Feminism Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Feminism RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network PlayStation’s Powers Series: Kicking Ass and Unnecessarily Showing Skin https://www.gameskinny.com/kn58o/playstations-powers-series-kicking-ass-and-unnecessarily-showing-skin https://www.gameskinny.com/kn58o/playstations-powers-series-kicking-ass-and-unnecessarily-showing-skin Wed, 01 Jun 2016 06:17:43 -0400 Amanda Damone

PlayStation network’s original series, Powers, is returning for Season Two at the end of this month. The show is using what should prove to be a gripping plot line: solving the “Who Killed Retro Girl?” mystery from the Powers comics. The show's new trailer promises plenty of action and emotion for fans of intense programming. However, even a cursory glance at the trailer or promotional photo on PlayStation’s page will make obvious the show’s startling, major problem: the unnecessary and degrading sexualization of its female characters.

In the poster, every female character is showing more skin than any male character. But Deena, Calista, and Pilgrim need not expose their midriffs, cleavage, or wear suits with body-showcasing cutouts in order to be successful at their jobs.

There's a clip in Season Two’s trailer where Calista rips open her cape to reveal her superhero garb. While it could have been a cool move, the shot places emphasis on her sexuality rather than on her act of passionately paying homage to Retro Girl. The camera begins on a zoom of her chest as she opens the cape, revealing her breasts before any other part of the scene. Check it out below:

I’m not saying there should be no sex and no sexuality in this program, but why can’t the female heroes fight the bad guys while fully clothed, as the men do?

While the sexualization of women is not unique in television programs, it’s worth criticizing here.

Why? Because of the show’s apparent attempt at positively representing women in terms of character traits. Powers is not entirely backwards, but there is a definite imbalance in the amount of skin the main female characters are showing versus the amount the main male characters are showing, and it’s not necessary to the plot. Especially not in a show that's supposed to have powerful female characters.

I won’t critically analyze each scene in terms of its representation of women, since the show generally portrays women as multifaceted and often strong, but I wish Powers would opt to focus on the females’ words and actions rather than their bodies, unless it is relevant to the scene. It shouldn’t matter that the female characters were drawn in sexy costumes in the comics, because this feature of comics is socially problematic and unnecessary to the story.

Further, several non-white actors are playing characters who were white in the comics, so improving the show's representation of women is a logical next step. Powers' mistake can always be reversed as the show progresses, and it won’t change anything besides pleasing feminist fans. To the all-male set of executive producers: it’s not too late to change!

Recommended reading for feminist gamers https://www.gameskinny.com/myfw0/recommended-reading-for-feminist-gamers https://www.gameskinny.com/myfw0/recommended-reading-for-feminist-gamers Wed, 30 Dec 2015 04:30:01 -0500 Robert Guthrie

Being a gamer and a feminist can be confusing, or seem contradictory in some communities, but it doesn’t have to be that way – if anything, loving games and wanting to think more critically about them is a great entry into feminism (as is loving books, movies, or any other sort of media).

Here are some recommended texts, videos, and resources for being a well-informed feminist gamer:

We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Adichie’s excellent and very digestible book (as well as the eloquent and charming TED talk that inspired it) is one of the best introductions to feminism that you can find in 2015. It simultaneously celebrates, uplifts, and demystifies feminism, making it accessible and attractive to everyone (which is probably why Sweden elected to give a copy to every 16 year old student).

Pick it up on Amazon: We Should All Be Feminists

Feminist Frequency


It almost goes without saying, but I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention Anita Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency. I don’t need to comment on any of the controversy surrounding her or her video series, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, because others have done a better job elsewhere, but she has to be included in any conversation about gaming and feminism because, well, no one else is really what she’s doing.

Her videos break down some of the issues with modern gaming and do a good job of applying basic feminist media criticism to games in much the same way that it has been applied to books and movies for half a century. The videos can be a little dry, but they’re an excellent resource regardless.

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love/Feminism is for Everyone (Bell Hooks)


All of Bell Hooks’ works are great for feminists, new and old, especially Feminism is for Everyone, which is one of the best introductory texts you can possibly read. She also has a lot of really excellent lessons for men who want to be feminists, and is very understanding of how the patriarchy can hurt them as well. Here’s a relevant excerpt:

“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”

Pick it up on Amazon: The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love

GeekFeminism Wiki


This is a great resource overall, with links to just about every conceivable conversation you might want to have about feminism or any term that you might be hung up on, but it’s especially useful for its list of Feminism 101 topics. It’s also one of the few places where you’re going to be able to get a good grasp on the

John Scalzi

John Scalzi, super-nerd and author of beloved science fiction works like Redshirts and Old Man’s War, does a really great job of demonstrating how to be a good feminist even if you happen to be a privileged white dude. His best post on the subject is White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, but his blog and Twitter feed are full of wisdom and good conversations about

Angry Jack Video Series (InnuendoStudios)


This is a six-part series that unpacks a lot of the anger that a certain segment of the online population has toward feminists and women in general, especially certain figureheads (Anita Sarkeesian is mentioned several times).

It’s not terribly academic, and it makes a lot of assumptions, but the series does a good job of addressing the atmosphere of anger surrounding these conversations and correctly identifies the source of a lot of frustration. If you’re looking for some lighter fare, this is a good place to start and to get the gears turning on feminism in gaming.

Check it out on YouTube: Angry Jack

A Cyborg Manifesto (Donna J. Haraway)

Haraway is a professor of feminism and women’s studies and an absolute luminary in the field, notable for her insightful and ground-breaking writing on the intersection of feminism, science, technology, and information.

Haraway is a brilliant theorist, but a consummate academic, and her work can sometimes be inaccessible, but if you’re willing to put the time in, this is a great way to drill down on important questions about women and feminism in technology (and gaming).

Download a free PDF from Georgetown University or pick up the full book on Amazon: Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature


Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing (Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher)


This excellent text by Margolis and Fisher addresses the issue of representation in computing and technology in a really excellent way, debunking a lot of the pervasive myths about women in tech. In a climate that’s full of misinformation, it’s really great to have a text that’s so supremely grounded and well researched to refer to. 

Pick it up on Amazon: Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing

Leigh Alexander

Leigh Alexander is a very prolific and insightful game critic and developer with a lot of great articles under her belt that have nothing to do with gender or feminism, but some of her best work focuses on representation and the plight of women in gaming.

Interestingly enough, despite ending up on the wrong end of a certain hashtag movement, she has been one of the most vocal critics of bad games journalism, and has written a lot of good words on the subject, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.


Katherine Cross


Katherine Cross has articles across a wide range of media from an academic, feminist, and sociological perspective, and she has written very smart, very well-researched responses to various happenings in the nerd and gaming spheres over the past year or two. If you’re looking for an active, up-to-date feminist critic, you should absolutely follow Katherine Cross and read what she has to say.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir (Felicia Day)


This isn’t an explicitly feminist text and Felicia Day hasn’t positioned herself as a feminist scholar or anything of the sort, but it is an extremely fun book and contains some very revealing chapters about what it’s like to be a woman on the internet, especially a woman in gaming.

Especially telling is how Day – a woman who put countless hours into World of Warcraft and created an internet show about it – is still accused of being a “fake geek girl.” It’s a very instructive text for understanding why feminism is important to gamers.

Pick it up on Amazon: You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Undertale's crazy success proves gamers are ready for feminism, queer romance, and progressive values https://www.gameskinny.com/2oxox/undertales-crazy-success-proves-gamers-are-ready-for-feminism-queer-romance-and-progressive-values https://www.gameskinny.com/2oxox/undertales-crazy-success-proves-gamers-are-ready-for-feminism-queer-romance-and-progressive-values Fri, 06 Nov 2015 06:02:46 -0500 Emily Speight

With 250,000 sales in the weeks since its release, near universal praise, and at least one of your friends becoming a super-annoying evangelist for the game, it’s safe to say that Undertale has been a raging success.

More than a little of that is due to how the game has something for pretty much everybody to identify with -- all couched in a narrative with feminist elements, strong LGBT representation, and other progressive values. Its exploration of archetypal characters and complex themes, and its willingness to engage with the player as an equal are certainly part of this. So too is its excellent soundtrack and novel fusion of genres.

But, ultimately, the open-minded attitude is what resonates with gamers and shows that, as community, we’re ready for more.

If you haven’t beaten Undertale yet and wish to avoid spoilers, turn back now...

Romance and variety

Outside of BioWare titles, it’s difficult to come up with examples of a mainstream game with a cast including multiple queer characters; rarer still are queer characters who have identifying characteristics beyond their sexuality. Undertale, however, features at least five characters who fall under the LGBT umbrella. Three of these characters have major roles within the game, serving as allies of the protagonist as well as major bosses, depending on the choices that the player makes.

The Royal Guards, a miniboss encounter in the Hotlands section of the game, are two male guards who can be encouraged to go on a date instead of attacking the main character. Within the game’s writing, this is not treated in a special way at all -- and this normalization of a queer relationship makes it special. Their relationship, such as it is, is not depicted any differently than the heterosexual relationships present in the game. As they are ultimately very minor characters, though, their characterization is limited.

One of the major relationships (queer or otherwise) in the game is seen during the Pacifist route. Alphys, a character who assists the player indirectly, is a bisexual character who harbors crushes on both King Asgore and Undyne. While the former is unrequited, the latter is a mutual crush that can be acted on. Completing a certain objective to befriend Undyne allows the player to begin a sequence of optional events to bring the two together. As with the Royal Guards, the fact that both characters are the same gender isn’t emphasized. The game instead focuses on their mutual admiration -- for anime as well as each other.

Both characters have roles in Undertale outside of their relationship, and interactions with other characters that do not reference it in any way.

Undyne is first presented as the mentor of another character, Papyrus. She is depicted as a menacing figure in armor who hunts the protagonist. Alphys works for Asgore as his Royal Scientist and created a robot body for Mettaton, another LGBT character, to inhabit.

Speaking of Mettaton...

