The 16th and final episode of Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games has been posted by media site Feminist Frequency. “The Lady Sidekick” examines how many games use women as hands-off companions and NPCs who need protecting. Hello BioShock Infinite!
The video notes that there’s nothing wrong with supporting characters. But many games code women as needing aid or acting as door-opening tools, while male characters get to play the actual game. Like previous videos, we’re given examples of a few games that subvert this trope, such as The Last of Us: Left Behind and the later Gears of War titles.
Feminist media critic Anita Sarkessian has practically become a household name among the gamer crowd for her divisive Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games YouTube series. Her website Feminist Frequency has been operating since 2009, and looks critically at the treatment of women in media. In 2012 she started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new video series analyzing women in gaming. The first video for Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games released in 2013, and her life has never been the same.
“After five long years, Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games is over,” writes Sarkessian in a blog post. “This is one of the most emotionally complicated projects I’ve ever created. It has been simultaneously awful and wonderful, and the journey is one which I will most certainly never forget.”
In a detailed post, Sarkeesian reveals the emotional ups and downs of exploring video games with a critical lens, which led to rampant harassment from the dark corners of the gaming community. “In an effort to instill fear in me and in any woman who might dare to speak out against sexism in gaming, [cybermobs] flooded all my social media channels with vile harassment, made slanderous, racist, and pornographic edits to my Wikipedia page, posted private information about me online, made death threats against me and members of my family, and threatened events I was speaking at.” She notes that while the amount of harassment varies over time, “it has never ceased.”
The original scope of the video series was much more modest: five episodes of about 10 minutes in length each. But due to the amount of money and support she received from the more open-minded side of gaming, she released 16 episodes over two seasons in the last four years. “These videos far exceeded what I had originally planned,” writes Sarkeesian. “After covering just four tropes, we had already produced three hours and forty minutes of feminist criticism goodness.”
In total, nearly five hours of video content are now available. While you’re certainly not forced to agree with some or even any of it, they represent an important springboard for discussing and analyzing gaming in the hopes to improve games for everyone. Sarkeesian notes: “There are conversations happening now, among players and among creators, that weren’t happening before, about who games are for (everyone!), about what impact they can have, what they can tell us about humanity, empathy, race, gender, sexuality, the world we live in, and the world we want to create for ourselves. I can’t thank you enough.”