Category Archives: Nardi

videogames, the humanities and judgment

As we move toward the end of course, it is time for some summative thoughts. I suppose one of my real dislikes about English and the humanities in general is our tendency to make summary judgments about issues. It is an odd contradiction of sorts. On the one hand, we are more than willingly, perhaps even obligated by our discipline, to recognize the uncertainty of interpretation; we will say that a poem or novel or film or painting could mean different things to different people (within reason of course). In part, this keeps us in business. Otherwise the meaning of artistic works could be settled once and for all! On the other hand, we are equally willing to pass judgments that we hold to be as certain as we deem our interpretations to be uncertain. We are quick to say this or that is good or bad, art or not art, racist or sexist, or something.

It is safe to say that videogames produce aesthetic experiences in humans (setting aside any judgment on the quality of those experiences) and that they circulate sociopolitical/cultural/ideological values (setting aside any judgment on those values).We may say the same of any artistic work, indeed any object that humans participated in making. These are the objects we tend to study across the humanities. In this respect they are as worthy of study as object.

However, there’s another glitch. Our traditional methods don’t allow us to study everything. Conventionally we have decided to study those things that we think are the “best” (another judgment): Shakespeare, for example. 40 years ago, we decided that what we had thought of as best was culturally biased (i.e. dead white guys), so we diversified our selection. But we didn’t get rid of the idea that we should study what was best; we just tried to shift our notion of what “best” meant. Alongside this move, we also started to pay more attention to pop culture (i.e. what wasn’t “best”) and the historical contexts of our objects (which also meant studying material that wasn’t “best” but could inform our understanding of the best objects).

I suppose that studying videogames could fit alongside pop cultural studies of popular movies, television, genre fiction, and so on. But I don’t see that as the context in a class on new media. Instead, our more general purpose is to investigate the cultural operation of emerging communications technologies: videogames just happens to be the example. Clearly we make judgments about videogames from video game reviews to studies on their psychological effects. But as a scholar I’m not interested in making those judgments myself; I am interested in understanding how those judgments are made. That is, I am interested in the mechanisms.

How do videogames produce aesthetic experiences? When we look at McGonigal or Galloway we get some answers to that question. We can consider human psychology or we might look at game mechanics, at gamic action as Galloway terms it. How do videogames circulate social values? Bogost offers us a plethora of different ways this happens. Nardi goes in depth into a single game to explore its social function.

So I ask you: what can we learn from studying videogames as humanists? How might emerging media shift our understanding of the purposes and methods of the humanities (purposes and methods invented and designed to operate in a print culture)?

A Second Thought on Gender- RPGs

Don’t want to get redundant, but something else occurred to me after the kombat lingerie post earlier. I have not played much WoW, but I do know some of the games I’ve been playing of late show remarkable gender equality.

Just as Nardi mentioned that WoW had things she thought of as feminine, e.g. “candles and flowers… domestic coziness” (173),  there seem to be things in games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect attract all sorts of players.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim was also an interesting game. The player can be any one of several races, and gender matters little. Among my save, I have a sneaky Khajit dude and a very magical high elf woman. Gender in games like that doesn’t seem to matter too much, and allows for a lot of freedom. As Nardi put it, “Collecting herbs, cooking,” and things like potion making are “not gender marked” in Skyrim, just like similar activities in WoW (172).

Nardi also mentions that “Female players nearly always choose female characters in World of Warcraft” (172). Interestingly enough, with the two Bioware series, Mass Effect and Dragon Age (I have only played Dragon Age 2 myself,) I find this is not necessarily the case. I have played both genders in both games, and the different interactions each gender gets are interesting. Each story is unique.

I have heard of males playing only the affectionately named Femshep in ME 1-3 because they disliked things about Male Shepard… for instance, his voice acting. I have heard of females playing both genders in both games as well, mostly from other players I’ve met online.

Romances and other interactions with squadmates (ME’s Paragon/Renegade system) seem to make each story very different, and each gender can romance various squadmates in various games, and each gender plays up the Paragon/Renegade responses a little differently. My personal favorite romance, just for the laughs I had during the playthrough, was Femshep with fan favorite Garrus, which included this hilarious dance number in one of the DLCs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kip1-wkl28

Dragon Age II was also filled with comical banter and various romance-able squadmates.

Online with ME3’s multiplayer, gender flexibility is a must. If a team runs biotics, they might all be male players using the all-female race, the Asari.  Or in games with women playing, which is pretty common for this game, sometimes the girls play males and the guys play females- it’s all about the abilities and which ones a player likes using. It’s funny how it works out like that rather frequently.

The alien races don’t seem to discriminate between gender much at all, either. Turian females fight in the military right alongside turian males, just as the humans do. The Asari have a formidable military force themselves. The male pilot falls in love with a robotic female that is far more adept with most weapons than he is.

It’s games like these that are able to tell solid stories and cross gender lines so fluidly that I believe are going to make the future of gaming. Bioware’s fanbase consists solidly of both genders, and their ability to bridge the gap that competitive, all-male games have not been able to has made a difference far and wide, and made both games into global phenomenons that promote equality of genders.

“Kombat Lingerie” and Game Cotumes

Bonnie Nardi’s chapter on gender was evidently of interest to quite a few people in the course. I am no different, I guess.  This post will mainly be focusing on the “kombat lingerie” that Nardi’s cites from Fron et al. 2007 study (166) and the world of male-centered games, along with the so-called “boys’ treehouse” talk.

Call of Duty, Halo, and many other shooters, all depict the “narratives of warfare, anti-terrorism… combat” and so on that Fullerton et al. were quoted mentioning on page 167. These games have always been male domain, as I have seen them. Some girls play them, yes, but there are also a lot of real soldiers who play. Grunts, teenage boys who don’t know how to hold their tongues, and all sorts of men play those games normally. The soldiers in game are all men. The swearing in the game is heavy, just like when real soldiers talk in combat situations. Just look at Black Hawk Down or Jarheads- fairly accurate movies, from what I’ve heard.

Likewise, there is only one “Kombat” that I know of that is spelled with a K, and it’s Mortal. So how did that derogatory  “kombat lingerie” get its start? It is a trend I have seen mainly in fighting games, though MK is not the first, nor will it be the last to feature over-the-top sexualizations of female characters.  I’d have to say Dead or Alive sets the bar when it comes to sexism in games- all of the girls have bikini secondary and DLC costumes, and of course, all of the girls are impossibly beautiful. Not to mention the off-shoot farce of the series, DOA Xtreme, which was basically just a peep-show sort of game with a bunch of bouncing boobs, more bikinis, and volleyball matches on sun-soaked beaches. Note: there was a sequel to the first game.

The Soul Calibur series has oversexualized females (Ivy is an excellent example), but it has some women that aren’t oversexualized (Hilde), and some may argue that these figures characterize themselves, and that their outfits are a product of their characters, as in, its “who they are.” The same can be said for games like Tekken, an possibly Street Fighter, the latter being notably more modest.

Some other offshoots of DOA have been made, and quite possibly the worst violator on the list is Rumble Roses, which was also followed up by a sequel. Basically, this was an all-girl wrestling game featuring the best of DOA Xtreme’s minigames and bouncing boobs paired up with World Wrestling Entertainment’s idea of the Bra and Panties match. The second game featured a photo mode that once again channels peep shows, as the girls could assume all sorts of different poses with various costumes- in a certain match type, the loser would be forced to do a humiliating “penalty action,” during which the player could watch and move around camera angles. Some characters were also raunchy sexualized archetypes- a nurse, a cowgirl, a schoolteacher, and so on.

Mortal Kombat, with its 9th installment in 2011, featured all the violence men loved, combined with super-sexy female ninjas. Some of the girls wore what was basically a single-width of jumprope around themselves, and most if not all had fully exposed backsides.

Heck, one of the sexy ninjas was powered by blood. If you’re not squeamish, you may wish to check Youtube for Skarlet’s MK9 fatalities. Sexiness and blood come together in a rather gruesome way through her. Another character, Mileena, has an alternate costume made of only a couple bandages that renders her basically naked. After attaining this, the player gets an achievement/trophy, reading: “Best. Alternate. Ever.”

All this is to say that, even looking at costumes alone, there are a large number of games that try quite hard to reinforce male dominance in video games. As Nardi mentions, there are a great deal of turn-offs for women when it comes to games, and the way many of the female characters are dressed almost encourages men to talk down to any girl who dares to play a game like MK. In the meantime, it also reinforces the “boys’ treehouse” sort of language and treatment of female gamers as sort second rate to men.

My life as a College Student

After reading everyones posts and the text, it’s nice to get a general sense of everyone’s interpretation of specifically game addiction. Also it was satisfying to see video games be treated so professionals as to be researched extensively. Particularly Nardi’s theories, which really gave me an interesting look at many different aspects of our culture.

I really attract towards addiction, because my mom always told me I was addicted when I was younger. It’s cool that everyone else in class is talking about addiction as well. I think it’s a very interesting topic to have discussions about. In my own opinion there is nothing wrong with every once in a while playing a game for an extended period of time. I get it, games are fun, and even…addicting. Games are a release for many, same as one might go for a run, or smoke a cigarette. But like both of those, too much of a good thing can be harmful to you. Yes, even running too much can hurt you. 

Having said that, when does excessive gaming become an addiction? When is enough enough? When should a user unplug and experience reality. But like in the book, some users create meaningful relationships over this platform. Otherwise unable to communicate with there friends unless playing the game. In that case, which is better for the gamer? A reality with no friends, or an alternate reality with tons of friends? One where you’re all magical warriors I might add.

I don’t think Video game addiction is a problem, but I do think video game addiction is an effect of an underlying problem. And when we look at games in a artistic manner, research theories like Nardi’s can really shine a new light on occurrences such as addiction  our very culture.

WoW….Addicted!

While reading chapter six, it really caught my attention.   I have a couple of friends who speak about playing World of Warcraft.  Needless to say, they have all of confessed how playing this game has made them very addicted to it.  This has made me think about the other video games that millions of Americans have become very addicted to playing.  The burning question that I have always wanted to know an answer to is, “Why are people so addicted to playing video games?”  I have always looked at video games as an escape from reality.  Sadly there are some people who do not love the life that they have.  Difficulties in life such as work, school or even bullying make facing everyday life hard for some individuals.  I’ve always seen the addiction that some games have is something that they have to escape the reality that they have to face on a daily basis.  Of course there are people who play games just to make the time pass, but what about the people who play for for multiple hours on end?  What seems to be the underlying dilemma that they face?  What are your thoughts on the situation?

Gender

Nardi has a chapter dedicated to the role that gender played in World of Warcraft, in which she explains how it was like a “Boy’s Tree House” (152). This chapter interested me as someone who has played many online multiplayer games but not WoW specifically. Nardi’s description of the environment as mainly male dominated should be no surprise to anyone, but if you don’t know a lot about online games or haven’t heard stories from your friends, then it might surprise you how rude people actually are to each other. I can’t really understand what it is about this game in particular that makes people act this way, but from my experience in other games, Nardi’s description makes player behavior in WoW sound very unique and over-the-top. Reading some of your comments and posts it seems a lot of you have played Call of Duty, so using that as an example, I’m sure those of you who have played know that players can be quite obnoxious and rude in chat, using their microphone. Call of Duty is a type of game that allows you to mute a player like this, and you can continue on playing your game without penalty. WoW is a different sort of game to my understanding, where team communication is important, and it’s very hard to play, at least at a competitive level, without communication with your teammates. This leads players to join guilds and talk to each other on voice communication servers such as Ventrillo, Teamspeak, or Raid Call. Anything can be said in these channels without any moderation by game developers, which gives players a freedom to be be as rude as they want. Most players I know in games like these find a group of friends to play with and avoid such confrontations by sticking within their own group. Nardi writes about one such person in this chapter:

“Mrs. Pain reported that her daughter refused to play:

  • [13:56] Mrs. Pain: my daughter tried playing but she thought the players were too rude
  • [13:56] Mrs. Pain: I have certain ppl [people] I play with
  • [13:56] Mrs. Pain: and being an adult I could handle myself” (155)

Specifically the players are rude to other female players, but i can’t figure out what it is that promotes this sort of behavior in this game. Nardi writes that this behavior isn’t nearly as present and certainly not as acceptable in-person, so I wonder if these players act that way even outside the game. If that’s the case then the person is just generally a rude individual, which we know some people just are that way, but then shouldn’t we see these people acting this way in-person more often? What specifically about this one game makes people so hostile, where as in others there’s much less hostility?

There is a certain freedom granted in language for online games, and some things that aren’t really acceptable to say in public places are commonplace here, but there has to be a spot where the line is drawn and is considered going too far. Nardi seems to have a bit of an “Old-Fashioned” view of things in that she seems to say that saying curse words in the company of females is an unacceptable thing to do. I think that using them targeting females is generally unacceptable, but more accepted towards males (in a joking manner I mean). I personally view females as any other person however. What I mean by this is that you learn to kind of curb what you say to certain people based on the knowledge of them that you gain by getting to know them. Most females I know however have no problem with cursing, and some do it even more than I do. Nardi does make a point though when she says the type of words used are different, and I have to agree that I’ve never once heard a female call someone a “homo” (although even in males I haven’t heard this word used in a derogatory manner since middle school). Males generally do use different jokes and different language when conversing with other males, but this is not a game specific occurrence, and more a societal norm. Overall I’d say that gaming has a kind of culture to it that’s all its own, and you can’t compare it to everyday activities in the ways that Nardi does. This culture however, does not include the berating of females as a universally accepted practice.

 

Addiction to Gaming

Many facets of addicting gaming elements plague the world of gaming and there are many theories that analyze this trend in today’s societies. Gaming can be separated into multiple genres, each with their own addictive qualities. For instance, the addiction factor in World of Warcraft is the creation of an alternate reality with it’s own social interactions. The alternate reality featured in this MMORPG has spawned an entire community and culture with many participants often preferring interactions through a digital frame as compared to a real life experience. This departure from the reality to the comforting embrace of the digital is detrimental to modern day society.

In Philip Zimbardo’s “The demise of guys?” he mentions the science behind the oversaturation of digital media in our modern world. Zimbardo believes that we are entering a new era, with a “…new fear of intimacy. Intimacy means physical, emotional connection with somebody else.” This can very evidently be seen in our cell phone addiction, where upon entering a restaurant some people bury their faces in their phones, hungry for new digital media.

Mobile games and their addictive qualities aren’t as often tackled as a problem as compared with more “hardcore” games like World of Warcraft. Games on a mobile platform often have a different addictive quality as compared to the reality/alternate concept model. For mobile games, their addiction lies in a different type of social gratification. Candy Crush, one of the most addictive games on a mobile platform, follows the concept of hedonic adaptation and gambler’s fallacy. In Anthony Carboni’s video regarding the addictive qualities of Candy Crush, he states that Candy Crush uses hedonic adaptation to appeal to a gamer’s desire to win, while the gambler’s fallacy falsely appeals to a gamers skill. These two concepts combined created one of the most addictive games on the mobile market.

The combination of a fear of intimacy with the self gratification available from games like Candy Crush, often create quiet dinner settings, where diners are often absorbed in their own successes rather than try to create new ones with other people. In this matter, additive games like World of Warcraft definitely proves to be a better overall environment for gamers. World of Warcraft, gives the player a sense of community and social interaction, albeit a digital one, while games like Candy Crush breeds the idea that internal and self gratification is more appealing. Although more research is focused on the addictive qualities in MMORPG games, a bigger danger lies with the games that promote isolation.

To prevent this isolated social concept idea, it is a good idea to have dinner tables be mobile free zones, where the first one to touch their phones have to pay the bill. It’s sad to say it saves me a lot of money.

http://www.ted.com/talks/zimchallenge/transcript#t-62984