Thursday, 30 May 2013

My Boyfriend Died, It's Funny (Tropes vs Women Part 2 response 1)

So yeah, I watched the latest Tropes versus Women video. At first I was planning to wait until she wraps up the topic of Damsels in Distress and we got her full lecture on the topic, but frankly the waiting time between each video combined with the quickfire rate at which she spouts fallacies makes this impossible. So while we wait the obligatory 3 months before she wraps up this topic, let's start shoveling some of the bullshit out of the way before the pile gets bigger.

Disclaimer: I do not object to the concept of more and better written female characters in video games. In fact I'm a strong supporter of that. I also do not disagree with Anita Sarkeesian because she is a woman. What I object to is Feminist Frequency's propensity to use fallacies, one-sided arguments, lies (either outright or by omission) and her downright dishonest tactics which serve only to promote herself to be in the middle of this discussion to the detriment of outside voices and opinions, and potentially even to the detriment of solving the problem. (And to be clear, I also do not support the false flagging of her videos. She is allowed to speak her opinions and a fair few people actually did pay her to speak them.) 

You'll (maybe) notice that I'm considerably less gentle on this subject than I was earlier. This because it has become very clear to me that we aren't dealing with someone who wants to discuss this topic intelligently, but someone who wants to assert her opinions with only yes men / yes women surrounding her. She's perfectly fine with having us embed her video into our blogs as long as she can shield her own audience from our actual criticisms, thus gaining her attention without actually having to deal with criticism. If she wants to prove me wrong, gladly, maybe we'll get somewhere if she does. 

My Boyfriend Died, It's Funny
(Tropes vs Women Part 2, Rogue Ops)

Here's a quote from her latest video:

"It is interesting to note that the reverse scenario, games hinging on a woman vowing revenge for her murdered boyfriend or husband, are practically non-existent. The gender role reversal is so unusual that it borders on the absurd. Which is one of the reasons why this scene from Disney's Wreck-It Ralph is so humorous."
- Anita Sarkeesian

It is very interesting how instead of an actual instance of role reversal in video games, Anita settles for a similar situation from a comedy movie, a comedy movie suitable for kids. I myself thought the scene was heart-wrenching (aside from the huge-ass gun out of nowhere obviously), but okay.

I guess by Anita's logic 2003's Rogue Ops for the Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2 is one of the funniest games ever made, because essentially it is Splinter Cell with the roles reversed. It is in my opinion the most literal example she could have used yet she totally ignores it in favour of Wreck-It Ralph (Sergeant Calhoun herself was likely inspired by Samus Aran from Metroid or female Shepard from Mass Effect). It's also interesting how this is the second time she ignored this game when in an earlier video she accused Splinter Cell Conviction of running on the death of Sam Fisher's daughter Sarah and this being problematic.

"When the world's most brutal terrorist organization, Omega 19, killed Nikki Connors' husband and daughter, they didn't count on payback. Now the ex-Green Beret has joined Phoenix, a covert agency dedicated to counter-terrorism. With unsurpassed skills, weapons expertise, and tools for concealment, she's ready to use stealth, stamina, and deadly force to take her revenge."

So we have a game that literally starts from the premise of female ex-Green Beret Nikki Connors going on a rampage against the people who murdered her husband and daughter. On top of everything, there's nothing overly sexualised about her.

Rogue Ops Commercial
(Rated M for Matture?)

Interesting how with a budget of $160.000 her broadened scope doesn't reach beyond the Tvtropes pages relevant to the topics she wants to discuss and the movies she accidentally watched in cinema.  As of writing, the Tvtropes page for Rogue Ops itself lists tropes for 'Action Girl' and 'Roaring Rampage of Revenge' but the game isn't referenced on their respective pages. Maybe if she actually provided a way to, you know, discuss what she would be talking about before she released her 'academic' presentations we'd be able to compensate for her limited field of vision.

