Gender in Games:Ryan McGuirk

The female protagonists are portrayed primarily through their sexual value in both twine games and women in AAA titles. In twine games the sexuality is not as obvious or pervasive as the depiction in games like Leisure Suit Larry or Cum Guzzlers. Twine depiction on women is layered and not so in your face sexually. Their value is really determined by how they look and what they can offer sexually to the male protagonist or cater to the fantasies of the target male game player audience. There is a lot go irony in this given that women make up a large part of the gaming community and the commodification of sex is just tailored towards men and not women. This theme ties into the fact that the depiction of male protagonists in games is nowhere near as sexist as the depiction of women.
In both twine and AAA titles men are depicted as the strong, brave, and valiant leader. The man is constantly pursuing his next conquest, land, power, and in some cases women. The sexualization of male characters is a lot more subtle than women in these titles, the male sexualization is considered a natural occurrence and something that is expected rather than manufactured. The expectation is that men are gonna have sex and women will be attracted to them because of what they are doing rather than how they look. The women in these games are solely a manufactured fantasy of the “ideal,” woman.
The game players and creators feel these themes of masculinity are normal occurrences in male life, rather than examining the hypocrisy of the matter. On both sides, games create men and women as fantasies, women in Dead or Alive Xtreme, are portrayed as having tiny waists, big breasts and perfectly shaped bottoms. Men in games such as Call of Duty or the Fallout series are depicted as being in tip top shape, large men who are skilled in hand to hand combat, this is contrary to actual reality. Servicemen, or other members of law enforcement in large part do not fit into these categories, many are average build 5’9-5’11 180-220 LBS. While yes they are fit and skilled at their jobs, they aren’t these big men or in fire fights everyday. A friend of mine who was serving overseas in the middle east said it took him until his second tour to be involved in an actual firefight. Furthermore this feeds into the fact that these games are fantasy and a manufactured reality.
Women are often used as a foil/vehicle for sexual tension with the male protagonist. In many cases their role isn’t specifically defined, but they are used as mechanisms of trust and sign of stability for the male characters. In games like Call of Duty, there are missions which basically are sleigh the dragon and rescue the princess from the castle. Women aren’t given agency in games and their agency in large part is bestowed to them by their male counterparts. The power is bestowed upon men because of their superiority and how the “hero,” complex is depicted solely through them. The only outlier with this notion is Lara Croft and Tomb-Raider, had to be mentioned for the sake of the argument.
The era of the 80s-90s is reflective through the Arcade and PC games because of their pop culture backdrop. During this time Arnold Schwarzenegger was staring in the Terminator series, Jean Claude Van Damme was starring in the kick boxer series, Steven Seagal was in Under Siege, and Sylvester Stallone was starring in the Rocky series as well as the Rambo series. Here are 4 figures who provided young men from ages 12-25 their idea of the ideal man, someone who wasn’t afraid to put himself in danger, kick butt and walk away with the beautiful woman at the end of the movie. The development of these games provided these men the ability to pay homage to their fantasy and heroes growing up. Since the focus was on the male protagonists the female protagonists were underdeveloped and in many cases were depicted as the women in these movies. They were the attractive, damsel in distress who after getting rescued has sex with and rides off into the sunset with the hero.
For women in games it has gotten worse since their role is primarily sexual and there aren’t heroines with agency for change. The role of women has also stayed constant, it is expected that they are sexual beings rather than change agents. In large part this is up for interpretation, from my perspective this idea of women as sexual beings has translated into society today with the entitlement and ownership that men feel over women. They are expected to be sexualized and this fuels the ongoing struggle with rape culture today, a game like cum guzzlers depicts women as nymphomaniacs and some men get angry when women do not adhere to that ideal. If women were depicted as powerful beings, the societal interpretation of them would be different. They would be seen as having value greater than their sexual attributes, societally this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Scientifically games have shown to be effective tools in teaching, they should be tools that teach respect and valuing women, not degrading them.
– Ryan McGuirk

World History Colonialism and Imperialism in Games: Champion of the Raj

Champion of the Raj is a turn-based strategy game that is set during British colonization of India. At the start of the game you have the option to either be a British or a French trader. The historical framework that this falls within depicts a rosy narrative of the invasion of the English in India.  This friction between the British and French for control translates into your avatar being taken to jail once landing in India. The game is a constant struggle between the financial benefits of imperialism, but the geopolitical ramifications of this colonialism is a prevalent theme throughout the game. The game begins in 1800, when the Mogul empire lost control of India. “The majority of the game is presented through an in-game headquarters screen which displays a map of India, a book detailing information of individual Indian states, and a group of icons which allows the player to issue commands.”(GamePlay manual)

One of the main critiques I had was that the narrative seemed incomplete, that was due in large part to the fact that what the white colonists or ethnic invaders from land-lock lands did with the plundering and suppression of the native population. I would most compare this game to Oregon Trail because you are constantly thinking about your next move, and really trying to stay alive.

