Women as Reward

August 31, 2015

Content Warning: This educational episode contains game footage of a graphic sexual nature.

This episode explores the numerous ways in which the Women as Reward trope manifests in video games. The trope occurs when women or women’s bodies are employed as rewards for player actions, a pattern which frames female bodies and sexuality as collectible or consumable and positions women as status symbols designed to validate the masculinity of presumed straight male players. We then discuss how this trope both reflects and reinforces the pervasive, socially constructed mentality of male entitlement that operates in the background of our culture.

Press Image for Media Use: https://www.flickr.com/photos/femfreq/21029965781

ABOUT THE SERIES
The Tropes vs Women in Video Games project aims to examine the plot devices and patterns most often associated with female characters in gaming from a systemic, big picture perspective. This series will include critical analysis of many beloved games and characters, but remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects. This video series is created by Anita Sarkeesian and the project was funded by 6968 awesome backers on Kickstarter.com

50 GAMES REFERENCED IN THIS EPISODE
Alice: Madness Returns (2011)
Asura’s Wrath (2012)
Castle Crashers (2008)
Conan (2007)
Dead Rising (2006)
Defender of the Crown (1986)
Donkey Kong (1981)
Double Dragon (1987)
Dragon’s Lair (1983)
God of War (2005)
God of War 3 (2010)
God of War: Chains of Olympus (2008)
God of War: Ghosts of Sparta (2010)
Grand Theft Auto 4 (2008)
Grand Theft Auto 5 (2013)
Joe & Mac Returns (1994)
Kid Kool (1990)
Lollipop Chainsaw (2012)
Mafia 2 (2010)
Metal Gear Solid 4 (2008)
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004)
Metroid (1987)
Metroid II (1991)
Metroid Fusion (2002)
Phelios (1990)
Rad Mobile (1991)
Ratchet & Clank (2002)
Resident Evil 5 (2009)
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (2006)
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (2015)
Ride to Hell: Retribution (2013)
Rings of Power (1991)
S.P.Y. Special Project Y (1989)
Shadowgate (1987)
Shellshock: Nam’67 (2004)
Sid Meier’s Pirates! (2001)
Splatterhouse (2010)
Stanley Parable (2013)
Super Hang-On (1987)
Super Metroid (1994)
Super Off Road (1989)
Tales of Vesperia (2008)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
The 3rd Birthday (2011)
The Final Round (1988)
The Saboteur (2009)
The Witcher (2007)
The Witcher 2 (2011)
The Witcher 3 (2015)
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 (2002)

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Gender Breakdown of Games Showcased at E3 2015

June 22, 2015

The Feminist Frequency team attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles this year to get a glimpse of the latest and greatest in gaming titles and technology.

There has been a lot of discussion about the improvements seen over previous years at E3 in terms of the representations of women in video games announced or presented at the show. And while the presence of titles fronted by and featuring women certainly was better in comparison to past years, it also needs to be said that we have a long way to go before we come close to approaching gender equity.

The following data is based on the games showcased at press conferences by Bethesda, Microsoft, Sony, EA, Ubisoft, Nintendo, and Square Enix at E3 2015:

Numbers on Gender

There were 7 games with exclusively playable female protagonists or 9% of a total 76 titles

There were 24 games with exclusively playable male protagonists or 32% of a total 76 titles

The games centered on women were: ReCore, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Rise of the Tomb Raider, the mobile game Lara Croft Go, and two indie titles: Tacoma and Beyond Eyes.

There were also 35 games in which players appear to be able to choose either a man or a woman. It’s always great to see more games with gender choice and this year we saw a few blockbuster franchises like FIFA and Call of Duty finally add playable women. Still, of those 35, titles only Dishonored 2 used its marketing and promotional space at E3 to predominantly focus on the female character option.

These numbers also reflect the fact that a purely binary understanding of gender was on display in the games featured at E3, with no options featured that might allow players to pick from a wider spectrum of gender identities or presentations.

