On March 7, Anita Sarkeesian released the first video in her Tropes vs Video Games series. The topic is the first part of "Damsels in Distress." In the almost 24 minutes long video, Sarkeesian talks about the birth of video games and the trope of saving a woman. She acknowledges that this device is a lot older than the games themselves. However, what follows is a rehashing of old arguments and no new insight. Here’s what she didn’t consider when talking about “Mario” and the “Legend of Zelda.”
It all started with Shigeru Miyamoto
When Sarkeesian starts her talking about games after a brief history of the trope itself, she immediately focuses on legendary Nintendo developer, Shigeru Miyamoto. “Super Mario Bros” and the “Legend of Zelda” are still two huge gaming series, despite being over a quarter of a century old. Unfortunately for them, they both feature princesses in need of rescue.
“Super Mario Bros.”
Sarkeesian does not acknowledge any other factors in the games. How the “Super Mario” platforming series isn’t about the story at all. Princess Peach being kidnapped happens so Mario can jump from between platforms and squash Goombas along the way. Sarkeesian may see it as the princess being kidnapped over and over for the last 20+ years. However, gamers don’t care if Mario was saving his brother, a princess, or a piece of fruit. As long as the platforming is exciting and challenging, that’s what matters.
She also fails to mention Miyamoto's statement about how he feels the “Mario” series is like a play. In many of the games, a curtain rises in the beginning. In an interview with Gameinformer he compared Mario, Peach, Bowser, and the rest to a “troupe of actors.”
“Legend of Zelda”
When it comes to the “Legend of Zelda,” it’s clear she has not followed the series closely since the beginning. Sure, she mentions the evolution of Zelda’s character in games like “Ocarina of Time,” but she glosses over it fairly quickly. If she paid attention to “Skyward Sword” or even glanced through the “Hyrule Historia” book, it should be clear why Zelda always gets captured and why Link is always the hero. They were cursed in “Skyward Sword,” and it's the destiny of the future generations to carry on the curse. Sarkeesian also fails to mention Zelda is the keeper of the Triforce of Wisdom, making her just as important as Link or Ganondorf.
When creating a new Zelda title, the developers focus on the gameplay first and the story later. Eiji Aonuma states this in “Hyrule Historia.” While Sarkeesian talked mostly about Nintendo games, she obviously doesn’t know the formula they use when creating them..
I’ve been happily saving Peach and Zelda since I was a kid and never seen them as weak. They were people who needed help and it was up to me, working through Mario and Link, to save them. The trope exists and it has for centuries. It’s a device in games, a way to get the action started, not the overreaching sexism Sarkeesian portrays it to be.