Creativity in videogames enables self-expression (which looks the same, anyways)

In “All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games,” Anita Sarkeesian critiques videogame designers for relying on the same body type for female characters, but I found Second Life to not be much different. Even when players are able to fully customize their characters, in my one hour of game play, I found only […]

In “All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games,” Anita Sarkeesian critiques videogame designers for relying on the same body type for female characters, but I found Second Life to not be much different. Even when players are able to fully customize their characters, in my one hour of game play, I found only one female avatar that had body dimensions different than the norm.

No matter who is designing an avatar for a videogame, Sarkeesian’s argument fails to consider the magic circle that exists in videogames. People use the videogame environment to portray their “projective” identity. She considers this default, slender-shaped woman avatar a “limitation to creativity.” I think players in Second Life take advantage of the opportunity to be creative in this 3D environment to explore an identity that does not have to be one of their own.

The only time I felt like my personal freedom of identity was threatened was from chatting with a male character. He started to comment on my virtual appearance. At this point, I had not personalized my avatar at all. He said I would look better, with a different hairstyle and a smaller head. To my surprise, he sent me packages of fully customized women avatars. You can put these ‘outfits’ on, and your clothes, accessories, and even height will change. This relationship of exchanging and controlling my physical characteristics was a learning experience, but made me feel uncomfortable. The power dynamic was clear; he could customize me or any other character in whatever way he pleased. The appearance of my avatar became “playable,” and I myself became a sexualized trope in his gameplay. Videogames are spaces where agency can be isolated, shared, manipulated, or threatened.

 

ReferenceS:

Anita Sarkeesian, “All the Slender Women: Body Diversity in Video Games” (2016). See https://feministfrequency.com/video/all-the-slender-ladies-body-diversity-in-video-games/

So Close Yet So Far

I put 25 hours in Factorio and I bought it expecting to hate it. It read like a slow rip off of Minecraft with far too many pieces and complexities that I would never understand. Yet that’s what I loved about the game. There were all of these things I hadn’t built yet and I … Continue reading “So Close Yet So Far”

I put 25 hours in Factorio and I bought it expecting to hate it. It read like a slow rip off of Minecraft with far too many pieces and complexities that I would never understand. Yet that’s what I loved about the game. There were all of these things I hadn’t built yet and I would have to come back and plan ways to make them work. Failing and trying again was all part of it. The game’s complexity simply made it more rewarding.

I was very protective over my factory, always walling off sections and ensuring that my hard work wouldn’t got to waste due to an attack by the native monsters. The fact that I had created my world brought me closer to the game. It was my creation, and yet it was trying to beat me. The game’s NPC’s are all enemies and they will all try to destroy your buildings. This brought out real emotions because I had put so much my time into my machines. When they were broken it meant that I would have to rebuild them all over again. This repeat and try again style is rewarding to the patient player. To someone like me it is frustrating, yet sometimes fun.

My surprise and love for the game resulted from me being too obsessed with progress. The game shows you what you need to upgrade and how to build those items. Yet you have to build them and make machines that build them faster. My persistence may have been a good thing, but it only helped add to my addiction. I knew what I had to do to win, and that’s what makes it so tempting to play on. I had to devise plans and strategize, the gameplay itself is very minimalistic, yet it was so captivating. This to me is a result of the “So close, yet so far,” tactic that games use to draw you in. Things look very simple yet once you break them down they are complex and take time. Factorio was built off of this, and I loved it.

Problems of Identity in brain games

During the initial tutorial stage in which Lumosity accustoms you to the interface and gameplay, the game uses statistical data to compare you against other players in your age range. Your performance is represented on a bell curve. When you performed poorly, the game’s text remains “juicy” by directly rewarding your intent and ignoring the […]

During the initial tutorial stage in which Lumosity accustoms you to the interface and gameplay, the game uses statistical data to compare you against other players in your age range. Your performance is represented on a bell curve. When you performed poorly, the game’s text remains “juicy” by directly rewarding your intent and ignoring the game score. When I see that I have performed better than the majority, it was an ego boost and bar that was raised for myself. On the other hand, when I performed under the average, I was determined to better myself and more importantly, beat them. Once the tutorial is over, the game no longer compares you to other players, but instead measures your high scores and encourages you to be better than your ‘previous’ self. The design is meant to invoke competitive game play, and creates a difference experience when the competitor is oneself. This type of priming is intentional, and feeds into what James Paul Gee defines as the “projected identity.” This identity bridges the “real-world” identity with the “virtual” identity. According to James Paul Gee, the projective identity is to:

“project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character and seeing the virtual character as one’s own project in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspirations for what I want that character to be and become.” (page 55)

Lumosity continues to feed and prime my “projected identity” through a variety of ways. The juiciness is always encouraging of any progress that is made. When I don’t perform as well as I hope to, it never communicates that negatively. The explanations of games and their purpose prime me into believing that the game will help me develop a certain skill. Lumosity has the illusion of unmasking the ‘black box’, although I, as a player, have no idea how tapping on train tracks or swiping on the screen makes me a better multitasker.

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In my third blog post, I will discuss more in depth the effectiveness of these brain games and the role of the “projected identity” in Lumosity’s marketing and design.

 

References:

Gee, James Paul. 2003. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.