Have y’all been keeping up with Anita Sarkeesian’s Damsel in Distress video series, which “explores how the damsel in distress became one of the most widely used gendered clichés in the history of gaming and why the trope has been core to the popularization and development of the medium itself.” The second episode was just released yesterday, and it covers violence against women in videogames within the previously mentioned trope. Sarkeesian’s analysis is very interesting and well-executed (save for one moment where she breaks professionalism for a snarky jab of Bionic Commando‘s main dude’s arm), but be warned, there are graphic scenes of violence against women used throughout, and spoilers are an unconcerned thing of the past, for games both new (Pandora’s Tower) and old (Breath of Fire IV).
I do hope that Sarkeesian eventually examines that games that do–or try to–steer away from the blatant damsel in distress trope, whether successfully or not. I agree fully with her point that you can like and love something immensely while at the same time also be critical of its problematic parts. Heck, take Fallout: New Vegas, a game that literally freezes or glitches out every time I play it, but I just enjoy the world so much that I keep coming back. That said, I also think there is something beneficial to be gained from praising the games that try to go a different route.
Before we get going, let me come clean. I am a writer and an artist, a creator if you will, and some of my previously published work might possibly have hints of the damsel in distress. I say hints as I don’t believe I have it exactly on the nose, often using the trope as a base and then spinning it so that the damsel ends up saving herself. Most importantly is The Stolen Lovelight, a short graphic novel that I wrote and my wife Tara Abbamondi drew. It is about a young woman named Arisia Randir who is trapped in a terrible relationship. With seemingly no way out, she ends up paying for her own kidnapping. Men and men-like things will try to save her from further trouble, but she’d rather handle things on her own and find a new place to call home. And that’s my pitch, I guess.
Originally, I tried to come up with some kind of cute, whimsical title to counter the whole damsel in distress thing (like Distressed Dudes), but my short analysis is better served with a straightforward approach, and so listed below are a few videogames that I’m aware of where you play as a woman, and you’re off to rescue a man…a man in distress.
Beyond Good & Evil
One of the earlier missions in Beyond Good & Evil has green-lipped, photo-snapping Jade sneaking into a DomZ facility to rescue Double H, a heavily built IRIS operative who has been kidnapped and tortured to the point of incompetence. His physical appearance against Jade is striking, what with him fully decked out in a knight’s suit of armor. I suspect that Michel Ancel was having some fun here, as now you are the knight in metaphorically shining armor in this scenario, plucking him from harm’s way to get him on your team. Later on, Pey’j, the father figure in Jade’s life, also gets kidnapped, giving you a reason to fly to the moon.
Man, I really love Primal, and yet it’s a game I’ve never completed. Grrr. It’s on my wishlist for 2013, but we’re almost halfway through the year, and I’ve made zero progress on putting the game’s disc in my PlayStation 2. Granted, I am working on Chrono Cross at the moment, so there’s at least that. Anyways, in Primal, you play as Jennifer Tate, a 21-year-old woman who has to travel through various demonic realms to retrieve her stolen boyfriend. Lewis is in a band, but a bunch of demons believe that they need him to…uh, create chaos. So he is abducted, and Jen is hospitalized. A tiny gargoyle helps her on her path to saving her boyfriend and, ultimately, the world.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest has the evil pirate Kaptain K. Rool nabbing the titular hero of the first game. You know who I speak of. Turns out, despite being a crocodile, he really loves his fruit, and won’t hand Donkey Kong back over unless Diddy returns his previously stolen hoard of bananas. More importantly, you can play as Dixie Kong, Diddy’s girlfriend, who can use her ponytail as both a weapon and way to glide across large gaps.
I know it’s only three examples, but those are all I can think of at the moment where the man is in distress, and you play as the woman (er, female monkey in Dixie’s case) rescuing him.
Can y’all think of any others? Inform me in the comments section below.