Final Reflection on 306

Playing the Past

            While walking through the faculty office building one day, a flyer caught my attention, the flyer pictured teenagers huddling around an arcade game and the paper read, “History 306: Playing the Past.” As I read the course description I became enticed by the idea of a video game class that focused on historical narratives and content as I believe pop culture is becoming one of the major sources of historical content. The course may seem unorthodox from the outside looking in, but it was enriched with historical content such as masculinity in America, colonialism, imperialism, how you can pull historical narratives from fictional works, and how to create a fictional work using historical content.

            History 306 taught how masculinity not only can be found in video games but also how video games impacted masculinity in America. In games such as Red Dead Redemption II, masculinity is exerted by the characters in the game through their wielding of guns, gunfights, and bar fights. Although a fictional video game, its representation of masculinity is historically accurate because, in the nineteenth century, men in the Wild West of America exerted their masculinity this way. The course also taught how video games also impacted masculinity in American society. It was intriguing to learn about how video games gave gamers (primarily men) a masculine identity they didn’t have before. This identity would be attributed to factors such as arcade systems and the gaming community’s promotion of sexualized women. By doing this, it gave gamers the idea that that’s the type of woman they could impress by competing and winning in gaming tournaments.[1]

            While taking this course, terms such as colonialism were constantly discussed.  As I learned, colonialism is constantly put into games, whether directly or indirectly. Colonialism is found in games where everything is a resource that must be collected, games that condone and accept the killing of anyone who isn’t you, and games where consumption is prioritized over sustainability. Colonialism is also found in video games where exploration is considered noble and a just cause in order to find your player a home or a place to exploit for monetary value.[2]These multiple types of colonialism can be found in games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,Skyrim, and also Red Dead Redemption II.

            As part of the final for the course, the class had to come up with and design a video game that had historical content within it. For our group, I tried to think of a historical event that could incorporate everything we had learned so far in the course. The group believed topics such as colonialism and masculinity would be good to incorporate within the game and with that, I felt a game about the Trail of Tears would be perfect. It was hard initially thinking of a way to have a game that would be intriguing, worth playing, and contain historical information. Then came the idea of having a narrative based game that follows a military officer and his experience during the Trail of Tears. After we came up with the background to the character it was then time to draw up the storyboard and figure out how to incorporate historical information into a fictional game. The group decided that the historical information would have to come from the interactions between our player, and the other groups in the game such as the military officers and the Natives being escorted from their native lands.  For example, in one of the interactions of the game, our character hears the Natives talk about their disapproval of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Though this would come as no surprise to anyone, this dialogue within the game came from a source the group found about a Native chief named John Ross, who during the nineteenth century went to the Supreme Court and protested the Removal Act policies.[3]There were also small details that required researching, such as where the Natives were when they got picked up and dropped off (if the player reached that ending). We had our character and his fellow military officers pick up the Natives in Georgia because after researching the Creek natives in America during the nineteenth century, we found that they primarily resided in Georgia during that time.[4]I believe those small details and the historical content that comes from the interactions between the characters in the game, made for an intriguing game that highlighted parts of the Trail of Tears that people might not have been aware. 

            In conclusion, the History 306 course may seem unorthodox from the outside looking in, but it was enriched with historical content such as masculinity in America, colonialism, imperialism, how one can pull historical narratives from fictional works, and how to create a fictional work using historical content. I believe that video games offer multiple ways to teach historical events, agents, and also teach how historical narratives can be pulled from fictional works. I would highly recommend the course and hope for the continuation of it for many years because it is my belief that pop culture is becoming one of the main sources for historical content in the world.


[1]Sean Smith, Pixilated women: representations of women, sex, and sexuality in video games and historical simulations. (Lecture, Long Beach, CA, October 24, 2018).

[2]Sean Smith, World History and cultural representation in video games. (Lecture, Long Beach, CA, October 03, 2018).

