297: The Princess Problem

Alfie Simpson

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Well Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess.

I don't see this as a problem at all, really. It's an entry level story mechanism, but if didn't work people wouldn't keep using it. It's like that old joke about divorced people and celibacy. "I had that when I was married." It might be overused and cliche, but that doesn't make it necessarily bad.

There's No need to get rid of princesses. Of course it doesn't mean we can't fiddle with the concept. People should fiddle with it, experiment. Nothing wrong with that either. Trying to get rid of a standard concept just limits what people can draw ideas from.
 

tunderball

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I suddenly have a new found respect for Princess Leia, yeah she has to be rescued and all that but she kicks ass.
 

TheCakeisALie87

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What about Sheik, Zelda's alter ego in Ocarina of Time? She is not only a "skilled" ninja, but jams on some nice tunes too. Sure you may discover she is Zelda a little early, but surely she adds to Zelda's overall character. After Gannon(dorf) takes over she has resistance. Actually the zora princess (while still making you throw her around) is another great princess character in that game. She is not being led by the hand, rather she is a spoiled brat making you throw her around. A subtle difference to be sure, but still an entertaining character.
 

BonsaiK

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Predictable my ass. What about Braid? Not many saw that ending coming.
 

rembrandtqeinstein

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Both peach and zelda get in on the bloody knuckle asskickery in smash bros.

So yeah princess (helpless female) is a plot device but it is played straight about as often as it is inverted and satirized.
 

Falseprophet

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The princess trope has never really resonated with me in the 8-bit/16-bit era. I've never been attracted to docile women, I'm generally anti-monarchist, and since in most games the princess is literally just an object to drive the plot, you're rarely in a situation where you're motivated by the princess' winning personality. In fact, Princess Gwaelin from the first Dragon Warrior/DragonQuest was so clingy [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Zxw19hwZQ] I wondered if the main character went back to killing slimes just to get away from her.

[Strangely, I was a bit more charitable towards Maia, your hapless bride at the beginning of Phantasy Star III. Probably because I actually got to know her a little bit before I was required to rescue her. Also, while your PC is a prince, you don't even realize Maia's a princess until you actually rescue her, when you can decide to marry her or twist the trope slightly and marry the female party member who's actually been helping you the whole time (who turns out to be a princess as well).]

In those early console games, my motivation was taking down evil tyrants like Bowser and Gannon (that other timeless game trope), any princesses being secondary consideration. Notably, I always preferred third-party franchises like Castlevania and MegaMan--Belmont and MegaMan didn't seem to need the princess bonus to save the land from evil overlords.
 

HentMas

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I´m Extremely Dissapointed at the lack of SHEIK in this article, seriously?? the only game where the princess actually DOES something and you skip that part entirely to talk about how she was transformed in "wind waker"?!?

*waves cane*

how old are you kid? i want to speak with your parents!!!
 

Dastardly

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Alfie Simpson said:
The Princess Problem

A closer look at the age-old tradition of princess saving.

Read Full Article
Interestingly, video game Princesses mirror real-world princesses in one important regard: They serve little functional purpose, and are more figureheads than anything. The symbology of a princess actually seems to inform the stereotypes we see in the games--a young girl, beautiful, full of virtue (chastity), in need of defending. She is representative of a nation's own beauty and virtue, made visible (and thus vulnerable) to all. Think of her as a living, breathing rally flag.

As this translates into stories, it usually means she is helpless and unable to defend herself. It also means she cannot be "had" by any man, even her own rescuer. In the past, this wasn't an issue, since chivalry was all about putting forth the effort without expecting that standard "return on investment."

As society has evolved, we're more open about things like sex, so we can't simply write that part out of this particular "boy meets girl" variation anymore. But to some, if the princess makes with the sex-ing, she loses the virtue that makes her a princess (in the symbolic sense). As a result, we get a lot of those in-between princesses--they are beautiful, but made wholly unlikable. The hero rescues the virtuous (but unapproachable) princess, and when he doesn't "get the girl," it's because he chooses not to. Then they usually introduce the "peasant with a heart of gold, and down-homey good looks" as a substitute, and everyone's happy.

I really think the bigger question that more games need to be asking, throughout all of this, is where the hell are the King and Queen? It could make a very compelling story, the old war-hero King going all "Liam Neeson" to rescue his daughter (who happens to be the Princess)...
 

DaMullet

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Dastardly said:
I really think the bigger question that more games need to be asking, throughout all of this, is where the hell are the King and Queen? It could make a very compelling story, the old war-hero King going all "Liam Neeson" to rescue his daughter (who happens to be the Princess)...
That, is full of win. Especially if the princess is like 5 years old. Talk about an evil dude, kidnapping a child.
 

Thaluikhain

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There's a tendency to think this weakness stems from an outdated gender stereotype - that because these stories were written so long ago, they cast women in roles both passive and powerless. You only have to look at the wicked witches and the domineering stepmothers, however, to realize that this is not the case at all. These characters hold plenty of power, and they wield it with a calculating intellect. So princesses aren't weak because they're women; they're weak because they're princesses.
So...the good women are powerless princesses, but there's no gender stereotype because the evil women have power?

Um, might be missing a fairly obvious point there.

WanderingFool said:
HankMan said:
Well if she could save herself, then it wouldn't be much of a game for us now would it?
That certainly would make sense...
Um...play as the kidnapped princess breaking out of the castle, instead of the hero breaking in? Like The Great Escape only with more expensive clothes and probably a less awesome theme.
 

mew4ever23

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There's nothing wrong per se with rescuing some damsel in distress, however there is one example of this that could really use an explanation. It's that example that Yahtzee usually brings up whenever he does a Mario game. Yes, I'm talking about Peach getting kidnapped by some one in about 90% of Mario games. Honestly, I'm getting tired of rescuing her, because chances are that she'll just end up in a cage in the next Mario game anyway. Where. Are. The. Guards?!

At least Zelda tries to help you during the plot of the game, but in the end it's still you alone (most of the time) facing off with the ancient evil. It was, however, quite nice to see Zelda take a more active role in the plot of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
 

Xman490

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Princess Peach isn't always a useless goal. Later and later in the Paper Mario series, she shows off more intellect and use until she uses trademark umbrella in-game outside of Smash Bros.
 

Sniper Team 4

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tunderball said:
I suddenly have a new found respect for Princess Leia, yeah she has to be rescued and all that but she kicks ass.
No she doesn't. She was just resting after a long day of emotional and physical torture. She did the rescuing. :)

On Topic, I'm one of those people who would like to see a Zelda game where you play as Zelda/Shiek. That would be a fresh start for the series, and something I'm sure many people would applaud.

P.S. Stupid crystals.
 

Sniper Team 4

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HentMas said:
I´m Extremely Dissapointed at the lack of SHEIK in this article, seriously?? the only game where the princess actually DOES something and you skip that part entirely to talk about how she was transformed in "wind waker"?!?

*waves cane*

how old are you kid? i want to speak with your parents!!!
Ah, but the question is, is Sheik still a princess, or even a female? There's a huge debate that, when Zelda transforms, it's more than just her appearance. I'm with you on this though. Was wondering where Sheik was.
 

millertime059

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The princess idea is an interesting argument, undone by cherry picking data. Your argument against princesses, when boiled down to it's essence, could just as easily be applied to space marines, alien invaders, mobsters, post apocalypse survivors, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. What your argument is, at is basic level, cliched stereotypes are bad if there is nothing to provide character depth.

You decry the passive princess, but give credit to Midna for not being a helpless rescue, but active participant. Her 'breaking the princess mold' gives her interesting attributes, and makes her more worthy of a character. I'd throw in the Zelda/ Shiek from Ocarina for the same reason. Yeah a helpless Princess Peach is annoying, but her Paper Mario incarnations are something special. There are other examples, but the point remains. Once they break from the expected stereotype they are much more interesting. Princesses that adhere to the standard trope (most of your classic Disney Princesses for example) are little more that literary devices, not worthy of being considered a true character.

The same applies to generic space marines, ragtag military group going through a overwhelming struggle,hero of destiny with personality of cardboard, etc. Is Halo popular because of Master Chief (boring)? Is [insert generic military shooter X] popular for the ragtag group of cliches (gimme something new)? Is Chrono Trigger popular for the titular Chrono (hello is anybody in there)? They area all wasted character opportunities.
 

Therumancer

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Errr, well I think this is kind of pointless as an article because it's full of some rather bad and biased information. P

For starters, I think the stereotypical princess tends to be a fine character in of itself. It's definatly an extreme counterpoint to "Action Grrrl", but honestly I think all the "strong and sassy" female characters have become an even more obnoxious stereotype over the years nowadays. I think there are both good and bad aspects to the traditionally more passive "princess" and the in your face "Action Girl". If anything I think the real problem is in not having all that much between the extremes, even when you have one type of character change into another it always hits one end of the scale or another.

As far as bad information goes, I will say that Princess Peach has been around quite a bit accross a lot of differant media. She's been playable in platformers and brawl, present in cartoon shows andcomics, and other things, and has been characterized quite well at times. Super Paper Mario" is hardly some kind of exception. Truthfully the biggest complaints you could make about her being a complete non-personality through the franchise would be many years ago, and when you go back that far it should noted that no characters in those games really had much in the way of personality or backstory either. Complaining about Princess Peach is simply too dated to be relevent at this point.