FemFreq_e3Infographics_Gender

Some may ask why it is important that there be games led exclusively by women, and why we make a distinction between those games in which the sole protagonist is a woman (such as Mirror’s Edge) and those games in which you have the option to play as either a male or female character (such as Fallout 4).

One reason why we need more games that are fronted exclusively by female characters is that it works to counter the long-established, long-reinforced cultural notion that heroes are male by default. By and large girls and women are expected to project themselves onto male characters, but boys and men are not encouraged to project themselves onto or identify with female characters.

When players are given the opportunity to see a game universe exclusively through the eyes of a female character with her own unique story, it helps challenge the idea that men can’t or shouldn’t identify with women, their lives, and their struggles.

As long as games continue to give us significantly more stories centered on men than on women, they will continue to reinforce the idea that female experiences are secondary to male ones. Stories have the power to influence our understanding of the world around us and when we can virtually embody the lives and experiences of people different from ourselves it opens up greater possibilities for empathy and understanding.

Here’s a bit of info on how we came up with our data:

We counted only those upcoming games which were given full trailers, announcements, or demonstrations on stage, so games that only appear briefly in montages or sizzle reels are not included. Games in which you lead a party made up of male and female characters but which center squarely on a male character, such as Final Fantasy VII, are counted as male-led games (because it’s Cloud’s story). Additionally, we are well aware that Yoshi’s gender has been discussed and debated, but Nintendo uses male pronouns when referring to Yoshi, so for our purposes here, Yoshi’s Woolly World (which looks delightful!) is classified as a male-led game.

Survey on Combat

Of the 76 games counted, only 18 are nonviolent, or at least appear as if they might not have mechanics involving combat or violence. That is only 24%, meaning roughly 3 out of every 4 titles announced or showcased at E3 2015 employ combat mechanics. By this, we mean that the player is either required to or can choose to engage in violence as a means of conflict resolution, not simply that violence exists within the world of the game.

That 24% includes 5 sports games, 3 racing games, 2 separate Animal Crossing games and a mobile game about the Minions from the Despicable Me movie franchise, among others. If we exclude sports and racing games the percentage of titles without combat drops to only 15%.

FemFreq_e3Infographics_Combat

In compiling data on whether or not a game’s mechanics incorporate violence or combat, we aren’t making a value judgment, or saying that the cartoonish sword-swinging of The Legend of Zelda is no different from the gratuitous chainsaw kills in DOOM. The numbers by themselves can’t paint a complete picture. Rather, these numbers are presented here only to demonstrate how prevalent violence as a mechanic is in all sorts of games, because it is worth considering how, in relying so heavily on violence as a core component of game design, developers and publishers are not exploring opportunities to tell other kinds of stories and create other kinds of games. When game narratives consistently take place in inescapably hostile antagonistic environments, it severely limits the kinds of stories that can be told.

The medium has near-limitless potential, and in indie games like Tacoma, Firewatch and Beyond Eyes, we get a glimpse of what’s possible when games approach human experience through a lens of empathy rather than one of violence. Games have only begun to scratch the surface of what can be done, the stories that can be told and the experiences that can be illuminated when combat isn’t employed as a lynchpin of game design. Fully realizing this potential requires that game creators continue exploring the possibilities, investing in innovative mechanics and storytelling techniques to push the medium forward.

Jade – Beyond Good & Evil

May 11, 2015

This episode of our series on Positive Female Characters focuses on Jade, the protagonist of Ubisoft’s 2003 action-adventure game Beyond Good & Evil. We examine how plot elements, gameplay mechanics and smart dialogue work together to make Jade a relatable protagonist who is defined by her professional talents, her altruistic convictions, and her bonds with friends.

Video still for Media Use is available on the Feminist Frequency Flickr Page

Transcript below the cut.

