Game Critique Blog Post: A Second Glance: the COD series

A Second Glance: the COD Series

            Call of Duty has brought gamers together in a world developed purely on a fictional history adapted from some of the world’s greatest conflicts. In Call of Duty 2, the gamer takes control of various protagonists in a World War II setting meant to highlight the fictional narratives of Soviet, British, and American forces during the time of the war.This is done as the player takes on such roles in the first-person shooter perspective. FPS has found its home in titles within the COD series as graphics and game mechanics have developed over time. If there is an examination of the historical context found within the title Call of Duty 2, then it is clear that this game was an early introduction to dynamic changes in the story-telling ability of games that provide historical events as the basis for creating immersive and narrative-driven fictional worlds.

The Call of Duty 2 campaign seemed like the most historical context any person at the time could gather from a form of media. At the least this was very much my case. To this day, I still have this game to thank for shaping my understanding of the American forces and the events on Omaha Beach on D-Day in Normandy, France. A great example of another form of media that supports events that occur in-game is the similar interpretation by Steven Spielberg in his epic Saving Private Ryan. I did not watch this movie until my early adulthood, but it lent an unspoken credibility to the game as I reminisced where it was I had seen the events unfold once before. Although the player is continually forced to survive computer-assisted waves of enemies, the player campaign never lets you escape the war zone. The game was released in 2005 and I had the good luck to have a friend who happened to acquire a copy for PC he would let us play to our heart’s content. The game succeeds in providing more insight on the events you participate with in-game by supporting the historical context through the use of war-time footage that actively engages the player in a history lesson of sorts. In comparison to more recent titles, Call of Duty 2 seems more concerned with capturing this history for gamers in a constructive manner through these mission introductions that include the footage whereas newer titles have already hooked the masses into shorter and brief histories less concerned with the way history is used in-game.

The scope of Call of Duty 2 is refreshing as it brought new and well-placed game mechanics not seen before with similar titles. The title looks to make the gamer feel like these soldiers who must survive various situations that can be tied to the struggles of real Allied forces at the time of WWII. Many notable moments appear as you storm the beaches of Normandy, France as an American soldier, provide resistance in Africa with British forces, and overlook devastation committed by German forces against Soviet opposition. The various mechanics that are introduced serve to make each of these campaigns livelier through an immersive takeaway assisted by story elements. This means that the game worked to convince the gamer they were the soldier that needed to survive to win and ensure the game’s finale is aligned to the actual events in history.For this, the COD series excels with no other comparable alternative at the time of this titles release and only serves to actively enforce a standard within gaming that sets expectations for the manner in which historical context, fictional narratives, and gaming mechanics work to represent historical accuracy.

            COD is concerned with developing a world that is shaped by an American culture content with pseudo-histories that prove underdeveloped in their prioritization of accurate historical representation. The game retells these stories and gamers want to play for hours even if they already have knowledge of the past that they are now involved with differently through the frameworks of Call of Duty 2. It is enjoyable to adhere to Western ideas of heroism from complicated events such as those that took placed in WWII. It serves as a weak appeal to history that gamers seem to have no problem developing further. All in all, the game does have a use of history that provides insight to events of the past, but this media outlet risks accurate representation in its active inclusion of these events. There is no doubt that this FPS title has reshaped the way developers today use history in-game by creating new representations in video games of historical events which progresses the way we accept these representations and the way historical context will either improve or become diminished through the way the gamer responses to this use of history.

Gender and Video Games

The female protagonists in the twine games featured on beachboard are largely lacking in proper representation of the female gender. Games such as “Slit Mouth Woman” show how little consideration is put into these simple-premise games as the process of ‘choose your path’ games tends to lend to short variation in story arcs for women. The trend is an appeal to sex, horror, or as a side character. AAA titles seem to hit the mark much better in this regard, but they still fall short. In recent video game history, the most notable character in popular culture  many would recognize is Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series. She is portrayed as an attractive, but capable hero who can manage any scenario in her unorthodox profession. She challenges character norms about women in games as she is never reliant on others to complete a task in-game. Other characters such as Yuna from the Final Fantasy series prove that narratives that focus on single and multiple female protagonists do not lack in representation. Yuna is portrayed as powerful and the most valuable team leader in the series. The three titular characters who include Yuna and two women team members revitalized the series at this time and showed that as much heart can be displayed in a story led by women.

It is clear that there is a culture of hegemonic masculinity in the history of male led video games. The culture which purposefully distributes these ideas across different games and platforms lacks the ability to recognize they do so in an attempt to replace their diminished or lack of existing masculinity.  Men tend to be portrayed as having some positive ability whether it be intelligence, strength, sexual appeal, or some other advantageous character trait. They are perfect or in the process of being perfected as the role of the video game player is to make that character as successful in-game to the degree which they themselves believe to be successful in their own life. The video game serves the role of replacing the inadequacies that these players feel in relation to the characters they command in the games that they play.

Again, the women in most twine games are never more than a sexual object, a crazed woman, or a side character who does not have a longing affect on the main protagonist. The difference seen in AAA titles is that the title character is capable of being a woman who is driven and worthy of the protagonist title or the complete opposite in the worst manageable way that strays from the progress seen over the years. One reason why this might be is because these women exist simply to push forward the narrative and nothing more. Women definitely have a presence that cannot be denied and in their representation over time there seems to be a more inclusive community wanting to change the culture that would continue to place women in roles which are stereotypical in nature.

Oregon Trail

What is the narrative structure of the game and how is it told?

The narrative of Oregon Trail is to venture from Independence, MO to Oregon in the early 19th century setting. It is told through the perspective of one of three character options which each have an attribute attached that players can choose from.

What is the primary historical argument for the game? How is the West represented?

The historical argument seems to present history for educational purposes and describe the terrain and tribulations facing travelers Westward. The West is represented by constant obstacles and settlements mainly illustrated by backdrops of plains, mountains, and forts associated with the U.S government.

How does the game treat women and people of color? What role do the play in game and how do they function within the narrative presented in the game (are they in other words active historical agents or passive)?

The game treats women and people how you would expect from the time period with some exceptions. For convenience, the plot would have you believe a Native-American is willingly helpful or that women and children are constantly sick or breaking their body parts every few days down the trail. They are passive historical agents because the protagonist is determined and maintains the purpose to keep the family unit intact along the trail and their sole function for the narrative remains one that is to maintain their survival as strenous as it may be.

Who do you read as the primary protagonist in the story? Is there a way to subvert the historical agency of the main protagonist and change the narrative? How does that effect the game and the way that the historical story is presented?

The text based narrative presents itself as omnipotent as events occur and you are told so that you may make decisions based on those events. Yes, it could be possible to subvert the historical agency of the main protagonist but it would likely take focus away on a variety of factors which keep the player engaged and curious about the reality of the conditions migrants faced. In this manner, the player is convinced that surviving is of upmost importance as it should be related to the actual events of the Oregon Trail.

Do the graphics make a difference or help to reinforce the narrative of the story?

The graphics improve the narrative as the driving force of the game and allow for immersion to entice players in disregard to the difficulties that come with playing the game.

What was the overall effectiveness of the game from a history education stand point?

The game demonstrates the various conditions of travel as well as the realities of medicine, hunting, maintaining resources, trade, and rising settlements as you move Westward. It puts history into perspective in a new way and at the time of its release can be said to take into consideration the effective nature of difficulty in games to provide historical accuracy in some context.