Now I will get to the unpopular part of my arguement. My backround and training (Criminal Justice, Casino Security, etc...) has lead me to the opinion that if your going to start talking about dangerous, and negative stereotypes for girls, I think it's the "sassy action girl" that needs to be seriously cut down, not the more passive princess who needs to be rescued.

I say this because reality is simply that girls are less capable than guys when it comes to violence. The exceptions that exist, are just that, EXCEPTIONS. While there are cases where a girl in great shape or with massively superior training can beat up a guy, but in cases of equal time put in, they wind up behind, and guys max out much higher. In a realistic "on the street" situation with normal people, girls who think they can fight guys do little more than get themselves in trouble. A lot of the more violent rapes out there (stalk girl, corner her in a stairwell, parking garage, or other location, force her down and have sex) occur because some girl thinks she's "Xena" due to a bit of working out, and some self defense classes, and some tubby dude who happens to outweigh her by 80 pounds just flat out overpowers her and does his thing. I'm a big proponent that women need to be taught to run away from guys rather than confronting them when things get dangerous, because all too often I think the whole "girl power" thing and the people who teach it, detaches women from the reality of their situation.

Now, understand that in a battlefield situation with guns (the great equalizer) this is a bit differant, which is why I have less problem with women as soldiers. My opinion when it comes to police work or security is mixed, because the idea is generally to avoid violence, and truthfully I think the differant in physical abillity in many cases means that the contiunum of force is entirely differant, guys will be more belligerant with girls, and push come to shove it's a lot sooner she's going to need something like a gun to control a really bad situation. In that case however I believe the problem is dealt with by maintaining very high standards of physical abillity for law enforcement (which become a bit higher each year in most places, as the job gets nastier), and allowing women to be cops if they can meet those standards, as opposed to lowering the bar specifically to have women in positions of authority. If you have one of those girls who is in the physical range of your average 6' athletic guy then it's less of an issue by definition, of course it's very true that most women can't meet those standards, and it takes a lot more effort on their part to get there and maintain it (but if they can do it, more power to them,they shouldn't be excluded if they can meet the standards for safety reason).

BUT at the same time, the oppression of women was NOT caused entirely by backwards social policies. Understand technology has allowed equality. In a tech level where everything is muscle driven, civilization is hardly like it is today, and power is gained and maintained by being able to swing around th biggest and heaviest pieces of metal (axes, swords, maces), then yeah... women are going to have a SERIOUS problem in any physical capacity, barring very rare exceptions, and of course societies are defined by the masses, not the rare exceptions.

The point here is that "action grrrl" is fine when it's understood to be pure fantasy for the most part, and even more unreachable for a girl than the male counterpart (which is still pretty ridiculous when you think about it realistically). I think the problem with all the characters like that is that combined with current politics, it encourages a stupid number of women to think that they can behave that way, and actually believe that the way the world operated for so long was simply due to social ignorance as opposed to anything physical.

To be honest, I think right now society has a rather strong message that it's wrong for girls to be traditionally feminine, fairly passive, etc. They need to get right out there and be in people's faces and running up to do everything. It doesn't affect everyone, but it causes a lot of problems, and truthfully I've been of the opinion that the media that sells that has causes a lot of problems, and we need a lot more in the way of middle ground.

If I had a daughter, she might grow up to be a recognizable exception, but not wanting anything bad to happen to her, I'd be somewhat wary about her growing up thinking that it was feasible for her to fight guys successfully. I wouldn't want her to wind up being one of those girls who gets raped or something, when they could have ran away, but decided instead to do the "powerful thing" and confront the guy who did it head on. Even with professional fighters size and weight matters, and I'm sorry even if he's a slob, some dude whose half again your body mass (if not more) is not someone you should be fighting no matter who you are if you can avoid it, and when you have comparitively little girls who try and throw down with guys I'd be reluctant to fight, because of TV, or some self defense/empowerment instructor told them they could... that's a problem.

I think we actually need to see less "yes you can" in video games, with all these female warriors and martial artists, and a bit more balance. Thre can always be exceptions given the fantastic nature of video gaming, but I think ultimatly we need more of a middle ground between "Princess Peach" and "Lara Croft" and that's the real issue I'm getting at, especially when you look at the central issue of "good role models" and such which is
usually at the heart of most discussions about how lame damsels in distress are.
 

vxicepickxv

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I'm sorry Mario, your McGuffin is in another castle.

That's what these mostly relatively helpless princesses are all about. They're little more than plot points to justify telling stories in early video games.

I thought it even more funny in both Faria and Final Fantasy, your first quest is to rescue the princess. The result in Final Fantasy is a bridge gets built for you to carry on your quest.

In Faria, after you rescue the princess, it's revealed that you can't marry the princess, as was the reward, because you're a woman.
 

wetcoast

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I think the real issue is that most games continue to be designed by hetero males for hetero males. So, video games are designed from a male point of view and tend to treat females as stereotypes -- passive, objectified and one-dimensional -- a prize to be obtained. Even when the "hero" is ostensibly a woman (think of Lara Croft) s/he is more a teenage boy's idea of what a woman is than anything that resembles reality. It's disheartening that 30 years on, video games are still mired in that adolescent male rut.
 

Cool Welshy

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wetcoast said:
I think the real issue is that most games continue to be designed by hetero males for hetero males. So, video games are designed from a male point of view and tend to treat females as stereotypes -- passive, objectified and one-dimensional -- a prize to be obtained. Even when the "hero" is ostensibly a woman (think of Lara Croft) s/he is more a teenage boy's idea of what a woman is than anything that resembles reality. It's disheartening that 30 years on, video games are still mired in that adolescent male rut.
I absolutely agree. But maybe the roles will switch when there is more female gamers.

Actually, wasn't there a game where Mario gets kidnapped and Peach gets to save HIM? I heard it didn't do as well as the vice versa, but still.
 

Sylocat

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Great article and I agree with a lot of it, but as someone who has worked with abuse victims in the past, it makes me a little uncomfortable to hear Cinderella get reprimanded for not running away... long-time abuse victims tend to internalize their abuse and become too scared to flee. It's not rational, but welcome to the real world.

Agree that Sleeping Beauty is a twit, though. Never before have I so strongly wanted a villain to win (though it helps that I just adore Maleficent in general, and was overjoyed she got picked as the "main" villain in Kingdom Hearts). Sleeping Beauty is so generic I couldn't even remember her name; when she was called "Aurora" in Kingdom Hearts, I went, "Wait, which one is that?"

Of course, in Disney movies, the princesses are still way better than the princes... I can't remember ANY of their names.

Dastardly said:
I really think the bigger question that more games need to be asking, throughout all of this, is where the hell are the King and Queen? It could make a very compelling story, the old war-hero King going all "Liam Neeson" to rescue his daughter (who happens to be the Princess)...
This was basically the plot of Final Fight, where Mike Haggar goes to rescue his daughter (granted, he was the mayor, not the king, but still).

Also, I'm fairly certain (and I think this might actually have been confirmed in one of the RPGs) that Peach is actually the sovereign ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, her parents are gone. I assume the chancellor (whom we met in Legend of the Seven Stars) keeps things going when she gets kidnapped.

Zelda's situation varies with the iteration, but in most of her games, when she is kidnapped, her father is either incapacitated or imprisoned as well. No word on her mother.
 

WorldCritic

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Peach holds a special place in my heart due to the fact that in Super Mario 2 and some of the RPGs she is one of the most useful characters, while in the main series she makes it her life's ambition to piss me off by always getting kidnapped and never once showing any signs of resisting. Come on you stupid *****! You have fought alongside Mario against cosmic threats and even had your own game, but you still can't put forth some effort to fight Bowser off when he tries to capture you?
 

Light 086

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thaluikhain said:
WanderingFool said:
HankMan said:
Well if she could save herself, then it wouldn't be much of a game for us now would it?
That certainly would make sense...
Um...play as the kidnapped princess breaking out of the castle, instead of the hero breaking in? Like The Great Escape only with more expensive clothes and probably a less awesome theme.
But there has to be a romance subplot, it's law because they said so. How would you end the story without 'they lived happily ever after'? I don't think the supposed hero would go for a girl who could emasculate him, do you?

On Topic: I agree, it has to do with the stereotyped gender roles. These stories were written far before women had rights.

Now the have female heroes, who save the prince, like In DA: Origins. Alistar can't tie his own shoes, you think he can rule a kingdom? One of the dlc's showed what happens if your character dies and he leads the wardens, the archdemon wins.
 

Arnoxthe1

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I completely deny this article.

Like everyone else has said, he totally ignores sheik. Also, what about the fact that earlier in the game, she gave link the OoT and taught him the song of time. Not to mention the fact that during the end, she opened all those doors and then held Ganon AND THEN gave link some serious sword power. ALSO she gives him the light arrows. I win.

And then Midna. Well, Midna might as well have crushed this article under her feet with the small fact that she helped Link THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE FREAKING GAME. Zelda also helped some but, admittedly, not as much as she did OoT.

Peach is a whole different ballgame in the fact that nobody plays the Mario games for the story. It's all about the gameplay and Peach is just one open, fat, giant excuse for the players to have all this fun in all these weird levels. Nothing more and nothing less.
 

