The Impossible Quiz

When looking for a game to review I began rummaging through the recesses of my memories past the multitude of crappy online flash games I played in high school until I stumbled across a gem. The hilariously infuriating Impossible Quiz by Splapp-Me-Do kept my art class entertained for hours when we were supposed to be on Photoshop. In my prime I could whip through the questions in minutes, challenging anyone else to try and beat my time. When starting this review I thought it best to go back and give myself a refresher courThe_impossible_quiz_title_bigger_by_super_eistee_74-d7349cise and let me tell you, muscle memory is a beautiful thing. After just one try I was hooked and spent the next two hours desperately trying to beat the game in progressively less time. For those who know their general knowledge and enjoy winning quizzes and trivia, you should know this is not the game for you.

Not only does this not require general knowledge, but it requires an intelligence of another kind. The questioned asked are not on sport, politics, history, geography, or anything to do with popular culture but bind benders that are infinitely more entertaining. The Impossible Quiz is a fast multiple choice game that encourages players to think outside of the box, way, way outside of the box. It is strangely addictive and makes you want to beat it for the sheer satisfaction of running around with your hands in the air yelling “I WIN! I WIN! I WIN!” Childish, yes but true. I highly recommend this game to all whose lives were not shaped by this game and I encourage all whose were to replay if for no other reason than pure nostalgia. The questions along with the sound effects make for many hours of frustratingly good fun.

First-Person Shooters

While not my preferred genre of gaming, it cannot be denied that in the early 90’s with the release of games such as DOOM, first-person shooter games rocked to the top of the best-selling game charts and has remained there ever since, selling billions of games worldwide. Doom_ingame_2But what is it that had made this genre so successful? It’s not just the first-person perspective, the three-dimensionality, the violence or the adrenaline of the fight or flight response, but rather how the first-person shooter combines these features that most games today encompass.  The first person shooter game distinguishes itself from other genres by presenting a visual environment which generates feeling of nostalgia where reality falls away. This feeling of nostalgia eventually creates an absorbing experience that becomes self-reinforcing, inspiring players to come back to feel it again. If video games are about decision making, then first person shooter games takes this to a whole new level. What might be a very simple decision with time and refection becomes a difficult and stressful choice under pressure, one that stimulates players and ignites an intense emotional response.

Attaining this affect requires a balance of skills and challenges, an environment that creates a personal identity for the player and a strong sense of control. Control, compounded by first-person perspective, is the key to the enduring appeal of the first-person shooter genre. It plays into the idea that our happiness ties directly into how in control we feel. The more control we think we have, the more at ease we feel and vice versa. First-person shooter games give us the ability to control our environment, and our perception of our own effectiveness. Along with a sense of control and nostalgiafps, technology has allowed games to become more realistic making it easier for the player to lose themselves in the fictional world and make connections to the characters inside it. First person shooter games also have the added bonus of shooting, a compelling deviation from regular life that most people have never experienced. The violence is only one aspect of the appeal of shooting. It’s not that players want to be violent but rather they wish to have a way to release pent-up emotions and give in to base impulses in the form of adrenaline-generating decision-making.

Malaby & Frasca

According to Gonzalo Frasca the concepts of simulation and representation are two ways of dealing with reality, that both coexisted throughout our culture, but representation and therefore, narrative has been dominant, mainly due to the fact that complex simulations require a level of sophistication that is near impossible without a computer. This not to say that it did not exist it was just less ubiquitous. With the recent and exponential advances in technology we have the tools to push simulation into previously unexplored territory. Simulation can now be used to model systems that were before too complex to deal with, providing a powerful alternative to representation through which to attempt to understand our world. Simulation does not necessarily have to be a tool for education, but also for art and entertainment including, and perhaps most notably, videogames. Unlike narrative, simulation offers a first hand experience of a dynamic system allowing for greater understanding of rules and relationships.

Probably a better way to understand the difference between simulation and representation is to compare their characteristics. Narrative usually presents a bottom-up sequence, describing a particular event from which we can infer rules and relationships. Simulation, on the other hand, present a top-down sequence, focusing on general rules which we can then apply to specific cases. Both concepts are commonly associated with education, however, simulation is greater tool for teaching complex rules because it allows for experimentation. An obvious example of simulation is the multi award winning pc game, The Sims. Comparing a game revolved around life simulation with a movie or TV show about coming of age, growing, learning, the key concept separating the two is behavioural rules. A TV show or film can show the mechanics of living, aging, relationships, in a narrative structure through which it is up to the viewer to interpret the rules. The Sims is a dynamic system that behaves like a family, like people, like life and also having the characteristics, while the TV show or film only provides characteristics.

