#1 Posted by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -

This week, Anita Sarkeesian released her latest Tropes VS Women video.

You can watch it below or go play a videogame instead:

This video was first highlighted by another user, and in that original thread, the user @sergio brought up an interesting topic that I will talk about more in a moment. In my opinion, it seems to go well with the new Tropes VS Women video, which discusses the potential problems when many female characters are not designed or treated as individuals.

This is an understandable issue within videogames where virtual characters are often treated as toys more than representatives for real people, but as we continue to evolve our emotional investment in many virtual characters, the ramifications of this become murkier. And it speaks to larger issues regarding the basic respect we show(or do not show) to fellow human beings. Online, it is especially common to treat this cold text just as you might a virtual character, but I am in fact a real person behind these words.

So, how we interact with one another, particularly when our differences become more apparent, is important. The basic respect we desire for ourselves and others desire for themselves is at the heart of both the video series and our discussion around it.

---

I initially responded to the video with a purposefully nondescript response regarding difference of opinion, and Sergio replied as such:

@sergio:

@truthtellah said:

Another interesting topic from a different perspective from my own.

I can respect her opinion and efforts to share that opinion despite some of our differences on the subject.

I haven't watched it yet, but I always wonder about people saying they respect another person's opinion if they disagree with it or consider it wrong. It's like saying you respect a person's opinion that climate change isn't real or that puppies aren't cute. I don't respect those opinions.

Now, awesome duder reading this thread, I can say for certain that you and I do not agree on everything. Maybe on many things, but not all things. Would that be fair to say?

But I can respect that you are an individual who may be different from myself. So, naturally you'll have a different perspective on many things. That's just the reality of each of us being unique, and while I may not always agree, I can try to respectfully understand where you're coming from. Then, if we want to have a discussion, I can show respect to your opinion by discussing it and not just laughing in your face or attacking you personally.

I assume you are not intentionally ill-informed or being hateful; so, with that in mind, I try to engage with you as a fellow individual. That's showing you the most basic level of respect.

I may not always agree with Anita Sarkeesian or even appreciate the manner in which she expresses those opinions, but I do not believe she is acting out of some ill will toward me. She may be mistaken, but she isn't out to get me. So, I can respect that she holds a different perspective than I do and feels it natural to share her opinions. I do the same from my own perspective, and I would hope others might respectfully disagree if they believed I was mistaken. I can assure you that I am probably mistaken on some things. And in the event that you or anyone else sees such error, I hope you will show some courtesy and perhaps even kindness when addressing it.

Being different does not mean being bad. And no matter what flaws I may see in Sarkeesian's videos, I can't fault her for wanting to share what she believes. I can listen to her and then perhaps decide to not listen to her further. As others have said many times here, perhaps stop watching her videos if you don't like them and stop bringing her up if she bugs you.

Fortunately, though, I don't personally dislike her videos so much that I am averse to watching them. If anything, listening to a different perspective is potentially helpful in better understanding the many who do share similar opinions as she does. I believe there are others who explain these perspectives better than she does, but really, they're Youtube videos. For a rudimentary glance at the issues, they're serviceable and worthwhile.

As much as many people may believe the topic of gender and racial representation within games is a "fad" that will go away, I believe they are sadly mistaken. Many gamers do care about the topic, and even if we don't all agree with one of the biggest public faces for the discussion, it doesn't mean we won't keep bringing it up. It's something that matters to many of us, and the time when gamers were quieter about it is passing away.

In the coming years, I'm sure we will see even more discussion and disagreement on social issues within gaming, and it is my sincere hope that more gamers will see the need for showing some respect to one another in our discussion. Otherwise, many will likely find themselves left out simply because they couldn't at least try to understand and respect other's differences. Giant Bomb has rules specifically around this, deterring people from "being a jerk"(even to non-members) or poisoning the well with threads that start with little chance for decent discussion.

Basic respect is something we hope others will show us when we express ourselves, and it's only natural for us to show it to others, as well. That exchange will rarely be perfectly respectful, but we can do our best. We have come together on this forum specifically out of a desire for such a forum of discussion.

If we care enough about something to want to discuss it, we should pursue discussing it well.

With that in mind, I hope you will check out the video and share your thoughts like the cool and respectful people you are.

#2 Edited by MooseyMcMan (11406 posts) -

I still think she was being a bit harsh in the video. Also, I concur with you about respect and whatnot. I don't really have anything to add, but I wanted to say good bit of writing there.

#3 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

This feels like neutering discussion by setting a low bar.

#4 Edited by Demoskinos (15162 posts) -

Its not even what Anita says that makes me not respect her its the fact that she is a con artist. But on the basic topic of respect I default to showing everyone a basic level of respect until you prove to me that you don't deserve it anymore.

#5 Posted by Aetheldod (3735 posts) -

I still wont see one of her videos ... and you you speak of is tolerance , because respect is earned and not given , but as you say that does not mean I should be a jerk and insult and be a jackass to others. And it is a fad at least in the way it is happening which I think it is more poisonous and wrong. The change was being natural and not over confrontational and now you can even see the hypocrasy of gaming journalist who always dissmissed other gamers (or whatever you whsh to call em) as entitled a whith what happened with the whole Mass Effect 3 , and now they are all about supporting other groups of gamers. But still the one thing that do needs to change is people being trolls and/or jerk insulting and dead threatening and all that crap online , that shit needs to stop.

#6 Posted by MooseyMcMan (11406 posts) -

@demoskinos: I dunno man, I feel like true con artists go after more profitable targets than this.

#7 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Its not even what Anita says that makes me not respect her its the fact that she is a con artist.

Or do you call her a con artist because you don't respect her?

#8 Posted by conmulligan (769 posts) -
#9 Edited by Vuud (2035 posts) -

Video games are the Devil.

Didn't she get like a whole shitload of money from a kickstarter? I was expecting better production than this. It's just her in front of a camera.

#10 Posted by Humanity (10115 posts) -

I enjoy listening to new and interesting perspectives as much as the next intellectual but when said perspective is warped and stretched so thin you'd barely recognize it as a perspective I tend to walk right on by.