CrystalShadow

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thaluikhain said:
There's a tendency to think this weakness stems from an outdated gender stereotype - that because these stories were written so long ago, they cast women in roles both passive and powerless. You only have to look at the wicked witches and the domineering stepmothers, however, to realize that this is not the case at all. These characters hold plenty of power, and they wield it with a calculating intellect. So princesses aren't weak because they're women; they're weak because they're princesses.
So...the good women are powerless princesses, but there's no gender stereotype because the evil women have power?

Um, might be missing a fairly obvious point there.

WanderingFool said:
HankMan said:
Well if she could save herself, then it wouldn't be much of a game for us now would it?
That certainly would make sense...
Um...play as the kidnapped princess breaking out of the castle, instead of the hero breaking in? Like The Great Escape only with more expensive clothes and probably a less awesome theme.
Reminds me of the plot-lines of Kings Quest 4 and 7. (well, 7 in particular)
(Ironically, King's quest 7 is the last real kings quest game they made, because king's quest 8 was really quite different, and not all that popular, I seem to recall)

In King's Quest 4, Princess Rosella (who you play as) has to find a way to cure her father. (So in a way that's the 'object' equivalent of 'save the princess' really. Huh.)

King's quest 7 is more interesting in that you alternate playing as princess Rosella, (who has been lured away and kidnapped by her own sense of curiosity), and her mother (Queen Valanice)

Valanice follows Rosella into the portal she was kidnapped through, and you start play as Valanice trying to figure out where she's ended up, and where Rosella is.

When you get out of the first area, you switch to playing as Rosella, as she figures out why she's now a troll, who took her, and how to escape to find the castle in the sky she was actually looking for.

The story alternates between these two perspectives, and it's ultimately Rosella sorting out the problems by herself, even as her mother tries to find her.

One thing's for sure, Princess Rosella is 'weak' only in a physical sense, and seems quite capable of sorting out her own problems (which are essentially self-inflicted anyway, considering how she got 'kidnapped' in the first place.)
 

SanguineSymphony

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Paper Mario
Super Princess Peach
SMB 2
Super Mario RPG
Smash Bros.

Peach fighting back is an element in all of said games and probably others as well.
 

Alfie Simpson

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Alfie Simpson said:
The Princess Problem

A closer look at the age-old tradition of princess saving.

Read Full Article
Just to zero in on this:

There's a tendency to think this weakness stems from an outdated gender stereotype - that because these stories were written so long ago, they cast women in roles both passive and powerless. You only have to look at the wicked witches and the domineering stepmothers, however, to realize that this is not the case at all. These characters hold plenty of power, and they wield it with a calculating intellect. So princesses aren't weak because they're women; they're weak because they're princesses.
No, it's still based on an outdated gender stereotype. The stereotype is: women can be powerful and independent and therefore evil, or powerless and male-reliant and therefore virtuous.
 

Thaluikhain

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Light 086 said:
But there has to be a romance subplot, it's law because they said so. How would you end the story without 'they lived happily ever after'? I don't think the supposed hero would go for a girl who could emasculate him, do you?
Hmmm...ok, then, 2 princesses both escape from the same castle, and fall in love with each other? Preferably princesses from different royal families, I guess.

BobDobolina said:
No, it's still based on an outdated gender stereotype. The stereotype is: women can be powerful and independent and therefore evil, or powerless and male-reliant and therefore virtuous.
Glad I'm not the only one who saw that.
 

VondeVon

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I would posit that the reason all the princesses we rescue are weak and demure, is because all the feisty and strong ones have already rescued themselves.
 

VondeVon

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BobDobolina said:
Just to zero in on this:

There's a tendency to think this weakness stems from an outdated gender stereotype - that because these stories were written so long ago, they cast women in roles both passive and powerless. You only have to look at the wicked witches and the domineering stepmothers, however, to realize that this is not the case at all. These characters hold plenty of power, and they wield it with a calculating intellect. So princesses aren't weak because they're women; they're weak because they're princesses.
No, it's still based on an outdated gender stereotype. The stereotype is: women can be powerful and independent and therefore evil, or powerless and male-reliant and therefore virtuous.
Too true.
 

LINCARD1000

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Once, just once I would like to rush in on my trusty stead/nucwear-wessel with gun/sword in hand to rescue a kidnapped PRINCE.

"Hey man, how YOU doin'? *leers* Join me on my mount? Heh, I said 'mount'."

*ahem* Just for a bit of diversity, y'know?
 

Dastardly

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Sylocat said:
Great article and I agree with a lot of it, but as someone who has worked with abuse victims in the past, it makes me a little uncomfortable to hear Cinderella get reprimanded for not running away... long-time abuse victims tend to internalize their abuse and become too scared to flee. It's not rational, but welcome to the real world.
Working with similar situations from time to time, I certainly understand this real-life phenomenon that "outsiders" often see as baffling. But because I know how that works, I see more reason to go after Cinderella, not less.

Now, when I say "go after Cinderella," I obviously mean the author, or the current person using the story. I think the writer of this article probably means the same. Cinderella is a fictional character.

These sort of stories are idealized "happily ever after" tales. They're meant to show the world at its best in some way. Cinderella is meant to idealize the "good things happen to good people" idea... except it doesn't. Rather than having the story revolve around how Cinderella gradually finds the strength to leave, it's all about being rescued by magic, with no effort on her part. The message being delivered is, "Good things will happen, so just sit there and do nothing."

Cinderella's story glorifies the prince, more than anything. He is the one that rescues her. Even the all-powerful, magical fairy godmother just prepares Cinderella to go catch a prince.[/b] Once the party's done, she goes right back home. Until the prince, that is, comes searching for her.

It's a story written during a time when women were encouraged to be passive, wait for men to provide for them, and put up with whatever was happening until that time came. Surely you could see how continuing that story, unaltered, into today just isn't the best model for girls?
 

jamesworkshop

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Oh please rescue the princess is the story line of maybe two game series, practically every videogame character (male or female) in existance is far more capable than humans have any physical capability to be.
It's only a trope because of the billions of mario games
 

Mouse One

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jamesworkshop said:
Oh please rescue the princess is the story line of maybe two game series, practically every videogame character (male or female) in existance is far more capable than humans have any physical capability to be.
It's only a trope because of the billions of mario games
And about a billion other stories, from Brothers Grimm to Arthurian Legends to Greek myths. And hey, when you look at a story like Perseus and Andromeda, it's not bad when you think about women's (lack of) status at the time. Andromeda tells Dad to stuff it with his marriage plans, she'd rather marry the guy who saved her. On the other hand, she doesn't slip the chains and bonk the dragon on its nose, either. Still, not bad for 500 BC or so.

But now we live in more enlightened times, and these tropes are showing their age. And there's an increasingly larger female gamer population; not including casual games, it's about 40%. No, really, it is-- probably not on game forums, though. The saving princess motif has all the appeal to women that saving Rainbow Sparkle Pony has for men. Sure, good gameplay will make up for it, but it's still hard to relate to.
 

jamesworkshop

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Mouse One said:
jamesworkshop said:
Oh please rescue the princess is the story line of maybe two game series, practically every videogame character (male or female) in existance is far more capable than humans have any physical capability to be.
It's only a trope because of the billions of mario games
And about a billion other stories, from Brothers Grimm to Arthurian Legends to Greek myths. And hey, when you look at a story like Perseus and Andromeda, it's not bad when you think about women's (lack of) status at the time. Andromeda tells Dad to stuff it with his marriage plans, she'd rather marry the guy who saved her. On the other hand, she doesn't slip the chains and bonk the dragon on its nose, either. Still, not bad for 500 BC or so.

But now we live in more enlightened times, and these tropes are showing their age. And there's an increasingly larger female gamer population; not including casual games, it's about 40%. No, really, it is-- probably not on game forums, though. The saving princess motif has all the appeal to women that saving Rainbow Sparkle Pony has for men. Sure, good gameplay will make up for it, but it's still hard to relate to.
I specifyed in gaming not the last few thousand years of storytelling

women in videogames are not largely helpless princess, most are derided as being men with tits
fact is that gaming has largely revolved around power fantasys and quest naratives leading most characters to be either conan/red sonya types (Other heroes that principly employ violence to solve problems)

Sarah kerrigan
Jill Valentine
Nina Williams
Ada Wong
Taki (Soulcalibur)
Talim
Tira (Soulcalibur)
Samus Aran
Rayne (BloodRayne)
Claire Redfield
Morrigan Aensland
Mileena (Mortal Kombat)
Lightning (Final Fantasy)
Lulu (Final Fantasy)
Kasumi (Dead or Alive)
Kitana (Mortal Kombat)
Ivy Valentine
Chun-Li
Cammy
Bayonetta (character)
Alyx Vance
Mona Sax
Sheva alomar
Lara Croft
Rubi malone
Cate Archer
 

Mouse One

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jamesworkshop said:
I specifyed in gaming not the last few thousand years of storytelling

women in videogames are not largely helpless princess, most are derided as being men with tits
fact is that gaming has largely revolved around power fantasys and quest naratives leading most characters to be either conan/red sonya types (Other heroes that principly employ violence to solve problems)
Videogame narrative isn't inseparable from the thousands of years of story telling preceeding it. All those tropes and motifs weren't invented in the last 20 years. But your point about strong female characters in recent games is a good one. Game companies HAVE been responsive to changing cultural values, just as movies and other media have. That's not to say that they don't have a long way to go: for every Alyx Vance, there's far too many female side characters who seem to be there as nothing more than motivation for the main male lead, as the original article pointed out (and listed).
 

tahrey

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I dunno ... the princess was never really the prize in the platform games I played when younger. Kinda just like a cliched prop. We were all about the enemy-killing...

