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Gender Diversity / Politics in games (was Tropes Vs. Women)


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Didn't Anita have a problem with Spelunky even considering you could change the girl to a boy or a dog? I seem to recall she didn't like it because of the fact that a girl could be rescued at all, even though there was a choice available, but also because the game was equating a girl as being able to be substituted out for a dog. Which I thought was a rather po-faced response. 

 

The goal of Spelunky isn't to rescue someone. Most of the time it's just to survive while acquiring as much money as you can. Getting a person to the end of each level is an optional objective, along with various other optional objectives such as getting an idol to the end or sacrificing them on an alter. Get someone to the end of the level and they give you a kiss which boosts your health by one. And anyone who's played Spelunky knows how vital that health boost is. 

 

That the thing you have to get to the end is living plays into the emergent gameplay because they will move around of their own accord given the chance, resulting in typically hilarious calamities where a chain of events occurs you didn't foresee and they die in ridiculous ways. 

 

Would substituting the man/woman/dog with a walking heart container you have to get to the end be any better? What if a man and dog were the only option? From what I recall she didn't like that a woman was an option to be rescued at all. I'm not sure, given that the game let's you rescue various characters and also let's you play as characters of both genders and various ethnicities, that it's a hill worth dying on. I think it's a good thing that the game lets you choose who you can rescue, unless we're just going down the route of never wanting a living thing rescued at all, which seems rather limiting. 

 

I think it came up during one of the damsel videos she did, and it was an example I didn't particularly care for. 

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I think her argument was that applying a dehumanising idea evenly is less successful a solution than noticing you're using one before the fact and making a decision whether you want to do it.

 

One of the recurring themes of the tropes series is that designers generally don't do this out of choice but because it's a common and therefore default approach. (Which was the case in Spelunky.)

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I suppose that's the weirdest thing about the "creative freedom" response to these videos. Aside from genuine indulgences like DoAX (which are hardly the focus in the series) she's usually dealing with path-of-least-resistance design.

 

It's not people's most inspired decisions she's commenting on and I don't think it should be much more controversial than asking if the best solution for an FPS is really regenerating health and two guns every single time.

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1 hour ago, Zael said:

Her point was that rescuing a guy isn't a trope. Rescuing a girl is a trope. So even though you can rescue both in Spelunky, one is feeding into a common trope in games, the other is not.

 

If Spelunky was the only game in the world then yeah allowing the player to rescue both a guy and a girl would be perfect equality. But it's not the only game in the world and so the man in distress doesn't carry the same weight as the damsel in distress.

 

Also, and I can't stress this enough. Anita isn't "dying on a hill" or "being outraged over Spelunky". She's using this game as an example of a trope, that's it. 

 

So what is the solution, in the case of Spelunky? I don't see the value in saying that there shouldn't be a permutation in that particular game whereby a man can rescue a woman. I totally agree that it's generally an overused crutch in games, and I recently caught some flak in the Super Mario Run thread by saying that I rolled my eyes when Peach was captured by Bowser yet again. But Spelunky is a game whereby a man can get a kiss (and some health) from a man, a woman can kiss a woman, a woman can rescue and kiss a man, a man or woman can get a kiss from a dog. And yes, where a man can rescue a woman. I think that's great personally, not an example to be held up as a problem. 

 

As I said in my original post, are we just going down the line of saying that the quest should only ever be to retrieve an inanimate object because one particular permutation out of the six available in Spelunky is an overused trope, even when surrounded in the very same game by very progressive permutations that cater to all sexualities and genders?

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9 minutes ago, Majora said:

it's generally an overused crutch in games

 

The point is just to say that, which you agree with, and to point out that the overuse of crutches which attritionally over time wear down the perception of women in wider culture can have a negative impact.

 

No-one is saying Mario can't rescue someone (even Peach) or that the guy in Spelunky can't find someone to rescue.

 

Saying "this is lame, and why is it always women who are prizes and healthpacks, and men who are the heroes?" isn't the same as saying "this game should never have been made, and the devs who wrote it, and people who play it are all evil.)

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Thing is a woman isn't going to rescue a man from underground. That's not a trope, it's a fact. Never has a woman rescued a man from underground. She's not strong enough to hold a rope with a person on it.

 

Women rarely rescue men in any scenario. A woman has foolishly driven into a river! Oh I can imagine another woman jumping in to rescue her.

 

Problem with this whole thing is it's a case of women (and men) asking for men to solve their problems for them.