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Women in the World Online Harassment Panel

April 28, 2015

Watch video of our online harassment panel at Women in the World moderated by Katie Couric. l spoke about my experiences being targeted by a cyber mob along with co-panelists Ashley Judd, Kamala Harris, and  Emily Bazelon.

2015’s TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World

April 16, 2015

Anita Sarkeesian TIME 100

TIME magazine has named Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian to the 2015 TIME 100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

“I appreciate the honor of being included in the TIME 100. It’s gratifying to see Feminist Frequency’s educational media criticism work recognized in this way,” Sarkeesian said of the distinction. “I’m encouraged that our video series on the portrayal of women in video games is starting to have a tangible impact on the gaming industry at large. This honor also highlights the importance of cultural and media criticism in promoting gender equity.”

Feminist Frequency is a not-for-profit, educational organization providing comprehensive analyses of modern media from a critical perspective on societal issues such as race, gender, and sexuality. Creating publicly available and ad-free videos, Feminist Frequency encourages viewers to critically engage with mass media and provides resources for media makers to improve their works of fiction.

The full list and related tributes appear in the April 27 issue of TIME, available on newsstands and tablets on Friday, April 17, and now at time.com/time100.

For high resolution photos of Anita Sarkeesian see: https://www.flickr.com/photos/femfreq

The Scythian – Sword & Sworcery

March 31, 2015

In the debut episode of our series on Positive Female Characters, we celebrate the Scythian, the protagonist of Capybara Games’ 2011 release Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. This episode examines how Sword & Sworcery employs widely recognizable action adventure game tropes to make the Scythian’s quest feel like the stuff of video game legend, and how in doing so, it asserts that women can fill the role of the mythic hero as effectively as men can.

For more information on the game visit their website: http://www.swordandsworcery.com/

Full transcript below.

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‘How to be a Feminist’ Panel at All About Women

March 24, 2015

I was invited to speak on several panels about feminism and the impacts of online harassment at the 2015 All About Women conference taking place annually at the Sydney Opera House. Here is a video excerpt of my short opening speech on the panel, “How to be a feminist”.

The full panel with Clementine Ford, Roxane Gay, Germaine Greer, Celeste Liddle, and Tara Moss is available here.

You can also see my speech on the “What I Couldn’t Say” panel.

Full transcript below.

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‘What I Couldn’t Say’ Panel at All About Women

March 21, 2015

I was invited to speak on several panels about feminism and the impacts of online harassment at the 2015 All About Women conference taking place annually at the Sydney Opera House. Here is a video of my speech for the panel entitled, “What I Couldn’t Say.”

Full transcript below.

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One Week of Harassment on Twitter

January 27, 2015

Ever since I began my Tropes vs Women in Video Games project, two and a half years ago, I’ve been harassed on a daily basis by irate gamers angry at my critiques of sexism in video games. It can sometimes be difficult to effectively communicate just how bad this sustained intimidation campaign really is. So I’ve taken the liberty of collecting a week’s worth of hateful messages sent to me on Twitter. The following tweets were directed at my @femfreq account between 1/20/15 and 1/26/15.

Content warning for misogyny, gendered insults, victim blaming, incitement to suicide, sexual violence, rape and death threats.

Tuesday, January, 20th

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Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

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Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

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Friday January 23rd, 2015

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Saturday, January 24th, 2015

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Sunday, January 25th

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Monday, January 26th

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Feminist Frequency’s 2014 Annual Report

January 23, 2015

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The Feminist Frequency team is proud to present our inaugural annual report. The Feminist Frequency 2014 Annual Report features our new mission statement, statement of purpose, media highlights from the year, our social media data summary, along with our audited financial status and plans for the remainder of 2015.

This was a tumultuous year for the games industry as a whole and a challenging year for all of us at Feminist Frequency. We believe that this report underscores the obstacles we faced and highlights all that we’ve accomplished in 2014.

Download the Feminist Frequency 2014 Annual Report [PDF].

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