#11 Posted by Demoskinos (15162 posts) -

@mooseymcman: Well then i guess substitute the word con artist for unprofessional if you want. She's been caught stealing people's artwork, footage ect. Being so directionless in her videos that she frequently consults her kickstarter backers for advice. People paid money for her to make these videos and its been forever. There are dozens of single man teams on Youtube who put out way more content that is at least the quality or above what anita does and do it on a WEEKLY basis.

#12 Edited by Random45 (1284 posts) -

Alright, I actually watched the video this time, and I'm actually surprised that I agree with her on some level. She doesn't come across as accusatory in this one, which I really appreciate. That being said, I do disagree with some things - for one thing she doesn't seem to acknowledge that in some games the objectification of women is a way to build the world and show how shitty it is - The Witcher 1&2 for instance, that world is terrible and prostitutes being out on the streets trying to make a living is just an extension to show how horrible it is. In that game, women - outside of the sorceresses - usually don't have a role outside of either being a prostitute or a wife, and the game shows it, not hiding anything. Furthermore, some of the games she shows don't use objectifying women as a titillating tool, but more as a tool to show you how fucked up it is.

I do find it kind of questionable how a lot of mature games feel the need to add brothels into the game. Metro: Last Light, as good as the game was, was really brought down by the objectification of women I felt. That entire sex scene just felt freaking awkward, and I just wanted it to end. Hell, that is how I feel about MOST sex scenes in games, no one can really do it right.

I also agree that the racist sex object stuff did make my cringe though. I love Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but watching that clip with the woman talking in a broken English accent was just a bit off putting.

Edit: As someone says a bit after me, the second half of the video completely falls apart. She actually had a good presentation and arguments for the first half, but god damn, that second half is just painful to sit through. It's like she doesn't realize that you can do that to EVERYONE in the games.

#13 Posted by MooseyMcMan (11406 posts) -

@demoskinos: Okay, that's better. I didn't want you besmirching the good name of the many con artists out there.

#14 Posted by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -

This feels like neutering discussion by setting a low bar.

I think basic respect is more powerful than you may give it credit for. As I noted, I think it's actually a root issue for her video series, as well. The ramifications of basic respect and tolerance are large.

Of course, I would add that good discussion has an additional level of courtesy and at times mercy, but when talking about social issues in the gaming community at the moment, I think even discussing basic respect is a reasonable bar. From that core idea comes quite a bit.

And if we carry that over into thinking about the treatment of videogame characters, basic respect is a -huge- proposition.

#15 Posted by RazielCuts (2987 posts) -

Again my main gripe with Anita is the context and cherry picking that goes on to support her already pre conceived thesis. There's no investigatory nature here, it's 'this happens, it means this.' without any context to explain why these things may've been included or happening in the game.

I was with her (to a point) against the need for the umpteenth strip club locale or prostitution den in an open world but then her examples for the destructibility and violence against women were just terrible and exploitative. In open world games like the ones she cites you can inflict violence on anyone but she goes on to only show quick cuts where this happens to women, the player being rewarded for these acts against women with money falling out. The NPC's only cower and run away because they're women. Then goes on to say that when the body of a deceased NPC woman disappears its because she's a woman, adding to 'their status as disposable objects.' when this is in fact misinformation and as far as I'm aware happens to most objects with death/respawn timers attached to them so you're not clogging up memory. Anita has gone in here with a bias, sees a thing happening and puts events together to back up her pre conceived notion to why these events must be happening. It's bad research and conclusion making.

She deliberately deceives the viewer here and is picking and choosing what she shows for effect, as if these traits are definitively aimed at women when they're not. These are the natures of NPC's in open worlds, they're just there to chirp a few lines of dialogue and populate the world, not be fully interactable. If Anita wants to have a conversation about the disposability of NPC's in general in games I'll have that conversation but not when the perspective is as slanted as this.

I do wonder the people who will see this video without any gaming knowledge and will take everything at face value, it's actually quite damaging. As I said I was interested for the first 15 or so minutes but the second half of this just took a nose dive and reads like an intentionally misleading propaganda piece

#16 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1606 posts) -

I agree with you in broad strokes, though I tend to think that calls for civility and respect and how we respond to such calls from others tends to be tied to our biases. Everyone rallies behind someone like Jim Sterling when he dramatically misrepresents an issue (and generally acts like a jerk) as long as he's confirming our pre-existing biases, but critical responses to "A Game by Any Other Name" held the author to a much higher standard and took him to task for relatively subtle (by games writing standards) logical and rhetorical issues. Many high-profile people dismissed him outright for his tone or phrasing. I've obviously cherry picked the two examples and those responding to each might be completely discrete groups -- I'm just trying to point out that calls for civility, or the lack thereof, can often be a product of confirmation bias.

In the case of Sarkeesian, I think the elephant in the room is how little respect she seems to afford others who disagree with her or enjoy the games she in some cases openly despises. There's a lot of loaded language like "misogyny", "male power fantasy", "juvenile", "adolescent", etc. There's a lot of snark, and a lot of language and tone that basically says "the people who developed these games are pigs." Maybe some of that language and tone is justifiable in light of what she's criticizing, but she lays in on so thick that I find it difficult to watch her videos and feel like she's acting in good faith. I know that she's said it's possible to like criticized games and acknowledge their flaws, but do you really thinks she respects the fans or developers of Bayonetta, which she called a "choose your own patriarchal adventure porno fantasy"? I don't.

I've watched enough of the Sarkeesian's videos to figure out that, at least from my perspective, she's not a good critic. I'm open to some of the broad strokes of her arguments, but I found her tone grating, her approach disingenuous-feeling, and her research poor. She's gotten very basic facts about games completely wrong, usually in the way one would if they were inclined to jump to the worst possible conclusions. I don't think criticism that demonizes is very productive, and I certainly don't find it expands my perspective. In all honesty, I think hyperbolic criticism actually narrows my perspective, because it ends up appealing to my weaker tendencies toward indignation, resentment, and anger.

#17 Posted by punkxblaze (2990 posts) -

This isn't really contributing anything, but my honest first reaction to this topic was a sort of perplexed "These are still a thing? Huh".

