Gender in Video Games

Through the many decades of the existence of video games, multiple genres have often portrayed women in a way that women should not be represented. Although the majority of gaming audiences are women who play games through their mobile device, the video game industry is considered male dominant and therefore targets the male audience. In most games, women are often considered delicate and extremely feminine, which often leads to becoming the perfect target to represent the role of the damsel and distressed. In other games, women are represented as sex symbols. In games such as Super Mario Bros, Mario constantly saves the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom, Princess Peach. Similarly, in the first Crash Bandicoot series game,Crash’s girlfriend Tawna, is kept as a hostage to lure crash closer to the enemy. In both games, the woman is considered a prize possession rather than contributing to the plot of the storyline. The male roles of these games are characterized as brave heroes in their attempt to rescue the fragile female character. Corresponding to the roles of women in video games, the game developers of the twine games such as Deador Alive Xtreme 3: Fortune Volleyball Game, used female characters playing volleyball to target the male audience by designing the women to wear very little clothing, have small waists, and attractive features. Not only were their features meant to attract the attention of men, but also their body language was very seductive. In twine games such as Depression Quest, although the main character is male and the one who is on an emotional rollercoaster, his girlfriend comes off as persistent when it comes to their relationship. She becomes outcasted by her boyfriend (the main character), just like how women are usually outcasted in a video game narrative. Overall, the common role that women play in games are boy crazy, seductive, delicate, seen as a prized possession, or unimportant.

Although women are sometimes created to become the main protagonist of a game, they are still created to have sex appeal in order to grab the gamers attention. For instance, the video game Tomb Raider, despite Laura Croft’s ability to fight her own battles and become the hero, she wears clothing that embrace her curves. In the cover for the game, she is wearing shorts and a tight top that shows her stomach. Realistically, a woman would not wear such an outfit when fighting battle. In video games, the masculinity in men are exaggerated as well. The male characters are often created to be strong, powerful, intelligent, and with a built feature. In the mythology action-adventure based video game series, God of War, Kratos is a male-dominant character who lacks emotion and seeks vengeance. In the game, his egotistic male dominance led to death of his wife and daughter. In Assassin’s Creed Unity, Arno Dorian also seeks revenge due to the death of his father and adoptive father. Arno Dorian was created to also be strong and skillful during combat. He has the ability to climb walls and jump off building, demonstrating the exaggerated masculine characteristics that are often represented in video games.

Despite the similar role women have played since video games were created, games have become a little more censored than games that were created in the 80’s. Custer’sRevenge was an unpleasant video game released in 1982 and created byMystique for the Atari 2600. The game was based on the American Civil War and shows the general raping an innocent Native-American for points in the game. Custer’sRevenge displays rape, racism, and pornography. Another similar game, Beat‘Em and Eat ‘Em, displayed pornography and was also created by Mystique in1982 for the Atari 2600. In the 80’s and 90’s the majority of men were gamers which is why game developers created games that target men. Today, the majority of women are gamers. Games that are currently being developed consider the gamers to be either male or female. The presence of women always existed in video games but were frequently outcasted in a narrative or hidden by the gaming community. New games such as Mirror’sEdge, Tomb Raider, and The Last of Us are led by a female protagonist which shows that the video game industry has progressed the roles of women. In older games, a female protagonist would not have been considered.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a 2-dimensional puzzle adventure game based on World War I (1914-1918). The storyline was inspired by a series of events during the Great War. The game starts off with a brief historical overview of what triggered the combat; the assassination of Archduke of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Franz Ferdinand, on June 28, 1914. During the warfare, the central powers (Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, Ottoman Empire) fought against the allied powers (Russia, Great-Britain, Japan, and Romania) for nationalism, imperialism, and power. German citizens living in France were asked to leave the country as France prepared for war by readying troops and gathering supplies for war.

