The first entry in Anita Sarkessian's Kickstarter-funded
Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series explores how "damsels in distress" became one of the most highly-used cliches in games.
"As a trope the Damsel in Distress is a plot device in which a female character is placed in a perilous situation from which she cannot escape on her own and must then be rescued by a male character, usually providing a core incentive or motivation for the protagonist's quest," Sarkeesian explains.
The video is embedded above. More about the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games project, which examines the plot devices and patterns often associated with female characters in video games is available at the official Tumblr