That or we have the more insidious explanation of her being aware of the game but ignoring it because it would lessen the gravitas of her argument, thus making Wreck-It Ralph seem enlightened by pointing it out and the straight up 'girl dies for the sake of men' examples being worse because there are no counter-examples. I'm fairly sure ignorance about the game is the likelier example, but since she made Dinosaur Planet out to be more progressive than it was (Krystal was there to save a princess and there was a male playable protagonist who looked like Fox McCloud) just to make the actually released Star Fox Adventures seem problematic, it's a tactic she does employ. Also no brownie points if it eventually does get mentioned because she missed 2 important opportunities already.

But I know, right? I found one obscure game that nobody ever played. Good job using Google, idiot.

Well actually no. I bought this game myself way back in 2004. I remember standing in the store with Rogue Ops in my left hand, and Kill.Switch in my right hand, only having the money to buy one. I was big into Metal Gear back then and was looking for similar stealth games and Splinter Cell wasn't doing it for me and so I went with Rogue Ops (this was before Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory). Sure, according to VGChartz the game only sold 0.41 million copies across all platforms but the point is that I'm not actively searching for the most obscure games in history to prove a point, I'm pointing out examples I'm aware of from my experience as someone into gaming. And perhaps if you want a better female representation in games, you might want to start by paying attention to and buying the games that actually fit your requirements rather than having them fail financially. 

I'd also like to point out from the top of my head that the second half of Tomb Raider Underworld also has Lara Croft seeking revenge for the murder of Alister Fletcher, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness starts with Lara being accused of the murder of Werner von Croy, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia has Shanoa's brother figure/love interest dying for her character development, Perfect Dark Zero ups the stakes by killing Joanna Dark's father, Alice: Madness Returns has Alice going on revenge for her dead parents and sister (which retroactively qualifies American McGee's Alice). Also, a lot of people would probably cry sexism about Metroid: Other M anyway, but Commander Adam Malkovich dies for Samus' character development (as shown in Metroid Fusion). This without using examples from games in which you are able to choose your gender (like the aforementioned Mass Effect).

Funny and absurd! Right?

Anyway, this has been going on for longer than I intended to spend on this nonsense so I'll wrap it up here. Cheers!

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  1. I was not aware of the Rogue Ops game that you mentioned, but you're right. Actually, the premise sounds more or less identical to Max Payne, except that the villains are different and the protagonist is female instead of male. But both start out with the murder of the protagonist's spouse and daughter. And both seek revenge.

  2. It's so weird seeing someone who actually played that game. I was an intern at Kemco USA in Bellevue when that game was being developed. I'm happy to see someone actually liked it.

  3. No Red Ninja? Her father was killed and she was hanged.I thought that she used Kurenia's image at some point, I can't remember and lack the will to check but if she did then she must be aware of the plot of that game right? I mean would she really just throw on the image just because it's a woman in skimpy clothing (which is actually used to your advantage in game)?

    I've been rolling the idea around in my head as to why her videos bug me so much. Is it that she conned people out of money like that? No, it wasn't my money although I'm sad that they didn't put it to a better cause. Is it because it's dry? I've sat through worse.

    As I read around and thought more I realized why it bugged me and perhaps many others. It's not that we don't want a change in the female characters and story writing, hell we'd embrace that, in fact we have been as this has improved slowly over the years. But it's as you said it's so one sided, misinformation spouted as facts, and well you've seen it.

    She could have interviewed developers, gamers, spoken to people who knows more about the games to keep her from sounding, well like herself. She made these 'educational' videos about the games while excluding the video gaming community in favor of using minimal research via sources like wiki and tvtropes.

    In fact I will admit that until I read all drama and saw her trailer I thought that the project was brilliant, but now it just looks like she got her fame off the backs of the gaming community. Gaming needs something like the Tropes vs Women but not that and not by her, they deserve better.

    It scares me that these one-sided videos might actually be used academically. But what bugs me even more is that in the future if any game gives us a well written female lead people will not credit the developers and the writers but instead will credit Anita even if those people never even watched her videos.

    Sorry for the long post.