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/

When casual games become ‘fruitful’

Lumosity is marketed as a game that was co-designed by game designers and scientists to improve the player’s cognitive functions. This simple wording already forms the basis of their conditioning, but it definitely works. The app has a mini-game that opens explaining what cognitive function it strengthens. The games are ‘scientifically’ broken down into five […]

Lumosity is marketed as a game that was co-designed by game designers and scientists to improve the player’s cognitive functions. This simple wording already forms the basis of their conditioning, but it definitely works.

lumosity-home-page-image-11

The app has a mini-game that opens explaining what cognitive function it strengthens. The games are ‘scientifically’ broken down into five different modes: velocity, flexibility, resolution of clues, attention, and memory. I play each game with these goals in mind (sometimes not always understanding exactly how the mini-game is designed for these goals). The game mechanics are simple, which usually require just a touch to the screen. Because the game rules themselves are sometimes difficult to grasp the first time, Lumosity does a great job at scaffolding with short, easy tutorials. When I get combos or correct answers, the sounds are pleasant. When I mess up, the game makes an unpleasant, yet gentle sound and sometimes allows the player to correct their error. Failure is just as accepted as it is in Lumosity as it is in any other game. The game is so ‘juicy’ with encouraging text after each game, lots of in- and out-of-game compliments, no matter how well or bad I performed.

As a response to the exclusivity of hardcore games, Jesper Juul has defined casual games as a game for all ages that have the following five characteristics: fiction, usability, interruptibility, difficulty, and ‘juiciness.’ In the table below, I will judge Lumosity according to Juul’s characteristics for a casual game.

Doesn't he just look so much smarter?

Doesn’t he just look so much smarter?

 

References:

Jesper Juul, A Casual Revolution, chapter 2