Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress

by Steve Napierski to Comics

And Ms. Pac-Man was actually just a reskinning of Crazy Otto [1]. So that means the classic female gaming role models are one female, a.k.a. Samus Aran, and a transexual.

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty hard-pressed to think of a female protagonist from the pre-Nintendo arcade era and even on the NES they were far and few between. Athena, maybe? But that NES port wasn’t the best. Any assists on this discussion would be appreciated.

Discussion (31)¬

  1. David Herbert
    David Herbert says:
    April 3, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    And it hasn’t improved all that much over the years. Did you watch Anita Sarkeesian’s video on this topic?

    • Steve Napierski
      Steve Napierski says:
      April 3, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      I’ll be honest, I haven’t. I’m not her biggest fan. I default to Extra Credits when it comes to deeper discussions about gaming. I find they’re a lot more objective in my opinion.

      • Mygaffer
        Mygaffer says:
        April 5, 2013 at 2:53 am #

        You should watch her videos, I saw the first one and it was actually pretty good and took a very neutral tone, I have not been a big fan of hers but felt the video was very fair.

        • Lost
          Lost says:
          April 5, 2013 at 3:45 am #

          rellly i thought her vid was badly taken out of context that said for a “well” reserched vid she screw babonets backstory up completly.

    • Xuncu
      Xuncu says:
      April 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

      Thunderf00t posted a good response to her video:

      And yeah, Anita does slip some blatant bias, misandry, and basic angry-for-the-sake-of-angry ranting in her vids…

      • Vilhelm
        Vilhelm says:
        April 4, 2013 at 1:45 am #

        I wouldn’t call that a “good” response, so much as a either:

        1. A deliberate misunderstanding of Anita’s points, to tear her down, or

        2. An embarrassing misunderstanding of her points (I don’t believe this, but I suppose it is possible).

        No one is saying that you shouldn’t help your loved ones. We’re saying people should stop writing stories where women are objects to be fought over.

        The fact that men are stereotyped as hyper-violent heroes (and they are . . . see how other men treat you if you don’t want to fight on the playground in grade school), doesn’t mean that Anita’s points about women are incorrect.

        The fact that some game designers believe that making simplistic plot decisions will increase their profit (and no evidence is presented to support this supposition, but we’ll let that slide for the moment), does not mean that they are *correct*, nor does it mean that it is socially responsible. And hey, check your demographics. Women play games, too. Maybe more of them would be playing if it wasn’t such a sweaty boy’s club.

        “If you don’t like this art, why don’t you make something better?” is a very, very weak argument. I mean, like, embarrassingly weak, grade school stuff.

        Women can’t be heroes because of sexual dimorphism? What about one of those Olympic-level athletes he briefly puts in his video? Or, and stick with me here, what if we were writing characters for video games, where stuff like realistic physiques are out the window anyway?

        Anita disabled comments on her videos because of the constant threats of rape and murder. No, really, look it up. People are so offended by her opinions about video games that they think it is okay to threaten her with bodily harm. Pretty good reason to turn off comments, I would think.

        And, ultimately, none of this matters. This is just another dude feeling so threatened by some opinions that he actually took the time to make a 20 minute response video. I can’t stand when whiny privileged children lash out because someone says, “hey, would it be alright if I was treated with respect, too?”

        • Mygaffer
          Mygaffer says:
          April 5, 2013 at 3:12 am #

          I agree completely. I totally and vehemently disagreed with many if not most of her videos that she released before this video game project, but when I watched that first Damsels in Distress video I thought it was a very fair video with a lot of good observations. To see people still attack her just reveals to me the mindset of the people who are attacking her. They will never give her a fair shake or stop attacking her because her views and observations threaten them. They feel she is going to take their special thing and “ruin it” by allowing for more diversity of roles for women. That is a shameful thing.

        • Lost
          Lost says:
          April 5, 2013 at 4:15 am #

          Well here be a wall of text to dismantle so I’m going to try.

          Any response to a topic as long as it’s not a direct insult or calling someone a name is a good response.

          A deliberate misunderstanding of Anita’s points, to tear her down, or point out to me where the miss understanding is. I have yet to see it.

          No one is saying that you shouldn’t help your loved ones. We’re saying people should stop writing stories where women are objects to be fought over.

          This game was developed when? Side not to this. Arcade game’s plot mission objective GO. Would you cry less if the person who was punched was, I dunno, a computer server. At the end of the day the person or item to be rescued is still the same [see new game: She punches him in the nuts at the end for the win.]

          The fact that men are stereotyped as hyper-violent heroes (and they are . . . see how other men treat you if you don’t want to fight on the playground in grade school), doesn’t mean that Anita’s points about women are incorrect.

          Wow. So from your view the actions of a few justify the whole? Also, just because your view is that doesn’t mean it is or isn’t correct. The problem is the portrayal of it all.

          The fact that some game designers believe that making simplistic plot decisions will increase their profit, does not mean that they are *correct*, nor does it mean that it is socially responsible. And hey, check your demographics. Women play games, too. Maybe more of them would be playing if it wasn’t such a sweaty boy’s club.

