Help Fund Tropes vs Women in Video Games

May 18, 2012

NOTE: The Kickstarter campaign has ended. Thank you everyone for all your support!
See the final results here.

Earlier this year, I was invited to speak about developing female characters in video games at the BUNGiE offices in Bellevue, WA (you probably know BUNGiE as the developers of the Halo series). It was a great experience engaging with creators and developers in the gaming industry so I decided it’s time to dedicate an entire series to female characters in video games.

Because last year’s Tropes vs Women series was so successful, I’m bringing it back with Tropes vs Women in Video Games… And this is where you come in! I’m gonna need your help to make this new series come to life. Check out my Kickstarter Project – Tropes vs Women in Video Games and please donate any amount you can!

UPDATE: Wow! I’m honored and excited by all the positive feedback and support. Thank you all so much! First, we reached our initial funding goal in less than 24 hours! Next, we achieved our first set of stretch goals in under 1 week! Now we have met our second set of expanded goals in just 2 weeks!

Latest News: OMG! 1000 backers! (oh and about all that harassment stuff)

Kickstarter doesn’t have the means to include subtitles on their videos so I’ve included a full transcript here

Have you ever noticed that, with a few notable exceptions, basically all female characters in video games fall into a small handful of clichés and stereotypes? I’m Anita Sarkeesian and I run the video web series Feminist Frequency. As a pop culture critic I look at movies, TV shows, comic books, and of course video games. In addition to being loads of fun to play, research has found that gaming can improve problem solving skills, teamwork, creative thought and multi tasking; and improve hand eye coordination and enhance perceptual and cognitive abilities.

Unfortunately in addition to all of these benefits, many games tend to reinforce and amplify sexist and downright misogynist ideas about women. In this particular project, which I’m calling Tropes vs. Women and Video Games, I’m going to create a series of five videos that look at and deconstruct the most common and the most stereotypical representations of women in games.

Video games are an integral and growing part of our pop culture today and as with all pop culture media the gaming industry is playing a role in helping to shape our society, either by challenging or more often reinforcing existing values beliefs and behaviors. This new video series will primarily focus on tracking five stereotypical representations of women throughout the history of video games. I’m going to look at the damsel in distress, the fighting f- toy, the sexy sidekick, the sexy villainess, and the most common trope in video games women as background decoration.

Last year I released a successful video called Tropes vs. Women where I looked at the reoccurring patterns of the way women are portrayed on the media.

“A trope is a common pattern in a story, or a recognizable attribute in a character that conveys information to the audience. A trope becomes a cliché when it is overused.”

Some of the tropes I looked at were the manic pixie dream girl, the smurfette principal, and women in refrigerators. Those last two are extremely common in video games as well

“You’ve probably guessed by now that this trope was named after the only female smurf in all of smurfville”“but one day the evil wizard Gargamel decided on a devilish plan to sabotage smurfdom and how will he do that yes that’s right by creating a female smurf.”
“That’s it! I’ll get them through their hearts; I will send them a smurfette”

What I try to do in my videos in give people the language to understand and talk about issues of gender and sexism using accessible examples from popular culture. Feminist Frequency videos have been used in middle school, high school, and university classrooms. They have been integrated into the curriculum of media studies gender studies and law school programs. Parents have even reached out to me saying that they used my videos to spark discussions with their kids about representations of women in the media.


“So what happens when something in Heartlake city catches on fire? I guess you’d have to call the boys to put it out. Similarly, what happens in someone in Lego city gets hungry? I guess you’d have to call the girls to bake them something”

Each video in this new series will be between ten and twenty minutes long with well researched, indepth analysis. As with all Feminist Frequency videos these will be available online for free for everyone and anyone to watch share and use.In each video I’ll also be sure to showcase some inventive and interesting games that manage to avoid these harmful tropes.

As you might imagine, this project requires and enormous amount of research. Because I’m not just looking at a handful on games, or just the worst offenders, but at hundreds of games and at hundreds of different characters across all genres. This is an incredibly ambitious project because of the scope and scale of the research and production involved, so please donate any amount you can to bring this series to life. Thank You for watching this video and for supporting my work. You can follow me on twitter at @FemFreq, and you can check out examples of my previous videos at

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