And I can only really point to Lenna and Faris in FF5 :) ... some helpless princesses, they.
 

IndianaJonny

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thaluikhain said:
Um...play as the kidnapped princess breaking out of the castle, instead of the hero breaking in? Like The Great Escape only with more expensive clothes and probably a less awesome theme.
I think you might be onto something there, thaluikhain. We seem to forget that the majority of Princess(esque) tales (Snow White, Thumbelina, Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin etc.) follow the journey of the Princess (yes, I realise the article's use of Sleeping Beauty is not, however, the best example for this theory). Yet this journey, from what little I've seen, seems ignored as a plausible narrative in today's gaming. What I'd love to see is gaming's answer to Pan's Labyrinth; an engaging, alternative fairy-tale narrative from the girl/princess' perspective that has so, so, SO much to tell us about the monsters, magic and vulnerability of our own lives.

I have no expertise on your points in your comment here, Therumancer, I'm just impressed by the intelligence of your remarks and that you've not cut your points to cater for short-attention spans. Trust me, the savvy contribution you made to widening the debate here was appreciated - made me think, chum.

VondeVon said:
I would posit that the reason all the princesses we rescue are weak and demure, is because all the feisty and strong ones have already rescued themselves.
I did have to smile when I read this, thanks VondeVon.
 

Alfie Simpson

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Doesn't the mechanic used in (one of) the Paper Mario Gamecube games help - Peach (and the castle) gets yoinked by Bowser, and Peach does go around trying to escape...she's just not that good at it (for instance, baking "cake" for a morbidly obese Shy Guy). So she's not passive, just useless.
 

count9

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I personally think plot is not what happens but how it happens. A hackneyed plot with lovable and relatable characters that have good on screen chemistry and dialogue exchanges is not only excusable but makes for a great experience. Everyone knows that the hero to 90% of games will be alive at the end* and have defeated his greatest enemy just as everyone knows the hero will rescue the princess. (*end of a series if they keep the first game open ended, and they probably will) Yes it does allow writers to get a bit lazy with the development with the hero, but honestly, having to save a princess is just as good an excuse to be the hero as you're the chosen one, you're born with divine blood, your relative is the evil king, etc.

I agree most with the concluding paragraph, but would like to add that princesses can add to the plot with well written dialogue or be some sort of helper/confidant (much like alex in HF2). A passive defenseless character can make the player fall in love with/get attached to them just as well as any other archetype.
 

xengk

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Don't know about you, but this whole article reads like an angry feminist rant to me.
There has been a number of example strong princess in past video game, but the author choose to ignore them just to push a point.

Princess Peach ditch her helpless way as early and the second Super Mario Bros. game. She can do hard radish plucking labor, grab and throw ninjas even hover in mid air!

I haven't had the pleasure to play Oricana of Time, but from the number of time and support Shiek is getting here. I will have to assume she is not a passive princess either.
Midna just blows this article out of the water and than some.

CrystalShadow brought up a good classic. King's Quest 7: the Princeless Bride.
 

Alfie Simpson

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This whole article seems to resonate feminist dogma. That women should aspire to male qualities and force themselves into traditionally male dominated arenas. Now, I fully believe if a woman is capable of being, for example, a Firefighter, Soldier or Police officer then they should be allowed to become one if they are capable of meeting the standards. However, if a woman wants to be docile, demure, or (*GASP*) submissive in nature and follow traditional gender routes, then why discourage her? Here's another idea. Supposed a man wanted to enter a traditionally female arena. Nursing, Flight Attendant, Fashion or Interior Design. Generally the societal reaction is to discourage him in the age old tradition of humiliation and degradation. In the latter cases, males would be subject to homosexual slurs, regardless of how accurate they might be.

People should really consider all of this before penning dogmatically feminist articles such as this one.
 

Orcus The Ultimate

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jamesworkshop said:
Mouse One said:
jamesworkshop said:
Oh please rescue the princess is the story line of maybe two game series, practically every videogame character (male or female) in existance is far more capable than humans have any physical capability to be.
It's only a trope because of the billions of mario games
And about a billion other stories, from Brothers Grimm to Arthurian Legends to Greek myths. And hey, when you look at a story like Perseus and Andromeda, it's not bad when you think about women's (lack of) status at the time. Andromeda tells Dad to stuff it with his marriage plans, she'd rather marry the guy who saved her. On the other hand, she doesn't slip the chains and bonk the dragon on its nose, either. Still, not bad for 500 BC or so.

But now we live in more enlightened times, and these tropes are showing their age. And there's an increasingly larger female gamer population; not including casual games, it's about 40%. No, really, it is-- probably not on game forums, though. The saving princess motif has all the appeal to women that saving Rainbow Sparkle Pony has for men. Sure, good gameplay will make up for it, but it's still hard to relate to.
I specifyed in gaming not the last few thousand years of storytelling

women in videogames are not largely helpless princess, most are derided as being men with tits
fact is that gaming has largely revolved around power fantasys and quest naratives leading most characters to be either conan/red sonya types (Other heroes that principly employ violence to solve problems)

Sarah kerrigan
Jill Valentine
Nina Williams
Ada Wong
Taki (Soulcalibur)
Talim
Tira (Soulcalibur)
Samus Aran
Rayne (BloodRayne)
Claire Redfield
Morrigan Aensland
Mileena (Mortal Kombat)
Lightning (Final Fantasy)
Lulu (Final Fantasy)
Kasumi (Dead or Alive)
Kitana (Mortal Kombat)
Ivy Valentine
Chun-Li
Cammy
Bayonetta (character)
Alyx Vance
Mona Sax
Sheva alomar
Lara Croft
Rubi malone
Cate Archer
i loved characters like Cate Archer & Mona Sax... their personalities felt very plausible.
 

standokan

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Sir John the Net Knight said:
Well Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess.
Damn, got ninja'd on that classic

OT:The princess fetch quest is becoming a really old story line, but aren't all storylines, ARE there original storylines left?
 

Baresark

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I think this completely misses the idea. Mario, Zelda, and whatever other game has had this particular plot mechanism, uses this as an intro into gameplay that is usually excellent. You can try to argue that the story of these games sucks, I agree. But, it's not about the story.

The other first game I played with this plot back on Nintendo was Dragon Warrior 3. The princess plot lead to a bigger plot, but it started as just a, "rescue the princess" story.

Every game that comes to mind is pretty darn excellent. I can't think of any bad ones that use this plot. Though, there are undoubtedly plenty. But, you see the failure in those games as being gameplay, and not story.

BobDobolina said:
Just to zero in on this:

There's a tendency to think this weakness stems from an outdated gender stereotype - that because these stories were written so long ago, they cast women in roles both passive and powerless. You only have to look at the wicked witches and the domineering stepmothers, however, to realize that this is not the case at all. These characters hold plenty of power, and they wield it with a calculating intellect. So princesses aren't weak because they're women; they're weak because they're princesses.
No, it's still based on an outdated gender stereotype. The stereotype is: women can be powerful and independent and therefore evil, or powerless and male-reliant and therefore virtuous.
They don't use an "outdated gender stereotype" at all in most games. Any modern game that is about saving the princess in RPG terms, tends to have an a heroine present as strong as any villains. Or they come across equally strong women in the their travels.

The Princess needs to be saved because she is not a strong independent woman, but there are lots of times there is a strong independent woman present at the saving. And then there is the stereotype of Princess's to consider. They are usually codled(spelling?) and largely naive to the state of the world.

I hate when people try to define everything little thing such as this a negative gender stereotype, like it or not, people like this exist. I have known both men and women like this. The reason that a strong independent woman doesn't usually act as the primary savior of a needy princess is because society fears anything that remotely looks or sounds like a homosexual relationship. So, they cast the men as the savior and weak woman as the one in need of saving. Take into account that the strong independent women are not usually in need of saving.

Also, most of those games take place in a bygone fantasy era where the primary gender roll responsibilities fall on men. Zelda is like this, Dragon Warrior 3 was like this, and Mario is transplanted to a fantasy land where people eat mushrooms and get big for chrissakes. In Final Fantasy 13, as a more modern example, there is no princess to save, but the role of savior of the planet falls onto a female character. She is both virtuous and strong.
 

teh_Canape

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to be fair

you do have to rescue Peach in Super Mario RPG for the SNES

but then she becomes playable

and the story completely derives from the typical story of rescuing her
 

Alfie Simpson

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standokan said:
Sir John the Net Knight said:
Well Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess.
Damn, got ninja'd on that classic

OT:The princess fetch quest is becoming a really old story line, but aren't all storylines, ARE there original storylines left?
Sure there are, people just aren't looking hard enough.
 

Space Jawa

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rollerfox88 said:
Doesn't the mechanic used in (one of) the Paper Mario Gamecube games help - Peach (and the castle) gets yoinked by Bowser, and Peach does go around trying to escape...she's just not that good at it (for instance, baking "cake" for a morbidly obese Shy Guy). So she's not passive, just useless.
She still manages to help Mario from the inside, and provides a means for Mario to beat Bowser in the final battle. She's not useless, just not very good at getting out of trouble on her own.
 