#18 Posted by conmulligan (769 posts) -

@random45 said:

Alright, I actually watched the video this time, and I'm actually surprised that I agree with her on some level. She doesn't come across as accusatory in this one, which I really appreciate. That being said, I do disagree with some things - for one thing she doesn't seem to acknowledge that in some games the objectification of women is a way to build the world and show how shitty it is - The Witcher 1&2 for instance, that world is terrible and prostitutes being out on the streets trying to make a living is just an extension to show how horrible it is. In that game, women - outside of the sorceresses - usually don't have a role outside of either being a prostitute or a wife, and the game shows it, not hiding anything. Furthermore, some of the games she shows don't use objectifying women as a titillating tool, but more as a tool to show you how fucked up it is.

This was the whole premise of the video — that women are habitually used to contextualise and flavour a game's world without being interesting characters in and of themselves.

#19 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

The ramifications of basic respect and tolerance are large.

That doesn't exactly make them good, though. The situation I'm fearful of would be this one, where we really can't do much of anything for fear of disrespecting another person. What if one were to encounter a view that we find dangerous and morally reprehensible, espoused by a person with the authority to make that view reality? Should we respect and tolerate such a view? Respecting the person is a given, but the view? Aw, hell no. Modern rhetoric could do well to have more respect, but it could also do well to know just what you're arguing against. Or something like that.

#20 Edited by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -
@random45 said:

Alright, I actually watched the video this time, and I'm actually surprised that I agree with her on some level. She doesn't come across as accusatory in this one, which I really appreciate. That being said, I do disagree with some things - for one thing she doesn't seem to acknowledge that in some games the objectification of women is a way to build the world and show how shitty it is - The Witcher 1&2 for instance, that world is terrible and prostitutes being out on the streets trying to make a living is just an extension to show how horrible it is. In that game, women - outside of the sorceresses - usually don't have a role outside of either being a prostitute or a wife, and the game shows it, not hiding anything. Furthermore, some of the games she shows don't use objectifying women as a titillating tool, but more as a tool to show you how fucked up it is.

I do find it kind of questionable how a lot of mature games feel the need to add brothels into the game. Metro: Last Light, as good as the game was, was really brought down by the objectification of women I felt. That entire sex scene just felt freaking awkward, and I just wanted it to end. Hell, that is how I feel about MOST sex scenes in games, no one can really do it right.

I also agree that the racist sex object stuff did make my cringe though. I love Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but watching that clip with the woman talking in a broken English accent was just a bit off putting.

I think that's a fair critique of how she may not cover the topic as thoroughly as it deserves. As you said, there are some genuine issues regarding objectification of women and racial representation dragging down some games. Though, she doesn't perhaps present how objectification in a setting can serve the larger narrative, and that leaves things a bit unclear about how to handle such topics well without it becoming detrimental.

To be fair, her series -is- "Tropes VS Women" and not "Tropes AND Women"; so, it's clear in its intent to primarily focus on the negative aspects of such recurring themes. And as Youtube videos, they're really only going to cover so much. Having had her bring up the issue of poorly-handled objectification, we can perhaps on our own use this as an opportunity to discuss such well-done examples and why we feel they worked when others do not.

Personally, I think the mistreatment of women was used well in the RPG Xenogears, as it helped reinforce the prejudices of the world, and that in turn critiqued the prejudice throughout history within the Catholic Church and imperial powers that were referenced in the game. The subjugation of the "primitive" has often been used as a way to hurt women, and that continues in modern concepts of women being talked about as "being crazy" or "too emotional" when they are really just different.

#21 Edited by DorkyMohr (184 posts) -

@razielcuts: I agree that there's a lot of examples from open world games where yeah, any NPC can be affected by the player, women just happen to be among those NPCs. However, the point I think that's being made is why are these elements thought of as inherent and important parts of open world games. Grand Theft Auto arguably defined the genre, and it's objective was to be a game about criminal activity. When you extrapolate that into games where you're not inherently an evil person but instead a good guy, the ability to mow down civilians and not suffer real consequences becomes less important and yet it's in the game all the same.

The one thing that I thought was glossed over in the video was the use of prostitution in Grand Theft Auto V, and how it was for the first time in the series, used for characterization of one of the main characters. Didn't think it was fair to just point out that yes, "have sex with a hooker, then kill the hooker" is still in the game, when there's more going on than that.

#22 Edited by DeadpanCakes (1065 posts) -

I still haven't watched the video and I don't think I intend to (so, maybe I've damned myself from the discussion already), but I just can't bring myself to watch another one of these videos. Not because I disagree with them or dislike the idea behind them or anything; I'd imagine probably more of the target audience than most people who watch the things. I think it's because I view this series to be more of an internet-related thing now, more than a series to do with games or women or something I care about. And the shittiest part is I don't think it's the fault of gamers or feminists or anyone respectable and respectful that I feel this way.

My initial response when the first video dropped was one of interest. I wanted to actually discuss the subject, my criticisms of the work, and anything I felt was worth elaborating on. Unfortunately, the initial wave of discussion was dominated by people who care less about identifying issues and working them out, and more about pissing people off. It painted an unfortunate picture of everybody involved, and it's disappointing that that first impression is still so entrenched into my mind. I'm sure that better discussions than the ones I witnessed have occurred, but (as sad as it is) I just personally feel like it isn't worth delving into the videos and attempting to have a proper discussion. I probably honestly wouldn't have even clicked on this thread if it didn't entail "the importance of respect" like the other one.

I sincerely hope (and believe) that somebody is finding something meaningful and positive and productive in all this, because there does seem like a lot to learn here. I am afraid I'm only human, so sometimes I can only see the worst in things and the best I can do is respectfully resign myself from the topic, though I hope this doesn't always have to be the case.

#23 Edited by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -
@video_game_king said:

@truthtellah said:

The ramifications of basic respect and tolerance are large.