Fly Girl

Let’s make a game. They said. It’ll be fun. They said. And boy were they right! As someone who appreciates playing the odd game here and there ( or you know, all the time ), I am well acquainted with what constitutes a good game and the thought of being able to design one got my creative juices flowing ( kind of gross ). Of course, the idea of designing a game and the reality of it turned out to be very different. Majority of my gaming career has been on a console ( yeah, yeah, yeah ), in one form or another and so the games I prefer to play are open world RPG’s, but even when I was first coming up with ideas that seemed a little ambitious. So instead I thought back to all those years ago when my friends and I would stumble onto game websites and play just for the hell of it. And one game stood out above all the rest. Fly Girl. A simple, surprisingly fun and hilariously cringe worthy online game that keeps you entertained for hours. The premise is as follows. You are Fly Girl, a women in a mans world. Dressed to the 9’s or at least 7’s, you are out on the town, hitting all the popular night clubs ready to get your drink on, the only problem is that the only drinks are being held by men and they’re not willing to share. But they will have a crack at you if you get to close. No problem, I’m sure they drop their drink if you jump on their heads. See where I’m going.

flygirl-game
Fly Girl take a classic concept and puts a ( relatively ) modern spin on it. The concept is widely known, and therefore easily understandable and the goal ( collecting drinks ) is simple enough but the risk of being ‘grinded’ keeps things new and fresh, adding a challenging element, making the game 10 times more enjoyable. I wanted to incorporate this idea into my own game. To choose a concept that I already know has merit and adapt it to attract a new audience. So take a classic “stomp on the enemies,” add a University, some books, a couple of HD’s and voila. A game that can be played anywhere. anytime by anyone. Job well done. So how does one go about making a digital game? A few weeks ago I was introduced to the sortingh.at and after hours of playing ( pun intended ) around I stumbled across Stencyl; a program that allows users to create games without code. Like most programs it took some time, and several tutorials until I was ready to try my hand at actually creating but it was a nice change of pace dragging and dropping instead of typing. Although there are still elements of code for those who understand and wand to delve further into the design process, the idea of anyone being able to create a game with no required knowledge is one that should definitely be promoted.

Readings

In a time when people are constantly connected, own multiple devices and no longer have to go leave the comfort of their living rooms to be exposed to new things, video games have changed the way we play. Available to us at any where, any time, for any reason, video games have renegotiated the laws of virtual playing spaces. But does this mean that digital and physical play are fundamentally different? Keith Feinstein, President of the Video Game Conservatory embraces some classical conceptions of play (such as special exploration and identity formation), suggesting that video game play isn’t fundamentally different from backyard play. According to Sheila C. Murphy, to facilitate such immersive play, to achieve an appropriate level of ‘holding power’ that enables people to transcend their immediate environments, video game spaces require concreteness and vividness. The constant push for bigger and better within the video-game industry has been towards the development of more graphically complex, more visually engaging, more three-dimensionally rendered spaces, and towards quicker, more sophisticated, more flexible interactions with those spaces. Video games tempt the player to play longer, fully emerging themselves in the experience. To explore ancient cities, traverse the galaxy, fight in wars, accumulate outrageous sums of money, or solve crimes. Video games constitute virtual playing spaces which allow people to extend their reach, to explore, manipulate, and interact with a more diverse range of imaginary places than constitute the often drab, predictable, and overly-familiar spaces of their everyday lives.

Welcome to Kario Mart

Mario Kart? Try Kario Mart. It turns out trying to turn a beloved childhood (yeah, keep telling yourself that) video game into a fast, fun board game is not as easy as I originally anticipated. Though seemingly simple, board games have many elements that need to be accounted for. The board itself and the course/track, the mobility of players, obstacles and power ups to add variation and logistically, how all those elements combine to create a quick, smooth flowing, enjoyable game. Decisions including how many squares around the board and how many laps of the course? Where to place the event squares and what do they trigger? How many of each event, depended on how helpful or hindering the card was, while short cuts and obstacles had to be placed strategically and to greatest effect.

The general concept of the game mirrors it’s digital counterpart, however, in physical form we had to simplify many elements in order to make it easy to understand and play. We aimed for 20 minute races; three laps around the board, interspersed with advantages and sabotage, and I think we managed to achieve it, or something close. But for all the good talking does, what really helps to iron out kinks is testing the game. Unfortunate we didn’t get this far but to really understand how a game is played nothing can replace good ol’ fashioned experience. Our project was a team effort but I like to think I had a hand in making most, if not many of these decisions in an attempt to create a fun, fast, family friendly game that tips its cap to the mother ship.

Readings

As a female gamer myself, the issues surrounding gender in the videogame industry are something that I take particular interest in and as it turns out so do many others. The idea of gender representation is a hot button issue surrounding games these days with many experts weighing in ( Laine Nooney, Alison Harvey & Stephanie Fisher to name a few). Video games have long been known as a male-dominated media in most, if not all aspects; market audience, player base, and character representation. As such, both female gamers and characters alike are handled differently than their male counterparts.Mass Effect 2 (Miranda) Playable female characters are few and far between, while sexualisation practically slaps players in the face. But it’s not the physical appearance of a character that determines whether or no they are sexualized but rather how they are portrayed to the audience. The ‘male gaze’ plays a significant role in painting female characters as nothing more than eye candy for the player ( presumably male ) to fawn over and if you’re not into that sort of thing then that’s just too damn bad. It sends the message that if you don’t like admiring the female form then this game for you. The real problem, for me, is not when I become uncomfortable by the overt sexualisation, but rather, when I become desensitized to it.

Board Game Renaissance

So how does one make the best use of a three hour time period? I’m so glad you asked. The answer is simple. Board games. In this technological age where, toddlers are playing on tablets, and children are replacing pen and paper for a keyboard it’s nice to see that some things never change. That’s right, the board game renaissance is upon us. But what is it about rolling die and moving a piece of plastic around a cardboard cut out that is so entertaining to both adults and children alike? It’s inspiring to see that in a time of smartphones and social media, people showing an appreciation for the physical. These tabletop masterpieces provide an analogue antidote to an increasingly digital world.

King of TokyoCamel UpThere are two games I want to talk about specifically, and let me make it abundantly clear, I had never even heard of these games ( for shame ) before, let alone played them, so bare with me. The first is King of Tokyo, which for a game of this name, no one really wants to be in Tokyo, because Tokyo = pain. Being dealt damage every turn and not being able to heal – ouch! But alas being in Tokyo is how you earn victory points and gaining victory points is how you win the game. It was a relatively fast paced game that, when people started throwing claws (attack points) around got chaotic… in the best way. King of Tokyo is a strategic game with many paths to victory that players can choose and they all lead to Tokyo.

The second game is Camel Cup, or is it Camel Up? Regardless this game was an unlikely treasure trove that exceed every expectation I had, combining rolling dice (or placing them), moving pieces (or stacking them), and betting (yep betting). The goal of the game is to earn the most money from betting on which camel is going to win the race (Came Cup then, obviously), but the twist is when camels land on the same space they are placed on top of one another (so it’s Camel Up… obviously) with the one on top in the lead. This game, once you understood what was going on, is 30 mins well spent and keeps you guessing til the very end.

 

 

Female Sexualization and Gender Inequality in Video Games – DIGC302 Research Report

Over the past four decades, the video game market has developed into a $10 billion a year industry in the U.S. As the popularity of video games has increased, the profile of the gamer has shifted, reflecting the wider variety of consumers that play video games today (Dietz 1998). The image that comes to mind when picturing a video gamer should no longer be an adolescent, or even teenage, boy, as women and adults are playing games in greater numbers. An industry survey indicates that 45-47% of all game players are female, and 80% of girls (grades 4 – 12) report playing games in their homes (CNNmoney.com 2006). Further, the average age of video game player is 35 years old, demonstrating that gaming is no longer just a childhood pastime, nor is it purely a male domain.

In this essay I aim to outline the issues surrounding female sexualization and gender inequality in video games and by extension, the gaming industry. Throughout the history of video games the target audience has been the young male demographic, meaning that it often behooves developers to include sexualized female characters (Dietz 1998). The characters are frequently promoted by marketers even when, and perhaps most importantly when, they have no real relevance to the game whatsoever. An infamous example of this is Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2’s promotion of the motion-controlled ‘boob jiggle’ feature, while the actual game revolves around being a ninja. For decades gaming has been thought of a male pursuit, and this essay aims to explore the elements that perpetuates this mentality while dissuading or barring women from participating in this male domain (Richard & Zaremba 2005). I discuss the impact of ‘the male gaze’, the idea of male sexuality and how it differs from female sexuality, the toxic misogynistic environment online and the experiences of women in the industry and professional gamers. The major issue I found in this area of study is that although there is much research out their defining and exploring the impact of sexualization and gender inequality, however, very little suggestions on how best to counter this injustice (Deaux & Lewis 1983).