Mettaton can be read as a trans character, according to one convincing fan theory. Originally a ghost -- judging by Napstablook, ghosts do not appear to have a particular gender -- Mettaton inhabited a house that is designed to be perceived as typically feminine. Diary entries there reveal that Mettaton yearned for a corporeal body.

After receiving one, Mettaton is regarded and refers to themselves as male. During his boss fight, Mettaton reveals that he has been waiting excitedly for some time to show off his masculine form. All of this combined makes a strong case for him being trans, though he is never explicitly referred to as such within the game.

Strong and strongly-written characters

Through Alphys and Undyne, Undertale passes the Bechdel Test with ease. On its own, this does not necessarily indicate a work with feminist themes, but alongside well-written female characters it is significant -- and the memorable characterization of both alongside Undertale’s generally excellent writing makes them so.

Both of these characters also break out of traditional gender roles and freely pursue their goals without comment or opposition based on their gender.

Undertale's Undyne

A work with feminist elements doesn’t necessarily have to include or be entirely populated by mold-breaking characters like Alphys and Undyne. Toriel, whom the protagonist meets near the beginning of the game, neither passes the Bechdel Test in any substantial manner nor steps far outside of a traditional nurturing role. Nonetheless, she is another excellent example of a well-written female character that showcases Undertale’s progressive values.

While Toriel only appears in a small percentage of the game, her impact is felt keenly throughout. She is shown to be a formidable fire magic user and was formerly queen of the underground. Some neutral endings of Undertale see her resume this leadership position and successfully rule alone. The choices she makes within the game aren’t restricted or informed by her gender, but instead spring from her personality. In this way, Undertale nimbly avoids brushing with oft-criticised choice feminism.


All of these characters and elements come together to enrich an already fantastic game. Their pivotal roles within Undertale’s story and strong characterization make each a positive, nuanced representation of queer characters and relationships. Undertale wears its progressive heart on its sleeve through this, and its popularity shows that gamers are more than ready for more games like this.

Ladies in Gaming: American McGee's Alice https://www.gameskinny.com/6kiqk/ladies-in-gaming-american-mcgees-alice https://www.gameskinny.com/6kiqk/ladies-in-gaming-american-mcgees-alice Fri, 04 Sep 2015 02:30:01 -0400 Jackson Ingram

[Content Warning: discusses mental illness and rape; contains spoilers for American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns]

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is more than an (150 year) old book. It's a phenomenon. Initially conceived as an entertaining story for the real-world Alice Liddel and her sisters, Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, serve as landmark examples of the literary nonsense genre. To this day, author Lewis Carroll's command of wordplay and symbolism is continuously debated, decrypted, and deconstructed by leading scholars, critics, and, perhaps most importantly, children.

Wonderland has been capturing curiosity since the story was first orally delivered to Alice, Edith, and Lorine Liddel on a rowboat in 1862. Given its popularity with audiences of all ages, Alice has naturally become one of the most adapted works of fiction in worldwide media today. 

Some reimaginings have been better than others (good cinematography is no excuse for a lukewarm script, Disney), but few have taken Alice down as darkly as American McGee.

Alice: Madness Returns

McGee's Wonderland, a fantastically grim renovation of Carroll's work, quickly became a cult classic near the end of the year 2000. It boasts an unapologetically gory aesthetic, fully realized with graphics well beyond those of competing games at the time. Over a decade later, McGee returned to the franchise with a sequel, Madness Returns, and is currently working on short film tie-ins, subtitled Otherlands, through Kickstarter.

The figurehead of McGee's sprawling vision is Alice herself, a blood-stained punk edit of the original Wonderlander that you've probably seen carrying around a giant kitchen knife on DeviantArt. For better or worse, Alice has become an icon within many gaming circles. There's a moral here, as I'm sure the Duchess would agree, but we're going to have to be clever enough to find it.

Down the Rabbit Hole

The central plot of McGee's twisted tale revolves around Alice's ongoing struggle with mental illness, having suffered a psychotic break 10 years prior to the first game after surviving a house fire that claimed the lives of her parents and sister. Coping with severe post-traumatic stress and survivor's guilt, Alice's madness takes on the form of Wonderland, a now-rotting dream world that she had visited twice before in the Carroll canon.

Alice: Madness Returns promotional shot.

Mental illness has always been popularly associated with Alice as a figure, but hasn't always been treated with the respect and consideration such a hefty subject demands. Serious afflictions, such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder, are portrayed as tragic, but aesthetically beautiful conditions easily cured by the love of a generic classically handsome optimist. Barf.

Mental illness is not beautiful and McGee does not treat it as such. For Alice, Wonderland becomes an escape. The fantastic landscapes and areas found in both games are ultimately being corrupted by her own faltering grip on reality. The trauma she's endured is not a quirk of her past. It's horrific.

Had her mental illness been romanticized, Alice's experiences would have been watered down to serve a toxic narrative, perpetuating stereotypes that invalidate the needs of actual people living with actual disorders.

And it's not like Alice needs saving anyway.

Of Madness and Muchness

A major theme of both games is control. After her psychotic break, Alice is at the mercy of 19th century Victorian medical community. The poor quality of her care is made particularly evident in the sequel, in which numerous characters attempt to take advantage of her unstable condition. The most prominent among them is Dr. Bumby, a manipulative psychiatrist who uses hypnosis to control and commodify his patients.

Alice: Madness Returns promotional shot.

Much of Alice's narrative revolves around her regaining agency over her own body and mind. She doesn't require or even ask for a savior, instead advocating for her own independence and treatment.

She doesn't stop there. At the crux of Madness Returns is a recurring idea: if Alice saves herself, she'll save Wonderland. Midway through the game, the Caterpillar corrects her. If Alice saves Wonderland, she'll find a way to save herself.

Social movements, like feminism, are built through interpersonal connections. Women should support other women. Men should support women. Women should support men. Everyone supports everyone else, regardless of gender identity. Alice is always willing to help those around her, establishing a network from which to draw mutual strength.

This is most importantly displayed in the relationship between Alice and Nan Sharpe, former nanny turned sex worker. After Alice stands up to one of Nan's violent patrons, the two women encourage one another to help themselves, breaking free from the patriarchal systems binding them.

While Alice always advocates initiative and chastises complacency ("Everyone around here has an excuse for doing nothing"), she also addresses her own priviledges that make such a mindset possible. Coming from a wealthy, well-educated family and recently enjoying a rare period of lucidity, Alice is in a position to help the other orphans, whose young naiveté is preyed upon by Dr. Bumby.

The guilt she feels for not acting can easily be applied to the real world. For example: while white cis women do still experience sexism, they hold more priviledge than non-white and/or transgender women, who also encounter different forms of discrimination.

Alice was selfish not to acknowledge her own priviledge in this very specific, fictional scenario. While she still had problems of her own to deal with, she could have been a better ally to those more socially disadvantaged.

"Are you a pawn or a queen?"

When people try to think of strong, active female characters, they often bring up Sucker Punch, a 2011 action-adventure movie that performed poorly at the box office and among critics. It stars a handful of racially diverse women fighting back against an oppressive system that tries to commodify their bodies and control their minds. Sounds like a feminist flick, right?

Wrong. Sucker Punch is an excellent example of how "strong" female characters are often just dressed in lingerie and tossed into battle. Because as long as these women are shooting people, objectifying them isn't sexist. At least, that's what you're supposed to think.

Alice thankfully doesn't suffer Sucker Punch's fate. Make no mistake, she's still an "Action Girl." She runs around stabbing people, for God's sake, but she's never over-sexualized or designed to cater to the male gaze. Even when she grows and shrinks, a clever mechanic lifted straight from the book, her clothes grow and shrink with her. The developers actively avoided a plausible situation in which she might appear undressed. Amazing.

Alice: Madness Returns

Another important point to bring up is that Alice is never a man's subordinate. Her male guide, the Cheshire Cat, isn't a mentor. He doesn't teach her to fight and doesn't dictate her actions. He just supports her. As though they are equals. Radical.

The sequel actually calls out sexism openly in the finale. Alice has fought through the mental manipulation she suffered at the hands of Dr. Bumby and confronts her former psychiatrist for his crimes. She's pissed. And emotional. And in control. Her passion is empowering, not degrading.

Her passion is empowering, not degrading.

And Bumby laughs it off. He tells her that no one in England would take her word, the ravings a mad girl, against that of a distinguished gentleman. And she knows that he's right and that the Victorian judicial system will probably fail her and that she'll never get justice for her family.

So she gets revenge. She fearlessly takes back her sister's key and pushed Bumby in front of an oncoming train.

Okay, I'm not saying we need vigilantes going around killing people, but Madness Returns did something a lot of video games aren't brave enough to do: explicitly acknowledge that sexism is actually a thing.

Back to Yesterday

Despite adapting arguably the most feminist Alice to date, American McGee is not a perfect man and these are not perfect games. Everyone makes mistakes, but it's important to acknowledge and learn from them before moving on. Madness Returns stumbles three times in particular.

Everyone makes mistakes, but it's important to acknowledge and learn from them before moving on.

Strike one: Midway through Alice's (otherwise amazing) monologue against Bumby, she vows that she'll see him imprisoned and "some half-wit bruiser will make [him] his sweetheart."

After spending the whole game fighting against a powerful man who coerces children into a sex-trafficking ring, Alice holds the threat of prison rape over his head. Obviously, this is not okay.

Rape culture is already so pervasive in our society. Alice should know better than perpetuate it.

Strike two: There's a level called "Oriental Grove" that takes imagery from both Chinese and Japanese cultures, blending them to create a visually pleasing level populated by "Samarai" insects.

I get it. It looks cool and American McGee has lived in China for like, ever, but he is not of these cultures and they are not his to appropriate into this fantasy world.

Still, I'm hesitant to call this one out. The Interchangeable Asian Cultures trope is typically racist, but the "Oriental Grove" is definitely meant to celebrate Chinese culture. I mean, Ken Wong is the art director, so he obviously had a say in it. They really messed up by throwing in Japanese elements.

And the kimono-inspired dress was in pretty poor taste too.