Alfie Simpson

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Wow, apparently it's Defensive Day today!

Baresark said:
I think this completely misses the idea. Mario, Zelda, and whatever other game has had this particular plot mechanism, uses this as an intro into gameplay that is usually excellent. . .

They don't use an "outdated gender stereotype" at all in most games. Any modern game that is about saving the princess in RPG terms, tends to have an a heroine present as strong as any villains.
Hmmmm... does the original KOTOR count as a modern game? ISTR being tasked with saving Bastila twice in the course of that game; it's just as common for "heroic" women to be subverted back into damsel in distress roles.

At any rate, I wasn't saying anything about "most games," nor do I think the article was, so you can relax.

I hate when people try to define everything little thing such as this a negative gender stereotype, like it or not, people like this exist.
Could you please tell me in your own words what you think "stereotype" means? Because I have this feeling it doesn't mean what you think it means.
 

Baresark

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BobDobolina said:
Wow, apparently it's Defensive Day today!

Baresark said:
I think this completely misses the idea. Mario, Zelda, and whatever other game has had this particular plot mechanism, uses this as an intro into gameplay that is usually excellent. . .

They don't use an "outdated gender stereotype" at all in most games. Any modern game that is about saving the princess in RPG terms, tends to have an a heroine present as strong as any villains.
Hmmmm... does the original KOTOR count as a modern game? ISTR being tasked with saving Bastila twice in the course of that game; it's just as common for "heroic" women to be subverted back into damsel in distress roles.

At any rate, I wasn't saying anything about "most games," nor do I think the article was, so you can relax.

I hate when people try to define everything little thing such as this a negative gender stereotype, like it or not, people like this exist.
Could you please tell me in your own words what you think "stereotype" means? Because I have this feeling it doesn't mean what you think it means.
I can safely say this isn't a defensive thing. I just enjoy a good back and forth with someone who doesn't leave a single line response to an article.

1.) It's not a negative gender stereotype to help your friends. You might very well yell at my girlfriend for being weak and calling me when she got into her first car accident, didn't know what to do, and was crying hysterically. Like it or not, people in general will need your help. And on top of that, Bastilla was at no point presented as a weak gender stereotype. Did you have to save her? Yes. Was she a typical weak princess role who was incapable of doing anything on her own? No. KOTOR suffers from poor writing, I hate to tell you. There was no logical reason for her to be trapped when she was trapped, and it wasn't because she needed you to come and save her.

2.) A stereotype of any kind is built on a societal view based on sex, race, or any number of other factors. Yes, those are my words. But, they exist because there are people within a society that fit that. I'm Irish, but I don't spend my weekends getting wrecked. But, I do know people who do, both Irish and otherwise.

I see what you're doing, but I don't know why you think that every time something like this happens in a socially recognized medium it has to mean something earth shattering. You are engaging in one of my pet peeves, you're turning all women into victims of videogame chauvinism. Your argument is part of the problem, not part of the solution. If the woman in question is not the perfect representation of a strong woman (in your opinion), the medium is degrading women and engaging in negative stereotyping.

That being said, I didn't mean for my original post to come off as confrontational in any way. Nor do I intend this one too, I just have a strong opinion. I don't need to calm down my friend, I'm a mountain lake as far as being calm is concerned. And they were talking about the, "save the princess" plot point some games participate in. And you're the one who mentioned gender stereotypes, after a little blurb from the author. I'm just here to tell you, just because a game uses this plot device doesn't mean they are making a blanket statement about women as being either strong and villainous or weak and virtuous. I would even go as far as to say that you may have an issue with it, much more than any women in my life.

Edit: As a quick aside. Society defines a stereotype, is a false view. A society builds it's stereotypes around the people within it. That is why we see are seeing the opposite view come into prevailing light. Will it happen over night, no it won't. But people are not nearly as victimized as some like to think in this subject. No one is trapped in what people think of them, they only trap themselves.
 

Alexander Pierre

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Zelda is saying SUP.

Seriously the princess problem hasn't been as big as people are portraying it to be these days. Ocarina of Time already made the Princess in a serious ninja and Peach has fought back her fair share of fights.
 

coolkirb

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yes get rid of a proven story that has been around longer then the video game industry. This is what I dont like about gamers they are often very narrow minded and dont realize things, Disney can keep makeing the princess movies because young girls dont expect the prince to come and save her from poverty. Nintendo can keep making mario and kirby games because not only do they do what they do well there are allways new people comeing in. Honestly Im sick of the gamer mentality that video game creators exist only to meet their needs their are other audiences out their and sorry if they have more loyalty to their investors then their fans but thats how capitalism works their out to make money.
 

JMeganSnow

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You would have done much better to mention the princess (Farah) in the Prince of Persia series as an interesting counterpart to this. While she does require some rescuing, she's an invaluable companion and Sands of Time would be a lousy game without her.

Granted, her role in Two Thrones is much more meh.

And there is a "rescue a prince" trope that is the counterpart of the "rescue a princess" trope, but it's usually done as a "restore the *rightful* king to his throne" story a la Prince Caspian.

Personally, I find the stupid mysticism surrounding the idea of "royalty" to be far more objectionable than any "rescuing" trope.
 

Eikoandmog

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thaluikhain said:
WanderingFool said:
HankMan said:
Well if she could save herself, then it wouldn't be much of a game for us now would it?
That certainly would make sense...
Um...play as the kidnapped princess breaking out of the castle, instead of the hero breaking in? Like The Great Escape only with more expensive clothes and probably a less awesome theme.
There was a game exactly like this. I wish I could remember its name but I believe it was on the Japanese PC-98 but the Hero set the princess free at the opening of the game and promptly died of his wounds. The rest of the game is about the escape.

EDIT: I think I fixed the mess that is the quotes.
 

DracoSuave

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The irony of using Sheik as an example of 'Strong Princess' is that, the MOMENT Sheik gets revealed as Zelda, the MOMENT she takes off her guise as a strong dispenser of teleportation songs....

...she gets kidnapped and you have to go rescue her. The very moment the 'man clothes' come off... she's now an object to be rescued as a SIDE-EFFECT of the main quest which is already established by that point.

Let's be absolutely clear about Ocarina of Time. Your quest is to lock Ganandorf into the Golden Land so that he stops being mean to Hyrule. You have the stakes for the adventure set clearly for you; the world is dying because Ganundorf is a jerk. You can see the ruination and decay in the land, because you're not just looking at pictures of it or being told... you are SHOWN the results of Ganondorf's evil. This is an example of how to set the stage right.

How does Shiek add to this by being the princess, and getting kidnapped? It serves no purpose other than to say 'It's legend of zelda, and zelda's gotta get in some peril cause that's how we do things in Hyrule!'

Sheik ain't the subversion of this trope! She's a card carrying exemplar of it, who exists solely to lure you into a false sense of 'it's not rescue the princess time' until... oh yeah, it is.

Contrast that with Twilight Princess. Forget Midna. Take Zelda herself in that. She's sitting there, in her sword and armor, fighting to the last until evil has assailed her castle, and she makes a sacrifice to preserve her kingdom's future. She's not some MacGuffin who sits there waiting to be rescued... she's a fighter who, defeated, makes the complex choice to subject her people to the Twilight so that they can survive in limbo, in the hopes that someone can rescue them, rather than succumb her people ti extinction.

THAT is not a 'princess peach.' That's a queen making a desperate sacrifice, and shows a strength of character and leadership.


---------------

That said, Princess Ashe from ff12 is a great example of a princess who is far from helpless.
 

Distortionfile

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This was one of the beautiful things about far cry. Even though you were trying to rescue an unknown beautiful woman, once Val enters the game play, she's no wussy. She actually is portrayed as a more confident bad ass than Jack even appears to be. She's useful in combat and a bossy companion, and she is basically the 'anti-princess'.
 

KillerShroom

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Doesn't really count as a "character" but the Princesses in Medieval II: Total War weren't THAT submissive, essentially tramping across Europe as diplomats...until they found themselves a hubby of course, at which point they vanish and start shooting out sprogs.
 

Del-Toro

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KillerShroom said:
Doesn't really count as a "character" but the Princesses in Medieval II: Total War weren't THAT submissive, essentially tramping across Europe as diplomats...until they found themselves a hubby of course, at which point they vanish and start shooting out sprogs.
Bonus points for using their feminine charm to sucker enemy armies into disbanding (assisted by some of Daddy's gold, of course, because armies tend to consist of a lot of guys who need to be kept quiet) and for being able to convert enemy generals to your faction.
 

DanDeFool

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Sir John the Net Knight said:
Well Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess.
<youtube=6YMPAH67f4o>

And for anyone who wants to see a game which breaks the mold somewhat, you should check out Haunting Ground: the only game where the hapless princess (and admittedly, her little dog too) has to save herself from the evil castle.
 

DanDeFool

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Alexander Pierre said:


Zelda is saying SUP.

Seriously the princess problem hasn't been as big as people are portraying it to be these days. Ocarina of Time already made the Princess in a serious ninja and Peach has fought back her fair share of fights.
Yeah, and then literally two minutes after she puts on a dress, she gets kidnapped by Gannondorf.