That doesn't exactly make them good, though. The situation I'm fearful of would be this one, where we really can't do much of anything for fear of disrespecting another person. What if one were to encounter a view that we find dangerous and morally reprehensible, espoused by a person with the authority to make that view reality? Should we respect and tolerate such a view? Respecting the person is a given, but the view? Aw, hell no. Modern rhetoric could do well to have more respect, but it could also do well to know just what you're arguing against. Or something like that.

That's why basic respect is just a foundation. I attempt to be respectful, but I don't think you would say I haven't ever shared my opinion here, would you? It's natural to fear extremes, and that's why striking a balance in ourselves and in our interactions with others is so important. As many people will attest to, it's a big part of being an adult. We live in this country and world together with a lot of different people, and we have to find a balance wherein we can still work together while representing our individual viewpoints.

A big part of disagreements is not just understanding why you believe what you do but why the other person believes what they do. We may not perfectly understand others, but we can at least make an attempt to do so. And even in that understanding, we can strongly disagree. For example, I may understand why you believe something that is detrimental to women, but I can still forcefully present my argument why your position is detrimental to women. Basic respect does not mean submission.

I know you are concerned about things potentially being taken too far, but in this case, I believe we can find a reasonable balance in how we respectfully disagree with one another.

#24 Posted by TheHumanDove (2523 posts) -

You can't have a discussion about her, because criticism is met with labels like 'sexist' and 'chauvinist', or being called out as a woman hating nerd that doesn't care about women's issues. It's all incredibly one sided, especially on this forum, so it's pointless to even discuss at this point.

#25 Posted by CornBREDX (6044 posts) -

I can no longer watch these as she has devolved into a very petty degree of self indulgence and has no actual critique or observation to the industry. If she actually looked at things from all angles then I'd think these have some form of relevance but as it has stood for the ones I watched she just constantly adds issues that aren't in her examples and makes up problems with characters where there isn't one.

It's a matter of opinion at that point so I can no longer stand to watch her stuff. I'm sure it's great, though. Real world changing stuff.

@deadpancakes: I don't think the negativity at large has devolved the discussion so much as the lack of respect and in depth analysis the topic deserves, but Anita does not give to it.

Other than that, though, well said. I am in complete agreement.

Online
#26 Edited by Turambar (6898 posts) -
@video_game_king said:

@truthtellah said:

The ramifications of basic respect and tolerance are large.

That doesn't exactly make them good, though. The situation I'm fearful of would be this one, where we really can't do much of anything for fear of disrespecting another person. What if one were to encounter a view that we find dangerous and morally reprehensible, espoused by a person with the authority to make that view reality? Should we respect and tolerate such a view? Respecting the person is a given, but the view? Aw, hell no. Modern rhetoric could do well to have more respect, but it could also do well to know just what you're arguing against. Or something like that.

Respect of a person and tolerance of his or her ideas are two vastly different things that I find most people to not actually conflate, but purposefully merge the two to make an easy target for crude retorts. Basically, assholes be assholes.

#27 Posted by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -

I agree with you in broad strokes, though I tend to think that calls for civility and respect and how we respond to such calls from others tends to be tied to our biases. Everyone rallies behind someone like Jim Sterling when he dramatically misrepresents an issue (and generally acts like a jerk) as long as he's confirming our pre-existing biases, but critical responses to "A Game by Any Other Name" held the author to a much higher standard and took him to task for relatively subtle (by games writing standards) logical and rhetorical issues. Many high-profile people dismissed him outright for his tone or phrasing. I've obviously cherry picked the two examples and those responding to each might be completely discrete groups -- I'm just trying to point out that calls for civility, or the lack thereof, can often be a product of confirmation bias.

I agree that confirmation bias is a huge issue, especially in an Internet age where it is easier than ever to get comfortable in echo chambers of people who only reinforce what you already believe.

How we define due civility and respect does differ. We all have our own feelings and preferences on how we desire to be treated. Yet, we can fortunately often come to mutual agreements on a basic level, and in joining a forum like this and agreeing to abide by its rules, we have acknowledged some level of agreement on the overall kind of interaction we want to have.

Double-standards are quite real, and we very often treat those we agree with rather differently from those we disagree with. I may give you more of a benefit of the doubt than someone else simply because I've seen enough comments from you to know you mean well. This is all true, and it's something we would be wise to recognize in ourselves and others. As I said, respectful discussion will likely never be perfect, but we can in good faith do our best out of genuine care for the subjects we want to discuss.

#28 Posted by joshwent (2353 posts) -

In the case of Sarkeesian, I think the elephant in the room is how little respect she seems to afford others who disagree with her or enjoy the games she in some cases openly despises. There's a lot of loaded language like "misogyny", "male power fantasy", "juvenile", "adolescent", etc. There's a lot of snark, and a lot of language and tone that basically says "the people who developed these games are pigs." Maybe some of that language and tone is justifiable in light of what she's criticizing, but she lays in on so thick that I find it difficult to watch her videos and feel like she's acting in good faith. I know that she's said it's possible to like criticized games and acknowledge their flaws, but do you really thinks she respects the fans or developers of Bayonetta, which she called a "choose your own patriarchal adventure porno fantasy"? I don't.

Perfectly said.

After watching her first few videos, what discouraged me the most weren't the ideas she was espousing (many of which I agree with), but the way she twists her 'examples' completely out of context to prove her points, and then uses such inflammatory language describing them that anyone who respectfully wishes to propose a counter argument is almost reduced to first admitting to being a misogynist in her terms.

These videos are not research, not history, they're distilled propaganda presented in the least supportable and most hyperbolic way. And it fucking kills me, because I strive to support characters with greater depth and representation in games. But Anita takes the growing and gradually more accepted movement of diversity in games, and weaponizes it. She takes crucial arguments and shoves them through a meat grinder of abstract generalizations and misleading clips. It's precisely what fuels ignorance, not what overcomes it.

Granted I haven't watched this video nor her last (mostly to avoid spoilers), and some others here have said that this installment is more acute with its examples, so I hope that the concerns I mentioned might be a thing of the past. But based on the harm done by the previous videos, I take solace in the fact that these issues are now widely written about by at least some folks who want to work for unified positive change in a concrete straightforward way, and I can avoid Anita entirely.