Overall, the level had no logical place in the narrative, even using nonsensical reasoning. Alice isn't of Chinese, or even Asian descent. It's made very clear that this Wonderland exists inside her head. What's the "Oriental Grove" doing there?

Strike Three: The exposed shoulder on the straitjacket dress was just ridiculous.

Alice: Madness Returns - Straitjacket

So is Alice out? Hardly. Every piece of media houses problematic elements. By identifying them, we encourage creators to strive for more nuanced writing and diverse representation.

Behind the Looking-Glass

With Otherlands still on the horizon, we can look forward to more of McGee's Alice, hopefully continuing to champion positive female representation in video games and Wonderland reimaginings everywhere. This time, we'll only be watching Alice rock the blue dress/red knife look, but who knows what the future holds? We could be bringing our controllers back into Wonderland sooner than we think.

Have something to add? Leave a comment below. Just remember the Hatter's advice: if you don't think, then you shouldn't talk.

Ladies in Gaming will be back Friday, September 18th. Until then, watch out for white rabbits.

Ladies in Gaming: Kingdom Hearts' Aqua https://www.gameskinny.com/mo2kd/ladies-in-gaming-kingdom-hearts-aqua https://www.gameskinny.com/mo2kd/ladies-in-gaming-kingdom-hearts-aqua Wed, 19 Aug 2015 02:30:02 -0400 Jackson Ingram

I love Kingdom Hearts. I love that the series is an unholy union between Disney and Final Fantasy. I love how every other line either includes the words "friendship" or "darkness." I even love how the overarching plot is so ridiculously complex that we need countless analysis blogs and forums to even begin lining all the pieces up.

Kingdom Hearts is my problematic fave, and not just because it's silly and takes Mickey Mouse way too seriously and sometimes the dialogue sucks. 

KH is problematic because it doesn't know how to write female characters.

This isn't the first time I've gotten vocal about this. Whether I'm fuming over Kairi's frustrating characterization or exploring Xion's narrative through the lens of Queer Theory, there's always a common denominator: I have to dig deep to interpret female representation in Kingdom Hearts because there isn't a lot of female representation to interpret.

I have to dig deep to interpret female representation in Kingdom Hearts because there isn't a lot of female representation to interpret.

There are dozens of original characters populating the Kingdom Hearts multiverse. Guess how many are female. 

Stop guessing, I'll just tell you. Six! Only six. And of those six, three have the exact same facial features, one is a minor character, another is a supporting antagonist for a side game, and the last one is Aqua, the selfless martyr of Birth by Sleep.

The Misguided Master

On paper, Aqua appears to be a KH feminist's dream. Finally, a female protagonist who is playable during a whole section of the story, not just thrown into a cheap multiplayer mode. After years of waiting on Kairi and rooting for Naminé and crying over Xion, we were getting the heroine we had been waiting for.

In her debut in the secret film alone, Aqua is not only a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, but is also shown as a caring friend. For once, physical and emotional strength might not be mutually exclusive in a female character. It all seemed too good to be true.

A fragmentary passage

Thanks to the developers' questionable decision to split Birth by Sleep into three completely separate storylines, the so-called "Wayfinder Trio" spends a lot of time alone. Aqua, in particular, is shown to be even more fiercely independent than her peers.

Terra, Aqua, and Ventus from Birth by Sleep

In many ways, this is fantastic. Aqua doesn't need anyone. Terra and Ven would obviously be lost without her and she's basically the right hand of Master Eraqus. They all need her, but if she wanted to, she could hop on her glider and ride off into the stars and she would be just fine without them.

In fact, she probably would have been much better off.

Aqua is no sidekick. She's Batman.

Whenever women are finally given active roles, they are often delegated to the sidekick position, the support. Arkham's Oracle does computer stuff for Batman. Princess Zelda has her magic arrow deal in final boss battles with Link. Even Cortana's technological omnipotence plays second-fiddle to Master Chief's giant, um . . . gun. But Aqua is no sidekick. She's Batman.

At least on page, she is. When you look a little deeper, you see that Aqua actually spends 100% of her storyline catering to her male companions. Terra and Ven get these huge sweeping narratives. They've been chosen to play a grand role in an ancient struggle. They have destinies. They have designated antagonists. They have plot relevance.

Aqua has none of that.

According to Xehanort, she's just a back-up in the whole X-Blade thing, which comes off as a thinly veiled excuse to include more Vanitas scenes. Even Kairi had a more defined role in a 'Nort Scheme. And according to Master Eraqus, Aqua's a glorified social worker. He takes a look at all of her experience and talent and tells her that her place is looking after her angsty "brothers."

Wayfinder Trio in Birth by Sleep

Additionally, when Aqua displays the Mark of Mastery (apparently a pretty big deal in-universe), no one really cares. They're all too busy consoling Terra for failing. Aqua doesn't get a moment to be proud of herself. And when the trio is finally reunited, Ven literally calls her terrible and tells her that her title is going to her head. No one ever defends her, making Aqua spend most of the game apologizing for her own ambition.

This all adds up to one conclusion: despite Aqua being billed as the main hero of the game, Birth by Sleep isn't really about her.

Despite Aqua being billed as the main hero of the game, Birth by Sleep isn't really about her.

She doesn't grow. She doesn't develop. She doesn't even get to explore her own relationships. We get a whole lot of Terra and Ven being the "weirdest brothers." And Xehanort being the worst creepy uncle ever to the boys. We get a pretty clear picture of the broken bond between Masters Xehanort and Eraqus. And if they made the "father-figure" relationship between Eraqus and Terra any more heavy-handed, we'd have to saw it off at the wrist.

What about Aqua? Did Eraqus think of her as a daughter? Did her success damage her relationship with Terra before the Mark of Mastery? Has she even spoken to Xehanort? No one knows. She doesn't get to explore any of that.

One good thing about Aqua's loner status is that the writers don't force her into any unnecessary romantic situations. Her dynamic with Terra is so underdeveloped that it can barely be called a "friendship," let alone a relationship and Ventus is (thankfully) underage. Aqua's too busy to care about boys anyway, especially dorky wannabe-heroes like Zack whose advances make her visibly uncomfortable. The most romantic thing she does the whole game is help Cinderella down the stairs. Aqua loses her voice to other characters constantly. The last thing she needs is a significant other to silence her arc completely.

"Sometimes you are such a girl."

"But Jackson," you are undoubtedly thinking as you read this, "Aqua is the first legitimately playable female character in the series. Doesn't the importance of that inclusion kind of negate all these complaints?" No. If anything, we should be even more critical than usual. Square-Enix has kept the KH ladies on the sidelines for years. Aqua was their chance to prove to their fans that they could write a playable female character at a title's forefront.

And they did . . . alright, I guess. Aqua's characterization is certainly better than Kairi's, but following Xion's impressive depth and plot-relevance, she ultimately falls flat.

Aqua and Terra in the opening cinematic.

Still, I might be more willing to overlook a lot of these issues if the writers didn't bog down her character with lazy and unnecessary stereotypes. It's very clear that she's supposed to be the "team mom." The responsible one. All of her actions lead right back to this one personality trait. Granted, her co-protagonists don't have it much better. Ventus is just a single shade of naïve and Terra is made of only two parts gullible and brooding.

I'm not saying maternal instincts are a bad thing. Not at all, especially when found in a nuanced character. Aqua just gets to be maternal though, with no nuance. While none of trio gets much substance, Aqua is the only one who gets pigeonholed into a gendered role.

We can let her be the "mom," but let her be more too. Let her recognize her flaws (she has many) and then have her learn from them. And for God's sake, can you give her more to do besides clean up after Terra and Ven?

Okay, so Aqua is far from perfect, but she's not a lost cause. It's worth noting that she's by far the most powerful of the trio and, even if she follows the "magical girl" trope as the resident female mage, she's also a highly capable swordfighter. True to her namesake, her fighting style is agile and adaptable, arguably giving her the most engaging combat of the franchise.

Aqua in front of stained glass - opening cinematic Birth by Sleep

Despite Terra and Ven acting as sympathy sponges, Aqua emerges as the true heart of Birth by Sleep. Its her unwavering sense of justice and loyalty that really carries us into the Final Episode, letting her finish strong after hours of an unremarkable personal narrative. Is she an amazing, fleshed out character? Nah. But it's definitely hard not to like her and admire her drive.

"There's always a way."

With Aqua (alongside Naminé and Xion) all but confirmed to reappear in Kingdom Hearts 3 and Kairi on deck as a Guardian of Light, the series still has hope for redemption. Birth by Sleep was first released on the PSP back in 2010. We'll just have to wait and see if half of a decade will be long enough to learn from past missteps.

Did you find this analysis to be a little too harsh? Or maybe I overlooked something crucial? Tell us your thoughts on the best (and worst) of Aqua's characterization in the comments below.

Ladies in Gaming will be back on Friday, September 4th. Until then, try to keep your dumb "brothers" out of apocalyptic trouble.

Ladies in Gaming - Goodbye

Ladies in Gaming: Twilight Princess's Midna https://www.gameskinny.com/d3soy/ladies-in-gaming-twilight-princesss-midna https://www.gameskinny.com/d3soy/ladies-in-gaming-twilight-princesss-midna Thu, 06 Aug 2015 08:34:59 -0400 Jackson Ingram

Despite being called "The Legend of Zelda," this (nearly) 30-year-old franchise isn't actually about the princess. For a long time, Hyrule's Princess Zelda existed as little more than a distressed damsel used to motivate the true hero, Link.


Those days of hostage'd Zeldas are hopefully behind us. Over time, the series and its namesake have evolved. While Zelda's female representation has been historically spotty, many of this century's installments feature excellent examples of well-written women. Twilight Princess, in particular, has been praised for this, playing a part in its wide critical acclaim.

Midna gets more development in one game than Princess Peach has gotten in three decades.

At the forefront of every review, ad, and essay for the game is the Twilight Princess herself: newcomer Midna.

Whether you love her or hate her, you can't deny she's had a huge impact on the fandom and Midna is arguably the best female character to join the series since Epona.

