The topics covered by Feminist Frequency are really important. If you sent me an abstract and an outline for each episode I’d say “wow this sounds great!” but the actual videos and the arguments contained within the videos are so intellectually dishonest, narrow-minded, and willfully ignorant. It ultimately underminds the entire point of the series by using flawed arguments, by conspicuously hiding relevant information, and by failing to acknowledge the economic realities of the video game industry.
A quick rundown of some of the problems in this episode:
Pacman WAS popular with female players. Anita eyerolls and scoffs her way through the thing about Pacman without acknowledging that women actually did prefer Pacman to any other game on the market. Don’t … do that. Don’t rant about how Sailor Moon is sexist and then eyeroll and scoff and not acknowledge that women actually love Sailor Moon. That’s historical information. It’s not conjecture.
Sarkensian does not suggest that Pacman was unpopular with women. She doesn’t touch on the game’s popularity with specific genders at all. She doesn’t mention Sailor Moon, either. It’s not about whether women like the game, it’s about what stereotypes are reinforced because of it.
She also fails to mention that Ms Pacman was focus group tested with female players and features subtle modifications that made the game more accessible to women, who at the time were less familiar with video game tropes than most men, such as filling in the walls on the mazes so that the state of play was more clearly visible. They literally went through an iterative design process and tested the game with women over and over to try to make an accidentally female-friendly game even more female friendly. (I’m sorry I can’t find a source for that but I remember it from a documentary I watched about PacMan.)
This seems irrelevant to the topic at hand, which is very narrowly defined as one-dimensional female versions of male characters. I don’t know why she should mention it, at least not in this episode. Again, it is not about whether women liked the game. This is not a dissection of gameplay mechanics.
She, again, awkwardly sidesteps the Japanese/American culture gap. She gets really annoyed at the creator of Pacman saying that “women like dessert” but that’s totally a female gendered thing in Japanese culture. Pretty pink cakes and pastries are such a big feminine aesthetic thing in Japanese art and fashion. It’s really awkward to hear Anita scoff at this, like, if she was reviewing the Burqa Avenger would she scoff at the idea that women are associated with covering their faces? It’s also kind of rude to take issue with this guy’s tone when that text was translated from Japanese.
She doesn’t sidestep anything. She’s not pointing out that the character trait is innacurate. She’s pointing out that males have universal character traits while while females have gendered characteristic traits. You know. The fast character. The strong character. The smart character. The lipstick and bow character.
The thing about the Mass Effect marketing is the most annoying! It takes millions of dollars to make a game like Mass Effect and it takes millions more to market it. The majorty of the target audience for Mass Effect is male. Of course they are going to market it primarily to men. “Posting alternate female trailers online and making alternate female box art isn’t good enough because male is still the default.” Yeah male is the default because male is the target demographic.
I agree that she veers a bit off topic here, but she does a good job of explaining that marketing can ruin a perfectly valid attempt to get female character design right. And it does still speak to the topic of the video. The male is the official character and the female is merely a version of him.
And as far as I can tell, she doesn’t say what you quoted above.
She then goes on to say “the male-driven marketing is probably why only 18-20 percent of players chose the female option even though the female voice actor is CLEARLY superior.” Are you fucking kidding me? “The fact that this game is primarily marketed towards men is probably the reason why the game is primarily purchased by men.” What kind of dishonest horse shit is that. If Mass Effect had a female character on the poster it would maybe have a SLIGHT uptick in female players and a huge downtick in overall players. If the publishers were the kind of people who would make stupid marketing choices like that they would not be the kind of people who would make a game as expensive as Mass Effect.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say marketing strongly affects how people consume products. So I don’t think it’s “horseshit” to say that primarily marketing to men can result in a product primarily being consumed by men. And even if she’s wrong about that, I don’t see how a failure to address business terms invalidates her cultural critique.
You’re misquoting her here as well and dramatically misapplying emphasis.
It’s all just so insane. There’s no adherence to logic in this. It’s just buzzwords and bad reasoning and sarcastic descriptions of facts. It’s so valueless. I wish Anita took the money she raised on Kickstarter and used it to make the monolithic feminist utopia game that she clearly wants to make and wants all games to be. I wish she made that game and spent two years making it and another year marketing it and then I wish she made a single video postmortem about what she learned. That would be so much more valuable than this Kotaku commenter level tripe.
I’m really surprised at the hostility to this. I’m even more surprised that you see hostility in her. I see a gamer who regularly provides copious evidence of problematic patterns in video games and is mostly just asking people to be more thoughtful consumers and designers.
Or she could also, actually, like, interview people who work in the games industry. There are so many women who work in the marketing side of games! Talk to them! Talk to any of them! Run your stupid Mass Effect theory by them before making it into a video like this!
Women can and do make and market sexist entertainment, too. She’s interested in the product and its effects. Those effects are the same no matter who made the product.
These videos make me so mad! They’re 25 minutes of nonsense and I watch them every month and I always want them to be good and they never are aaaaaaarggg
I’m really sorry you feel this way. I can’t even begin to understand where you’re coming from. What I do notice, however, is that you didn’t really address the topic of this video at all. Someone reading this without watching would have no idea what it was even about. Her thesis is simple and solid and she backs it up with countless examples. But it’s not even mentioned here.
I started out simply disagreeing with your post, but now I’m thoroughly confused by it.
Ah, “but women like thing” as refutation of feminist deconstruction of anything. Take a shot. My favorite part though:
"Mass Effect had a female character on the poster it would maybe have a SLIGHT uptick in female players and a huge downtick in overall players."
The cognitive dissonance here is staggering. Does OP not see a massive cultural problem with this idea, true or not? That a woman featured in the marketing would send the male demographic running scared, even if the content was the same?
Eric’s comments are spot-on as usual.