Gender in Games

Female protagonists in these arcade type games are for the most part portrayed as just an image, they do not contribute much to the plot. Nowadays female protagonists have a much bigger role in games including AAA titles. However, many of these AAA titles are shooters and women in these games are portrayed in a very masculine way. One game that is guilty of this is Tomb Raider, even though Lara Croft is a woman, her characteristics such as being able to shoot your way through obstacles are more masculine than feminine. Another example of this is in one of the cut scenes for the upcoming Battlefield V game, a young female resistance fighter in Norway beats up an SS officer who is twice her size. In general, I think things have improved for women in video games as they have more representation. However, this representation is not entirely accurate and there should be a way to increase the importance of female protagonists without making them behave entirely like male protagonists.

Battlefield Returns to the Past

When the first reveal trailer for Battlefield 1 was released in May 2016, it was very well received by an overwhelming majority of the audience. The trailer officially announced that the next installment of the Battlefield franchise was going to be set during the First World War. Although there were some people complaining about how the developers did not make a game which took place during “a more modern era” such as Vietnam or the present day, most other potential players were relieved that Battlefield was not going to commit the same mistake as Call of Duty had which was to set their next game Infinite Warfare in some science fiction world which they had done for quite a few of their previous games and players were burned out on the futuristic/science fiction based games. They had hoped Call of Duty would return to its roots of being a World War II shooter or at least go back to a modern, but still realistic present day setting. The developers at Infinity Ward did not listen to the fans and when EA Dice did listen, many players including long-time Call of Duty fans flocked over to Battlefield. It was a refreshing change of pace especially since almost no if any AAA titles had ever been set during World War I. Dice listened to the fans and they delivered with that first reveal trailer.
The trailer begins with what appears to be a German soldier beating a British Commonwealth soldier (assuming because of the brodie style helmet they were wearing) with a spiked club. This represents how up close and personal combat was during WWI in which soldiers taking part in raids against enemy trenches had to fight with some homemade weapons made for close quarter combat such as clubs and daggers. The next scene is a woman riding on a horse through the desert and the trailer proceeds to depict different aspects of WWI including trench warfare, the muddy hell that was the Western Front, Italian soldiers clashing with Austro-Hungarians in the Alps, aerial combat, chemical warfare, and the trailer ends with a soldier staring at an incoming German blimp. Although the trailer was full of historical inaccuracies such as a single soldier walking around shooting a german MG 08 machine gun, normally operated by at least four to six men, like Rambo, the reception was extremely positive. Once the game was actually released, sales surpassed that of Call of Duty and players were enjoying a very fun shooter that despite its inaccuracies could be very immersive. The story mode did not follow a single protagonist. Each “mission” was a story of different individuals and their participation during the Great War. For example one of the stories was that of an Italian soldier who was a member of Italy’s equivalent of Storm Troopers and they were called the Arditi. Another story follows a woman who is a member of the bedouin fighters who were fighting against the Ottoman Empire.
The story is really able to represent a diverse group of people and it tackles issues of race as well with the player being able to play as a member of the 369th Infantry Regiment of the US Army who were African American soldiers. These soldiers were not desired by their own military and so they were lent to the French who took them in and allowed them to fight. The French even supplied them with rifles and helmets. In the game they were depicted as fierce fighters (which they were) and in real life they even were the American unit to have spent the most time in the front line trenches. With the depiction of a woman Bedouin fighter, the game also challenged the sense that all wars are fought only by men and therefore it took on the topic of masculinity. The one tradition that this game failed to break was the failure to represent the opposing side in this case the Triple Alliance. The player, during the story mode, is only able to play as a member of the Triple Entente and their allies. It would have been interesting to be able to play as a German. However, in multiplayer you can play as Germans, Ottomans, and Austro-Hungarians.
The game took some liberties such as adding weapons that were either in prototype version or even nonexistent during WWI and added them to the multiplayer, but this allowed the game to be more fast paced and exciting and the game does a good job at introducing players to WWI and might inspire them to explore other more historically accurate games such as Verdun or to even learn more about history and perhaps become a history major.

Oregon Trail

In the Oregon Trail, players play as a pioneer that is traveling westward during the mid 19th century. Before the game actually begins, you get to decide what occupation your particular character has. You then get to spend a certain amount of money on supplies and you set off on the long journey. Each player has to be able to manage their supplies and monitor the text notifications/updates on how the whole party of travelers are managing. If one member of the party becomes ill, the player has to decide whether to rest or keep moving or if rations are low, the player has to decide whether to hunt or limit rations and risk poor health. The outcome of the game depends greatly on each players’ decisions.
The main historical argument of the game is to depict and let players experience some of the many challenges that actual pioneers faced on their journey westward during the 19th century. Some of the challenges include warding off disease, repairing the wagon, managing supplies, and making fast enough progress to avoid being caught in extreme weather. The West is represented as this vast, mostly unexplored, and dangerous land. The game includes women and people of color, but in a rather limited role. The only times you really hear of these characters is when you are trying to trade or to engage in conversation at certain checkpoints in the game or when a member from your own party becomes ill, injured, or dies. When you do engage in conversation with women and people of color, their depiction especially of African Americans and Native Americans is kind of stereotypical and they are not really depicted as having a significant role in the story. In the game women and people of color are passive historical agents.

The primary protagonist is the player’s own character and there are certain ways to subtly change the  narrative such as by deciding what occupation the protagonist has. Having an occupation such as that of a doctor, gives the player a better chance at surviving due to them having for resources at their disposal and being of a “higher” class. Having a visual representation of the game really helps describe some of the actual challenges faced by pioneers, such as the long distance that they traveled and it also gives them an idea of what parts of the country, these people went through. In conclusion, the game is very effective from a history education stand point despite its lack of proper representation of women and people of color.