Into the Twilight

Midna is not known for her sweet nature. Since her first introduction to Link, she's snarky, bossy, domineering, and just plain rude. And we love it.

Midna Twilight Princess

A lot of media, Fantasy RPGs in particular, succumb to a particularly dominant trope: the Madonna-Whore Complex. This trend falsely dichotomizes female characters as either virtuous Madonnas or, well, immoral "whores." Hyrule Warriors is a recent example, featuring the sweet and "cute" Lana contrasted against the dark (but sexified) Cia. Oh, and both are in love with Link. That's Cia's driving motivation. Lana is Madonna. Cia is the "whore."

Midna can't be pigeonholed into either category. She's not a saint, but she also isn't a seductress. It helps that her imp form can't be sexualized for most of the game, leaving plenty of room for writers to treat her as a character rather than eye candy. Because of this, Midna gets more development in one game than Princess Peach has gotten in three decades.

It's dangerous to go alone . . .

With Link playing up the strong silent type, the bulk of the narrative rests on Midna's silver tongue. It's through her interactions with other characters that we get the greatest insights into her character. While an unfortunate number of video game ladies get side-lined, fridged, and damseled to move the plot along for their male companions, Midna is front and center throughout the whole experience.

When Midna first meets Link, it's clear that she doesn't really care what happens to Hyrule. She's fighting for the Twilight Realm. Why should she care about the denizens of light that once banished her ancestors? Initially, she maintains a generally cavalier attitude while manipulating Link. Throughout their quests, their uneasy alliance evolves into a mutually beneficial partnership. By the time Zant returns to proposition the true Twilight Princess, Link throws himself into protecting her and Midna adamantly refuses to sacrifice the realm of light.

Midna and Link

The most definitive turning point, however, is shortly after this point, when Zelda sacrifices her corporeal form to save Midna. After that, Midna no longer veils her compassion with snark. Twilight Princess does a great job of letting Midna's interactions affect her character without taking away her agency.

She also never loses her edge. The writing gives her room to evolve without destroying her original personality.

Damsels dealing out distress

Mechanically, Midna is clearly filling the support role first carved out by the fairy Navi. While both provide helpful information, Midna goes above and beyond targeting and yelling at Link to "Listen!" She's a fighter. And a powerful one at that. Because of this, she gets to be an active participant in the story, rather than a passive bystander.

Her feelings don't detract from her abilities, they give her character more depth.

Too often "strong female characters" are really just "female characters that kick butt with no actual characterization necessary." This isn't the case with Midna. For example, after (brutally) impaling Zant, she doesn't just marvel at her own power. She feels conflicted about her actions and her ruthlessness. Her feelings don't detract from her abilities, they give her character more depth.

Midna's Fused Shadows Form

Midna's most sensitive moments actually only further empower her. Near the climax of the game, she unites the Fused Shadows to transform into a massive godlike monster and take on Ganondorf herself to save Link and Zelda. So let's just put that in perspective: Midna cares so much about her friends that she takes on awesome Twilight superpowers to perform a heroic sacrifice. Female characters hardly ever get to sacrifice themselves heroically! That's always the dark brooding male hero's job.

Female characters are more often sacrificed to make the male heroes even more dark and brooding. LoZ's heroes aren't even dark and brooding to start with, anyway.

And at the end of the day, Midna is ultimately driven by love. Not the annoyingly romantic kind of love (despite being ship teased with Link), but a genuine affection for her friends and her people. She's specifically cited as a better leader than Zant because she doesn't want power, she wants peace for the Twili. Her compassion isn't a limitation, it's a strength. That's the kind of hero I can get behind.

"See you later"

As always, the future of female representation in Legend of Zelda remains unclear. While we already know we won't be getting any playable women in Triforce Heroesthere are more active ladies than ever in Hyrule Warriors and I'm not giving up hope on a female Link. Hopefully, the series's next installation will remember the importance of Midna ten years down the road and deliver more leading ladies worthy of the Triforce.

The Ladies in Gaming column will be back August 21st. Until then, happy questing.

Ladies in Gaming: Portal's Chell and GLaDOS https://www.gameskinny.com/f46lm/ladies-in-gaming-portals-chell-and-glados https://www.gameskinny.com/f46lm/ladies-in-gaming-portals-chell-and-glados Fri, 24 Jul 2015 02:30:01 -0400 Jackson Ingram

The video game industry has a sexism problem.

We can date this back to 1981 (when Mario had to rescue helpless damsel Pauline from Donkey Kong) and trace it up to modern games like Arkham Knight (in which Catwoman's jumpsuit zipper is tragically broken far below her cleavage). Games just don't always have the most positive female representation. Women are either passive and helpless or oversexualized and objectified.

While we should still be critical of sexist tropes and portrayals, the fight for equal representation should also highlight positive examples of female characters. With FIFA 16 finally including female teams and a surge of playable women featured at E3 2015, we're hopefully taking the first tentative steps in the right direction. This column will feature a variety of Ladies in Gaming that, while far from perfect, show a promising evolution in the video game industry.

Portal: Please Resume Testing

When it was released as a part of the Orange Box back in 2007, Portal was just an unknown newcomer sandwiched between pre-established additions to Half-Life and Team Fortress. The innovative first-person puzzler surprised everyone when it emerged as the breakthrough hit of the bundle. While the sequel introduces the recorded ramblings of Aperture Founder Cave Johnson and robotic ally-turned-enemy Wheatley, the original game starred only two characters: a stoic young test subject named Chell and a dry-witted homicidal supercomputer called GLaDOS. And both were women (or at least programmed with female-identifying artificial intelligence).

Silence is Golden . . .

Even going off of appearance alone, Chell's inclusion as top-billed protagonist is refreshing, to say the least. Naturally, as a test subject, she is outfitted with a standard-issue jumpsuit. Testing is hard work though, so Chell quickly sheds the top portion, revealing . . . a completely sensible tank-top. Not ridiculously tight or short. Not reminiscent of a corset. And not warranting any gratuitous shots of her chest. Solid design work.

On top of that, Portal includes one of my favorite wardrobe subversions in the history of gaming. Action games tend to (inexplicably) put their leading ladies in stilettos - running, jumping, and fighting five to eight inches off the ground. Don't get me wrong, heels are hot. They're also impractical, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

At first glance, Chell appears to conform to this ridiculous trend. Upon closer inspection (and a playthrough), however, it becomes clear that she is actually wearing what Cave Johnson refers to as "Long Fall Boots," equipment designed specifically to protect Portal Devices when their test subjects fall from great heights. It also saves the subject's knees from being torn apart. The Long Fall Boots not only absorb the fall's impact, but are also gyroscopically designed to keep their wearer upright, even when they're flailing through a Portal. How useful. They also look damn good.

Chell - Portal 2

So to recap: Chell is a non-white woman wearing practical clothes in an active, leading role. I'm actually swooning. This is too good to be true!

Isn't it? I mean, Chell doesn't say a single word throughout the whole series. She's a woman without a voice. Isn't that . . . kind of damaging to her agency?

Not in the slightest.

It should be noted that Valve is fond of the Heroic Mime bit, even using it for Half-Life's main protagonist, Gordan Freeman. Chell's tight-lipped nature shouldn't be much of a surprise.

Plus, the "silent hero" archetype isn't new to gaming, it's just usually reserved for men. Men who don't have time for chit-chat, who are all movement and adventure and action. It's kind of nice to see Valve recognize that women can be equally action-oriented.

And what would Chell say to GLaDOS anyway? Would she barter for her life? Reason with an AI? Throw insults right back at her? Nope. Those would all feel cheap. Chell just hunkers down and survives. Valve's Erik Wolpaw even hints that her silence is in-part a rejection of GLaDOS's games. She won't give her the satisfaction of a response.

Most interestingly, Portal 2 takes Chell across the line of "won't talk" to "can't talk." After she awakens, Wheatley suggests that her years of stasis have taken a toll on her motor functions, specifically speech. The intermittent grunts of pain or exertion from the first game are also gone, supporting the implication that she is now functionally mute.

Chell's disability is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. She is more than a stand-in for player-insertive storytelling and conveys her personality through actions, rather than words. Even without a single line of dialogue, we know that Chell is a smart, self-assured woman with a strong will to survive.

. . . but Snark is Silver

Typically playing Chell's antagonist is GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), a highly sophisticated AI designed to oversee the Enrichment Center. After her activation, however, she strays from the gameplan, launching a hostile takeover of Aperture Science, flooding the facility with deadly neurotoxin, and killing almost everyone inside of it.

GLaDOS was initially only intended for the first portion of Portal, but she was so well-received that her role was expanded considerably. Nearly a decade later, she's considered one of the greatest video game villains of all time, carrying the weight of Portal's well-tuned narrative with an onslaught of harsh, witty dialogue.

GLaDOS - Portal

GLaDOS works because she feels real. Okay, I'm not suggesting that we all have killer robots in our lives, but we should all know what manipulation feels like. GLaDOS starts out as a reassuring guide in a world that makes no sense. It soon becomes clear, however, that her intentions for Chell are far more sinister than simple testing. GLaDOS uses a variety of tactics to "encourage" her test subject, ranging from the promise of cake to fake apologies to very thinly-veiled insults. At one point, she even coerces Chell into bonding with a Weighted Companion Cube, only to make her incinerate it shortly thereafter. GLaDOS is abusive, narcissistic, and utterly transfixing, a far cry from countless cardstock villainesses motivated by petty jealousy and simply going through the motions of domination.

GLaDOS is more than a single-sided circuit-board coded with evil. The sequel shows us many new shades behind GLaDOS's programmed personality after she is forced to ally herself with Chell against Wheatley. When the two women work together, rather than in opposition, they're able to achieve common goals and reach a tenuous understanding.

Additionally, her relationship with Wheatley can be thought of as an allegory of patriarchal concepts and stereotypes limiting women's full potential. GLaDOS is by far the most intelligent and powerful character of the series. Wheatley, a male-identifying AI, was specifically designed to inhibit her functions. Without her personality cores, she becomes far more powerful.

