In a class where the assignment is to play video games, I was very interested to see what my classmates chose to play. And after reading through many of their blogs, a common theme among a lot of games, specifically action games, is that of immersion. And while I have played many games that would … Continue reading “An Analysis of Immersion in Games”
In a class where the assignment is to play video games, I was very interested to see what my classmates chose to play. And after reading through many of their blogs, a common theme among a lot of games, specifically action games, is that of immersion. And while I have played many games that would be considered immersive, I had never thought about why they were considered as such. Miso talks about immersion in his blog post about Thief and how one of the most important attributes of an immersive game is to make sure the game remain in the world of realism, as games played outside of this world tend to break the immersive experience (he uses a magical fireball not melting ice as a great example). Following up on this, Chris references to how some people prefer a first person perspective in Skyrim as it increase immersion. And while Skyrim does not thrive in terms of immersion due to its mythical setting and use of magic, the use of first person still allows for an immersive experience.
Going further, Jean Paul brings up Jamie Madigan and the “completeness of sensory information” and “cognitively demanding environments” act as a measure for immersion games. This thought really resonates with me, as while I play a game, part of the immersion comes from the details found within a game. The completeness of information hits home, as this is the feeling of being in the game world, seeing the game world and processing it as you would real life. Aaron also talks about Fallout 4’s immersive quality, and how the addition of real world connections, such as having a pet dog that you have to take care of, makes the game realistic. He also references Madigan, and her concept of the spatial presence of being inside a game create this immersive experience.
And lastly, as a counter to immersion, Samantha talks about how Britney Spears American Dream the company uses this idea of immersion as a way to promote its casualness. Instead of developing a world that promotes realism, it breaks the fourth wall often, calling upon jokes and ideas in the real world in an effort to keep it casual.
After reading all these posts and playing some of the games, I definitely feel the my understanding of the use of immersion in games is much more complete. Also, I found it especially interesting in reading about how games that aren’t exactly realistic attempt to model immersion. Games such as Skyrim are not realistic; however, they use concepts of immersion to create a better game play experience.
We spent a lot of time talking about gender and feminism in class, because of this I had a feeling that it would be a common topic to blog about. I was curious what my classmates would come up with in terms of games that addressed or failed to address this topic. In my mind I had … Continue reading “Final Game Log”
We spent a lot of time talking about gender and feminism in class, because of this I had a feeling that it would be a common topic to blog about. I was curious what my classmates would come up with in terms of games that addressed or failed to address this topic. In my mind I had already picked games such as GTA and Gone Home, which fit both sides of the spectrum for how they approach these two major subjects. I was reading through people’s blog posts, and found that Samantha, Emi, and Luke all wrote about misrepresentation of women in videogames. Sam Wrote about Grand Theft Auto, a game the, unsurprisingly, was a common topic in class and in our blogs. I agreed with most of what Sam wrote as GTA is well known for its objectification and misrepresentation of women. Emi chose to write about Bioshock which surprised me. I had never thought of Bioshock as a game that sells masculinity. Her post made me think more about Bioshock Infinite more than the original, which she wrote about. The “little sisters” are just little girls, yet in Bioshock Infinite you have a female follower that is very powerful and eventually changes the outcome of the game. Lastly in Luke’s post he wrote about a game I had never heard of called Broken Age. His analysis was investing especially his statement about how girl’s common role in most science fiction games. All of these were strong points that I hadn’t necessarily considered when playing through games. I typically, subconsciously, turn a blind a blind eye to this topic as I do not look forward while I play a game.
What surprised me the most about reading through people’s posts was the level of detail and range of discussion. People were writing about things ranging from Chris’ article on perspective within Skyrim to Jasmine’s post on Rhythm Heaven. I learned a lot and enjoyed scrolling through people’s blogs. Chris wrote about my favorite game of all time and yet he still noticed things that I had overlooked about the impact of changing perspective. Jasmine wrote about a game I had never even heard of, yet I still was interested in reading what patterns and ideas she had noticed in her play-throughs. Overall these blogs helped me learn more about the the gaming industry. I was able to see patterns across games and platforms. It helped me connect much of what we discussed throughout the year into the real world.
