Gender in Games

The market for video games is heavily geared toward men seeing how the most popular games are centered around violence. As a result, women end up being pushed to the sidelines and are often oversexualized. It is also a lot easier to create and play as male characters as opposed to female ones. For example, Street Fighter, compared to the amount of male characters to choose from there are very few female characters to choose. Even amongst the female characters, their breasts tend to be oversized or they are wearing extra revealing clothes which is something that is common across almost the entire gaming industry. Even in AAA title games, women tend to be backburner NPCS and are portrayed in their conventional societal roles as housemakers, wives, damsels in distress, etc. Even in the game Unmanned, you play through the eyes of a army pilot that’s living through everyday life, desensitized to the world around you but when a female character is introduced her sole purpose was to give the player an opportunity to have an affair.

For men things are a lot different. The action in most games such as Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty reinforce the ideas that masculinity is defined by the concept of power. “Manliness” is measured by how many kills you get and the mechanics of these games support that strongly, that the role of men is to be all muscle and attack. This is supported by the character design of most males in AAA titles. Take Geralt from The Witcher as an example, his facial features set across the message that to be cool and to be manly you have to have big muscles, athletic, and optional scars.

In the cases where females are remotely unconventional and are actually capable, the world around them see them as incompetent, trying to achieve something that is not practical for a female. Women are also used as reward in these games for completing missions, like in The Witcher 2, which imply that the sole purpose of women is to be a source of pleasure for men.

Nowadays, things are better for women and their portrayal in games. Sure they’re still being oversexualized but there are some newer female protagonists that defy the old image of women in games. Take Ellie from The Last of Us as an example. A 14-year old girl who is brave, not oversexualized for good reason, resourceful, and is physically capable on her own without needing to be saved by a male. However, in most fighting games such as Street Fighter, Dragon Ball Fighter Z, and Super Smash Bros, female characters are and will likely continue to be less desired because their combos and skill sets are less effective than male characters in competition. This implies that usefulness of female characters will be another issue to deal with in this entire process. With time, it is potentially possible for women to be portrayed in better light without being sexualized or objectified in games.

repost:game critique

Dynasty Warriors is known for being a hack and slash series developed by Omega Force and Koei. Based on the Chinese text Records of the Three Kingdoms which covers the time frame of 220-280 AD at the end of the Han dynasty leading into the era of the Three Kingdoms. With the premise of the game taking place in what some people refer to as the bloodiest period in Chinese history, it sets the stage for all sorts of historical discrepancies

 In the fourth installment, Dynasty Warriors 4, is specifically set during the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Players do have the option in story mode to choose which aspect of the Three Kingdoms story they want to play. Shu, Wei, and Wu are the three main storylines but other stories are unlockable via completion of challenges. These storylines are all loosely based on true historical events with exaggerations added for player enjoyment. Even the maps in the game were aimed to replicate the actual battlefields in which some of the battles of the game took place in real life.

Being a hack and slash game, there is not much to mention when it comes to the gameplay. Although set in a historical time frame, it is easy to forget the historical content while mindlessly button mashing through hordes of Chinese soldiers. The mechanics of the game make it very iffy in determining the historical accuracy of the game. The developers added fictitious elements adding elements of magic and super powers to Chinese history. Truth be told, the only bits of “history” would be in the forsaken un-skippable cutscenes and minor dialogue that pop up in the midst of gameplay. These cutscenes have flaws as well considering that the voice actors for these scenes are simply poorly, semi-awkward attempts to emulate the tone and voice of soldiers/leaders of Ancient China.

There aren’t many chances to interact with the world, so the historical content is consumed strictly through the pre-determined narrative of each character’s respective story modes. Narrative aside, the game tries hard to replicate what war would be like in Ancient China. Upon entering a stage, players are faced with a battlefield full of chaos with foot soldiers and horse drawn chariots clashing all over the map. However, it is very unrealistic for a character to go out by himself and knock out 20-30 men with the stroke of a sword.

The game could have improved by creating missions that were structured behind actual military tactics used by the Chinese armies. It could give players a sense of how hard it was to execute some of the more complex military operations for the time in which they were developed. Another way for the historical accuracy of this game to be improved is by allowing the narrative to drive the gameplay a little more by allowing players to dive into the counterfactual. There is enough content from the original Records of the Three Kingdoms to create a more open world environment which would allow players to see how people of China felt about the events taking place. The game itself is very war-centric which creates almost a false impression of the time, implying that all that happened was warfare.

As a game, Dynasty Warriors 4 does an average job of being an entertaining to play hack and slash game set in the midst of Ancient China with the usage of the supernatural to liven the gameplay. However, from a historical standpoint, Dynasty Warriors as a franchise simply uses historical events as a secondary element to the game. Change the characters and setting, and the game remains the same. The simple conclusion could be that hack and slash games are a poor platform for anyone to seek any historically accurate gameplay since it would take the fun out of the game. So, unless Dynasty Warriors finds a way to change the game mechanics to revolve more around the actual events of the Warring Kingdoms, then it serves very little importance in relaying the history of China. Which brings more attention to the problem that most games have, being set in historical time frames but having the gameplay have nothing to do with the actual events that take place.

Oregon Trial Response

The Oregon Trial presents itself as a narrative based game that takes place in 19th century America. Players are allowed to choose their character’s occupation which will then affect the names of the rest of their crew and initial amount of spending money.  From there, the player has control over several aspects of the journey including when to rest, hunt, trade, and talk. The game requires strategic planning to get to the end of the trial with as many people alive and supplies as possible which is the ultimate end goal.

The game represents the West as a wild place where anything could happen. The player could face all sorts of scenarios from being robbed, members dying off, and inconvenient weather conditions. In regards to how the game represents women and people of color, they are both portrayed in a slightly negative manner. When interacting with people of color within the game, they are portrayed as intellectually inferior due to the slang used to represent their speech pattern. Women are also shoved into niche societal roles and tend to die sooner than men via the game mechanics. Playing as teachers, the entire group consists of women and they gain a 3.5x bonus upon completion. This indicates that it should be a lot more difficult to obtain a high score yet alone complete the game as a women as oppose to other roles such as Doctors that only receive a 1x multiplier. Clearly, women and people of color act as passive historical agents looking at how they are utilized and interact with the in-game world.

The narrative of the game centers around the player’s created character. However, the game only has two possibilities: completion of the trial or failure due to death of all party members – unless the player decides to stop and just casually hunt at a fort forever.  The player has control over almost everything along the way but it has no effect in the grand scheme.  The player’s perspective limits the historical story of the American West to that of a pioneer’s. It does not show much on how people interact with each other other than the few NPCs that hint at upcoming obstacles in the game.

Personally, I felt as if the game depicted the West in a decent manner.  The random occurrences that prevent progress show how hard going down the path could have been from a stimulation standpoint. The minimal graphics kind of helped show how bare bones life was back then as well as how empty the trial might have been in the eyes of a pioneer.  In terms of effectiveness from a history education standpoint, I think the Oregon Trial serves as a nice introduction to life in the West but could be improved by allowing more world interaction. However, it does an okay job of trying to mimic the lifestyle of pioneers and how white men viewed woman and people of color during the time.