 

Hey men! Please depict us women in a better light! It's pathetic. I said it before but women and men started out at the same time. Must be a reason men shaped society. Men in every culture.

 

Woman, make games and portray yourself as you wish. What's that? Nobody would buy them? Because really women, all women, just want to be held in the arms of a strong man? 

 

 

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10 minutes ago, Uncle Mike said:

 

The point is just to say that, which you agree with, and to point out that the overuse of crutches which attritionally over time wear down the perception of women in wider culture can have a negative impact.

 

No-one is saying Mario can't rescue someone (even Peach) or that the guy in Spelunky can't find someone to rescue.

 

Saying "this is lame, and why is it always women who are prizes and healthpacks, and men who are the heroes?" isn't the same as saying "this game should never have been made, and the devs who wrote it, and people who play it are all evil.)

 

Ok, but in the case of Spelunky there are six permutations:

 

Man rescues woman

Man rescues man

Man rescues dog

Woman rescues man

Woman rescues woman

Woman rescues dog

 

As far as rescuing somebody goes, it's probably the most inclusive, least problematic example of it in a game I can think of. When Anita includes an example in her videos it's to criticise them, as she did with Spelunky. And I guess I just don't see the value in criticising that particular game. And she definitely wasn't just saying here is an example of the trope without judgement, she was actively critical of the implementation in this specific game, saying that it wasn't good enough for there to be 5 other permutations when one of them was a man rescuing a woman, which I personally disagree with.

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14 minutes ago, Majora said:

So what is the solution, in the case of Spelunky?

 

I don't think there needs to be one, because the overall goal behind the "Tropes vs" series isn't to fix some problems found with specific games. The problem is cultural, not technical - you can't rectify it like you can a buggy control system.

 

Rather, by ensuring people stop to think when creating new works, the goal can be achieved by shifting the pervading culture away from the problematic aspects.

 

For what it's worth, I believe Yu did consider the case more than most. The original Spelunky only had a damsel (and a male rescuer), and the remake was certainly made much more inclusive. I particularly like, as you note, that the nature of the damsel isn't dictated by the gender of your character.

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8 minutes ago, Majora said:

Ok, but in the case of Spelunky there are six permutations:

 

Man rescues woman

Man rescues man

Man rescues dog

Woman rescues man

Woman rescues woman

Woman rescues dog

 

As far as rescuing somebody goes, it's probably the most inclusive, least problematic example of it in a game I can think of. When Anita includes an example in her videos it's to criticise them, as she did with Spelunky. And I guess I just don't see the value in criticising that particular game. And she definitely wasn't just saying here is an example of the trope without judgement, she was actively critical of the implementation in this specific game, which I personally disagree with,.

 

So, despite the fact that even the guy who wrote Spelunky reckons it was fair criticism (and once again, criticism isn't the same as saying something shouldn't be made.)

 

This seems to be what she actually said about that element of Spelunky.

 

Quote

[D]amsel’ed female characters tend to reinforce pre-existing regressive notions about women as a group being weak or in need of protection because of their gender, while stories with the occasional helpless male character do NOT perpetuate anything negative about men as a group since there is no long-standing stereotype of men being weak or incapable because of their gender.

 

To help illustrate this point let’s quickly take a look at the indie game Spelunky. Originally released in 2009 the game included a stereotypical damsel in distress as a gameplay mechanic whose rescue rewarded the player with bonus health. The 2012 HD remake of the game for Xbox Live again features the stock character damsel (complete with newly upgraded boob jiggle). However, this time an option was added to the menu that allows players to select a replacement for the default woman in peril by switching to either a Chippendales-style hunk or a dog instead.

 

Setting aside the fact that if a female character is easily interchangeable with a dog then it’s probably a pretty good indication that something is wrong, merely providing an optional gender-swap is not a quick and easy fix, especially where stock character style damsels are concerned.

 

The two may appear the same, but they don’t mean the same thing in our culture. This [damsel] is still a problem while this [dude] is not. Again because one reinforces pre-existing stereotypes about women, while the other does not reinforce any pre-existing stereotypes about men.

 

She deliberately picks Spelunky as an example of a game with a Damsel mechanic where you have the ability to rescue a man or dog. Not in spite of that, because of that. In order to mention that having the occasional Dams-man isn't really the panacea you might superficially expect.

 

That's all.

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10 minutes ago, Illyria said:

So if everyone complains about Neg we can complain about Ramone's trolling too, right? 