Throughout the semester, I found our unit on the portrayal of race and gender in videogames to be one of the most interesting topics we covered. In my previous exposure to videogames, I have always been more of a passive … Continue reading →
Throughout the semester, I found our unit on the portrayal of race and gender in videogames to be one of the most interesting topics we covered. In my previous exposure to videogames, I have always been more of a passive absorber of subliminal messages. I was never really aware of the problems with the decisions programmers make about race and gender until experiencing this unit. As such, many of my posts critiqued the portrayal of gender in the videogames I played, and I was extremely happy to see posts that did the same, or critiqued the portrayal of race in videogames.
I noticed that the majority of the games critiqued for their portrayals of race or gender by our class were big-budget, console games. Chris, points out the sexist lack of agency in the female characters of Skyrim, while Desmond points out the villainous and weak portrayal of Arab soldiers in Metal Gear Solid V. Sam critiques Grand Theft Auto for including the mechanic of easily obtaining a prostitute and sleeping with her, sexualizing the few female characters in an extremely successful game franchise.
I think that Sam really highlights the main question that everyone should be asking of the decision to sexualize females, give them no agency, or to portray race in certain ways: why include the mechanic? In a videogame the creators must code everything that happens, so no decision is made “just for the heck of it.” Even a game that attempts to break stereotypes like Paul claims The Walking Dead does still fall into racist assumptions.
I think that it is extremely important to engage with videogames so that we can learn the effects they have on society. Players must take note of the underlying assumptions found in games, so that they can then take note of the underlying sexist and racist assumptions that permeate our society. As Violet points out in her post, the assumption that only white, heterosexual males can make believably strong characters simply illustrates that society only values white heterosexual men.
The more people that notice this problem, the greater the chance will be that differences can be made. With my final project, I was inspired to make a game that works against these tropes thanks to my eyes being opened to them. As we teach people to draw attention to problems, we increase the chance that people will work to solve these problems. If we have more people inspired to engage with—and even make games that subvert—painful assumptions in videogames, we begin a path that can lead to society correcting these assumptions.
Skyrim allows the player to alternate between first person and third person perspectives almost instantaneously. Earlier in the semester we read Wolf’s article, Invented Space: Toward a Taxonomy of On- and Off-Screen Space in Video Games, which described the effect of a player’s perspective on the development of an interactive three-dimensional environment. In chapter 10, … Continue reading Gameplay in First and Third Person Perspectives in Skyrim→
Skyrim allows the player to alternate between first person and third person perspectives almost instantaneously. Earlier in the semester we read Wolf’s article, Invented Space: Toward a Taxonomy of On- and Off-Screen Space in Video Games, which described the effect of a player’s perspective on the development of an interactive three-dimensional environment. In chapter 10, Wolf describes how “the first player perspective increases the importance of off-screen space” because the player is now “within the game”. Placing the player within the game, takes away the ‘objective’ perspective of the third person. The player may be less aware of what is going on off screen. However, this perspective forces the player to be more aware of the game’s diegetic environment, even the elements they can’t see.
While I haven’t played enough to develop a preference for first or third person perspective while playing Skyrim, I did a quick google search to find what most players preferred. In summary, most players varied in how they used the first vs. third person perspective in the game. Often, players prefer the third person when in combat or exploring their environment. This perspective gives the player the ability to ‘search’ and identify elements in the environment better than in first person. If in first person where you are within the game, and an enemy comes at you from behind, you may be caught off guard. Disadvantaging the player in this situation. While navigating the environment, third person can be advantageous when searching a room, or cave so that you can notice multiple elements in the environment all at once and you are not limited by what the player is directly facing.
A few players said they preferred the first person perspective because they felt more immersion in the game. Some of them never switched between first and third person because they prefer the immersive qualities of the perspective. In a way, they may feel that playing in third person breaks them out of the Magic Circle sense that they have developed while playing in the first person. First person is also preferred when interacting intimately with the environment. For example, picking up alchemy sets and other tedious tasks that require the player to look at the object closely, or even shooting an arrow, which requires some precision.
Overall, the ability for players to choose their preferred gameplay perspective in Skyrim is an example of distinguishing the differences between Wolf’s on and off screen gameplay. The choice also allows players to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the different perspectives in different forms of gameplay within the same game.
 Mark J. P. Wolf. “Inventing Space: Toward a Taxonomy of On- and Off-Screen Space in Video Games.” Film Quarterly 51, no. 1 (1997): 11-23. doi:10.2307/1213527.