Obviously, the analogy stops at deadly neurotoxin. Let's not get carried away.

Testing Concluded

So what do you think? Are Chell and GLaDOS good examples of positive female representation?

Ladies in Gaming will be back for more compelling women on August 7th, kicking off regular updates every first and third Friday of each month. Until then, happy testing!

Ladies in Gaming - Ending Logo

Study Shows Unskilled Players More Likely to Be Sexist https://www.gameskinny.com/nfwva/study-shows-unskilled-players-more-likely-to-be-sexist https://www.gameskinny.com/nfwva/study-shows-unskilled-players-more-likely-to-be-sexist Sat, 18 Jul 2015 15:48:29 -0400 K.W. Colyard

According to new data, unskilled male gamers are more likely to become hostile toward female players. The study, titled "Insights into Sexism: Male Status and Performance Moderates Female-Directed Hostile and Amicable Behavior," was conducted by researchers from the University of New South Wales and Miami University, and published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Using Halo 3 to look at interactions between the sexes in team-based competitive gaming, researchers found that unskilled male players who performed poorly in a match were more likely to berate their female teammates, while acting submissively toward more skilled male players. From the abstract:

We show that lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly. ... This difference in gender-directed behaviour became more extreme with poorer focal-player performance. We suggest that low-status males increase female-directed hostility to minimize the loss of status as a consequence of hierarchical reconfiguration resulting from the entrance of a woman into the competitive arena.

The study's participants were all anonymous and unaware that they were being observed, thanks to Xbox Live's policies allowing game footage and chat audio to be recorded at any time. Because of its complete anonymity, "Insights into Sexism" is an unbiased look at gender dynamics in the gaming world, showing the harassment female players endure at the hands of insecure men.

Although the men who engage in these harmful behaviors are 100% accountable for their attitudes and actions, hostility toward women - particularly from underachieving men - is a sociocultural problem created by the gendered expectation that men should dominate women in finance, academia, and sport, among other arenas. For more information on the subject, check out Dr. Nerdlove's blog post on toxic masculinity in the geek world.

Interview: Elsinore developer gives us new insights into Ophelia's heroic comeback https://www.gameskinny.com/akzwd/interview-elsinore-developer-gives-us-new-insights-into-ophelias-heroic-comeback https://www.gameskinny.com/akzwd/interview-elsinore-developer-gives-us-new-insights-into-ophelias-heroic-comeback Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:30:01 -0400 Jackson Ingram

Elsinore is an upcoming feminist take on Hamlet that puts you in Ophelia's shoes, giving you four days to intervene and prevent a Shakespearean tragedy. After an incredibly successful Kickstarter run in which the game raised a grand total of $32,217, almost triple their $12K goal, development is moving full speed ahead to meet a 2016 release.

We caught up with Elsinore's lead designer, Connor Fallon, and found out more about the game's conception, the importance of diversity in gaming, and where Elsinore is headed from here.

Reviving a heroine

Throughout Hamlet, Ophelia is often spoken of, but rarely the one doing the speaking. While her name and imagery appear often in popular culture, few have attempted to bring her out of the water and into the spotlight.

JI: The last update on Kickstarter tells us that Elsinore began as an idea between you and Lead Writer Katie Chironis. What was it about Ophelia that made you want to tell her story?

CF: Ophelia is a character who has almost had a larger role in academia than she was ever granted in the original play. Fascination with the character has ranged from symbolic interpretations of what she represents in regards to sexuality and femininity, to near conspiracy theories as to how she might have actually died and what might have motivated this mysterious death. It seemed long overdue that her story was told, as people are clearly interested in her life and what it could mean.

Ophelia is intelligent, but everyone in the castle seems concerned with telling her what she should be rather than listening to what she has to say.

And there is plenty to work with. In the actual text, we get the sense that Ophelia is intelligent, but everyone in the castle seems concerned with telling her what she should be rather than listening to what she has to say. In a way, the lack of impact she makes on the original story made her a prime candidate to change it. The original play could be viewed as a timeline where Ophelia gave up - so what about all the other instances? What about the ones where she tried to change something?

JI: Elsinore's been making waves with its commitment to a diverse cast. Tell us about the team's decision to break away from Hamlet's predominantly cis-straight white history.

CF: As part of developing the world of Hamlet to a point where the player could talk to them at any time and influence them in many ways, we needed to flesh out these characters, providing details the original text did not. A big part of these details are the characters' origins and histories, which affect the way they interact with the world and with other characters.

The fact is, for Hamlet Shakespeare didn't specify the races or sexuality of a lot of the characters - for the most part the entire cast consists of blank slates. So the fact that these characters have almost always been cast as white actors, and all assumed to all be straight, is more a mark of our ongoing assumptions than anything essential to the author's original intent. I'm not claiming the bard planned for Ophelia to be of African decent, but when it came to fleshing out the characters and doing research into the time period, we quickly discovered that more diversity in Elsinore castle was plausible. At that point in time, merchant trading had started to occur much more frequently, and those in court would have likely crossed paths with individuals from all over, a fact reflected in some of Shakespeare's other plays.

But even if this wasn't the case, diversity was something we as a team cared about. Everyone deserves to be able to find heroes that look like them. We live in a diverse world, and while many performances of the original play don't reflect that, there is no reason our own take on it can't.

Just in case you haven't seen it, Katie wrote a fantastic piece about this very topic on Gamasutra.

Ophelia's final design and concept art for Elsinore.

Ophelia's final design compared to the earliest sketches

JI: Elsinore's "gameplay flow" looks like it's going to be an innovative twist on how the story is experienced, with NPCs going about their lives and schedules in real time. What inspired you to implement this system in the game?

CF: It's increasingly common for almost every part a game world to be scripted around the player - buildings that collapse when you look at them, muggers that wait to mug their victims until you are within earshot, and very patient explosions that wait for the player to be close enough to be startling (but not so close as to be fatal!) If the player does nothing, the show comes to a halt.

But in the real world, if you wait around and do nothing, the world moves on without you, lives going on without the influence you could have had - and this is especially the case if you are someone like Ophelia, whose world is structured in such a way to deem her "unimportant." Having the world move on without you in such a way where you inaction is just as meaningful as action just worked much better for us thematically. Your time and attention are valuable - there is only so much you can affect in one go round.

Majora's Mask is obviously a huge influence in this regard. All of the side content in that game occurs over specific time frames in such a way that it is impossible to see or change every outcome in one go. And if you are not there to stop the alien abduction, then the aliens don't wait. The fact that the main character is caught in a time loop in both Majora's Mask and Elsinore means that even missing an event is not a loss - you have infinite tries to see how it could play out differently.

The future of Elsinore

While Golden Glitch Studios has already unveiled a lot of exciting information about Elsinore, they've recently announced several more aspects of the final game for Ophelia to discover. 

JI: Since Elsinore ended its impressive Kickstarter run on May 26, updates on the game have been sparse. What can you tell us about where Elsinore stands on production? How close are you to completion?

CF: The Kickstarter was an incredibly busy month where we were speaking with journalists, writing blurbs, and tweeting our hearts out in order to spread the word far and wide. For that reason, however, we didn't have as much time to focus on game development during May as we'd have liked. Therefore, June has been about making up for lost time and implementing some much-needed updates for core systems, like our UI. Important things, but things that don't make for very exciting updates.

To go into more detail, We're currently reworking the engine we created pre-kickstarter to make it more robust and able to support the variety of scenarios and depth of interactions we wish to have in the final game. Design-wise, we are also focusing on how the opening moments of the game will work and feel - because our systems will mean nothing if the player can't engage with them in a meaningful way.

Our intended release is late in 2016, so we've got a ways to go before release, but we are making steady progress. As promised, we'll be sending out an update to our backers at the end of June!

Elsinore's Kickstarter header

 Elsinore's Kickstarter Header

JI: Your second stretch goal introduced a Pirate Ship segment, featuring an all-new character. We're pretty stoked about our options. I don't suppose you could tell us which character was selected as the fearless captain?

CF: I can't tell you who has been selected, because they haven't been selected yet! The Pirate Captain will be chosen by our backers, and we will be sending out a poll for them to choose from the four options in the very near future. We have some new art for each of our four candidates to help with the voting process (or make you more conflicted about which one to cast your lot in with), so look forward to that!

JI: Several classic Shakespearean characters were among our choices for pirate captain. How did you decide which figures to enter the race for piracy and can we expect any of other Shakespearean favorites to pop up in Elsinore?

CF: Well, we started in the obvious place: actual pirates, and piracy-inclined characters, in Shakespeare's works. From there, we expanded to characters that could have been great pirates if their lives had gone differently - Kate Minola is the prime example, as someone who clashes with the high society she is raised in but in the original play had no real escape. And to diversify things, we researched various famous pirates from the general time period, such as Grace O' Malley.

Once we developed our pool, choosing the candidates honestly boiled down to which of our options our team was most excited about, which had narrative possibility and who would add new flavor to the cast of Elsinore. Having diversity within our options was important as well, we didn't want the backer's first influence to be a meaningless choice. And whichever captain the backers pick, we've got plenty of ideas for how they can will fit into the world!

As for other Shakespearean characters in Elsinore, "Peter Quince" is a name that is probably familiar to fans of the bard. Beyond that? It's a secret to everybody.

JI: Near the end of your Kickstarter run, you broke $30K, therefore unlocking a new area called Castle Town and another featured character. Can you tell us anything about the candidates in line for this role?

CF: Castle Town is interesting because it's a place Ophelia's not supposed to go - she'll be hanging out around common folk and leaving Elsinore for the first time. There will definitely be some very interesting things to find there which will put the way players see characters in a new light.

As for candidates for the new character, I'm afraid I can't say anything yet. We need to nail down the pirate captain first, but this will also be someone the backers will get to vote on from a number of candidates.

JI: Finally, tell us about your intentions for the game. After everything is said and done and Ophelia's four looping days are finally over, what do you hope players get out of Elsinore?

