The refrigerated damsel in distress that needs euthanizing

24 Jun

Play video games? Or know people who do?

Find 25 mins to watch this analysis of female tropes in video games: http://www.feministfrequency.com/.

I appreciate that media critic Anita Sarkeesian frames her analysis as a “yes, and…” Namely, that yes, you can enjoy video games and think critically about the beliefs, attitudes and values that permeate those games. Not that it’s always easy: as someone who started online multiplayer gaming just this year, I’ll say that sometimes it’s frustrating, overwhelming and more than a bit angering to deal with the misogyny, homophobia and racism (not to mention classism) that are both already embedded in the games and imported by other players. More on that in a later post, and back to Feminist Frequency…

Sarkeesian firmly dismisses the notion that video games are “just games,” which is obvious in multiplayer games (in which you have very human interactions with other players, even if you’re “just” avatars) and adventure games (whose action is inevitably packaged in stock, and often problematic, hero’s quest narratives). Yet, the “just a game” protest rises every time there is social critique about the sexist, racist, homophobic and classist tropes which overrun the video gaming galaxy.

Still, this weak defense may have met its match in Sarkeesian’s argument that these games have “the potential to be a brilliant medium for people of all genders to explore difficult or painful subjects.” Absolutely! Video games that are propelled forward by figurative conflict and death are ready-made places where players can explore who we can be and what skills can be useful to us in confronting actual conflict and death. For most gamers, unrestrained violence and carnage are not real life options when we lose a loved one, so our game experience remains fantasy. But Sarkeesian envisions a gaming universe in which our avatars might win points and finish quests by practicing compassion, expressing sorrow, taking time to heal and accepting support and comfort from others. As she sees it, the problem in video games isn’t that female characters die; the problem and opportunity are how death and coping are represented.

And no, I don’t hear her arguing that we have to ban or give up fighting and killing in games (although some people would like to see that happen). Once again, hers is a “yes, and…” perspective: we can indulge in the fantasy, think critically about the media we’re consuming, and leverage the technology and tools we have to grow as human beings. All at the same time.

** Thanks to my colleague LM for the link.

One Response to “The refrigerated damsel in distress that needs euthanizing”

  1. iCheckOther June 24, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    Yes, and!

    Multi-playergames, eh? I think you would much appreciate a book I picked up this year as an ‘ok, fine i’ll buy something at the airport’ read: It’s called “Ready Player One” and imagines a future world in which everything is done through a virtual gaming system… with mostly fun, but also critical reflection on society, gaming, virtual worlds, and the ways people can create new identities in them and take on other identity tropes that come automatically with more social power, for example. I won’t say more and spoil it! Also, it’s an ode to the 80s and arcade games.

    Thanks for posting! Laura

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