While obviously FemFreq is an amazing achievement and a real milestone in mainstream video games criticism, I can’t help but wonder what the legacy will be.
First of all is the material effect on games: without FemFreq and Gamergate, for example, would there have been such a visible pushback against Assassin’s Creed: Unity? Even if there had been, would it have necessarily led to including Evie Frye in Syndicate, or Emily in Dishonored 2? There seems to have been a small but noticeable uptick in Triple A games which feature female playable characters. It’s small – too small – but it is something. And obviously smaller games have felt more comfortable in having female protagonists and exploring feminist issues.
However, I don’t know what the legacy is for games criticism. Luckily, people have been able to incorporate more qualitative, social justice-y criticism in their games since then. But FemFreq, as good and important as it is, can’t help but seem like a bit of a relic. I’m not an idiot: I know there’s still a lot of people who still won’t accept that feminists have every right to criticise games, and I know that a lot of people still deal with their harassment and hate every day. But socially conscious criticism has become so mainstream in cultural writing. Although plenty of games critics are familiar with feminism and discuss it in their reviews, there aren’t many people who I would point to and call ‘feminist game critics.’ Although Anita Sarkeesian’s videos are generally really excellent, at times I do find her opinions lacking in a bit of nuance. I can’t think of a game criticism off the top of my head, but I think her Mad Max: Fury Road criticism sort of hits on my problem with her: it’s kind of all about categorising stuff as ‘feminist’ and ‘not feminist’, and doesn’t leave much room for examining complication and different ways of thinking about what is and isn’t progressive, interesting representation.
Sarkeesian and Tropes vs. Women in Video Games was a total revelation in 2012-3. But I’d really like to see more critics take up the torch and do a lot more of the interesting feminist work of the sort we see in film and TV. I don’t know, maybe I’m being too harsh.
ETA: Shiiiiit this was so long sorry. Also this isn’t to imply that there’s no feminist writing about games or that Feminist Frequency isn’t good