Sophie Prell writes about sexism in Skyrim and the failure of the developers of Skyrim to take advantage of the huge platform that the game had back in 2011. Prell argues against tropes similar to the ones found in Anita Sarkesian’s Feminist Frequency videos we watched earlier in class. She finds the following tropes prominent … Continue reading Breaking the Industry Model of Sexism→
Sophie Prell writes about sexism in Skyrim and the failure of the developers of Skyrim to take advantage of the huge platform that the game had back in 2011. Prell argues against tropes similar to the ones found in Anita Sarkesian’s Feminist Frequency videos we watched earlier in class. She finds the following tropes prominent in the gaming industry that are featured in Skyrim:
Women are not the heroes. They are designed to highlight form over function. They are sidekicks and lovers, but not heroes.
Women are not to advertise games, even if the game features customizable player-characters. The predominantly male consumer can only identify with another of his sex, so women do not represent the games in the public eye.
Women do not lead the hero. Men can make demands of the hero or lead them, but a woman may only ask for help.
Women are not in a position of power or respect. If both king and queen sit before you, each with seemingly equal power over their citizens, it is to the king you will speak.
Many of these points are similar to the prominent damsel in distress storyline. While women are not directly in danger to be saved in most cases, they are given no agency in the game. The women in Skyrim do not play roles that contradict the traditional trope that women lack power and a vital role in the story.
While we have discussed many of these ideas previously, it is interesting how video games continue to disregard feminist progress occurring in society today. The sexist content is consistently challenged, but games continue to pump out the successful model games that disregard respect and proper portrayal of women in general. At some point the link between successful models and the embedded insulting tropes will need to break. Perhaps it will take another groundbreaking game such as Skyrim that challenges the traditional mold. It seems Prell was disappointed with how Skyrim did not take advantage of its position at the time, and she would agree that another game that reverses many of the traditional tropes would be needed to break the industry model.
 Prell, Sophie. “Studying Sexism in Skyrim.” Destructoid. January 17, 2012. https://www.destructoid.com/studying-sexism-with-skyrim-fus-ro-va-gina–219799.phtml.
In his article, “Genre Trouble,” Espen Aarseth argues that games “focus on self-mastery and exploration of the external world, not exploration of interpersonal relationships.” He makes exceptions for multi-player games and those where the player is god-like. However, Dragon Age: Origins falls into neither of these, but defies the second part of Aarseth’s claim, for…
In his article, “Genre Trouble,” Espen Aarseth argues that games “focus on self-mastery and exploration of the external world, not exploration of interpersonal relationships.” He makes exceptions for multi-player games and those where the player is god-like. However, Dragon Age: Origins falls into neither of these, but defies the second part of Aarseth’s claim, for interpersonal relationships play a key role in the progress of the game.
Players can converse with their companions (and anyone they meet) at will, and those conversations change and develop as the game progresses. Companions gain approval when the player make decisions they agree with, and disapproval when they disagree with the player’s actions. As a result, they either open up to the player, or shut them out. If a player gains high enough approval, they can unlock the companion’s personal quests, providing them with more gameplay material. If their approval falls too low however, the companion may opt to leave the party and the player loses them forever. While the player can monitor approval (and thus avoid these options) certain decisions automatically cause a companion to leave. In other words, companions act as independent people, with their own opinions and actions.
Depending on the answer the player chooses, the character will react differently.
Additionally, one of the companion’s key roles is how their presence alters the options of gameplay. For example, when in the village of Lothering, if the player tries to free an imprisoned man without high enough persuasion, the woman in charge will refuse, and thus he cannot be unlocked as a companion. However, if you happen to bring along Leliana (another companion), the player automatically gets permission to free the man.
The imprisoned man can only be released from the cage (and join the party) if certain decisions are made.
Aarseth would likely argue that these moments fall more under film, rather than his notion of “simulation” which makes games different from other media. Yet, during these “cut-scenes,” the player still gets to choose dialogue options, which the companions then react to accordingly. The player simulates speaking. Granted, Aarseth wrote his article several years before Dragon Age: Origins, and other games like it had hit the shelves. Back then the capacity of choice in games was usually limited to “yes” and “no” answers for accepting quests, or featured dialogue answers that had no real effect on the characters spoken to. However, nowadays, his argument no longer stands as games like Dragon Age, Skyrim, and others have shown.