In terms of the characterization of women in video games, content analytic research indicates that females are vastly underrepresented in popular video games and are often hypersexualized when depicted. Not unlike other media, video games offer a narrow range of roles to female characters. Overall, research suggests that when female characters appear in video games they most often serve as victims or prizes and occupy stereotypical gender roles such as brazenly sexualized beings and objects of sexual desire (CNNmoney.com 2006). Glaubke’s (2001) work examining the content features of video games demonstrated that “female sexuality [is] often accentuated with highly revealing clothing”; underscoring the prominence and perpetuation of the sexualized image of females in video games. Further, Beasley and Standley (2002) found that 70% of female characters in Mature-rated video games and 46% of female characters in Teen-rated video games were depicted with abundant cleavage, 86% of female characters were portrayed wearing clothing with low/revealing necklines, and 48% of female characters were dressed in outfits with no sleeves. This is in contrast to only 22% of male characters represented in clothing with no sleeves and 14% of male characters wearing clothing with low/revealing necklines (Beasley & Standley 2002).

Moreover, females were twice as likely as males to be shown wearing revealing clothing. In addition, the vast majority of female characters have been found to be NPC’s, meaning non-playable characters — thus highlighting their secondary and exiguous status (CNNmoney.com 2006). When playable female characters do appear in video games, they are typically overtly sexualized and portrayed wearing promiscuous dress and engaging in seductive acts. Notably, however, these characters are often high status, powerful characters, such as the heroic figures more commonly associated with men. Although this type of female character fits the normative characteristics of an action hero (i.e. male action hero) by demonstrating strength, speed, intellect, and independence, her sexuality is her defining feature, relegating her status to that of an object to be gazed upon. In other words, her role as an action hero is tied to her body and sexuality (Dietz 1998).

Sexualization is defined by the APA (American Psychological Association) as when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal. When any person is held to a standard that equates to physical attractiveness, to sexiness and when sexuality is inappropriately forced on someone (CNNmoney.com 2006). Considering the scarcity of females in video games, the mere presence of a prominent female video game character may trigger attention and serve as a motivator for individuals to adopt congruent gender-related beliefs. In particular, gamers may adopt beliefs and standards that are in line with these sexualized portrayals, resulting in the desire to be like the characters (among women) and to judge self and others based upon the characters (among both men and women) (Beasley & Standley 2002). The blending of stereotypical and counter-stereotypical attributes into female heroines, like Lara Croft, complicates the task of understanding the influence of such portrayals on media consumers. On the one hand, such female characters are strong, bold, intelligent, and independent, but on the other hand they are ‘made-up’ (with makeup and clothing), sexualized, and objectified. These latter characteristics are what maintain females’ vulnerable and non-threatening status. Thus, the powerful role of the female heroine is diminished by the emphasis on her physical feminine appearance (Deaux & Lewis 1983). In particular, it is the sexualization of female characters in video games that seems likely to negatively influence video game players’ perceptions of self and women in society. Based on the assumptions of social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation, exposure to sexually objectified women and girls in video games would be expected to influence social perceptions about gender and women’s gendered self-concept (Deaux & Lewis 1983).

Despite game developers knowing that there’s a rise in female gamers, there’s a broad definition of what ‘gaming’ is due to the various types of game genres there are. While we know there’s more female gamers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that most females are playing these blockbuster action games, and could instead be focusing on smartphone gaming, simulation gaming and such. But of course this is all stereotypical which is the exact problem – the gaming industry relies on stereotypes (Dietz 1998). It stereotypes the male protagonist to be hegemonic and masculine due to that’s what’s stereotypically expected from an action hero, it’s stereotypical that the females are used as sexual stimulus, since that’s an old fashioned tradition from the past and the industry still relies on the stereotype that action games are more for males than females (Hoffswell 2011). There’s also a huge stereotype with heterosexuality, it assumes that male gamers will enjoy the male gaze due to them being straight, that the female gamers will enjoy the handsome protagonist due to them being straight, and that the protagonists are usually heterosexual due to appealing to mass homophobic audiences.