          At the point the game was developed simple plot and decisions were and are to this day some of the easy to get and sell [see Call of Duty series: Go to pointer. Shoot. Go to next one.] correct or not it sells. Also the Girl Gamer movement has only in the last few really kicked off to any extent (last 5 – 10 years) before that is was mostly all “boy.”Yes, the market has to change. My problem lies in the dredging up of older games and saying, “THIS IS SEXIST!” rather than looking at the now.

          “If you don’t like this art, why don’t you make something better?” Is a very, very weak argument. I mean, like, embarrassingly weak, grade school stuff. But still a valid argument. People who don’t like current movies ether do one of two things: complain about it or make new movies that fit to what they want them to. If you don’t like the games on the market, it’s not overly hard nowadays to get the basic toolboxes and start making a game to fit your view [see Day Z or any other mod in existence.]

          Women can’t be heroes because of sexual dimorphism? What about one of those Olympic-level athletes he briefly puts in his video? Or, and stick with me here, what if we were writing characters for video games; where stuff like realistic physiques are out the window anyway?

          I’m not sure what to argue about here. I feel it’s misunderstanding your sides. At no point in Thunderf00t video did I see women can’t be heroes. Just him pointing out that women have less upper body strength by genetic design [see woman’s hero Samus Aran.]

          Anita disabled comments on her videos because of the constant threats of sexual assault and murder. No, really, look it up. People are so offended by her opinions about video games that they think it is okay to threaten her with bodily harm. Pretty good reason to turn off comments, I would think.

          If you are going to do public talks expect people to boo you. On the internet, you expect the shit 4Chan can throw at you. Unless you grow a thick skin, don’t put your views out in a public location as the public will throw voices back at you. Side note: Why is voting turned off then? Makes no sense as even if people down voted her, the traffic to her would put her on the high view explain that.

          if you feel a threat of sexual assault is real report, it to the police and it will be dealt with and ultimately none of this matters. This is just another dude feeling so threatened by someone else’s opinions that he actually took the time to make a 20 minute response video. I can’t stand when whiny, privileged children lash out because someone says, “Hey, would it be alright if I was treated with respect, too?”

          And you just dismantled your entire argument here. The “dude” isn’t threatened by an opinion he’s merely stating his own and on this he points out where he believes the argument has faults.

          if you think someone replying with a view that differs is whiny then there is no debate as from my view Anita’s video is more or less a whiny rant as to why aren’t I treated better. I might have had a better opinion of her video, but I found it to be rather dry on topic and full of one sides attacks on disjointed things. Japan subway being one. It’s Japan they are crazier that most would believe. Also, that Bayonetta failed completely. If this is the extent of her research, I hold no hope for it to improve enough for me to care.

          Side note and personal view: Feminism is sexist by default. As it is fighting for one sex and disregards the view of the other as irrelevant. If you want equality, then change the your view to show it.

          Vilhelm, i counter your wall of text with my longer wall of text. Have at thee!

    • Celes
      Celes says:
      April 4, 2013 at 2:06 am #

      I only watched two of her videos but both pretty much had a good point I (being male) never actually realized. I’m looking forward to her future installments.
      Comparing to a recent trend in Germany where feminists try and neutralize the language* I think her point concerning representation of women in media is much more pressing as children grow up with media both interactive and “passive”.

      * It’s kind of hard to translate since the English language does not use gender specific nouns that much, but I guess this example will do: “Mankind explicitly does not include women” would be that kind of argument German feminist would use to make that word obsolete and introduce some stupid workaround. Well Media Molecule did something similar when the discarded Sackboy and Sackgirl in their initial launch auf LBP2 only to re-introduce them later on and in the Vita version. No real consistency there either.

    • Giantevilhead
      Giantevilhead says:
      April 4, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      Even though agree with some of her points. She really sucks at getting her point across. She doesn’t do a good job at defining a lot of the terms she uses and doesn’t give a good social context. Also, her focus on individual game developers is unhelpful since the problem has more to do with the society rather than individuals. The source of the problem isn’t an individual person holding prejudiced beliefs, the problem has more to do with how that person learned those prejudiced beliefs in the first place and how their culture supports those beliefs, either intentionally or unintentionally.

  2. LatinoHeat
    LatinoHeat says:
    April 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Alis Landale, Phantasy Star. It’s a pretty gender-neutral series overall. Not quite pre-NES, but early as far as console history goes.

  3. SantaBJ
    SantaBJ says:
    April 3, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    Papri, Ninja Princess, Reika from Time Gal, Kissy from Baraduke (may have inspired Metroid’s gender reveal), Ki from The Return of Ishtar, Lucia from The Wing of Madoola and Alis Landale from Phantasy Star. Only the last two are post-Metroid, I think.

    • Sensei Le Roof
      Sensei Le Roof says:
      April 5, 2013 at 10:09 am #

      Time Gal, seriously? The so-called “heroine” spent more time flailing around in panic than doing anything heroic.

  4. Alastor
    Alastor says:
    April 4, 2013 at 1:45 am #

    Bayonetta? Say what you what about ironic sexualization, Bayonetta was by zero means a submissive mimsy like Other M Samus.