#29 Posted by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -

You can't have a discussion about her, because criticism is met with labels like 'sexist' and 'chauvinist', or being called out as a woman hating nerd that doesn't care about women's issues. It's all incredibly one sided, especially on this forum, so it's pointless to even discuss at this point.

It's true that it is especially challenging, and it's one of our weakest discussion topics as far as reasonable discussion goes. Yet, I know that I won't just write you off, and there are others like myself.

I know for a fact I disagree with you on certain things here, as I've seen you around the forum enough, but I am still talking to you out of an understanding that this is a forum for all of us. I do not believe you are intending to be hateful; I believe you may simply be mistaken. So, if you want to perhaps discuss that difference, we can. If not, you're certainly free to avoid the topic.

I imagine this thread will collapse eventually, but we've got to at least give it a chance. It isn't a topic that's going away any time soon, and I will continue to give it as best of a shot as I can.

#30 Edited by spraynardtatum (3715 posts) -

My main problem with her videos is that I feel she wants others to feel bad/repress natural human emotions. I don't think exploring sexuality or feeling arousal is something that we should be ashamed of but I do agree that most games are super immature about it. The main thing we should be finding offensive about the subject matter of this video is that it's not good enough. It's primitive. Video games don't dig deep enough yet and they haven't mastered the extreme complexity of attraction. Or the extreme complexity of how/why someone wants to be viewed as sexual or attractive.

People are sexual beings. It's built into us. We shouldn't be made to feel bad about that. It's a good video but also extremely accusatory. I hope she makes more and also tries to explore how having sexual female/sexual male/sexual transgender/sexual alien/sexual fake characters isn't what is bad. The part that is bad is where it isn't handled with artistic purpose or care. If a game is going to objectify women (or provide the player the ability to objectify women) than it should be more than just that. There needs to be more reality. Make it so you'll probably get denied. Maybe tone down the amount of prostitution in video games. I dunno. I just feel bad about being a white man right now and I can't imagine that's what she's going for.

#31 Edited by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -
@joshwent said:

Granted I haven't watched this video nor her last (mostly to avoid spoilers), and some others here have said that this installment is more acute with its examples, so I hope that the concerns I mentioned might be a thing of the past. But based on the harm done by the previous videos, I take solace in the fact that these issues are now widely written about by at least some folks who want to work for unified positive change in a concrete straightforward way, and I can avoid Anita entirely.

If you'd like to post some links from those folks who you like a bit more, I'm sure people might find them interesting or informative; I know I would. And we could maybe even discuss why you and others feel they better address the topic. :)

#32 Posted by Milkman (17329 posts) -

I haven't gotten a chance to watch the video yet but I just want to say thank you @truthtellah, your patience and understanding are at a zen-like level that I can barely comprehend. You da best. <3

#33 Edited by Corevi (5003 posts) -

@conmulligan said:

@demoskinos: Exactly how is she a con artist?

She took a ton of money from kickstarter and blew it on videogames as "research material". It's disgusting.

What the hell does Starhawk, Vanquish or Battlefield 3 have to do with female characters?

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#34 Posted by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -
@milkman said:

I haven't gotten a chance to watch the video yet but I just want to say thank you @truthtellah, your patience and understanding are at a zen-like level that I can barely comprehend. You da best. <3

I appreciate it, @milkman! I have plenty of faults when it comes to being patient or zen-like, but I do try my best to be understanding. Hopefully, regardless of my strong disagreement at times, people recognize that I am only speaking with them because I believe there is a chance for understanding between us. If I didn't believe that was a possibility, I would not utter another word. You are not just letters on a screen; you are people worth talking to.

#35 Edited by Mysterysheep (372 posts) -

Respecting someone's opinion can be different from respecting their perspective. While I respect the general intention of Anita Sarkeesian in trying to communicate issues surrounding women in games, I don't have to respect a specific opinion of hers regarding that subject if I think it's ill-conceived from the beginning.

The second half of the video that addresses violence towards female NPCs seems a good example of that. It's a pretty big stretch. She frames her entire argument in that segment as though the developers very deliberately planned to give players the option of abusing women. In games of this nature, typically all NPCs can be attacked with the ability to attack women being something that simply springs off of that system. As another person who plays games, I feel like she should be pretty well aware of this but she really pushes for that point in the video to a pretty ridiculous degree. I feel like her opinion isn't genuine there and that she created that false opinion purely for content reasons. I don't respect a falsified opinion.

As regards the earlier parts of the video, I think she made some good points, though. Some open-world games go into some unnecessary areas as regards interaction with sexualised characters. GTA tries to make fun of sleazier parts of America by incorporating gaudy strip-clubs, but to then create a mini-game around fondling strippers is kind of hypocritical. GTA has always kind of suffered from that double-standard problem as a series for a long time, though.

#36 Edited by Demokk (167 posts) -

@truthtellah: Thank you for posting this! I am so glad that there are some people out there who are actually listening to what she is trying to convey in her videos instead of instantly ignoring her and insulting her by labeling her with labels such as "video game hater" or "con artist". She could do a better job at it, but people that are dismissing her by focusing on what they don't like about her videos are entirely missing the point.

As someone who has enjoyed games all his life, and a game developer, I find her attempts at bringing these social issues to light really awesome, despite the shortcomings. Because that is exactly what people who dismiss her and insult her are ignoring, these issues are not video game issues only, these are problems that affect every single piece of media that comes from our society and for our society. Of course it is going to be extremely hard for most of us to accept this, as we have internalized all of it after being subject to it for all of our lives. Change is hard. Being open minded enough to embrace change is harder.

Yes, not all games are guilty of this, thankfully; but what people need to realize is that it is about reaching a balance and becoming aware of the issue. Games (or any of your favorite media) are not going to disappear because we take care of these issues, quite the contrary, it is expanding the boundaries of games and not falling into the same biases and pathetic traditions.

We have to realize that we are privileged, that very few people in the world are as lucky as we are. The least we could do is try to make it more balanced. It has never been a binary issue.

#37 Edited by TruthTellah (9475 posts) -

@corruptedevil said:

@conmulligan said:

@demoskinos: Exactly how is she a con artist?