The Peach example at least gets some credit from the Super Mario Adventures comics in Nintendo power. I've brought this up on no less than three separate occasions on The Escapist, but in those comics, Princess Peach dresses up as Luigi and threatens to suicide-bomb the Koopa Kids.
 

Evidencebased

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Dastardly said:
Alfie Simpson said:
The Princess Problem

A closer look at the age-old tradition of princess saving.

Read Full Article
snip

I really think the bigger question that more games need to be asking, throughout all of this, is where the hell are the King and Queen? It could make a very compelling story, the old war-hero King going all "Liam Neeson" to rescue his daughter (who happens to be the Princess)...
How about the stepmother rescues her? Get rid of the "evil" stepmother stereotype, develop a relationship between a girl and her step-parent, get a strong female character, move away from the idea of women catfighting over power or the king, get in one of those "uniquely female" mothering moments that Extra Credits talked about... that'd be pretty sweet. :D
 

Lliae

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There's quite a few proactive princesses out there though. Elika from Prince of Persia is very strong. Farah is the same though she does turn back into the helpless kidnapped princess in PoP 3.

What about the Queen and Princess in King's Quest 7? Both are the only playable characters, are very strong and also the ultimate saviours of the world. The Princess is especially smart and plucky, doing things ranging from wandering (bravely, not stupidly) into a dragon's cave to strike a deal to digging her way out of an exploding volcano!

And consider, for a moment... the stepmothers and sorceresses from fairytales were very often portrayed as evil *because* they had power, while the princess was portrayed as good because she was doing what every good little girl ought to; wait for a man to rescue her. The prince ought to be organising her life, not her wicked stepmother, sheesh! 9_9

These stories were born of an age where strong women were automatically a bad thing, and we still see the carryover in today's games, though things are changing. But there?ll always be a place for the helpless, hapless princess in all mediums of fiction.
 

Atmos Duality

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thaluikhain said:
WanderingFool said:
HankMan said:
Well if she could save herself, then it wouldn't be much of a game for us now would it?
That certainly would make sense...
Um...play as the kidnapped princess breaking out of the castle, instead of the hero breaking in? Like The Great Escape only with more expensive clothes and probably a less awesome theme.
King's Quest 3 sort of did that actually. It was a prince instead of a princess, but the first thing you have to do is covertly beat the clock to rescue YOURSELF.
 

Swimfan

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Whenever I think of a princess in need, I think about Zelda.
Helping her escape in the final dungeon (oot) made up for all the strains I've been through since she kicked ass opening the gates and finally kicking Ganondorf's sweet little butt.

Great article!
 

KingCrInuYasha

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All this talk about bad princess clichés and no mention of Elise from Sonic Next Gen?

For all the flak Zelda gets, at least she tries to be competent. From successfully splitting the Triforce of Wisdom and hiding the pieces from Ganon in the first game to buying her people time in Twilight Princess so Link and Midna can save them to pummeling enemies in a suit of armor a la Fullmetal Alchemist in Spirit Tracks. Even Peach gets some moments of competency in some of the RPG spin-offs.

Elise? Completely useless. Just sat there and did nothing to help about 99% of the time and the 1% where she did help drove many a player to madness.
 
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DanDeFool said:
Alexander Pierre said:


Zelda is saying SUP.

Seriously the princess problem hasn't been as big as people are portraying it to be these days. Ocarina of Time already made the Princess in a serious ninja and Peach has fought back her fair share of fights.
Yeah, and then literally two minutes after she puts on a dress, she gets kidnapped by Gannondorf.

The Peach example at least gets some credit from the Super Mario Adventures comics in Nintendo power. I've brought this up on no less than three separate occasions on The Escapist, but in those comics, Princess Peach dresses up as Luigi and threatens to suicide-bomb the Koopa Kids.
Well it was Zelda's fault for reveling herself in the open after all, I mean any body with half of brain "i was 13 at the time" could have seen it coming from a mile away.

Now if I have to speak on strong princess... go play disgaea two with my all time favorite character Rozalin.
 

Ariseishirou

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Therumancer said:
I appreciate your line of reasoning, but I could switch the genders make the exact same statement about the potrayal of male main characters in video games/media, and it would be every bit as true.

The fact is, most men aren't cut out to be super-elite warriors, either. To be sure, even fewer women are due to different physical averages, but let's face it: there are fewer kickass female warrior protagonists in video games than male ones. Far fewer. And far more women than men in video games need to be assisted or rescued. If anything, then, video games are depicting a realistic ratio.

Moreover, how realistic is it for the average man to do the things that, say, your average FPS protagonist does? Most men can't even carry the kit those characters run/jump/backflip in, let alone take on trained soldiers in a hand to hand fight. Should I be worried about my sons growing up to think they can punch out a member of Russian Spetsnaz because Captain Price can?

You might say "well, Captain Price is SAS, of course he can, it's different" - but most female video game characters who fight so do as a profession, or have a reason they're skilled at it, too. A young girl is just as like to understand "Jill Valentine can do that because she's an ex-special forces member of an elite police unit, she's trained to, I probably couldn't" as a young boy is to understand that Price is an elite soldier, capable of things he isn't. Moreover, plenty of male characters with no special training who seem to be capable of the same feats, like Nathan Drake, exist as a counterpoint to your Lara Crofts.

In fact, young men are more likely than women to be the victims of street violence. As a security professional, you must have seen young men full of themselves try to take on someone they have no physical chance of defeating, fueled either by alcohol or overconfidence. I saw it myself working in bars and hotels as an undergrad, and this was by far more likely to happen to men than women. They bite off more than they can chew, get beaten up, or worse, killed. There've been two young men who died after getting into fights outside my alma mater's dance club in the last year alone. They either took on an opponent they couldn't handle, one who was armed, or one who wasn't alone. The vast majority of men have absolutely no chance of success in these situations.

And yet, how often do we see a male video game protagonist kick a knife out of someone's hand, or even headbutt them while tied up, catch it, and free themselves - or something equally ridiculous? Or take on ten thugs all at once? We watch Nathan Drake and Norman Jayden pound men five stone heavier than them into the ground with their fists, break their holds, and somehow overcome them with pluck, when in reality they would have about as much chance of winning as your average female protagonist taking on a thug five stone heavier than her

So, enough with these Action Boys! They're clearly giving men dangerous ideas about their own physical abilities, and getting them hurt. I've seen it too many times. Why do we praise them and scorn all male characters who seek help from professionals or run away and call the police as wimps? Men who can take on more than one opponent or fight a man bigger than them do exist, but they are just that: EXCEPTIONS. If Action Boys are understood to be a fantasy, that's fine, but what we should be looking for is a middle ground.
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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Ariseishirou said:
Therumancer said:
I appreciate your line of reasoning, but I could switch the genders make the exact same statement about the potrayal of male main characters in video games/media, and it would be every bit as true.

The fact is, most men aren't cut out to be super-elite warriors, either. To be sure, even fewer women are due to different physical averages, but let's face it: there are fewer kickass female warrior protagonists in video games than male ones. Far fewer. And far more women than men in video games need to be assisted or rescued. If anything, then, video games are depicting a realistic ratio.

Moreover, how realistic is it for the average man to do the things that, say, your average FPS protagonist does? Most men can't even carry the kit those characters run/jump/backflip in, let alone take on trained soldiers in a hand to hand fight. Should I be worried about my sons growing up to think they can punch out a member of Russian Spetsnaz because Captain Price can?

You might say "well, Captain Price is SAS, of course he can, it's different" - but most female video game characters who fight so do as a profession, or have a reason they're skilled at it, too. A young girl is just as like to understand "Jill Valentine can do that because she's an ex-special forces member of an elite police unit, she's trained to, I probably couldn't" as a young boy is to understand that Price is an elite soldier, capable of things he isn't. Moreover, plenty of male characters with no special training who seem to be capable of the same feats, like Nathan Drake, exist as a counterpoint to your Lara Crofts.

In fact, young men are more likely than women to be the victims of street violence. As a security professional, you must have seen young men full of themselves try to take on someone they have no physical chance of defeating, fueled either by alcohol or overconfidence. I saw it myself working in bars and hotels as an undergrad, and this was by far more likely to happen to men than women. They bite off more than they can chew, get beaten up, or worse, killed. There've been two young men who died after getting into fights outside my alma mater's dance club in the last year alone. They either took on an opponent they couldn't handle, one who was armed, or one who wasn't alone. The vast majority of men have absolutely no chance of success in these situations.

And yet, how often do we see a male video game protagonist kick a knife out of someone's hand, or even headbutt them while tied up, catch it, and free themselves - or something equally ridiculous? Or take on ten thugs all at once? We watch Nathan Drake and Norman Jayden pound men five stone heavier than them into the ground with their fists, break their holds, and somehow overcome them with pluck, when in reality they would have about as much chance of winning as your average female protagonist taking on a thug five stone heavier than her

So, enough with these Action Boys! They're clearly giving men dangerous ideas about their own physical abilities, and getting them hurt. I've seen it too many times. Why do we praise them and scorn all male characters who seek help from professionals or run away and call the police as wimps? Men who can take on more than one opponent or fight a man bigger than them do exist, but they are just that: EXCEPTIONS. If Action Boys are understood to be a fantasy, that's fine, but what we should be looking for is a middle ground.

The differance is that these feats are far more in line with what men are potentially capable of, than what women are. It's not so much a matter of "averages" but top physical abillity.