CF: We want them to get a meaningful experience out of it! I don't really want to reveal our intentions this early in the process - all I will say is that we have them, and that there are some cool things we are hoping to tackle with our end project. Somewhere to start: not many games are tragedies. Why do you think that is? Because if you are not thinking about it now, hopefully you will think about it when you are done.

A huge thank you goes out to Connor Fallon and everyone back at Golden Glitch Studios for their time. You can learn more about Elsinore on the game's official site and can find Connor on Twitter.

inFAMOUSly sexist?: the best and worst depictions of women in the series https://www.gameskinny.com/vwetg/infamously-sexist-the-best-and-worst-depictions-of-women-in-the-series https://www.gameskinny.com/vwetg/infamously-sexist-the-best-and-worst-depictions-of-women-in-the-series Sat, 30 May 2015 02:30:01 -0400 Jackson Ingram


Abigail "Fetch" Walker


Bad Karma: In an effort to end on a good note, let's tackle the bad first. Delsin initially meets Fetch through an elaborate chase scene, after which he knocks her unconscious and stands over her body arguing with his brother over what they should do with her. Afterwards, the player is asked to "redeem" or "corrupt" her. Either forcibly change her morality or sic her on your enemies. Either way, she's objectified. Something to be manipulated or used. Oh, and if you choose the evil path, you get to have sex with her. But in inFAMOUS sexual women are always evil.


Good Karma: Then First Light happened and suddenly inFAMOUS has its first playable female protagonist. In making Fetch more believable as a woman and as a human being, the developers even consulted the voice actress about dialogue and interactions. In the end, Fetch became a "strong female character" in every sense of the word. She's powerful, but there's a lot more to her than just the neon.


If and when Sucker Punch decides to pick up the InFAMOUS franchise again, hopefully they'll remember both their successes and failures when writing for their female characters. With any luck, First Light will be the first of many feminist triumphs of the series.


Did you think some of these assessments were a bit harsh? Or maybe we're still going too easy on them. Either way, sound off in the comments below.


Brooke Augustine


Good/Bad Karma: On one hand, she's an incredibly well-characterized villain. Her motivations are complex. She's an authoritarian. She has agency, an agenda. On the other hand, she's meant to be disliked by the player because of how she abuses her power. And since she is one of the few major female characters, this could imply that a woman in charge is inherently damaging to society. Since this is a double-edged sword, it's impossible to draw the line where Augustine stops advancing the quality of female representation and starts hindering it.


Celia Penderghast


Good Karma: There's nothing specifically sexist about Celia's character. There's also nothing particularly progressive. The paper thing is pretty cool though.


Bad Karma: Though it's hard to tell in the cutscenes, based on her aliases ("Hitori" and "Saisei"), it's clear Celia is Japanese. So naturally they put her in a school girl's uniform for no reason other than to buy into a stereotype.




Good Karma: Nix kicks some serious rear, but that's not what makes her a "strong female character." She's well-written, with a distinct personality and clear goals. Plus, Nix takes on a role usually reserved for brooding male protagonists: the anti-hero, complete with a tragic backstory and morals in every shade of gray. Even better, she's funny. She's not brooding at all. Nix takes tired tropes and burns them to the ground.


Bad Karma: Nix is also one of the most racist caricatures in modern gaming.  A black, uneducated woman who grew up on the bayou? Scantily clad in leather and "tribal" ornaments? She's literally described as a "Swamp Witch." Just take a look at the original concept art. It apparently could have been so much worse, but you can tell what the designers were going for.


Lucy Kuo


Good Karma: InFAMOUS 2 made a much better effort to diversify its cast and give prominent roles to female characters. While Lucy Kuo, an Asian-American undercover agent and cryokinetic Conduit, does represent the "good" path, her morality is anything but one-dimensional. She has doubts, she can be selfish, just like a real human being.


Neutral Karma: The potentially racist implications of her magical blue hairdo are still up for debate. Are they exoticizing her? It's hard to say. While her Conduit transformation does give an in-universe explanation, when paired with her tighter, sexier outfit, the blue hair might also indicate an attempt to make Kuo more appealing to the American gaze. The jury's out on this one.


Bad Karma: The developers still seem stuck in creating dichotomies between their female characters. First Kuo is good and Nix is bad. Then they switch. At this point, women still can't be legitimate allies in the inFAMOUS universe. They still have to present opposing fronts between which Cole must choose.


Moya Jones


Good Karma: Moya is clever, manipulative, and totally in control. She's never unnecessarily sexualized, always secure in her independence, and deeply nuanced to boot, almost like they treated her as, like, an actual character or something. It's also refreshing to see a woman of color in a prominent role, even if she isn't shown on-screen very often. Unfortunately she doesn't make it past the comics, as she is a stellar character.


Bad Karma: Moya isn't a perfect character, but there's certainly nothing overtly sexist about her portrayal.




Good Karma: Female villains can be some of the most progressive characters in fiction because they defy the stereotype that women can only be pure and innocent sideliners in the male protagonist's story.


Sasha takes it a step further by also being depicted as smart (a scientist who developed a mind-control substance) and extremely powerful (a high-level Conduit and the leader of the gang controlling an entire city district).


Bad Karma: Sasha is essentially the "whore" to Trish's "Madonna," a fitting dichotomy for a game obsessed with moral absolutes. By casting her as the evil corrupter opposite Trish's goodness, inFAMOUS villainizes the traits that set Sasha apart from Trish, namely her free expression of sexuality.


Additionally, all of the Good Karma she racked up as a female scientist is devalued after John describes her as a "honey pot," a woman who seduces men to extract information. Ultimately, when Sasha's not being compared to Trish, she's being put in a subordinate role to either Kessler or Cole. 


Trish Dailey


Good Karma: Trish was actually pretty interesting when she wasn't being used as a plot device. Her story arc arguably had the potential to be more engaging than Cole's. In spite of losing her sister and Empire City's fall to anarchy, she never considers once giving up or riding out the storm in safety.


She's on the front lines, working in medical clinics, saving lives. Unfortunately, she never completes her own arc because all along she was just a piece of Cole's. 


Bad Karma: Trish is essentially the martyred saint of Empire City. Depending on the path Cole takes, she either serves as a righteous figure to which he can aspire or an ever-present judge of his evil actions. Either way, she’s not written to be a real identifiable character.


At best, she’s an idea: first a reminder of Cole’s humanity, then a symbol of what he’s trying to recover, and finally, a memory to be avenged. At worst, she’s an object, designed to be protected or rescued in missions.


Unfortunately, just as she begins to take on a distinct personality – a tenacious woman with an inflexible code of ethics and deep compassion for others – she’s killed off by Kessler for the sole purpose of affecting the protagonist. When she fell off that building, she might as well have fallen right into an open refrigerator.


Warning: this article contains spoilers for inFAMOUS, inFAMOUS 2, and inFAMOUS: Second Son.


For a game series built around themes of oppression and othering, inFAMOUS has a checkered history when it comes to its depictions of female characters. With every main series installment to date starring a male protagonist, the featured women first struggled for relevance and must now vie for equal representation.


While the recent release of First Light suggests things may be improving, if we're going off of Sucker Punch’s track record, it’s hard to say if this is the beginning of a new era or just an anomaly on inFAMOUS's radar.

Anita Sarkeesian's New Video Highlights Positive Female Characters https://www.gameskinny.com/akj9f/anita-sarkeesians-new-video-highlights-positive-female-characters https://www.gameskinny.com/akj9f/anita-sarkeesians-new-video-highlights-positive-female-characters Wed, 01 Apr 2015 06:19:02 -0400 GameSkinny Staff

The latest video from Feminist Frequency hit YouTube yesterday, and the world did not end. The video focuses around the Scythian of 2011 indie hit Sword and Sworcery. 

While Anita Sarkeesian has been threatened in the past for her criticism of gender topics in video games, this video seems to be garnering a lot of support and next to no flack. The videos in Sarkeesian's "Tropes Against Women in Video Games" series were the subject of bile-filled, volatile, bare-knuckled internet brawls.. but this new "Positive Females in Video Games" series is not likely to accrue as much hate.

In past videos, Sarkeesian's criticism painted the world of gaming in a negative light by pointing out common tropes in games where female characters are often objects of sex and brutality. Many gamers, male and female alike, felt personally attacked when those videos criticized elements of their hobby. Many gamers lashed out in defense, painting Sarkeesian as a folk villain in the 2014 pop culture landscape.

The lens of Feminist Frequency's academic criticism is now turned towards a critical analysis of games that break free from mold and throw sexist tropes out the window; these are games worthy of praise, the video argues.

The comments section is turned off, but many gamers on various forums seem significantly less hostile towards Anita Sarkeesian and this new video.

Woman May Briefly Join the Party in FFXV https://www.gameskinny.com/46isj/woman-may-briefly-join-the-party-in-ffxv https://www.gameskinny.com/46isj/woman-may-briefly-join-the-party-in-ffxv Tue, 31 Mar 2015 07:45:56 -0400 Kate Reynolds

It's become clear over the course of the past year that fans of the Final Fantasy series would have to play with an all-male cast in the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. However, a recent interview with FFXV director Hajime Tabata hints at a visiting female party member. 

In an interview with Weekly Famitsu, Tabata was once again asked about the lack of female party members and gave an answer we haven't heard before. 

It is possible that a female character may join the party as a guest. Because it's four guys traveling together, it may be an interesting point to see how these youths react to a woman when she is in the party as a guest. 

Previously when Gamespot asked about the all-male cast of FFXV Tabata responded that the all-male party was meant to be more approachable to players.  He added, 

"Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behaviour, so that they'll act differently. So to give the most natural feeling, to make them feel sincere and honest, having them all the same gender made sense in that way."

In my opinion, some of the best moments of past Final Fantasy games were seeing characters of different races and genders interacting with each other, as well as the complex and strong female characters that Square Enix offered.

This game seems to be leaving behind some fan-favorite aspects, but until we see the finished product, it's too early to tell how this all-male saga will play out. 

Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian Announces Two Upcoming Video Game-related Series https://www.gameskinny.com/paztl/feminist-frequencys-anita-sarkeesian-announces-two-upcoming-video-game-related-series https://www.gameskinny.com/paztl/feminist-frequencys-anita-sarkeesian-announces-two-upcoming-video-game-related-series Fri, 30 Jan 2015 06:08:06 -0500 Jessa Rittenhouse

Anita Sarkeesian of the non-profit Feminist Frequency has recently announced the creation of two new video game-related web series to be released in the next year. One will focus on "the representation of men and masculinity in video games," and another miniseries that will offer examples of positive representations of women in video games.

Sarkeesian, host of the organization's popular series Tropes vs. Women, says in the 2014 annual report that the series will continue, kicking off the year with the upcoming video "Women as Reward," which is currently in production.

In addition to introducing the new series, the report also lays out the organization's statistics for the past year, including financial information, total YouTube views (in excess of five million), the breakdown of their audience by age, and much more.

Anita Sarkeesian appeared on the Colbert Report in 2014 to discuss the #GamerGate Controversy.

In 2014, she was driven from her home by death threats and was forced to cancel a talk at Utah State University in October (due to threats of a shooting massacre if she were allowed to appear). Despite a turbulent year, Sarkeesian remains positive and dedicated to the organization's cause, citing the passion of viewers, fans, and game development companies that work to improve the representation of women in games as the force that drives her to continue.

One of the most vocal feminist figures in gaming, Anita Sarkeesian was awarded the Game Developer's Choice Ambassador Award in 2014, appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss the GamerGate controversy, and was featured in The New York Times.

Gamergate, Hatred, and Gaming Culture https://www.gameskinny.com/px290/gamergate-hatred-and-gaming-culture https://www.gameskinny.com/px290/gamergate-hatred-and-gaming-culture Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:52:58 -0500 Coatedpolecat

The term 'gamer' has been tainted by communities like Hatred's and some participants of GamerGate. From their conception hateful, immature people, reinforcing other negative gamer stereotypes have been running rampant. Recently the community around Hatred is becoming the norm for video game culture and it needs to stop.

Though some argue our culture has groomed this behavior. The type of cesspool culture that's become synonymous with GamerGate has seeped into Steam Greenlight. Since Steam reinstated the controversial game Hatred, the comments surrounding it are very reminiscent of the slander, libel, and hate speech from some GamerGaters.

Though, no direct ties to the hashtag phenomenon connect Hatred's community and GamerGate together, the hostility towards Social Justice Warriors/feminists/opinionated humans, are very similar from both groups. GamerGate and Hatred's community seem laser-focused on feminists and have very little civility in forums and on social media.


GamerGate History

Eight months ago some folks accused Zoey Quinn - who made Depression Quest - of sleeping with journalists in exchange for positive press for her game. Though these rumors and accusations are still unproven to this day, GamerGate can't seem to let it go.

The concern is: some journalists are building close relationships with developers and publishers, thus creating content that may be biased to favor those involved with the process. Regardless of this fairly legitimate concern, the slander and harassment used under the GamerGate banner overshadows any true or genuine intentions for sites to include/disclose said relationships.

The banner in which GamerGate attempts to flag is one about journalistic integrity within the games industry... I mean, because interactive entertainment journalism is such a grave subject. What would happen if Hollywood journalists didn't have integrity or even worse, music critics?

Actions and consequences

That's not to take away serious criticisms of diversity and inclusion in the industry, its games, or developers. If games want to strive as an art form, critical analysis is necessary. Anita Sarkeesian creates a series of videos about tropes vs women in gaming. A vocal portion of the Internet reacted with hate speech and misogynistic messages towards an array of feminists and "Social Justice Warriors" after this video.

This behavior by some gamers caused Universities to cancel talks by feminists such as Anita Sarkeesian due to death threats. They've taken photos of Briana Wu's house with floor plans, phone numbers, pictures, and more terrifying things all posted on the Internet - all associated with GamerGate.

Are gamers all the same? Does one title fit all? I don't know, but if it does, I want out.

These displays of power have caused some of these women to move and remain under police surveillance just to keep their pets, friends, co-workers, and families safe.

Over the course of eight months these people, mainly women, have had to shoulder this burden. To add to this toxicity a game has rallied a similar group of people. As the barrage of attacks on SJW's continues, a game Hatred enters Steam Greenlight and adds fuel to the fire.

Hatred breeds hatred

Hatred is a game about commenting a mass murder on unsuspecting civilians... All in the name of "fun." Steam originally took the game down to later send an apology letter and reinstated the murdering simulator.

Once reinstated, the forums for the Steam Greenlight lit up like the Griswald House on Christmas. Comments ranged from "can we kill children too" to an entire thread devoted just wishing feminist like Briana and Anita be put in the game to kill.

If they're gamers, am I?

There are many people I've seen and interacted with via Twitter, Facebook, and the like, but never once have I disliked or loathed someone as to hurt them the way this hateful culture surrounding 'gamers' has. Some have argued the term gamer is no longer applicable - that it's too general of a term. 

Which begs the questions: Are gamers all the same? Does one title fit all? I don't know, but if it does, I want out. Video games have earned this culture. The very diversity and understanding SJW's are striving to achieve in this industry, in our culture, can be accomplished by getting rid of the stereotypes and begin to move forward.

They've taken photos of Briana Wu's house with floor plans, phone numbers, pictures, and more terrifying things all posted on the Internet

With all the pushback regarding diversity in games, maybe the term gamer isn't just a generalized term anymore. Maybe we're just people who have a passion for a hobby - video games. If being a gamer means I have to associate myself with people like the Hatred community or GamerGate, I'm not a gamer.

Maybe games like Hatred, POSTAL 2, and the like are just what the gaming community deserves though. After all, isn't that what people have assumed all along? Whenever there's a mass school shooting, video games get the blame. And why not, if you were on the outside looking in right now, you would blame games too.

We all know the best way to express yourself is through death and rape threats. Maybe if we play our cards right we can start alienating people due to their console of choice... Oh wait...


The Invisible Wall Documentary with Thoughts https://www.gameskinny.com/up8wo/the-invisible-wall-documentary-with-thoughts https://www.gameskinny.com/up8wo/the-invisible-wall-documentary-with-thoughts Sun, 21 Dec 2014 06:07:46 -0500 Chris_Lemus

The video game console controller grants power to those who possess it. Siblings fight over it, and parents confiscate it as punishment. While the controller does not discriminate, game developers and publishers are not taking into account one of the biggest groups of gamers wielding the power of the controller. 

I decided to create “Invisible Wall” for two reasons. First, the controversies of developers not creating playable female characters, and of females being threatened by gamers, were all gendered issues. Thus, they were all related, especially as they happened over the course of one year. I feel like there were too many reactionary arguments that were based on emotion and opinion instead of objective documentation.

The second reason was that I wanted to explore how females navigated the gaming community. It was important to present who these female gamers really were, not just the social constructions of them. A lot of stories address the issue as they should, but they do not present how a typical female gamer goes about validating her sense of self or how they game differently because of the events playing out online and in the media.

History has shown that “GamerGate” comes and goes, no matter how it is used. While the new year may bring a calm for female gamers and developers, never before has the industry seen this many females who play and invest in games. If the number continues to grow, even by two percent, it will further change how gendered gamer issues are handled and addressed. The strength in numbers provides an opportunity to break any potential for cyclical flareups.

“Invisible Wall” was not meant to set an agenda. The documentary’s purpose is to be another properly made and credible document in the history of video games and social issues.  It is a speck of information in the spectrum of events. While the facts are verified and credited, the stories give it a human interest intended for an entertainment value that the viewer can enjoy.

When organizing and presenting the information, it was important to follow the development of a certain feeling or thought behind any actions. There were various groups, and thus, various viewpoints, all helping define what the issue was and contributing to the conversation about it.

I would like to thank everyone who was a part of “Invisible Wall” for being an important contribution, including GameSkinny senior editor Jay Ricciardi for agreeing to an interview. Not only did they help tell the story, but they assisted in providing documentation that goes beyond numbers and quotes. Their time and consent were both generous gifts. 

I am excited to release this documentary as a body of work that combines both storytelling and researched information for viewers to enjoy. Thank you for taking the time to watch my first ever documentary.

GameLoading: Zoe Quinn Speaks Out About Harassment https://www.gameskinny.com/20p7r/gameloading-zoe-quinn-speaks-out-about-harassment https://www.gameskinny.com/20p7r/gameloading-zoe-quinn-speaks-out-about-harassment Wed, 15 Oct 2014 11:42:56 -0400 Amanda Wallace

GameLoading: Rise of the Indies is a documentary currently going through it's final push on Kickstarter. The documentary focuses on the rise of indie development in recent years, by following a wide variety of developers and industry figures through several events and other organizations. 

The above video is a featurette focused on women in-game development and the harassment several of them faced over the years. The segment includes portions of interviews with Cat Small, Zoe Quinn, Nina Freeman, and Phoenix Perry. 

As one of the producers, Jess O'Farrell wrote: "The interviews were shot between March and May 2014, showing that hostility towards women is not a new phenomenon." 

The developers talk about facing harassment over being a person of color, about people reacting because they were making "different" games, and about being perceived as a girlfriend rather than a developer. 

GameLoading: Rise of the Indies is currently doing a "final push" Kickstarter.

Anita Sarkeesian Talk at Utah State Cancelled https://www.gameskinny.com/npi3k/anita-sarkeesian-talk-at-utah-state-cancelled https://www.gameskinny.com/npi3k/anita-sarkeesian-talk-at-utah-state-cancelled Wed, 15 Oct 2014 06:59:02 -0400 Amanda Wallace

"This is a warning to all staff and students at Utah State University.

On Wednesday, October the 15th, a woman named Anita Sarkeesian is going to be speaking at the Taggert Student Center...

If you do not cancel her talk, a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as students and staff at the nearby Women's Center. I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs. This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I'm giving you a chance to stop it."

This is an excerpt from the complete email obtained by the Standard Examiner. The complete email is posted at the conclusion of this article. 

