is a male gamer and male gamers cannot have a saying in the matter.

    Have you watched MrRepzion's videos on it?



    That video got me in some shit because it's a 20 something white male and he has no saying on it and I cannot agree with it. I was called a misogynistic woman because of linking some of Repzion's videos.

    The way I see it... the vast majority of claims to Sexism within video games lack any concise evidence, without being twisted and falsely represented. However, the biggest exception to this is some fairly blatant instances of female objectification across a large number of franchises. And why? Because sex sells. Game developers know this - and so they exploit it. That's not me attempting to justify it, of course. It's just the way it is.
    These people forget that this is business and the ones to blame are the consumers, not the creators, they only do that because it sells. They're answering to our wishes of heroism and sexuality. Again, I say that she doesn't even tracks the right games.

    She tracks this:


    But not this:


    Nice, Anita, nice.

    Beyond that, I cannot think of many instances within games, where women are genuinly represented in such a way as to appear inherently inferior to, or weaker than men. Jesus, have you played some of the female characters in the Dynasty Warriors franchise? They're just as powerful and terrifying as the men xD
    It is a very scary indeed! Reminds me a bit of Kainé from NieR. Half naked with twin swords, kick your ass and telling to fuck off.
    There are very scary females in Cavia's game (Drakengard, NieR), especially in Drakengard when the powerful female Red Dragon starts agreeing on the blood thirsty male protagonist Caim on killing and getting powerful.

    This was also a very scary moment from a woman in a video game
    JoetheBull thanked this post.


     
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