She took a ton of money from kickstarter and blew it on videogames as "research material". It's disgusting.

What the hell does Starhawk or Red Alert 3 have to do with female characters?

She often gets criticized for not playing enough games ("She's not a real gamer!") and criticized for apparently buying too many with the money she was given. I don't know if she's genuinely used the money well or not, but I can say she seems in a rather damned if you do, damned if you don't position.

In my view, regardless of the videos' relative quality, backers are eventually getting their videos, and many of them seem to actually like them. I know one of my good friends who was a backer seems to adore the series; she links to them on Facebook every time a new one comes out. I'm sure some are unhappy with them though. So, *shrug* I don't think everyone will ever be completely appeased. All she can really do at this point is continue releasing the videos.

That aside, I hope people can focus on discussing the topic of the video and thread, as the topic of her legitimacy has already been chewed over by many people in the last couple years.

#38 Edited by Sydlanel (315 posts) -

So, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I've actually mostly agreed with her previous videos. I do find them overly general and vague, and somewhat cherry picking to prove a point, but particularly with the Damsel in distress, and the treatment women ( and in general any character deviating from the acceptable ideal norm ) I definitely agree with her that videogames can be quite shallow and follow very negative trends with some extremely simplistic justifications.

However, I connect this to the rather mediocre writing showed in most games. Games are still a very young medium, and a large area of the industry does tend to follow stereotypes, maybe for commercial reasons, ideological reasons, or simply because the creators haven't thought of any other alternative. We do come across potentially damaging clichès pretty often, and here is where I feel her intention isn't bad, her message and the idea of raising awareness of the reasoning behind the usage of tropes is definitely welcome.

And as someone who loves the medium so much, I do hope that devs embrace the potential of games beyond the most superficial approach.

However, on this topic, although I agree that a lot of games include needlessly sexualized characters and situations, I feel her analysis really stumbles, and ends up completely destroying whatever points she had made initially.

Lets level here, many M rated games include violence and overly sexualized women, because... that's mature, right? Well there's the same conflict pointed out before, that's just lousy writing. Sexual titillation and violence will often become juvenile and sophomoric if not treated with a certain tact. And as @random45 says, very few, if any developers have actually managed to approach sexuality without extreme awkwardness.

The problem runs also with the fixation of games to be really dark gritty hardcore! time and time again showing you the seedy underbelly of *insert city name here*. But well, that's not unlike what happens in movies, those topics are simply kind of interesting. They can approach themes that we don't normally deal with in our daily life, and they do portray extreme imaginative outputs. Still, no excuses. I'm often finding some weird creepy situations ( I too found that the hideout in saboteur was kinda unnecessary, and the groping minigame in GTA5 a bit too trashy), and it's not uncommon in games to have the "sexy mission operator" get some panty shots for no apparent reason. Yes, sure I disliked the treatment of prostitutes in Deus Ex HR (even if the actual quests surrounding them presented a lot more depth) and... RAPELAY exists... and that's pretty tough... so yes, videogames are sometimes guilty.

We could do better as an industry and as consumers, sure.... ( and we do, we definitely do ).

So accepting that there are many shortcomings, I have a really big issue with Anita's following implications.

First off, the definition of "character with no real story or personality that is supposed to be used by the player to progress or get some benefit" fits the description of most peripheral NPCs. In this case these characters are indeed DESIGNED to be scenery, they are not supposed to influence the main character story, and they simply exist to make the world feel more alive, add texture and variety, simulate reality, people on your life that exist but you never have any real interaction with. They have looping animations, limited dialogue, and often disappear if killed, and that responds to technical limitations more than sexism. The question of WHY do we focus certain kinds of characters for specific roles is a whole different issue.

She quotes several open world games for specifically benefiting or allowing the player to attack specifically female sexual workers. When most of those games tend to allow all actions to/with all npcs. In GTA4, all non story npcs are functionally basically identical. You can run over a prostitute, or a businessman, or a hot dog vendor, and get cash. Sure it can be brutal, but when a game like Fallout or GTA come along, we know that mechanically one of the focuses of the game design is to allow players to do WHATEVER they want with/to/how ever they want.

Is this fine? I don't know, that's yet another question, does the experience have significance for the game as a whole? Does it function in the context of the game? she never asks these, which I believe are the more important questions.

And that's the second main problem with her logic. She judges content outside of context. Someone can watch Monica Belucci's real time rape scene from the movie IRREVERSIBLE, and find it offensive and unacceptable; someone could even say it supports rape. But in the context of the movie, it is presented as a devastatingly horrible act, it is extremely uncomfortable and in fact it seeks to make the audience feel violated and hopeless. It speaks agains rape, but it shows rape. Likewise, out of context, South park humor is most definitely unacceptable. However, within it's shit hits the fan philosophy, it becomes often hilarious, and somewhat fair in it's own twisted logic. And that's also the case with something like, Game of Thrones, a lot of the most shocking moments are truly quite brutal, and they have a very significant effect on the audience, but it's not condoning or accepting, it's a dark adult show and it clearly makes sense within the world, and manages to handle the topics with sufficient grace to keep people thoroughly hooked.

Now, games rarely go as dark as IRREVERSIBLE, but I think we all agree that GTA is a pretty ruthless satire of the "american lifestyle". And Saint's row is beyond satire into full blown schizophrenic episode fever dream, closer to South Park, yet it still manages to have surprisingly interesting female characters, including a former prostitute turned Head of Federal Reserve. The Witcher has more than a few tonal similarities to Game of Thrones, and a lot of really grey morally questionable things happen ( particularly nuanced in the second game ). And I'd say that for the most part, these games own their message and tend to use whatever violence and sex they portray in a pretty meaningful way within their universe. Similarly, when Marsden hogties a woman to the train tracks, it is obviously a wink at old west nefarious villains, sure It's crude, but it's not void.

Here Anita goes full on fallacious, by showing shots from Hitman as if you had any benefit by perving on the women's changing room, or as if murdering prostitutes in Dishonoured, was a particular situation required or benefitial in any way to the player. By affirming that the unquestionably are designed with that purpose (I personally never even noticed that section in Hitman). She herself objectifies the scene.