A major element of video game sexualization comes in the form of the ‘Male Gaze’ theory, first introduced by Laura Mulvey that has become well established and often noted by critics across media platforms. Mulvey argued that platforms of the media enforce a Male Gaze where mainly female characters are sexually objectified, whether discretely by a few camera shots with focus on female body parts, or more evidently where women are literally stripped to near to nothing to appeal the view of a heterosexual male. Gaze, as an analytical term, refers to the relationship between the viewer and the viewed. The one who gazes, the viewer, is generally looking at the viewed object (or being) with some desire or fantasy projection – why else would it be a gaze, not a glance? The theory goes that when one is gazed at, the person being viewed loses some sense of autonomy (Hoffswell 2011). You realize you are the subject of scrutiny, and it makes you self-conscious, or at least more self-aware. Mulvey argues that the attention on the female form puts the viewer in the eyes of a male and reduces the role of a female character into two function; an erotic object for the characters within the narrative to view or an erotic object for the spectators within the cinema to view (Hoffswell 2011).

Male Gaze, then, has to do with the relationship between a heterosexual male viewer, and a female that is being viewed. The theory poses that in media like film, photography, and games, when a heterosexual male is in charge of the viewing of a female, the resulting media necessarily reflects that male’s gaze. In the case of games, this may be more of a collective gaze. For the ‘camera’ to follow the curve of a woman’s body or pan down to focus on her cleavage is a conscious choice made by the developers, designers and the animators when creating these games (Hoffswell 2011). Characters in games, predominantly female characters, cannot choose what the audience is viewing, cannot choose whether or not people are looking at their cleavage, that decision is made for them, and perhaps these sexual fantasies are not particularly significant to some people, however, these views reinforce the misogyny in the gaming culture and thus have the potential to be transferred onto real life women (Hoffswell 2011). Hoffswell (2011) argues that being these creators are largely male, largely heterosexual, and aiming these games at other heterosexual males means the process and therefore the outcomes are inherently limiting, ensuring and magnifying the vicious cycle. These shots are planned carefully – there aren’t a lot of accidents in large-scale productions. If the camera says “I want you to be able to see her cleavage” versus “I do not want you to be able to see her cleavage,” this makes subtle, but undeniable statements to the player. And it is certain that this statement is being made by males, generally for other males (Glaubke 2001).

This is not to say that sexual attraction and sexualization (sexual objectification) are the same concept. They are not. Hoffswell (2011) argues sexualization and the ‘Male Gaze’ lie in the framing and the context not the attractiveness of a character, they are about choice, or lack thereof. Men are presented as targets of identification or rivalry, presented as the player’s peer, with power and autonomy. The audience is expected to either want to be him or defeat him. Females on the other hand, are presented as targets of desire, no longer a peer but a prize. The audience is expected to want to possess her. Positioning a character in such a way, undermines her autonomy no matter how well she may be written. In short, the goal of the player is to ‘become’ the male hero, and ‘help’ the female hero (Hoffswell 2011).

The “idealized hero form” is something that’s existed long before video games, originating in modern pop culture in the form of comic books. It’s a type of anatomy that represents the epitome of human perfection, and extends far beyond what any flesh and blood human is capable of (Richard & Zaremba 2005). This concept has been adopted into the gaming industry. Outside of create-a-character titles (Sims, World of Warcraft, Saints Row, etc), player won’t find many heroes of either gender with a less than ideal body. There are “idealized forms” of each sex and yet most of the time only one of them is sexualized. Soul Calibur, a game often critiqued for its oversexualized women also present scantily-clad men with muscles to make every women swoon. The difference between Ivy, the pirate’s daughter whose chest seems to enlarge with every installment and Misturugi, the shirtless Samurai warrior is not their genetic mutations, but rather the fact that men simply are not viewed as sexual objects in games. Due to the implementation of the male gaze and the positioning of characters, the same sexualization placed onto females cannot be transferred onto males without it come off as comedic. Dressing men in a thong and accentuating their ‘package’ is hilarious, not sexy (Richard & Zaremba 2005).

