Why Video Games Need to Stop Making Women Damsels in Distress

Most of my knowledge of video games come from my male friends and 13-year-old sister. Though I’m not a gamer, I personally find it odd (and somewhat contradicting), that these extreme amazing worlds that often are more advanced then our own reality, represent women with the same sexist and male gaze-driven representation as every other type of media does.

When I realized this I asked myself that question:”If video games and the gaming world is a fun safe space to escape to, then why are women treated the same or sometimes worse?”.

Even as a non-gamer I have alway been aware of a few things about girls and games. The first being girls are not meant to or supposedly cannot play video games, according to my brothers as well as a majority of society. However, times have changed in the last few years. In 2006 women made up 38% of gamers and in 2015 they made up 44%, with consistent growth every year, according to Statista.

The second thing I know for sure about video games is that there usually are not any female characters in video games. And last but most importantly not least, if there is a woman with a main role in the game she is either being raped, killed, saved, painted as the seductress, or the villain (who usually eventually gets killed).

Even the simplest and most joyous games, such as Pac-Man, has to save his lovely circular yellow wife Mrs.Pacman as the damsel in distress because if not she will be eaten. Mario and Donkey Kong are other examples of early video games featuring the theme of female dis-empowerment.

“Damsel characters are problematic on the representation of women,” said feminist speaker and gamer Anita Sarkeesian in part two of her three-part video series Troupes vs. Women.

In this series Sarkeesian analyzes how males and females are represented in video games and why. She provides various examples from older and newer video games to back up her statements. Regardless of her work she has received extreme hate and even death threats from those who disagree with her discussion points. Such a widespread negative reaction kind of proves her point though.

In part two she also explains that if there is a loss of masculinity in a video game there has to be an act of violence to get it back. Women are great male motivators or “frustrators”, which is how women in video games end up in distress in the first place.

Sarkeesian goes into further detail about the types of distress woman. The one that immediately caught my attention was her discussion of “women in the refrigerator” troupe. Basically that is the female character is dead and hidden, but once the male protagonist finds her he has to avenge her. Often the male protagonist can’t even move forward in a video game without saving, avenging, or killing the female character.

“It’s dangerous to encourage violence against women in order to save them, Sarkeesian added.

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Image Credit: Reddit.com

I have yet to find a clear answer to my question, but the Troupe vs. Women video series clarified a lot of gaming information for me. The first being this representation of women in video games is not fully intentional. It’s simply the formula for video games, it’s how companies draw in their dedicated male players. Second, the gaming world (and comic book world) is not an exception to the rule on how women are sexualized and manipulated in the media they are a part of it as much as everyone else.

This story was originally published on Slant News, all written content is owned by Iyana Edouard.

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