[3]John Ross,Cherokee Chief John Ross Denounces U.S. Removal Policy, 1836. in Major Problems in American Relations Volume 1: To 1920, edited by Dennis Merrill and Thomas G. Patterson. Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Publishing, 2009.

[4]Robbie Ethridge, Creek Country: The Creek Indians and Their World. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003. (Accessed October 21, 2018). ProQuest EbookCentral.https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csulb/reader.action?docID=837903&query=

Gender in Games

            The gaming community has always been a place perceived to be dominated by men and their need to exert their masculinity. Although the gaming community has been perceived this way, it is actually women who play video games more than men do. Although women play video games more than men do, there are hardly any AAA title games that have female leads and women are usually sexualized in both AAA, indie, and twine narrative-based games. 

When exploring gender roles in games, it is best to play multiple and different types of games. If trying to focus on women and their role in games, twine games offer a vast number of games to try out. One game in particular titled Slime Daughter, serves as a good example of how women are represented in games. In Slime Daughter, the gamer plays as a woman who leaves her home to go stay with who the game calls the “Skull Empress.” Immediately following the meeting between this Empress and the player, there is a scene demonstrating how overly sexualized women are in games. The game narrates that one of Empress’s aides tells the gamer to come to the Empress’s palace and then shows the same aide walking over back to the Empress and begins, “running her tongue along the effluvial curves” of the Empress’s skull. As the game goes along more of these sexualized scenes occur through the narration, such as when the gamer is eating berries and, “Their juice stains your fingers. It lingers on your mouth.”[1]

The way women are sexualized in indie or twine games is also similar to how they are sexualized in some AAA games. In Rockstar Game’s Red Dead Redemption II, the women in the gamer’s gang of outlaws are often sexualized. In one mission, the gamer has to rescue one of his female companions from a man who is about to abuse her due to her faking to be a prostitute. Although the women in the game do tend to fall into certain gender roles in the game, they are shown exerting their femininity and independence similar to the men characters by carrying around guns and guarding the camp.

The twenty-first century has produced games were women are treated and have the same abilities, rights, and in some cases, the same power as male characters. One game that does in particular is Bethesda Game Studio’s game titled Skyrim. In Skyrim, the gamer can choose between being a male or female character at the beginning of the game. This choice doesn’t influence the missions given to the gamer nor does it influence your abilities and or strength. The only difference between choosing a male or female character in the game is that the gamer may either be called “Las” or “Lad” by some of the NPCs. This is completely different from how women are represented in not only Slime Daughterbut also in the games of the past, such as Tomb Raider that released in 1997. Although a game showing a strong female lead, during the promoting of Tomb Raider, the game’s main protagonist Laura Croft was shown in a bikini holding a gun in a magazine.[2]

In conclusion, although women play video games more than men do, there are hardly any AAA title, indie, or twine games that have female leads and the games that do include women, usually sexualize them or put them in inferior roles compared to their male counterparts. The gaming community has changed from the twentieth century to the twenty-first century slightly however due to censorship on AAA games but there are games such as Skyrim, that show that women characters can be just as strong and intelligent as their male counterparts and don’t need to be sexualized.

Bibliography

Beres, Damon. “Leading Women Are Becoming Less Sexualized In Video Games, Study Finds.” Huffington Post, 2016, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-sexualized-video-games-study_us_579b61cde4b08a8e8b5da7cd(Accessed December 12, 2018).

“Slime Daughter”, http://slimedaughter.com/games/twine/wtwla/ (Accessed Dec 12, 2018).


[1]http://slimedaughter.com/games/twine/wtwla/ (Accessed Dec 12, 2018).

[2]Damon Beres, “Leading Women Are Becoming Less Sexualized In Video Games, Study Finds.” Huffington Post, 2016, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-sexualized-video-games-study_us_579b61cde4b08a8e8b5da7cd (Accessed December 12, 2018).