It's like this, you take a guy and a girl train them both to their physical peak and spend an equal time training them in combat skills, and the guy is going to win a fight between them every time, simply because of how men are designed comparitively. No, not every guy is going to be able to punch out a Spetznatz commando, but it's far more likely to find a guy who can do that than a girl.

Now, fantasy being fantasy you do wind up with female characters who CAN do all the stuff guys can, but it's far more of a leap when it comes to suspension of disbelief.

The whole "dangerous ideas" bit is a matter of politics and the downside of the feminist movement. See, a lot of women are increasingly being conditioned to think they can do everything a guy can, and to see those fantasy portrayals as real possibilities. Taken into the street this means that you wind up with situations with girls who decide they can fight off guys who try and mug or rape them for example. Girls who think "well, I'm in good shape, have had some fighting lessons, and should be able to handle this guy because I see it in fantasy and everyone tells me I can" while there are exceptions that usually ends very badly because guys are simply more powerful and all those comments about maximum levels also mean that guys with relatively trivial effort (or sometimes none at all) can physically exceed a level that could taken women a lot of work to reach.

As someone who has worked security for world class casinos in the past, I will say that I've seen the results of this mentality first hand, it's not pretty. It might not be politic but I'm of the opinion that women need to be taught in self defense to run away and seek help, not to try and take some guy out.

This is also one of the big reasons why I'm not a big fan of creating seperate standards for women in jobs like the police, of certain types of security. If a woman happens to meet the physical requirements that's fine, but they shouldn't expect any special treatment, including allowances for having to work 3x harder to maintain that level of performance in many cases. After all at the end of the day some dude intent on sliding your face accross the concrete isn't concerned about being politically correct. Not to mention that a lot of it revolves around the proper style of professional intimidation. See police officers, security professionals, and other similar kinds of guys don't want incidents to happen, hey want to prevent them from happening. The sign of doing your job well is when nothing apparently ever happens, which is why especially with things like casino security there is always the temptation to want to cut the department as being "pointless due to nothing happening" leading to the eternal cycle of "exciting times" when you become understaffed and things become noticible, followed by an increase in security luv, followed by more cuts due to the quiet from people who never learn (I was at this for 10 years). The point is though that you need to be able to control situations, see if some drunk takes a swing at you during an alcohol shut off or whatever you've failed to do your job, you need to be able to pacify a situation just by being there without ever saying "step out of line and I'll break your thumbs" or even implying it for a large number of legal and business related reasons (ie nobody wants to spend money in a place where they fear they are being watched by thugs, and of course with actual police there are numerous PR issues). Some women can do that, but honestly most can't. To be entirely fair though in my old job I probably wouldn't have wanted most "action babes" even if they could really do that working with me in Casino security because the whole "babe" part would have been the problem. Some 5' 2" 110lbs kung-fu mistress who can KO Chuck Norris in .5 seconds is a liability in a job when if you do it right you never have to display that abillity, and nobody who is really POed tends to listen to someone they think they can punt 50 yards, especially when they are wired up enough to think they are King Kong.

In the end we'll have to agree to disagree I suppose. In the end my basic attitude is that men are women are differant, and that is why a dual standard exists. The problem is that the dual standard seems like it's wrong, especially when viewed in the context of overwrought first world western morality, until you actually see examples of why it exists. Being sheltered tends to lead to a lot of opinions that make sense on paper but don't work in the real world. A problem with the western first world is a lot of people who are sheltered wind up thinking themselves quite worldly for some reason.

Overall there aren't many people who get to see "this is why things are the way they are" in quite the way I have, and I think that's the problem with discussions like this.

In a more practical sense when it comes to why you have situations where girls need to be rescued so often compartitively... well that's usually only from physical danger. In cases where the danger exists politically or socially or whatever it's fairly co-ed. When it comes to physical danger... well, even a lot of Tomboys should probably ask themselves how many times they have needed a guy to help them move something heavy, reach something they couldn't or perform similar physical feats. I don't think many people keep track of it, but if you stop to think about the number of times a guy steps up for a girl just as a matter of routine it can be fairly eye opening. The whole "rescueing a damsel from a dragon" thing simply makes for a more exciting story than "getting something heavy off of a high shelf" though on a basic level it's very similar. :)
 

Ariseishirou

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Therumancer said:
Ariseishirou said:
Therumancer said:
--snip--
--snip--
I get what you mean, and I see your point, but in my working career I've seen the damaging effects of men who've been led to believe they're much more physically capable than they are far more often than women - e.g. the two young men killed because they thought they could take on multiple adversaries at one time, or an opponent with a weapon. Our media, video games included, shows men doing this - and far more men doing this - than it does women.

Statistics back me up on this, too: men are far more likely to be the victims of street violence than women are.

This meshes with what I've observed working in hotels and bars, too. If a woman gets into an altercation with a man she can't handle, there's a far better chance she'll rethink it or call for help, be it a boyfriend or security personnel, than a man who gets into an altercation with a man he can't handle. The physical averages being what they are, of course, said man might have more of a chance than the woman, but the end result is the same: they still can't handle it. What's more, the man will feel emasculated if he backs down or asks for help, so he's far less likely to do so.

The results aren't pretty.

Which is why I think lecturing women about fantasies that when taken seriously might get them into trouble is pointless when we show fantasies that if taken seriously will get men into trouble 24/7.

You might say only a tiny percentage of women might hack it to become physical fighters, but a similarly tiny - or even smaller percentage - of men could be Captain Price. Only 2% of an already miniscule elite minority make SAS selection. In the end the result is the same: people overestimate their fighting abilities based on what they see in the media. And from what I've seen personally, and what our crime data shows, men are actually more likely to overestimate themselves than women. So if anyone needs "the talk" about unrealistic fantasies, regardless of innate physical differences, it's actually men.

But since your response was largely reiterating the points you made in the previous post, I think we will have to agree to disagree.

Or ultimately decide that both men and women who take fantasy too seriously are morons. There's that.
 

LadyMint

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Princess Peach made herself a lot more likeable to me way back when they made Mario RPG for the SNES. If memory serves me, that was her first show of being something other than a doormat. You had her as a playable character and she would wield her frying pan/parasol with a fierceness. Which may seem sexist but in all honesty I thought it was in line with the rest of the game's humor.

Personally, I was annoyed by Ninja Zelda in Ocarina of Time. She wasn't really the badass that everyone seems to say she was; she gave you songs to learn, then finally got kidnapped. Smash Bros. has given her some skills but that's a detraction from the series. Between her and Peach, she continues to be the one Princess of the two with the least likeable personality, IMHO. Not only does she constantly wait to be rescued, but she steals some of your thunder during the final battles of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. If they ever do make a game where you get to Ninja-sneak around as her, maybe I'll respect her then, but whenever I play Link I care more for the general public of Hyrule and not the weak princess in her castle. But to me, Legend of Zelda games are more about saving the entirety of Hyrule.

I guess it's not hard to tell by now that I like Princess Peach a lot more than Princess Zelda. The Mario series has prettymuch acknowledged ridiculous nature of the "princess in a castle" gimmick and done some humorous and interesting things with it from time to time, which I respect. And I did like Zelda a lot when she was the plucky pirate captain. What a huge disappointment when she turned into the frail, flowery version of herself in Wind Waker.
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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Ariseishirou said:
Therumancer said:
Ariseishirou said:
Therumancer said:
--snip--
--snip--
I get what you mean, and I see your point, but in my working career I've seen the damaging effects of men who've been led to believe they're much more physically capable than they are far more often than women - e.g. the two young men killed because they thought they could take on multiple adversaries at one time, or an opponent with a weapon. Our media, video games included, shows men doing this - and far more men doing this - than it does women.

Statistics back me up on this, too: men are far more likely to be the victims of street violence than women are.

This meshes with what I've observed working in hotels and bars, too. If a woman gets into an altercation with a man she can't handle, there's a far better chance she'll rethink it or call for help, be it a boyfriend or security personnel, than a man who gets into an altercation with a man he can't handle. The physical averages being what they are, of course, said man might have more of a chance than the woman, but the end result is the same: they still can't handle it. What's more, the man will feel emasculated if he backs down or asks for help, so he's far less likely to do so.

The results aren't pretty.

Which is why I think lecturing women about fantasies that when taken seriously might get them into trouble is pointless when we show fantasies that if taken seriously will get men into trouble 24/7.

You might say only a tiny percentage of women might hack it to become physical fighters, but a similarly tiny - or even smaller percentage - of men could be Captain Price. Only 2% of an already miniscule elite minority make SAS selection. In the end the result is the same: people overestimate their fighting abilities based on what they see in the media. And from what I've seen personally, and what our crime data shows, men are actually more likely to overestimate themselves than women. So if anyone needs "the talk" about unrealistic fantasies, regardless of innate physical differences, it's actually men.

But since your response was largely reiterating the points you made in the previous post, I think we will have to agree to disagree.

Or ultimately decide that both men and women who take fantasy too seriously are morons. There's that.

Well it comes down to calculated risks. Men are intended to be able to take violence and can in theory do things like this, of course the attackers are usually men too, and feel the same way. The point is that it's far more possible of a guy pulling off some of these situations that are misjudged, and such things have a happy ending far more often than they do when women engage in the same kind of behavior.