    • Sparanda
      Sparanda says:
      April 4, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      Definitely not classic era gaming, though.

    • Triaxx2
      Triaxx2 says:
      April 4, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Other M is like the CD-i Zelda games. In name only.

  5. Sam Bridgeman
    Sam Bridgeman says:
    April 4, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Princess Peach did get to save the day in Mario 2 but that only kind of counts….I think there was a Barbie game but that kind of seems worse to me.

  6. Triaxx2
    Triaxx2 says:
    April 4, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    I’d say Lara Croft, but she’s not exactly the best example. Joanna Dark from Perfect Dark is much better. Discounting that XboX ‘thing’ I can think of only one place she was rescued, wait, twice though the second time the roof had fallen on her, so it’d happen to a guy too. And the other place consisted of the other person getting the drop on the one who’d gotten the drop on her.

    Star Ocean 2’s second protagonist was also quite the strong female character, even if she was technically a healer. (More or less the only healer.)

  7. thewood
    thewood says:
    April 4, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Lots of the old-school RPG games had female playable characters. Swords and Serpents, Gauntlet, Any of the old D&D games. I always thought of the white mage from the original Final Fantasy as female, but I could be wrong. Plus you’ve got Princess Toadstool in Mario 2, who was the best character in my opinion. The hovering made so many of the harder levels incredibly easy. You’ve got the Guardian from Guardian Legend, classic game with a badass female lead. All these just in NES games.

    So, anyway, there are more than you think, just not too many real “main characters”, most common female PCs are in games where you choose from multiple characters. But there are still a few stand out ladies.

  8. Feynrir
    Feynrir says:
    April 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Oh come on, you’re not even trying
    Maya and Gaige from Borderlands 2 (Lilith from the first), Lara Croft (Don’t know if that counts), Citra from Far Cry 3,Boss from MGS3, all the touhou girls…

    And there are dozens more…

    • White Rice
      White Rice says:
      April 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      I think people weren’t mentioning contemporary characters because the initial thought was about older games (NES era and older) which all the games you listed are most certainly not included under.

      Strong female characters (PC, NPC, whatever) we’re definitely not the norm, and even with newer games, it’s not a 50/50 split as far as character archetypes go. It’s better in some ways, worse in others, and will constantly be changing as people’s opinions change.

      Ice climbers, for a female character who was equal to the male counterpart (as far as I can recall)

      • Steve Napierski
        Steve Napierski says:
        April 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

        Yeah, most people seem to have neglected that part.

  9. Paul
    Paul says:
    April 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    The main protagonist of Valkyrie No Densetsu and the other games in the series have a female protagonist. Even better, the second player in that game is also a female (though turned into a monster). Both basically just bust the crap out of enemies around them and never have to be rescued. In fact, I believe in one of the games you have to save a prince.

  10. Jeff Johnson
    Jeff Johnson says:
    April 4, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Let's not forget that all through the first Metroid, everyone thought Samus was a guy. So perhaps it should say that the classic female role models are a crossdresser and a transsexual. :)

  11. Vilhelm
    Vilhelm says:
    April 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    Hm, would Lizzy from Rampage count? I think I had a Rampage cart on my NES, but maybe I’m remembering wrong.

  12. Amir Kondori
    Amir Kondori says:
    April 5, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    Just because people assumed she was a man doesn't make her a cross dresser or a transsexual. She wore a space suit, a man or a woman would both look the same in such a suit.
    She is a great example of an old school female protagonist, made all the stronger b/c she didn't wear a skimpy outfit. I guess until the end when she was in that pink bikini…

  13. DM Gray
    DM Gray says:
    April 5, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    Lot of people white knighting here.
    Anita gets trolled in comments, therefore comments disabled?
    That is FAR more weaksauce than any criticism she receives.
    This is the fucking internet, you cant stand the trolls, get back in the kitchen (to make a sexist joke)
    A lot of people miss the point of the criticisms of her video too.
    People aren’t saying women were magically equally represented, they’re saying she gives a wholle simplified impression, where ANY evidence is looked at in the best possible light to support her conclusion, rather than objectively.
    Thunderf00t was making the *valid* point that she was supplying her own subtext and giving the world possible interpretation of some of the games she used as evidence.
    Great for essays in English lit, really bad for a sociological study.

  14. Jarntazecht
    Jarntazecht says:
    April 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Without SNES or Genesis, all I can think of is that Phantasy Star 1 had Alis, whose story followed through into the continuity of all the 3 sequels.

  15. razama
    razama says:
    April 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    As someone pointed out, Guardian from The Guardian Legend. She was cool and the game was cool but nobody ever played it so… she is always forgotten. I do have to wonder if people did not play the game because the protagonist was female, but more likely it was because the game had some really weird box art.

  16. Bonnie Erin Brett
    Bonnie Erin Brett says:
    April 10, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    Princess Zelda ALSO crossdresses to be a badass… apparently femininity is not appealing for the gamer. There ARE some hardcore fighter girls in some of the fighting series – but they're all dressed a little questionably haha!

  17. Garrett Allen Kinnard
    Garrett Allen Kinnard says:
    May 4, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    Amaterasu in Okami.