Moments of ‘admiration’ of the female form send a message that the game isn’t for people who don’t want to stare at women’s bodies. Those people are not the target audience. They are not welcome. It doesn’t matter if everything else about the game appeals to them. There are a lot of complex reasons why women don’t play games the way men do. But moments of blatant male gaze definitely play a role. Frequently coming across jarring images of sexualization are constant reminders that they are wandering into territory not meant for them (Richard & Zaremba 2005). This kind of barrier is completely unnecessary. The Sims drew a huge female audience. World of Warcraft did the same thing. Neither of these games was designed specifically for women. These games simply didn’t exclude women. These games were made for people. Even recent games that, at face value seem to be promoting female protagonists still fall into old stereotypes. Some argue that because female characters are strong, kill lots of men, they are, therefore, positive characters. But more often than not their power is stripped away; their primary function, the reason they were created, is to be sexy for a male gaze, to draw males to stare at them (Glaubke 2001). Their image is reduced from “strong women” to “hot chick”.

The Tomb Raider franchise is best know for its protagonist Lara Croft, a comically buxomed adventurer who makes a habit of stealing from tombs and murdering any endangered species that get in her way. Since her debut in 1996, Croft has been most every adolescent boy’s dream and every grown woman’s nightmare (Ryanalexanderhunt 2012). While the past two Tomb Raider games were critically well received and sold reasonably well, its current incarnation breaks from many of the gameplay and story tropes of the series in a hope to present a ‘grittier’ and more ‘realistic’ depiction of a younger Lara Croft (Ryanalexanderhunt 2012).

Just in the trailer, Croft is burned, impaled, beaten, and abused. One of her female companions is crucified and another is kidnapped at knife point. At one point in the trailer Croft is sexually assaulted by a man in a scene that clearly implies the threat of rape (Crystal Dynamics has since attempted to back away from this description). Fan and press reaction to this trailer were mixed with some feeling it crossed a line into exploitation, while others felt that there was nothing wrong with it, accusing those who found fault in it of “reactionary feminism” (Ryanalexanderhunt 2012). However the problem is not that Lara is subjected to violence but how she subjected to violence. Throughout the game when Croft is injured she does not react with screams of agony, or any sounds that reflect true pain. Instead she responds with moans and whimpers, labeled “torture porn”. The game underplays the harsh realities of violence and pain, presenting a fantasized depiction of pain where women react with sex-like moan instead of actual human suffering (Ryanalexanderhunt 2012). When executive producer Ron Rosenberg spoke about Lara, he said, “When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character…. They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her….’” In other words, the developers at Crystal Dynamics feel that male gamers would never play a female hero, so they had to make her sexually vulnerable in order for them to identify with her (Ryanalexanderhunt 2012). The game itself takes a rather uncomplicated look at female power. Lara may be a resilient, resourceful, intelligent, women but there are a lot of other ways, better ways to establish her strength without confronting her with sexual violence, especially given the fact that it is not treated as a life altering event, but rather a story beat.

Male developers catering to their male audience is not an uncommon concept, in fact, many recent games include element, even entire plot lines that rely on engaging male gamers (Glaubke’s 2001). If the controversial Hitman Absolution trailer that caused significant waves upon its release, proves anything it’s that despite working in on of the biggest entertainment industries in the world with a userbase demographic equally varied as that of film and music, video game marketers are still obsessed with titillating teenage boys (Schreier 2012). The Hitman franchise, in which the ‘protagonist’ is a deadly assassin, Agent 47, is a violent game, and so it goes without saying that its trailer will feature violent elements. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that in and of itself as long as the audience exposed is of the requisite age, however the Hitman Absolution trailer takes it more than one step further. Square Enix decided that it wasn’t enough to showcase their game’s graphics or gameplay, they tried to entice gamers with a scene featuring Agent 47 slaughtering his way through a squad of sexily-clad nuns (Schreier 2012).

When publisher Square Enix released the “Attack of the Saints” trailer, people immediately took to social media to condemn it, saying it perpetuates sexist and offensive ideas. Kotaku Australia’s Mark Serrels wrote: “If this is what works, if this is what genuinely sells video games, I just don’t want any part of it.” Agent 47’s massacre of these women is not what’s being questioned but rather the portrayal of these women (Schreier 2012). “Let’s have none of the ooh-sexy-empowered women talk here,” Sarah Ditum argued in CVG, “these ladies rocked up to be knocked down, and because some videogame developers still have the mentality of a frightened prepubescent when faced with an actual female person, the best way to make them seem threatening was to make them look crazy sexy.” Despite being in it’s fourth decade, the gaming industry is still, comparatively, in its infancy yet developers demand to be taken seriously (Schreier 2012). They want video games to be legitimized as art, to be viewed on a plane with cinema, however, it is scenes like the one from Hitman Absolution that only confirm stereotypes about the industry and by extension gamers themselves.