This comes back to my point about men and women being differant and how they can't be judged by the same standards no matter what political correctness tells us. In cases like combat against other guys it's a differance between a risk that may or may not pay off and simple misguided stupidity of ignorance.

See, if some guy my size (I'm 6' 1" 250lbs, yes I'm obese nowadays) comes out of nowhere and attacks, I have a chance of bringing him down. That could go wrong, but I have a reasonable shot at it. A girl is unlikely to be anywhere near that size and weight to begin with and even if they are aren't put together the same way, even with a degree of superior combat training they are likely to wind up in a bad way because it takes more than a slight edge of training to overcome the physical differances (it takes a massive differance in training and development usually, and god forbid the guy put in as much practice if he's a physical predator).

Now granted I used to get paid for stepping in front of people, which is right up there with the simple job description of holding a uniform upright, and professionally taking the blame for things that go wrong, so perhaps in my specific case it's not exactly fair, but I think it stands up pretty well. The bottom line is that fighting has an entirely differant level of risk for the respective genders.
 

Ariseishirou

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Therumancer said:
Ariseishirou said:
Therumancer said:
Ariseishirou said:
Therumancer said:
--snip--
--snip--
I get what you mean, and I see your point, but in my working career I've seen the damaging effects of men who've been led to believe they're much more physically capable than they are far more often than women - e.g. the two young men killed because they thought they could take on multiple adversaries at one time, or an opponent with a weapon. Our media, video games included, shows men doing this - and far more men doing this - than it does women.

Statistics back me up on this, too: men are far more likely to be the victims of street violence than women are.

This meshes with what I've observed working in hotels and bars, too. If a woman gets into an altercation with a man she can't handle, there's a far better chance she'll rethink it or call for help, be it a boyfriend or security personnel, than a man who gets into an altercation with a man he can't handle. The physical averages being what they are, of course, said man might have more of a chance than the woman, but the end result is the same: they still can't handle it. What's more, the man will feel emasculated if he backs down or asks for help, so he's far less likely to do so.

The results aren't pretty.

Which is why I think lecturing women about fantasies that when taken seriously might get them into trouble is pointless when we show fantasies that if taken seriously will get men into trouble 24/7.

You might say only a tiny percentage of women might hack it to become physical fighters, but a similarly tiny - or even smaller percentage - of men could be Captain Price. Only 2% of an already miniscule elite minority make SAS selection. In the end the result is the same: people overestimate their fighting abilities based on what they see in the media. And from what I've seen personally, and what our crime data shows, men are actually more likely to overestimate themselves than women. So if anyone needs "the talk" about unrealistic fantasies, regardless of innate physical differences, it's actually men.

But since your response was largely reiterating the points you made in the previous post, I think we will have to agree to disagree.

Or ultimately decide that both men and women who take fantasy too seriously are morons. There's that.

Well it comes down to calculated risks. Men are intended to be able to take violence and can in theory do things like this, of course the attackers are usually men too, and feel the same way. The point is that it's far more possible of a guy pulling off some of these situations that are misjudged, and such things have a happy ending far more often than they do when women engage in the same kind of behavior.

This comes back to my point about men and women being differant and how they can't be judged by the same standards no matter what political correctness tells us. In cases like combat against other guys it's a differance between a risk that may or may not pay off and simple misguided stupidity of ignorance.

See, if some guy my size (I'm 6' 1" 250lbs, yes I'm obese nowadays) comes out of nowhere and attacks, I have a chance of bringing him down. That could go wrong, but I have a reasonable shot at it. A girl is unlikely to be anywhere near that size and weight to begin with and even if they are aren't put together the same way, even with a degree of superior combat training they are likely to wind up in a bad way because it takes more than a slight edge of training to overcome the physical differances (it takes a massive differance in training and development usually, and god forbid the guy put in as much practice if he's a physical predator).

Now granted I used to get paid for stepping in front of people, which is right up there with the simple job description of holding a uniform upright, and professionally taking the blame for things that go wrong, so perhaps in my specific case it's not exactly fair, but I think it stands up pretty well. The bottom line is that fighting has an entirely differant level of risk for the respective genders.
And yet, the ones who end up biting off more than they can chew far more often are men. Statistically, it's the truth. They're far more likely to engage in, and lose, physical altercations.

So I think what we can extrapolate from that fact is that most women are already keenly aware of the differences in physical averages between men and women, and tend to avoid physical confrontations with men as a result. There will, of course, always be foolish people of either gender - but the numbers show us that the overwhelming majority of people who get into fights they can't handle are men.

So yeah, I think they should stop showing women doing physically improbable things, like kicking the ass of a man twice her size, the day they stop showing men doing physically improbable things, like taking on a man twice his size. Or five men. Or a man with a weapon.

In fact, going by the numbers, we should probably cut down on the latter fantasy first. If we're going to start policing fantasy for the sake of idiots, it would protect more people in the long run.
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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Ariseishirou said:
And yet, the ones who end up biting off more than they can chew far more often are men. Statistically, it's the truth. They're far more likely to engage in, and lose, physical altercations.

So I think what we can extrapolate from that fact is that most women are already keenly aware of the differences in physical averages between men and women, and tend to avoid physical confrontations with men as a result. There will, of course, always be foolish people of either gender - but the numbers show us that the overwhelming majority of people who get into fights they can't handle are men.

So yeah, I think they should stop showing women doing physically improbable things, like kicking the ass of a man twice her size, the day they stop showing men doing physically improbable things, like taking on a man twice his size. Or five men. Or a man with a weapon.

In fact, going by the numbers, we should probably cut down on the latter fantasy first. If we're going to start policing fantasy for the sake of idiots, it would protect more people in the long run.
Statistics are a joke when your trying to make a point. For example here when two guys fight you can claim the loser always bit off more than they could chew, thus proving the point. :)

I understand why your argueing, but the bottom line is that what might be stupid and improbable for a guy is even more unlikely for a girl. Fair or not despite the odds the unreality of the situation is safer for guys, even if fighting an assailant is never safe (and someone who attacks another person usually does so from a position of confidence to begin with).

Your basically argueing that there shouldn't be a dual standard, in my case, as I've said to begin with, I feel that the same logic cannot be fairly applied to both genders here, and in a lot of other cases as well. Men and women are differant, and as such differant rules and standards need to exist. A lot of the most ridiculous problems and arguements occur by trying to insist that the same rules can apply to everyone when they can't.
 

Ariseishirou

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Therumancer said:
Ariseishirou said:
And yet, the ones who end up biting off more than they can chew far more often are men. Statistically, it's the truth. They're far more likely to engage in, and lose, physical altercations.

So I think what we can extrapolate from that fact is that most women are already keenly aware of the differences in physical averages between men and women, and tend to avoid physical confrontations with men as a result. There will, of course, always be foolish people of either gender - but the numbers show us that the overwhelming majority of people who get into fights they can't handle are men.

So yeah, I think they should stop showing women doing physically improbable things, like kicking the ass of a man twice her size, the day they stop showing men doing physically improbable things, like taking on a man twice his size. Or five men. Or a man with a weapon.

In fact, going by the numbers, we should probably cut down on the latter fantasy first. If we're going to start policing fantasy for the sake of idiots, it would protect more people in the long run.
I understand why your argueing, but the bottom line is that what might be stupid and improbable for a guy is even more unlikely for a girl.
Annnnnnd there are already far, far fewer kickass female characters in video games than kickass male characters - in other words, the state of video games at present already reflects the difference in statistical averages. By your own argument, absolutely nothing needs to change. So why even bother bringing it up? It's no less realistic than many of the things we see men do in video games, like backflip onto rockets or punch out Spetsnaz.

Ultimately, if you're going to start policing fantasy, you could start with men taking on opponents twice their size, or multiple opponents at the same time, or opponents with a weapon, for being every bit as unrealistic as a woman taking on a much larger and stronger opponent.

So yeah, a) what you claim (i.e. women are less likely on average to be capable of beating a large number of people in a physical fight) is already being represented in video games.

b) The problem that you claim this is causing (i.e. people overestimating their own abilities in combat) actually applies more to men than women.

c) If we were to try to solve problem b) by policing unrealistic fantasy, we'd actually be better off (i.e. potentially help the greatest number of people, assuming that policing fantasy actually would stop them from overestimating themselves in combat) ceasing all unrealistic depictions of male combat prowess in video games.

And, uh, well, okay. Sounds a bit misandrous - I think it's fine for men to have unrealistic and escapist power fantasies, even if it misleads some idiots into getting hurt - but if that's what you want to fight for, I can't stop you.
 

Alfie Simpson

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Evidencebased said:
Dastardly said:
Alfie Simpson said:
The Princess Problem

A closer look at the age-old tradition of princess saving.

Read Full Article
snip

I really think the bigger question that more games need to be asking, throughout all of this, is where the hell are the King and Queen? It could make a very compelling story, the old war-hero King going all "Liam Neeson" to rescue his daughter (who happens to be the Princess)...
How about the stepmother rescues her? Get rid of the "evil" stepmother stereotype, develop a relationship between a girl and her step-parent, get a strong female character, move away from the idea of women catfighting over power or the king, get in one of those "uniquely female" mothering moments that Extra Credits talked about... that'd be pretty sweet. :D
Hey now, if we start down that slope next you'll be saying Grand Viziers shouldn't be evil, and I don't think I could live in a world with good Grand Viziers.