In May 2012, an unassuming Kickstarter project by feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian found both incredible success and unprecedented opposition. Called Tropes vs. Women, the video series was meant to explain how stereotypes like the "damsel in distress" or "sexy villainess" limit the roles of women in games. Originally set at a $6,000 goal, the project closed with nearly $160,000 and was expanded to cover seven more videos and a classroom curriculum. But it also exposed a seething mass of (probably) male gamers who bitterly resented the premise: Sarkeesian saw everything from attempts to remove her YouTube videos as terrorism to a video game that invited players to beat her.
Now, the first of twelve videos has been posted online. The roughly 20-minute piece explains the origin of damsels in distress and their long history in games, from the evolution of Princess Zelda in the series that bears her name to how women in peril compare to frequently captured but often more self-sufficient male counterparts like Solid Snake. "The damsel trope typically makes men the subject of narratives," she says, "while relegating women to the role of object."