I know it is a bit of a far cry, but when Picasso painted the ladies of Avignon, it was also considered disrespectful, distasteful and was very controversial in the art world. Yes Hitman is not Picasso, but if it portrays a "morally questionable" situation that is very much open to the interpretation and input of the viewer, shouldn't it also have a more grounded judgement?

And well she ends up by quoting studies about the correlation of the virtual observation violence against women and actual violence against women, which is basically the same tired debate about Videogames and violence. Sure, someone who gets off on hurting women will likely enjoy doing so in a virtual environment as well, but as we all know, correlation doesn't mean causation.

It's a real shame, because I actually thought her videos had a point. But this one made a straw man of the whole issue, tampered with the data, and ended up disappointing me profoundly.

Woops, sorry. infinite wall of text.

Also@truthtellah, good effort, I always try to reason without falling out of respect, assuming a smart and thoughtful conversation is possible is a good prejudice to have.

#39 Posted by Pezen (1670 posts) -

I was sort of with her up (in some aspects, mostly regarding general thematic designs) until the point where she completely tunnel visioned her way through the implications of limitations in game engine logic. I think my main issue with the videos I've seen is that she doesn't question herself or the analysis she brings up. It's very "a matter of fact" and that in itself leads me to believe she's not standing on as strong of an argument as she wishes to portray. I sort of wish she was better at that though, as I do think she brings up some good points here and there.

Also, @truthtellah, really enjoyed your piece here on respect and civility in discourse. I've always favored a reserved and respectful environment for discussion. I don't think it takes away claws in arguments, I think it gives people both a better understanding of each other's points and makes you reconsider how you're going to present your argument in the best way possible. I think people in general are too busy being right to consider another perspective, and god forbid finding a new viewpoint that changes what you think.

#40 Edited by conmulligan (769 posts) -
@corruptedevil said:

@conmulligan said:

@demoskinos: Exactly how is she a con artist?

She took a ton of money from kickstarter and blew it on videogames as "research material". It's disgusting.

What the hell does Starhawk, Vanquish or Battlefield 3 have to do with female characters?

C'mon, you cannot seriously take issue with her buying games for research. Of course that was going to be where part of the money went! She was completely upfront about that in the Kickstarter pitch:

I will be researching and playing hundreds of titles from across the gaming industry (including some truly awful games that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone!). Your support will go towards production costs, equipment, games and downloadable content.

It's like saying Giant Bomb is a huge scam because some amount of subscriber money goes to buying games for UPF.

#41 Edited by Corevi (5003 posts) -

@conmulligan: Those are completely different things though, her videos do not require PLAYING the games. Watching a playthrough on youtube would suffice for what she is doing. UPF is them playing the games and recording it.

Also a bunch of those games have ZERO female characters, and even more are just multiplayer games with no story at all. Seriously, BLUR? The game with absolutely no people at all in it?

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#42 Edited by CrunchyPickles (94 posts) -
@truthtellah said:

She often gets criticized for not playing enough games ("She's not a real gamer!") and criticized for apparently buying too many with the money she was given. I don't know if she's genuinely used the money well or not, but I can say she seems in a rather damned if you do, damned if you don't position.

In my view, regardless of the videos' relative quality, backers are eventually getting their videos, and many of them seem to actually like them. I know one of my good friends who was a backer seems to adore the series; she links to them on Facebook every time a new one comes out. I'm sure some are unhappy with them though. So, *shrug* I don't think everyone will ever be completely appeased. All she can really do at this point is continue releasing the videos.

That aside, I hope people can focus on discussing the topic of the video and thread, as the topic of her legitimacy has already been chewed over by many people in the last couple years.

The main reason she constantly gets called a "not real gamer" is that video clip of her saying she doesn't like video games from a few years ago. As for buying too many games with the kickstarter money, I dunno. I don't care what she spent the money on as long as it helps the project overall, because that's all it takes to keep the money honest. I do take issue with how late her videos are though. The last stretch goal was expected to be delivered in December 2012. In any real job, being a few weeks late on a project deadline could get you fired. She's almost 2 years late now. That's unbelievably unprofessional, and if I were a backer I would have asked for a refund long ago. I don't care what industry you're in, the concept of "underpromise, overdeliver" is project management 101.

That said, as far as the actual content of her videos goes, I'm in the "I'm not mad that she's making the videos, but I wish she would do a bit more research and fact-checking before recording" camp. It's a conversation worth having, but she does not make a good spokesperson for it. She's very good at cherrypicking examples for her argument, but she doesn't seem to qualify the data with proper context very often, at least that I've seen. Her "sex-negative" viewpoint on a lot of this stuff doesn't really help either. A lot of people see her as repressive and spiteful towards the idea of women being viewed as sexy whatsoever, which is a bit weird. I haven't seen this particular video, but I've heard some conversations about it and it sounds like she might project those views a bit in this one? I'll watch it when I get home to see if it's there or if people were just making shit up (on the Internet???).

Also yeah, like others have been saying, good on ya for pushing for actual civil discussion. Civility's unpopular online but real discussion, rather than just yelling at each other, is what gets shit done.

#43 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

What the hell does Starhawk, Vanquish or Battlefield 3 have to do with female characters?

If you're a skilled enough essayist, you can make fucking anything work. That's one of the first things you learn in an Lit. Crit. class. (Of course, the second thing you learn is that some ideas are easier to apply than others, and the third thing is that you still have to make these ideas work.) You probably wouldn't think that Final Fantasy VI is a postmodern game, or that you can apply Zen Buddhism to Bit.Trip Runner, but I can see some connections worth developing upon.

#44 Posted by joshwent (2353 posts) -

@corruptedevil: After hearing people for literally 2 years now arguing that "she doesn't even play games!", it's a little wild to see you saying her actually playing games is a negative. Maybe those titles in that photo which lack female characters were important to give context to other games. Maybe those multiplayer games have some relevance to a trope she's studying despite their lack of a story. Maybe they're just some games she had and threw in to try and make that pile look bigger. We just don't know, but the point is... it doesn't matter.