In recent years game developers that have created some of the best (unsexualized) representations of women protagonists, in what can only be labeled an attempt to increase sales, have abandoned their previous convictions and yielded to industry stereotypes. One of the most prominent elements of Final Fantasy heroines is that, generally speaking, they’ve tended to be characters that haven’t relied on fan service. Until now, that is. When asked “is it true that Lightning went from a C cup to a D cup?”, one of Lightning Return: Final Fantasy XIII’s designers, Nobuhiro Goto replied, “Toriyama (Lightning Return’s director) said, ‘I want to make them bigger… so'”( Usher 2013). He also revealed that her chest moves depending on what she wears and with over 80 different costumes, many of which feature a generous amount of skin, players are sure to experience the highly publicized ‘boob jiggle’. Critics of this feature find it disconcerting that, as a popular gaming franchise with many elements and enhancements with each installment what is being focused on, what is being discussed is Lightning’s boob job, as if it were an obvious change (Usher 2013). The probability that players would have noticed had it not been specified are slim to none, however, developers promoting it turns it into the major issue it has become. Lightning is not the only longtime female protagonist to have a makeover.

The Metroid series has always been deeply embedded in discussions of video games and gender but the reinvention of Samus’ body in the latest game has sparked considerable debate over the sexualization of one of Nintendo’s strongest female protagonist. Every version of the Metroid series has, in some form, presented Samus’ identity as a female bounty hunter as more of an afterthought than a defining feature. Indeed, Samus’ gender is never made apparent and is, in fact, kept from the player throughout the game (Williams 2010). Samus is only revealed as a woman upon completion of the game and only earned as a reward for completing it within a certain amount of time. There are five endings presented, the final two of which reveal Samus’ gender in a dramatically more sexual manner. In the fourth ending, Samus’s suit dissolves and leaves a victorious Samus in a long sleeved leotard, however, in the fifth ending, the dissolve results in an image of Samus in a bikini. Once again, the revelation of Samus being a strong female protagonist is present, but these final two endings also put Samus’s body on display as a kind of visual reward for playing well (Williams 2010). Whether intended or not, the progression of achievement in Metroid resembles a kind of virtual striptease. Playing well results in seeing more flesh. Modern gamers may not think much of a bikini clad 8-bit image of a woman, but this was probably the first foray into mainstreaming sexuality in console gaming and may have opened the door for the idea of providing provocative visual rewards for good play (Williams 2010).

The latest sexism controversy revolving the Metroid series comes by way of the new model for Zero Suit Samus who is now sporting a larger pair of boobs, slimmer waist, and most importantly, stiletto rocket heels. The skintight bodysuit, although the target of much criticism, can be explained by the simple fact that Samus is a bounty hunter, and therefore needs to be protected but also needs to be agile and a lightweight outfit achieves both of these things (Williams 2010). However the high heels have no such excuse. Heels are innately sexual and carry certain stigmas facilitated by popular culture, and so rocket or not, they sexualize her image even further. There are a number of ways the designers could have given Samus rocket propulsion without strapping her in stilettos, but once again game developers send the message that the player should be admiring the female form. Along with her physical makeover, Samus’ personality also had a major overhaul. Her abilities as a kickass bounty hunter are negated by the fact that “Other M expects you to accept her as a submissive, child-like and self-doubting little girl that cannot possibly wield the amount of power she possesses unless directed to by a man” (Williams 2010). Having a strong seemingly self-sufficient women being controlled and commanded by a man reinforces the mentality that women in games are only relevant when propping up or under the influence of a male.

Despite the fact that they account for almost half of all gamers, women make up only a fraction of the industry, just 11% of designers, 3% of programmers (Beasley & Standley 2002). While it is true there are women in positions of power within the industry, they are few and far between and, like their subsidiaries, are often thought of separately from their male coworkers. Female programmers are, on average, paid $10 000 less, designers $12 000 less, and animators $26 000 less than their male counterparts and professional gamers aren’t fairing any better. The difference in the monetary value of male versus female players is substantial with the highest paid female professional gamer, Katherine ‘Mystik’ Gunn, earning $US122 000, while the highest paid male professional gamer, Lee ‘Jaedong’ Jae Dong, earned almost $US400 000 more (Hamilton 2012). Women workers and gamers alike experience anger directed towards them when they challenge the gaming culture by speaking up about gender issues. Professional gamer Miranda “Super_Yan” Pakozki while participating in a Cross Assault tournament, threw a match after her coach made some jaw-dropping remarks concerning sexual harassment.

