As I watched Anita Sarkeesian’s “Damsel in Distress; Tropes vs Women,” I couldn’t help but think of my own experience playing video games during the time she was specifically discussing. Her examples are outdated, however, I can’t really remember any of them from my childhood video games. Instead, I remember Nintendo, which instead of focusing on the sexy damsel, focused on the cute damsel.
Now, granted, the main goal of the Mario games are to rescue Princess Peach, however, Nintendo later created a game only involving Princess Peach saving her toad friends. That is the Nintendo I remembered. I loved it because it was cute and pink. Looking back I see how absolutely ridiculous the game actually was. Princess Peach’s special powers were based on her emotions; Anger would light her on fire, Joy would make her fly, Sadness would make her cry to kill foes, and Calm restored her HP. I suppose you could make the argument that her emotions allow her to fight her foe, however, it still plays into the classic female trope of women being ruled by their emotions, and are therefore unintelligent and irrational creatures.
Princess Peach has been problematic for a long time, but the other pink creature I was obsessed with (and still am) was Kirby. This got me thinking about how video games are able to draw both genders into the games, by making non-gendered cute characters (Pokémon is another great example of this). Again, I thought Kirby was cute and cuddly and I thought it was funny when he ate people. To this day, whenever I play Super Mario Smash Bros. I always choose Kirby. However, my mom did not buy me any Kirby games, but she bought me Princess Peach and Daisy Games, both clearly gendered games. Why was this? Kirby was cute and harmless fun, whereas Princess Peach was evidently a “subtly” sexist game. I don’t think she ever really considered it; it was just an unconscious choice she made. She bought a game marketed for girls for a girl with a pink DS.
In the end, I think it all comes down to conscious choice and entering women into the equation as equals. My mom could have bought my a Kirby game, but I still would not have had a kick-ass female PC to play. There would not have been that representation for me. The only example I can think of from my childhood is Sheik, who had to hide her femininity in order to fight. Essentially I was never represented in the world of video games. Representation is crucial for crafting future generations. It gives them validation and allows them to see amazing role models. It’s about empowerment. I can’t see myself in cute Kirby who literally can be anything because he is literally a circle. I identified with Princess Peach only because she was a girl. So, moving forward, video game designers and writers need to realize that female characters are exactly like Kirby; THEY CAN CONSUME ALL THE POWER IN THE UNIVERSE TO BECOME ANYTHING THEY WANT TO BE!!!