The entire point of this thread, is that criticising a person is baseless and usually, at the very least, disruptive. Criticise the ideas or how they're presented all you want (as I and many others have above), but talking smack about her as a person is completely pointless.

#45 Edited by Milkman (17329 posts) -

To the complaint of some people that she fails to mention that violence in these games can be perpetrated against anyone, not just the female NPCs:

She does touch on that briefly near the end of the video and I do believe there is a difference. If you walk up to a random NPC in the street in GTA and punch them in the face, more often than not, you'll get a different response depending on the gender of the NPC. A good amount of the male NPCs will stand there ground and fight back while the female NPCs will 99% of the time run away screaming in fear. Also, compare and contrast the number of cowering, weeping women you see in games to the number of cowering, weeping men you see in games. My guess is if you ran the numbers, they would be pretty disproportionate.

I would agree with the criticisms from some that the first half of the video is much stronger than the second and her argument is stretched a bit thin when she starts talking about disappearing corpses. But I find it hard to believe that anyone could watch that video and disagree with the basic premise that women are used as background objects in a lot of games.

And this is really what gets me about the response to the whole series. The basic idea behind her videos is usually so obvious and blatant to anyone even paying a little bit of attention to the media they consume that I can not fathom why these videos get such the extreme negative response that they do. (Not that any of the responses in this thread are all that extreme but you know the ones I'm talking about.) I really don't get how they get so many people so riled up. It's not an attack on you or on the things you love.

#46 Posted by BradBrains (1179 posts) -

i thought this was her best video yet as it was a bit more focused and the explanations were a bit more thorough

Ill never agree with everything she says (especially the last few minutes) but the questions being asked are at least good.

#47 Posted by Corevi (5003 posts) -

@joshwent: I'm not talking smack about her as a person, if I came up with an idea that let me pocket approximately 150,000 dollars I would do it in a hearbeat.

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#48 Posted by TheMasterDS (2138 posts) -

To me she lost all credibility when she came down on Dixie Kong a little while back. That's crossing a line. Claimed she was just pink clothes and blond hair and literally nothing else. If she really wanted to make that point she should've used Candy Kong who is literally nothing more than a sex icon! Dixie Kong is, conversely, an empowered woman monkey who is (A) more assertive and confident than her mate Diddy (B) the best Kong to play as in every game she's in and (C) plays the guitar.

At this rate I feel she'll accuse Kazooie of something one of these days. Yes, I know, that'd be crazy since Kazooie is awesome and the best cynical smart ass a game can have. I feel like it'll happen though.

I also have serious criticisms of how she approached getting that much money. She blew past her goals and opted to do nothing extra. If you ask me she should've capitalized on the attention and money she was getting in a more comprehensive way than "release a video every 3 months or so, I dunno." She should've reached out. Found other people with similar messages. People with something to say about racism, homophobia, xenophobia etc in games. United them with the promise that they'd build a hub that would draw attention to all of these issues, like a gaming focused LearnLiberty. Used the attention she got to build something bigger than herself. Instead she's content to just put out videos journalists tweet about every 3 months or so.

#49 Posted by amir90 (2178 posts) -

She is a thief and a liar. Her prior videoes have been counter-argumented by other youtubers (without death threats). I have no intention of giving her any more attention.
The fact that she is now some sort of face of gaming is extremly scary (winning ambassador award and somehow involved in Mirrors Edge 2).

#50 Edited by SpaceInsomniac (3906 posts) -

@joshwent said:

@grantheaslip said:

In the case of Sarkeesian, I think the elephant in the room is how little respect she seems to afford others who disagree with her or enjoy the games she in some cases openly despises. There's a lot of loaded language like "misogyny", "male power fantasy", "juvenile", "adolescent", etc. There's a lot of snark, and a lot of language and tone that basically says "the people who developed these games are pigs." Maybe some of that language and tone is justifiable in light of what she's criticizing, but she lays in on so thick that I find it difficult to watch her videos and feel like she's acting in good faith. I know that she's said it's possible to like criticized games and acknowledge their flaws, but do you really thinks she respects the fans or developers of Bayonetta, which she called a "choose your own patriarchal adventure porno fantasy"? I don't.

Perfectly said.

After watching her first few videos, what discouraged me the most weren't the ideas she was espousing (many of which I agree with), but the way she twists her 'examples' completely out of context to prove her points, and then uses such inflammatory language describing them that anyone who respectfully wishes to propose a counter argument is almost reduced to first admitting to being a misogynist in her terms.

These videos are not research, not history, they're distilled propaganda presented in the least supportable and most hyperbolic way. And it fucking kills me, because I strive to support characters with greater depth and representation in games. But Anita takes the growing and gradually more accepted movement of diversity in games, and weaponizes it. She takes crucial arguments and shoves them through a meat grinder of abstract generalizations and misleading clips. It's precisely what fuels ignorance, not what overcomes it.

Granted I haven't watched this video nor her last (mostly to avoid spoilers), and some others here have said that this installment is more acute with its examples, so I hope that the concerns I mentioned might be a thing of the past. But based on the harm done by the previous videos, I take solace in the fact that these issues are now widely written about by at least some folks who want to work for unified positive change in a concrete straightforward way, and I can avoid Anita entirely.

I really liked both of these posts. They nicely capture why respect is a two-way street, and why it's hypocritical to say that video game fans and developers should all respect Anita, when she clearly doesn't respect them. Having said that, I'd like to address a related topic.

@mooseymcman said:

@demoskinos: I dunno man, I feel like true con artists go after more profitable targets than this.

While this ultimately is a profitable target, she would only be a con artist if she didn't care about video games, or didn't care about feminism. But neither of those accusations can be proven, which makes them just as completely worthless and harmful as social justice blogger attacks on the character or intentions of game developers.

Personal attacks, be they "misogynist" or "con artist" or "sexist" or "hoop earrings" detract from a debate, they don't add to it. That's true for Anita, and it's just as true for you, @demoskinos I think debating an argument itself is much more effective than debating the character of the person making the argument.