Skip to main content

Sarkeesian finishes Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

Feminist Frequency founder reflects on five years of harassment and progress as she brings video series to a "bittersweet" close

Anita Sarkeesian released the final installment of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games today, putting a cap on a project which attracted far more notoriety, funding, and harassment than she could have reasonably anticipated. Titled "The Lady Sidekick," the clip examines how women in games are often relegated to gatekeepers, burdens, or ego boosters for male characters, and points to games that show better ways of handling AI support characters.

In a message to backers of the Kickstarter campaign, Sarkeesian reflected on the series' creation:

"On May 17th, 2012, I launched this very modest Kickstarter, hoping to raise $6,000 to make what was then going to be Feminist Frequency's next series, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. At that time, my vision for the project, like the amount of money I was hoping to raise, was fairly modest: a series of five videos, each perhaps ten minutes long, about harmful, sexist patterns of female representation in video games. I could not possibly have imagined what awaited me.

"Much of what came in the days and weeks that followed was great. It was exciting and gratifying to immediately see that many people had a real interest in feminist criticism of video games, as we blew past the initial funding goal within 24 hours. In time, we expanded the scope of the project, bringing the number of projected videos up to 12 and planning for longer, more rigorous analyses than I'd originally envisioned."

"While this was happening, I was also watching in horror as cybermobs, deeply threatened by the mere idea of feminist analysis of video games, mobilized en masse to disrupt my life. In an effort to instill fear in me and in any woman who might dare to speak out against sexism in gaming, these mobs flooded all my social media channels with vile harassment, made slanderous, racist and pornographic edits to my Wikipedia page, posted private information about me online, made death threats against me and members of my family, and threatened events I was speaking at, among other tactics. And while the volume of that harassment has ebbed and flowed at times, it has never ceased, and the legacy of Tropes can never be entirely separated from the deep veins of hostility, entitlement, and misogyny that the reaction to the series revealed in some segments of the gaming community."

In all, Feminist Frequency produced 16 main episodes of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games and five bonus episodes (with a sixth one still to come), totaling roughly five hours of content.

"It's a bittersweet moment, bidding farewell to this series," Sarkeesian said. "It's definitely time for it to be over, time for Feminist Frequency as an organization and for me personally to move on. But I keep thinking about all the ways that the world of video games has changed since that day, almost five years ago, when I first took my modest little Kickstarter live. It hasn't all been for the better, but some of it definitely has. There are conversations happening now, among players and among creators, that weren't happening before, about who games are for (everyone!), about what impact they can have, what they can tell us about humanity, empathy, race, gender, sexuality, the world we live in, and the world we want to create for ourselves."

Read this next

Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
Related topics