Feminist Frequency creator Anita Sarkeesian has released the first episode of her new series focusing on Positive Female Characters in games.
The video, which can be seen below, focuses on 2011 title Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, which Sarkeesian cites as an example of a game that asserts the ability of females to fulfil the traditional mythic hero role.
The level of detail is so low on our pixelated protagonist, and our tendency to assume that heroes are male by default is so widely reinforced, that some players have made the mistake of assuming the Scythian is male, at least initially,” she said.
Thankfully, the game doesn’t resort to clear gendered signifiers like a pink outfit or a pretty bow in her hair, nor does it present her gender as some kind of surprise twist like we see in the original Metroid. In both visual design and writing, Sword & Sworcery is subtle about asserting the Scythian’s gender, though once you acquire the Megatome at the end of the game’s first episode, you’re presented with the thoughts of other characters, who refer to the Scythian using female pronouns.
We certainly don’t want all female heroes to be tragic ones. But we do need more women-centric stories of all kinds. When archetypal fantasy heroes in games are overwhelmingly portrayed as men, it reinforces the idea that men’s experiences are universal and that women’s experiences are gendered, that women should be able to empathise with male characters but that men needn’t be able to identify with women’s stories. Sword & Sworcery gives us a female protagonist and encourages us to see her as a hero first and foremost, one who also just happens to be a woman.”
Sarkeesian is better known for her Tropes vs Women series, which so successfully highlighted the negative use of female characters and imagery in many mainstream games.
It was this series that led to her being one of the principal targets of the misogynist Gamergate hate movement. Throughout last year Sarkeesian faced numerous death threats, including a bomb threat and massacre threat.
However, the viciousness of her treatment online has had positive consequences, helping to elevate the gender equality debate to the mainstream (on more than one occasion)and resulting in a games industry that is significantly more aware of gender and equality issues than it ever was before.
Here’s the video: