Female Power Gamers

In the study Women and games: Technologies of the gendered self, Royse et.al. argue that it does a disservice to women to lump all of them into the category of ‘women who play games’, because there are different gaming behaviors that manifest themselves in different ‘types’.

The study then goes on to address an interesting type of female gamer: the power gamer, or “the gamer who embodies ‘femininity’ while performing ‘masculinity'” (Royse, et.al., 2007).  According to the study, “Power gamers place high importance on gaming and engage in it frequently…appear more comfortable with gaming technology and game themes and…gaming is better intreated into their lives,” (Royse, et.al., 2007). These types of gamers thrive on the competition, challenge, and ‘pleasantly frustrating’ nature of games because “competition provides an arena in which power gamers are able to define and extend their definitions of self and gender,” (Royse, et.al., 2007). These women often elect FPS (first-person shooter) games because, according to the study, “one of the most salient pleasures for women gamers is the opportunity to engage in game combat, a space which permits them to challenge gender norms by exploring and testing this aggressive potentiality,” (Royse, et.al., 2007).

Power gamers are also very aware of the gender stratification that sometimes is inherent in the game code.  “Despite the fact that typically, FPS games are played by males and have violent intent, several of the [power gamers] indicated that they consciously chose this genre for its unabashed aggressiveness,” the study argues (Royse, et.al., 2007).  The authors go on to argue that “Power gamers are certainly not oblivious to the hypersexualized representation of female avatars and they do realize that such representations pander to male fantasies,”  but that these fantasy elements, although representative of gender inequality, do not deter many power gamers (Royse, et.al., 2007). In fact, many female players in the study “indicated that they purposefully choose and create characters that are feminine and sexy as well as strong,” (Royse, et.al., 2007), mimicking the dichotomy that women have to straddle in the real world between being powerful and being beautiful.

Royse, P., et. al. (2007). Women and games: Technologies of the gendered self. New Media & Society9, 555-576.

People who don’t play games are weird!

In his article, Identity and Information Technology, Steve Matthews discusses the way in which social networks, in real or virtual space, work, stating “In choosing to present myself outside the mainstream…I do in the first instance exclude the possibility of relationships with certain kinds of people.  There are many contexts where such exclusion may take place,” (Matthews, 2008).  One such context is the rejection of video games.  Whether single player (L.A. Noire), local multiplayer (Mario Kart), online multiplayer (Call of Duty Team Deathmatch), or MMORPG (Star Wars Old Republic), video games are a social activity.  They permeate our society via the news as well as pop culture, and they foster relationships which may not have been possible without their existence.

So why do so many individuals, (for the purposes of this blog post) primarily females, reject video games so vehemently? Many of the women studied in the article Women and games: Technologies of the gendered self rejected gaming because they believed that playing video games for pleasure was a waste of time that could be spent being what they called ‘social’, (e.g. going out with friends, spending time with family) or ‘productive’ (e.g. cooking, cleaning, studying).  What these women fail to realize that playing games is inherently social because of the ubiquity of video game technology in our society, and that video games are just as valuable as any other recreational activity.  However, Royse, et.al. report that “Non-gamers also speculated that players came addicted to computer games.  These women viewed gaming as an asocial and solitary activity and believed most gamers to be interpersonally inept.” (Royse, et.al., 2007).  They also attempted to differentiate themselves from other women who play games, by aligning themselves more heavily with traditional social expectations of females, which to them, means to “include interpersonal activities which are ‘interaction based’…Non-gamers viewed gaming as a ‘solitary’ activity which attracts individuals who lack interpersonal skills,” (Royse, et.al., 2007). Royse, et.al. postulate that “by comparison, then, non-gamers imply their own interpersonal competence.  Ironically, despite non-gamers’ interpersonal competence, their self-definitions construct a gendered-split-sphere arrangement that is quite long-established,” (Royse, et.al., 2007). Strangely enough, these women do not feel that they are placing themselves in traditional female roles, and insist that they challenge these roles and that they, too feel the effects of sexism.  It is surprising that they placed a focus on cooking, cleaning, shopping, and family as a priority over gaming, and viewed games as masculine, as well as a socially undesirable activity, when many women play games, and many individuals play games socially.  These women, according to the study, had little understanding of gaming technology, and were unable to see how games or gameplay had any bearing on or value to the real world, which leads me to believe that they have yet to stop and think about it.

There has not been much research done on rejection of gaming in men, because video games are much more pervasive in the male community, but I will say that the Virginia Tech gunman a few years back rejected video games, and we all know how horribly that turned out…people who don’t play games are weird.

Matthews, S. (2008). Identity and information technology. Information technology and moral philosophy, 142-160.

Royse, P., et.al. (2007). Women and games: Technologies of the gendered self. New Media & Society, 9, 555-576.

Do Game Avatars Inhibit Relationships?

Part of our identity as humans is the concept of a compound sense of self.  As Steve Matthews states in his paper Identity and Information Technology, “as self-reflective beings, we have a sense not just of who we are, but of the ideal person we might strive to become…as narrative agents we provide reasons for our future selves to best continue the story we have so far established for ourselves,” (Matthews, 2008).  Matthews goes on to argue that “…this theory of narrative agency is inadequate unless it recognizes the possibility that autonomy comes in degrees.  Our identities are almost never fully under our control,” (Matthews, 2008).  Ultimately, we are a reflection of how we see ourselves, as well as how others in our community see us. That concept of community can venture into the gaming community as well, especially in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, Second Life, or The Sims, where people often develop significant relationships with others via their avatars.

Matthews argues that these relationships are not as valid as close connections made offline because he argues that avatars are a presentation solely of the individuals’ ideal selves and not of their community-constructed whole selves.  He states, “Technology that disables our capacity to both be seen and to see the other, within a relationship, for the good of that relationship, and which enables us to come across as something we are not within a relationship, risks its derailment; in such cases, technology also risks something that is a proper source for identity construction,” (Matthews, 2008). Here “proper source” means the community-constructed identity that Matthews earlier mentioned.

However, Matthews advocates avatars for relationship-building in one context only, arguing an exception for “technology which led to a person’s being more fully seen for what they ideally would like to be, if the unwanted attribute had hitherto prevented the person from successfully engaging with others in the social world,” (Matthews, 2008).  This exception can accommodate those with physical or mental disabilities, as well as people who have trouble making attachments in the real world because, for example, they are painfully shy.  In those cases, he argues, avatars can aid in relationship development and displaying the truth of oneself to others.  However, with whom are these individuals building supposedly more honest relationships? Only with each other, or with individuals who are only displaying their ideal selves? I wonder what Matthews would have to say about someone who falls under the exception building a relationship with someone who doesn’t.  Is the relationship between the two socially inhibited, or is it socially enhanced?

Matthews, S. (2008). Identity and information technology. Information technology and moral philosophy, 142-160.

The Banality of Evil in Video Games

According to Hannah Arent, the concept of the banality of evil is rooted in the logic that “in totalitarian states, bureaucrats are alienated within the whole machinery of the state, performing activities that lead to atrocities by blindly following the orders of the political apparatus that does not allow, nor provide, any feedback: “He did his duty, as he told the police and the court over and over again; he not only obeyed orders, he also obeyed the law.” (Sicart, 2009)

Miguel Sicart’s article The Banality of Simulated Evil discusses the Arent’s concept in the context of virtual environments, namely video games, where the players’ decisions are ultimately scripted in the game code, giving the programmer complete control over the environment.  Sicart argues that the banality of evil is “determined by the necessity to keep a system running without discussing the moral nature of the orders received, rather than guided by evil intention” (Sicart, 2009).  It is easy to apply this political theory to video games.

Essentially, the gamer is placed into a situation where he or she does not receive moral feedback about any actions taken within the world of the game.  “In this context,” Sicart argues, “desensitization could be defined as the crisis of ethical tools that agents have to evaluate their conduct” (Sicart, 2009).  This is true in the case of the controversial Columbine High School video game.  In the game, players are cast as a hybridization of the two aggressors from the real-life tragedy, and are instructed to buy weapons and approach the school.  They receive no moral feedback on the purchase of weapons.  Then, when they are presented with a fellow student member, or other individual on school grounds, the player’s only options are to kill the person who just approached them, or forfeit the game.  Most players choose to kill the individual with whom they are presented.  It is rumored that the only way to win this game is to kill every person on school grounds, but are players who win evil?

On the other hand, Sicart presents the type of situation that may be brought about by playing a game such as Mass Effect 3.  Games fitting into this second type “taunt players with ethical decision-making; understood as choosing between two or three options of varied ethical alignments, from good to neutral to evil” (Sicart, 2009).  Mass Effect presents these players with decisions like this through all three of the games in their series, with each subsequent game recording the saves from the past games and using those to determine the settings for the current game.  This means that players were led to believe that their decisions had repercussions in the world of the game, and that they did receive moral feedback.  However, as Sicart argues, “These types of ethical game designs are fundamentally flawed because their alleged ethical simulation is placed dominantly in the procedural gradient: ‘evil’ is not understood as a dominant semantic condition but a procedural one–it is a state in the machine.  Thus the ethical agents are not required to use their ethical values as agents” (Sicart, 2009).  This becomes painfully obvious in the ending of the game (*****MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!*****) when all of the choices the player makes in the game amount to which color explosion he or she will see when the universe drastically changes.  “It is then,” according to Sicart, “a process similar to the banality of evil concept: agents are deprived of their ethical capacities in favor of a procedural external system that will evaluate their choices” (Sicart, 2009) and code them into a colorful explosion of light that engulfs the Normandy.  So much for choice.

Sicart, M. The Banality of simulated evil. Ethics and information technology, 3, 191-202.

Are video games virtual reality?

Phillip Brey, in his study Virtual Reality and Computer Simulation, argues that virtual reality is made up of four components: a virtual world, immersion, sensory feedback, and interactivity (Brey, 2008).  A virtual world, according to Brey “is a description of a collection of objects in a space and rules and relationships governing these objects.  In virtual reality systems, such virtual worlds are generated by a computer,” (Brey, 2008).  He defines immersion as “the sensation of being present in an environment, rather than just observing an environment from the outside,” (Brey, 2008).  “Sensory feedback,” Brey says, “is the selective provision of sensory data about the environment based on user input.  The actions and position of the user provide a perspective on reality and determine what sensory feedback is given,” (Brey, 2008).  And “interactivity, finally, is the responsiveness of the virtual world to user actions.  Interactivity includes the ability to navigate virtual worlds and to interact with objects, characters, and places,” (Brey, 2008).

There are also multiple definitions of virtual reality.  The narrower definition of the two “would only define fully immersive and fully interactive virtual environments as VR,” (Brey, 2008). Under this definition, most commercial video games would not be categorized as virtual reality.  There is, however, “a broader definition of virtual reality” which Brey defines “as a three-dimensional interactive computer-generated environment that incorporates a first-person perspective.  This definition includes both immersive and non-immersive (screen-based) forms of VR” (Brey, 2008).

However, I feel as if these definitions are both too narrow to encompass commercial video games which I see as virtual reality.  For instance, World of Warcraft is played in the third person, but it is still 3-D, immersive, interactive, and computer-generated.  It holds players’ interest in the story line, and can be completely immersive for players, to the extent that they lose touch with the outside world, forgetting to eat or sleep, and forgoing relationships with people in the tangible world.  Just because the first-person aspect of the definition may be missing, I still feel it is appropriate to call WoW virtual reality.

I therefore propose a third, more broad definition.  In my opinion, virtual reality should be defined as something computer-generated with an immersive, interactive virtual world.  this would encompass video games, so by my definition, video games are virtual reality.

Brey, P. (2008). Virtual reality and computer simulation. Himma and Tavani, 361-384.

Which is the best state for playing Skyrim?

Fus-Rhode Island!!!!!!

But seriously, I have found a site that is more efficient and easy to use than Citation Machine for computer-generated, perfect APA citations.

It’s called Knight Cite, and here is the link to their APA-Style form:

Happy citing, enjoy the APA Citation Master badge, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

For all you Mad Men fans in EDUC 222

This is a ridiculously cool Flash game.

It’s an NES-Style game version of Mad Men, with 3 alternate endings, and opportunities for you, the viewer, to make decisions!  It’s got some humor in it, along with the drama and cut throat culture that we Mad Men fans know and love.

You can find the game here.