Aris Bakhtanians, during the footage shot on February 23, shouts some lewd remarks incuding, “rape the bitch!”, before taking control of the camera and focuses it on Pakozki’s breasts and thighs, shooing away anyone who blocks his view.
In an interview with Twitch.TV’s Community, when asked by Justin Rae “can I get my street fighter without the sexual harassment?” Bakhtanians responded, “You can’t, you can’t because they’re one and the same thing (Hamilton 2012). This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of that culture. If you remove that from the fighting-game community, it’s not the fighting-game community… it doesn’t make sense to have that attitude. These things have been established for years” (Hamilton 2012). The mentality that as a male gamer, he has the right to sexually harass anyone continues to define the gaming industry and perpetuates the stereotype that females are not as competent, and therefore not as welcome, in the technological fields and the preconception that technology is for males (Hamilton 2012). The cultural and social perception that technology is strictly a male domain is a significant factor in dissuading women from participating in all aspects of the industry.

Anita Sakeesian and her kickstarter campaign “Tropes vs Women in Video Games”, although receiving support through the form of donations, also received much criticism and even more hate. It is this blatant form of misogyny, easily breed in the gaming environment that becomes an obstacle for women truly being accepted into the industry (Vanderwerff 2014). When these men feel as if their domain is being threatened their knee-jerk reaction is to lash out. The three most common paths of insults directed from men to women over gaming services, both consoles and pcs, are “fat, ugly, and slutty” with many women experiencing elements of sexual violence and threat of rape (Vanderwerff 2014). Kotaku Australia’s Katie Williams experienced a different form of misogyny at E3 2012. As a self-professed gamer, Williams attended the event with the hope of playing and reporting on the most anticipated games of the year, what she got, however, was steered towards the Facebook games and a chaperone who insisted “I think I’d better play it for you” (Vanderwerff 2014). Incase her apparent lack of knowledge sucked their product into the blackhole of inaccurate female-penned games journalism. All this achieved was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course her ‘first-hand’ account wouldn’t be completely accurate when her hands were batted away so someone more ‘capable’ could take point. When Williams took to the Internet to vent her frustrations, she was once again criticized for not standing up and taking back control. However within the gaming culture there is a double standard in this regard. Confrontation is often the first step… for men. A man who fails to defend himself is branded a wimp but a woman who does stand up for herself is labeled a bitch; “ignore the hysterical bitch, she’s just hormonal” (Vanderwerff 2014).

A fundamental role in the spread of online misogyny is social media and a controversial movement, which ostensibly started over concerns about the ethical corruption of video game journalism. Supporters say they want to address conflicts of interest between the people that make games and the people that support them. In reality, Gamergate has been hijacked by a group of gamers in an attempt to destroy the women who have invaded their clubhouse (Vanderwerff 2014). The movement itself is not a new one. Anita Sarkeesian faced a new wave of harassment after first starting her campaign, when Gamergate members threatened to rape and kill her, forcing her to flee her home. The movement reached fever pitch when a jilted former lover of indie game developer Zoe Quinn published transcripts of her life online. Allegations arose that Quinn’s game Depression Quest had received favourable reviews due to an alleged romantic relationship with a journalist for the video game new site Kotaku, including death threats that also prompted Quinn to flee (Vanderwerff 2014). Although these allegations were unfounded, no such review was ever written, the fact that Gamergate member who claimed to be maintaining journalistic ethics seized the opportunity to shame and terrify Quinn instead of the journalist speaks volumes about the shift in nature of the movement.

The issue of female sexualization and gender inequality in video games, and by extension the gaming industry, is one that has been debated by academics spanning decades and continents. The influence of ‘the male gaze’ as well as the difference between male and female character sexualization fuel the mentality both within and outside of the gaming culture, that the technological field is a male domain and women are welcome because games are simply not ‘for’ them. Perspectives of women in the industry and female gamers reinforce the idea that ‘hard-core’ games are produced by males for males, sustaining the vicious cycle that is not likely to be broken anytime soon. Comically hypersexualized female characters are usually written off as marketing tools to pander to a younger audience, and because nobody is seemingly hurt in the process, it often is deemed OK. However it is when these ideas leak into real life, as seen in personal testimonies, and are transferred onto real women that it these ideas cross from innocent to destructive.

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