Anita Sarkeesian and Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

The Kickstarter That Started It All

On May 17, 2012 a new Kickstarter project was launched by Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian is a self-described feminist pop culture media critic who produces an ongoing web series from a feminist/fangirl perspective and maintains a popular website called Feminist Frequency.

The project was called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games and promised to "explore five common and recurring stereotypes of female characters in video games".

The project's initial request to research the tropes and produce high quality web videos was for $6,000.  By June 16, 2012 the project had received $158,920 amid considerable controversy.

Very soon after Sarkeesian launched her campaign and publicized it through her social media channels, she received an incredible level of backlash.  Her Wikipedia site was vandalized and her YouTube account was filled with hateful messages tageting her, feminism, andwomen more broadly.  Images and games began popping up on the internet that included pornography and violence.  Sarkeesian documented and publicized these attacks on her website and Kickstarter page.

The abuse suffered by Sarkeesian served to increase her support and she became a media spokesperson for sexism in video games, online harassment, and cyber mobs.  Sarkeesian maintains a "Media Round-up" of her appearances on her website.  Below are links to many of them.


News Coverage:

Other Game Industry Sites:

The episode also sparked connected stories and deeper considerations of the culture of video games. These are archived under the post 'Sexist Culture...More Generally''.

So what does this have to do with the quality of life of people who make video games?

Women are underrepresented in the video game workforce and the perceived (or actual), implicit (or explicit) culture of gaming is connected to that fact.  Movement into careers are often considered to be a pipeline where early experiences influence future choices.  Most people who end up making video games for a living are avid game players and game dev hobbyists.  There are many places for the pipeline to break for women if: a) they do not identify with, or are actively repulsed by what they see in video games and therefore do not play them; b) if they would like to play, but are treated poorly in the game community; and c) if they are a lost voice in attempts to change the representation of female characters.

Women bring different perspectives to a workplace largely because they still assume the dominant role in the reproductive labour of care giving and household maintenance.  Many of the changes that we see in modern workplaces around family-friendly policies, work-life balance, flexible work schedules, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, pregnancy leave, etc. have come about because of the massive influx of women into the working population over the past few decades.  The presence of women and their voices have pushed various agendas forward.  Because the game industry remains dominated by younger men, the issues of quality of work life are more easily brushed aside and subsumed in the long hours work culture.

The Part I of this topic discusses the harassment that Anita Sarkeesian received in setting up her kickstarter project to make a video series of the common tropes of women in video games. This post will track some of the commentary on the videos.

Note that this topic has received considerable attention on the internet and it is impossible to catch everything!

The Videos

Damsel in Distress Part 1

Damsel in Distress Part 2

Damsel in Distress Part 3

Ms Male Character

Women as Background Decoration Part 1

Woman as Background Decoration Part 2

The Scythian - Positive Female Characters in Video Games

Jade - Positive Female Characters in Video Games

Women as Reward

Women as Reward - Special DLC Mini-Episode

Strategic Butt Coverings:

Body Language & The Male Gaze

Lingerie is not Armor

Are Women Too Hard to Animate?

All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games