Feminist Frequency Founder Anita Sarkeesian in this episode examines:

“…the Ms. Male Character trope and briefly discuss a related pattern called the Smurfette Principle. We’ve defined the Ms. Male Character Trope as: The female version of an already established or default male character. Ms. Male Characters are defined primarily by their relationship to their male counterparts via visual properties, narrative connection or occasionally through promotional materials. ”

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My Response

This trope is definitely seen in reality with marriage and in business. Therefore you would of course develop games based on the reality you live in. As far as the reason the creator of Pac-Man said what he said, some women would define themselves like that and/or those are the types of women he knows personally so it’s not particularly being sexist to say those things about some women. You talk about what you know in a logical conversation or when presenting facts, etc.

Now for the other character couples in games, say if you give the female her own name which doesn’t bear the main protagonist name, customers will be very confused about who they are. If you’re married and you are introduced, don’t your husband or you say “Oh this is Mr. Sam Tully, my husband or this is Mrs. Louise Tully, my wife, or even this is Mr. Tully or Mrs. Tully (dropping the first name)” because some men don’t say their wife’s first name if it’s a formal introduction. Would that seem sexist?

For the distinctions of the female counterpart, again, it’s for recognizable purposes. If you made the female vastly different, then the consumers won’t know who she is and what her role is. Also, in reality, the same species are supposed to look similar because that’s their species trait. Besides, in game development and depending on the hardware of the games, character design could only be detailed so much. Only in recent generations were there very detailed and clear distinctions in male and female of the same species.

Now for the argument of female identifiers, and stereotypes. I fully agree with this. There’s a definite lack of character design elements and personality for making female characters in games. But in recent times, this trope is being recognized and the industry is trying its best to diminish the stereotypes. Unfortunately, this video does not show games featuring only women and how they have distinctive personalities. She mentioned Donkey Kong Country but didn’t mention the third game in the series Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble featuring playable and distinctive Dixie and her cousin Kiddy. The female duo has to go RESCUE Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong because they were kidnapped by King K. Kool aka Baron K. Roolenstein!

However I do agree about the deviations with choosing to have a female counterpart to the protagonist or antagonist. Its lazy character design if continued to do this on newer generation systems and platforms but back then they didn’t have much customization for characters. Lazy character design is also linked to marketing and gender representations. For games with character customizations mostly the male storyline is featured for the marketing of the games.

For the most part, game developers create games using their own personal experience, their fantasy and imagination and from what they see in society. If society has inequality, then games will mimic with similar designs, stories and environments just like in popular entertainment. Anita is not only talking about games, but she opened up herself to the inequality faced in society and not a lot of people are ready to have that conversation let alone admit that our society’s view on “beauty” is very manipulated and obscured.

When I started playing games since the age of 4, I noticed the lack of female characters and playable women in games. When I finally did see female characters and/or playable, they were all dressed in pink. Now pink is associated with being feminine. I don’t know where this came from because from personal experience, I didn’t know ANYONE female, friend or family, who liked the color pink and wore bows all the time. Matter of fact, I associated the feminine stereotype with typical “White” women, which I often didn’t live around. But once I got to know some on a personal level, they didn’t fit that type either.

So in my experience (until I came across games that I could customize my character the way I saw fit) I couldn’t identify with any of them. And for the record, I hate the color pink. My favorite colors are blue and red. But this does not exclude male players. I am sure most of them could not identify with most male characters until they were able to customize them also. But even then, custom characters are an “after-thought” because when a game is marketed, they show the default character.

In conclusion, more character designs for all genders need to be continued so that many cultures and players with different backgrounds can look at games and could identify with the characters, which improves the gameplay experience in my opinion. Personally, I’m looking to play an intellectual Black BBW as the lead in an action-drama game.