The game adheres to traditional ideals of colonialism since no matter who your character is, whether it is British, French, Mogul, Sikhs, Gurkhas or Marathas there is a constant struggle for power. The British focus on India was to regain their power and benefit from the prosperity of India and the warm water port in which they could export massive amounts of riches from the land. The French did not colonize India but sought to do business with and use the resources, and the focus of the ethnic groups like Mogul, Sikh, Gurkhas or Marathas was an economic gain through pillaging rather than attempting to establish a true nation state. The players in the game that the narrative goes into great detail about are the British and the French. This is in large part due to the fact that they were major players in the region at the time and the majority of historical accounts available come from European settlers.

The game emphasizes the important role of diplomacy which is usually lost in the narrative when it comes to colonialism. When taking over a territory the player can engage with the local leader through diplomatic means.  If the player is very popular locally, the local leader invites them to a sporting event, such as elephant race or a game hunting session. If your character is not that popular but has a bit of an approval rating you can attempt to bribe the local leader. Usually diplomacy fails and then the goal is to take the territory by force. With diplomacy continuing to fail, attempting to bribe the local tribe leaders and then taking the territory by force the game attempts to portray a counter narrative to historical evidence about colonialism. The diplomacy did not happen, what did happen were English or other Europeans coming to nations like India, Africa, and parts of southeast Asia and telling the local population that we are superior and we are your rulers now. I find that this game really takes out the theme of racial superiority that was prevalent throughout the colonial age. If someone was looking to this game as a teaching tool for teaching about British colonialism and the other players who were involved in the overall colonialism, they would have to explain that this is not the full picture.

While this game may not depict the grim picture that of colonialism and imperialism, it is one that makes you constantly think. The game primarily follows the framework of the norms for colonialism games aspects such as Exploration is a noble cause, and at times it is acceptable to kill anyone who is not you. That really provides a gameplay experience where the fight or flight mentality is constantly depicted. The game provides counter colonialism ideals as well, ideas such as, not everyone is out to get you. Most likely, the different people are afraid of you. This is shown through the ability to engage in colonialism through diplomacy, essentially this idea provides a foil to colonialism and attempts to change the narrative.

In conclusion, Champion of the Raj is a fun game that provides a superficial level of insight into European imperialism in India. It does not provide the full story and wholes are found in the overall narrative. These wholes are necessary since no one would really be interested in a game that is centered on raping, pillaging, and widespread disease wiping out large chunks of the population. I found the game to be fun to play since I do love historical games, it always kept me thinking and took the monotony that I usually find in games out of it.

Oregon Trail Critique

The narrative structure goes in a chronological, and practical order. Basically you start with the idea of out in the west in Oregon there is a bustling city and opportunity. So you go to the store and depending on your profession that determines how much money you have. The ouster conditions determine your success in the game, like the season you are leaving in and whether members of your party are sick or not. Throughout the game as you are going through different monuments and areas you can talk to different people, trade,  and hunt. This allows for a more practical interpretation of how life was on the trail out west.

The primary historical argument for the game is that even though the thought of prosperity and a new life out west was an intriguing proposition to many, for most people it would be a death sentence. It is a very low percentage chance that when playing Oregon trail you make it all the way to Oregon. The west is depicted as a pretty barren and desolate place throughout the game due to the snake bites, disease and lack of civilization.

This game really white washes history in that throughout the game you are going through Native American territory but you never see Native Americans. For purposes of talking the people of color are depicted as illiterate, with southern sayings and women are depicted as damsel’s in distress. They are primarily passive historical agents since they don’t have a specific role or place that they serve. In other words, the game would still be the game without them.

The primary protagonist is the person playing the game, and really whoever their character is. Whether that is a doctor, carpenter, etc, your success is determined on where you are in the social hierarchy. The main way the narrative can be changed is if as the protagonist you change parts of the game. Changing aspects like not reloading supplies, or changing the pace. Essentially the main consequence and the change to the historical story is that your character dies. There aren’t major things that can be done to flip the role of the protagonist.

The graphics make the story easier to follow along with on the main map. While they are pretty basic they allow the game player the ability to adapt and rest, hunt, and engage in commerce. overall they give a concrete example of what the story really means. At the end of the trail you can take the raft and go down the river, that just shows the volatility of the conditions these people were traveling in.

The only part of the game from a historical perspective I would fault it is in the depictions, or lack there of Native Americans. They played an important role in the overall fabric of the history of the west and this in large part forgot them. Other than that this is a very accurate game that can be an effective tool for historical education. Its very realistic in depicting commerce, sickness, death and the different decisions people had to make when it came to stuff like short cuts, aka the Dawner party.