 

I think comparing rescues to real life is a fair comment to make, actually.

 

I mean sure he's probably wrong in saying it never happens, I'm sure it does, there's police women after all, but in a more general sense, female heroism is rare on the news. At least when it comes to rescues. 

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I think that's kinda weaksauce though - including a woman who can be rescued isn't reinforcing a "man=hero woman=damsel" dynamic if you can pick the other combinations too. Surely we're not supposed to believe that women never need rescuing, just that it shouldn't be an unequally-applied stereotype. Including the other "damsels" explicitly decouples gender from the role.

 

It's like saying Skyrim reinforces the idea of a "white saviour" because it's possible to make the main character white.

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24 minutes ago, joe bazooka said:

Thing is a woman isn't going to rescue a man from underground. That's not a trope, it's a fact. Never has a woman rescued a man from underground. She's not strong enough to hold a rope with a person on it.

 

Women rarely rescue men in any scenario. A woman has foolishly driven into a river! Oh I can imagine another woman jumping in to rescue her.

 

Problem with this whole thing is it's a case of women (and men) asking for men to solve their problems for them.

 

Hey men! Please depict us women in a better light! It's pathetic. I said it before but women and men started out at the same time. Must be a reason men shaped society. Men in every culture.

 

Woman, make games and portray yourself as you wish. What's that? Nobody would buy them? Because really women, all women, just want to be held in the arms of a strong man? 

 

 

Dude, what the fuck? Seriously. :blink:

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2 minutes ago, Made of Ghosts said:

I think that's kinda weaksauce though - including a woman who can be rescued isn't reinforcing a "man=hero woman=damsel" dynamic if you can pick the other combinations too. Surely we're not supposed to believe that women never need rescuing, just that it shouldn't be an unequally-applied stereotype. Including the other "damsels" explicitly decouples gender from the role.

 

Hey, you're at liberty to disagree. It's just her opinion, after all. That's kind of the point of criticism in the first place.

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Just now, Sprite Machine said:

Dude, what the fuck? Seriously. :blink:

Men and women are very different. They have different interests and different goals and they always will have. Men and women aren't interchangeable. Not to say one is better than the other.

 

But if a woman has to ask a man to depict them how that woman would like to be portrayed... Well it's already failed! It failed long before.

 

You've probably all said it. How women are portrayed in games is a reflection of society. Getting people to change this reflection achieves nothing. In fact it ignores the issue.

 

Then it's probably the case that 99.9% of women on Earth don't actually see themselves as any more downtrodden than 99.9% of men do. But that's a different issue.

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4 minutes ago, clippa said:

I don't know, he just made a very good point.

 

33 minutes ago, Fry Crayola said:

...because the overall goal behind the "Tropes vs" series isn't to fix some problems found with specific games. The problem is cultural, not technical - you can't rectify it like you can a buggy control system.

 

Rather, by ensuring people stop to think when creating new works, the goal can be achieved by shifting the pervading culture away from the problematic aspects.

 

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Of course I make excellent points. And I haven't even got to the bit where every single hetrosexual male in this thread spends an inordinate amount of time masturbating to images of women being portrayed as mere sex objects. Every single hetrosexual male. Even Uncle Mike. Cross-eyed, tongue hanging out as he browses his favourite porn site.

 

Then he comes on here and tuts loudly about how terrible it is women are portrayed as sex objects in DoA.

 

Hypocrisy.

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Seriously, claiming that the representation of women in the media merely functions as a reflection of our society and that it doesn't have an active influence on society just shows HOW LITTLE YOU UNDERSTOOD ABOUT THIS WHOLE ISSUE.

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1 minute ago, Illyria said:

Seriously, claiming that the representation of women in the media merely functions as a reflection of our society and that it doesn't have an active influence on society just shows HOW LITTLE YOU UNDERSTOOD ABOUT THIS WHOLE ISSUE.

I didn't say media. I'm talking about the overwhelmingly male orientated world of console gaming. Where games are made by men for men.

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7 minutes ago, Uncle Mike said:

Is it a good point? Women fight in the army, work as police, fight fires, run companies, fight in MMA matches and so on.

 

Despite that, cultural approaches to women broadly depict them as sexy temptresses, boring mums, nagging wives and so on.

 

I'd suggest perhaps it's the reflection that's lagging reality and holding it back. Which again, was the whole point of the topic at hand anyway,

 

This is a fair counter to my previous post, for notesake. It could certainly be that reality of the modern day is lagging behind. 

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