Valiant Hearts is known to be a very sensitive game that causes players to sympathize for the protagonists of the story as their loss, heartbreak, and hardships through survival are displayed. As the game continues, the player is shown historical facts of World War I. Although reading the facts is optional, the facts made it helpful to understand the storyline and purpose of each location. The characters in Valiant Hearts are fictional but were inspired by real people in the Great War. In reality, they were not really soldiers; they were civilians who were pushed into the war. The protagonists express their burden and struggles through their story. For instance Karl, one of the protagonists of the game, is forced to leave his wife and their newborn son to join the war. Shortly after Karl leaves his farm, the war is desperate for more soldiers and calls upon Karl’s father-in-law Emile. The characters are sent to a training camp, Saint Mihiel barracks, then to the 71st German division in Crusnes, France. Instead of the use of weapons and violence, the players are given puzzles to solve as to advance during the war. The purpose of the game is to give players experience through the characters rather than focusing too much on challenging the participant. Simple tasks are given such as costume changes, tool gathering, heal the wounded, decision-making, and many other assignments.

Despite the scenes of death, Valiant Hearts did a phenomenal job in their artwork. The animation of each character reveals much detail about them. The primary artist had a comic book style theme he wanted to push forward in the game that incorporated emotion. The game developers and artists wanted players who know very little about the war, like myself, to have a sense of heartache and misery it caused. Throughout the game, the versatile artwork showed the changes in setting that corresponded to the character’s emotions. For instance, before forced into the war, there is a bright setting where Karl is happily working on his farm as his wife is watching over their child. Once Karl is in the war and the story unravels, many dark colors of black, brown, gray, and purple are used. Darkness, trenches, and a full moon shown in the scenes presented the horrors at the time. The choice of music for the game was an emotive piano score.

Overall, Valiant Hearts: The Great War did a magnificent job in incorporating elements from the first war and usage of selective authenticity. This made the historical narrative unique in comparison to other historical games because it was based on true events. The true events is what made it much more interesting by witnessing how the people during that period of time were affected. The lives of the characters were torn part that caused them to become more drawn together and the citizens became more united by helping each other gain hope with retaining humanity after the war. What also made this game more unique was that the developers resonated with the characters from the game because the majority of them had family members involved in the first war. The narrative also exposed both sides of the war, one side of the war harming and affecting civilians and the other reacting to it and becoming deeply traumatized. The structure of the game was created to be easy to follow and not necessarily for the player beat the game. The 2-dimensional adventure puzzle game was purposely created to make choices and experiences; as Sid Meier stated, “A game is a series of interesting choices.”

Oregon Trail Blog Post

The theme of Oregon trail took place in the 1800’s and demonstrated the pioneer lifestyle of families surviving the Old Western days. The narrative of the game offered regulation, guidelines and elements to survive the intense journey of the Oregon trail.

The game presented the narrative structure in sequential order, beginning with giving the player the opportunity to choose their occupation. Their choice of occupation determined the amount of money given and the careful decision of how to spend it was made. The purchase options included oxen to pull the wagon, food, clothing for scorching summers and harsh winters, ammunition for hunting, and spare parts. As the Western folks made way through the trail, series of unfortunate events occurred such as a person in the wagon being ill or dying, running out of money, and figuring out how to cross rivers; this is when engaging with others for help, trade, and hunting came in handy. The goal of the game was to make it across Oregon alive with all the members of your family surviving.

Considering the historical period of the Oregon Trail, the assumption was made that women and different ethnicities were not going to be given the opportunity to have a role in the game. However, their roles were minor and viewed as telling a story rather than benefiting the protagonist for survival of the game. For instance, when the decision of talking to someone during the trail was given, an African American woman told her story about her fear and tragedies she has faced. As she spoke, she had a Southern accent along with improper pronunciation. It was also observed that Anna, the only little girl amongst the children in the wagon, was not included at all throughout the storyline. Her presence was not noticed until the end of the game.

Based on the occupation options in the beginning of the game and commands given throughout the story, the primary protagonist of the game exhibits the description of a white male leading his family through the West. The occupation determines the fate of the players survival because of their hierarchy during the 1800’s. For instance, a prosperous doctor will start off with more money as oppose to a carpenter or farmer. A doctor will also have knowledge of curing someone when ill, which increases the chance of survival.

In comparison to the text-based version, it was not as amusing as the version played before. The graphics of the game are what make the story entertaining. It was nice to witness the Oxen pulling the wagon through the green grass, passing the different monuments as they made their journey through Oregon. Minor graphic details in the game are what make it memorable. The effectiveness of the game gave players the opportunity to learn more of the Western lifestyle. Overall, the West was represented as having a cautious lifestyle as the families traveled long distance through the Oregon trail.