Tropes VS Women, another thing

There is one problem I see with Anita Sarkeesian’s videos that doesn’t really have anything to do with the content, the quality or whether I agree or disagree with her.

It’s the length of the videos and the time it takes to create them.

In the end, I believe that Anita is failing the criteria that would make her videos qualify as useful educational tools, to be shown and discussed in classrooms.

Damsel in Distress trope mini-series by the numbers – Episodes: 3, Minutes of video: 73, Games shown: 192, Total views so far: 2.2 million. (Source)

73 minutes for a video that’s meant to be shown in class? Isn’t this a bit long? How much time will be left for students to discuss the video’s ideas and examples? Of course, a teacher could choose to show only one of the three videos, but this would mean narrowing the topic of conversation down from the very beginning. And leave students without the full context.

Was there really no way to convey Anita’s main points in a briefer video? Perhaps the number of addressed videogames could have been reduced. Say, a little. 192 games in 73 minutes means that each game gets 23 seconds  (on average) of attention.

I think that name-dropping so many games was a purely rhetorical tool, and rhetorical tools have no place in educational videos, which should be about educating people, not convincing them.

When Anita Sarkeesian announced the continuation of the Damsel In Distress discussion at the end of her first video, I did not get the impression that she was actually planning two sequels. I don’t remember that ever being announced as the plan. She outlined 12 topics and I assumed they would be 12 videos. Although there was never a schedule of any sort, I believe everyone expected that Anita would work faster than she actually did. It has taken her about a year to get 1/12th through her project.

I am sure there were legitimate things that came up, delaying her, for example due to the attention she suddenly received from the industry and the media. I don’t blame her for grasping opportunities for speeches and interviews as they arose.

But she also decided to go “bigger” with the project. Perhaps necessary considering her overfunding. But she went bigger in a way that feels simply bloated and also works against the original purpose of the project. Videos of 15 to 30 minutes introducing a common, harmful “trope”, with some examples and clips, would be a handy resource. (That’s more or less what the previous Tropes VS Women videos were.) But videos of 73 minutes that throw up a new game title every half minute, that’s a different story. There is only so much information you can digest in one sitting, let alone reflect on.

Hopefully, Anita will manage to structure her next videos better, and try to stay within a reasonable time frame (both regarding how fast she will produce the videos and how long they will end up being), even if it means discarding 100 examples and dropping some side topic and a few quotable catchphrases.

Regardless of the hype, Tropes VS Women is unlikely to become the definitive exploration of harmful storytelling conventions in videogames. It’s impossible for any one person to make an all-encompassing statement on videogames as a whole, just like no one could make statements about all books or all movies or all pop music. No one can play all games. New games are constantly being made. So don’t even try to go for absolutely true conclusions that are not to be argued with. There is no such perfection.


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