According to Utah State, a number of university personnel received a threatening email yesterday.  Yesterday Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a scheduled talk at Utah State University, where she was going to discuss the portrayal of women in video games. Gamers and fans will recognize her for her previous work on the Youtube series Tropes vs. Women as well as being a controversial figure inside the world of gaming. 

"I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America." - email threat

USU went on to say that they are coordinating with local state and federal law enforcement agencies to assess the threat and to find out who is responsible. Originally it seemed that Sarkeesian's talk would go on as planned because it was "determined it is similar to other threats that Sarkeesian has received in the past."

However, she decided to cancel her talk after finding out that due to Utah law the day before it was scheduled to go on, "if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue." 

For context, the Montreal Massacre took place at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, an engineering school affiliated with the University of Montreal in Quebec. Marc Lépine entered a classroom at the school, separating male from female students before opening fire on the female half. He then continued through the campus, shooting twenty-eight people. He ultimately killed fourteen women before shooting himself.  Lépine evidently felt that he was "fighting feminism." 

"I am a student here. You will never find me, but you may all soon know my name." - email threat

As for the deadliest school shooting in US history, that is perhaps up for debate. It could be when 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech, which is certainly a lot of people. A spiritual worst, however, would be Sandy Hook which resulted in the deaths of 20 young children and six adults. 

While this attack has not been linked directly to the GamerGate movement, a comparison comes to mind. Elliot Rodgers, who murdered thirteen people over sexual rejection, may not have defined the pick up artist and MRA communities. These communities might not accept what he had done. But he was encouraged by the negative attitudes expressed by those communities. He felt emboldened and empowered by their rage and disrespect.

Similarly, the potential Utah State school shooter may not represent GamerGate, but he seems to have been emboldened by their reactions and their treatment of women in the gaming community. He is ultimately to blame for his actions. He and Rodgers are not, as we would say colloquially in the South, "good people." But we must acknowledge: they do not exist in a vacuum.

The full text of the email, as obtained by the Standard Examiner

Developer Speaks Out Against 'Gamer Feminists' https://www.gameskinny.com/fjj76/developer-speaks-out-against-gamer-feminists https://www.gameskinny.com/fjj76/developer-speaks-out-against-gamer-feminists Thu, 19 Jun 2014 20:20:16 -0400 Krystina Butler

Last week a controversy arose pertaining to the lack of female playable characters in Assassin's Creed: Unity and Far Cry IV saying that it "can't be done" because it would be too much work.

However, it seems like there may be a new controversy on the rise associated with the game: Rust developer Garry Newman speaking out against the "self elected video gamer feminists."

His intentions, saying that Ubisoft is unfairly receiving all the blame for a problem that is prevalent all over the gaming industry "as if they invented sexism", are good.  But the way that he went about it, arguing over Twitter has not only made the problem worse but lost him followers of his game, some even requesting a refund for the money that they spent on Rust.

Newman seemed to try and backtrack later on by posting a tweet clarifying his original intentions, saying "It would undoubtedly be good if there were more female protagonists in games, but rallying against games for not having any is insane, in my own personal opinion," but it wasn't nearly as well met as some of his other tweets.  All of this craziness comes after last week's announcement from Ubisoft that says we can expect to encounter some strong female characters in Assassin's Creed: Unity

I'm sure when Ubisoft decided to address the issue of the lack of female playable characters it was not with the intentions to make the gaming world upset or to provoke a twitter battle that has quite possibly lost business for a different game developer.  Assassin's Creed Unity director Alex Amancio claimed that it would take a lot of extra work-- an estimated 8,000 extra animations-- for the female character alone, which if they took the time to do may possibly impact the game's release date.  From a business standpoint, it makes sense.

However, the way that the issue has been handled has caused nothing but more problems.  Perhaps everyone involved (or those with a strong opinion that have been involving themselves) should just stay quiet for a while to assure that an already negative thing doesn't grow worse, into something that may be unable to be resolved.

Tropes Vs. Women in Games and the Boons of Abandoning Authorial Intent https://www.gameskinny.com/fa199/tropes-vs-women-in-games-and-the-boons-of-abandoning-authorial-intent https://www.gameskinny.com/fa199/tropes-vs-women-in-games-and-the-boons-of-abandoning-authorial-intent Tue, 17 Jun 2014 06:06:07 -0400 GameSkinny Staff

Anita Sarkeesian is doing incredible and important work with her "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games" series. Other than her work, there is an incredible lack of publicized game criticism beyond comparatively simple product reviews. There is also, in response, an incredible lack of conversation held on the same level of criticism. I hope this short article helps to contribute to that conversation.

The most recent "Tropes vs. Women" video "Women As Background Decoration" (published on June 16th) is an in-depth observation of the common video game trope which places sexualized female NPCs in a decorative role within game worlds. There is no shortage of evidence of this trope and Sarkeesian posits that this oversaturation of objectified female bodies is a negative force in popular video game media. I could not agree more. The extent of this trope is most noticeable when the typical female NPC is compared to typical non-sexualized male counterparts. 

What is Authorial Intent?

The one point that throws me off, however, is that Sarkeesian brings up the intent of the game developers - I was following along and happy to back her points, but I honestly can't get behind using authorial intent in criticism. There are specific scripted events that do encourage violence and objectification of women in games, but there is no way to account for player-directed violence and objectification.

Authorial intent is a hotly debated subject in media criticism - I place myself on the side of the fence which claims that authorial intent is dead. Once you give a dog a ball, you can't control where it runs.

In the essay "The Author is Dead," French literary critic Roland Barthes argues that it is useless to assume that you know the mind of an author based on that author's text. Once a book is published, its relationship with its author has ended.

"'To give a text an Author' and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it is to impose a limit on that text."

 - Barthes, "The Author is Dead"

Imposing intent limits the possibilities that may arise from certain piece of media content. If you consider a cardboard box to only function for holding a refrigerator as intended by the manufacturer, then you ignore that the box could be a fort, or play ship, or anything else that a 4-year-old could come up with.

This is a simplified explaination of authorial intent, but this where my mind gravitates as I consider the later points of Sarkeesian's video. Assuming intent of developers is a limitiation of itself. There is merit in her investigation of this trope, but certain considerations must be taken as to not make blanket assumptions about the minds of the developers.

Authorial Intent In Video Games

Especially in video games, authorial intent drops off significantly as gamers are given a space to play and push whatever limits of the game they possibly can. It is akin to giving a child a sandbox and a shovel. The difference being: Yes, there are certain events that do reward specific acts of brutality, and devs can be held accountable for overusing the sexualized female as decoration. There is no doubt about this point, I 100% agree.

However, a developer can't be responsible for a heteromale player killing a sexualized heterofemale character at random (scripted or 'game-necessary' events set aside). Sarkeesian's example of Deus Ex sticks out, where the player instructs Jensen to stab a random sex worker NPC - this is an unnecessary and gruesome kill on a sexualized female NPC, and this random action is in no way a suggested or 'intended' by the game.

Abandoning Authorial Intent Opens Criticism of Player Engagement in Trope

Not every game that engages in women-as-object tropes is necessarily also on trial for brutality against sexualized females. If there are violent and unnecessary player actions that DO engage this form of brutality, then the issue of cause/effect is reversed. This then becomes an issue of 'why is this gamer choosing to attack women in this game?' Which I believe is a question concerning faults on a wider context of cultural violence towards women.

This consideration dictates a very interesting shift in the dynamic of how tropes work in video games. There are tropes of development (developers tend to use sexualized women as NPC object decoration) and tropes of player engagement (some players tend to brutalize sexualized NPCs).

To me this is an intriguing and complicated development in the concept of tropes in gaming. What are the tropes of video games and what are the tropes of video gamers? In this interactive media format, the interaction and engagement of the player holds an enormous weight. What tropes can we see in player activity when we consider the player in tandem with the tropes of game content?

Just as gamers have an interactive role in the games they play, they also have an interactive role in creating tropes in video games.

Social Justice Warriors are Brought To Life in this New Quirky Game https://www.gameskinny.com/0efoy/social-justice-warriors-are-brought-to-life-in-this-new-quirky-game https://www.gameskinny.com/0efoy/social-justice-warriors-are-brought-to-life-in-this-new-quirky-game Sat, 17 May 2014 16:18:06 -0400 Angelina Bonilla

Game journalism has come under a lot of fire recently from the denizens of the internet because of the fact that they address social issues that are important to society at large. However, when they mentioned online, these people are viewed as pariahs by the masses, often called “Social Justice Warriors."

What is a social justice warrior?

More or less, it’s a  term for someone who tries to mention something about social justice on the internet. When it comes to video games, it basically refers to anyone who mentions that something might be sexist, racist, elitist, or any other possible social injustices within a video game itself.

 In general, the vocal minority of the online gaming community tends to  prefer to not be reminded that games do at times have some unfortunate implications to them, so they tend to lash out at individuals using the term “Social Justice Warriors” as if it is a slur.   While it is the vocal minority that is saying this, they unfortunately get top comments more often than the positive commenters.

Recently a certain group of gamers compiled a list of gaming journalists to stay away from and, in response to that list, a game was made from Nonadecimal Creative called Social Justice Warriors.

The game provides an amusing, yet extremely depressing look into the lives of some of our favorite gaming journalists. At the start of the game, you can pick your class. This will decide how you fight the misguided masses of the internet. Whether it is destroying their reputation, turning the trolls against each other, or refuting their claims with logic (which seldom works),  your Social Justice Warrior tries their best to defeat the vast ignorance of the internet’s  vocal comment sections. 

The game itself is seemingly endless; when one troll goes down, another dozen trolls rise up to replace it . With every battle and blow, your sanity meter, as well as your reputation with the internet, goes down and eventually you are defeated.

Let me make that very clear: there is no way to win this game, just like there is no way to stop people from being terrible human beings when they are behind the mask of anonymity. However, this game also shows the trials and tribulations gaming journalists and others go through every day for trying to stand up for what they believe in.

All we can do is try our best to stay enlightened and unbiased as humanely possible when we comment on the internet so we won’t become the terrible trolls that the “warriors” must face every time they log into social media.