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.
Looking on back on the various topics I discussed in my Game Logs, I am actually surprised by the lack of constant themes that tie my logs together. I find it pretty impressive that the games I chose were able to spawn unique topics of conversation that did not overlap with each other, especially when considering the … Continue reading Game Log #11 (Reflection): Summing it All Up →
Looking on back on the various topics I discussed in my Game Logs, I am actually surprised by the lack of constant themes that tie my logs together. I find it pretty impressive that the games I chose were able to spawn unique topics of conversation that did not overlap with each other, especially when considering the fact that one of my games was Ratchet and Clank (not exactly a work renowned for its intellectual musings). There are some notable similarities, however, between some of the topics I discuss in my posts and posts authored by other members of the class. While on a base level this is perhaps not the most earth-shattering revelation, given the fact that as a group we studied the same topics and read many of the same assignments, I do find it interesting the Game Logs of my classmates actually serve to support some of my arguments and suggest that my posts were not simply incoherent ramblings.
For instance, Patrick’s post on death in Infinity Blade III relates to the concept of death in games that I discuss in Game Log #10, specifically in how we both explore how games can use death as a mechanic that ultimately leads to the development of a player’s skill. While Patrick tends to focus more on how this mechanic assisted his immersion in the gameplay, we both come to similar conclusions that death does not always act as a simple punishment for the player. Instead, it can provide a player with greater knowledge, skill, and power that will assist their next attempt. Another one of Patrick’s posts discusses the definition of a casual game in a way that mirrors my thoughts in Game Log #5, in that we both played iPhone games that defied the simplistic tropes tied to most mobile experiences. Several posts also discuss race in a manner that reflects some of the discussion I attempt to carry out in Game Log #6. Sam’s mention of potentially unintentional racial undertones in the intro of Grand Theft Auto V and Desmond’s exploration of Arab representation in Metal Gear Solid V point to the sort of conclusions I make concerning the depiction of Lee’s character in The Walking Dead.
I found Violet’s take on The Last of Us to be particularly intriguing. While her analysis tends to center around feminist critique, it also shares some interesting parallels to the popularity of zombie media I discuss in Game Log #7. I argue throughout my post that the recent decline in zombie games and the continued popularity of The Walking Dead can be attributed to a lack of public interest in the same old shoot-em-up gameplay that has characterized zombie games for years. The personal, human issues discussed in The Walking Dead are at the forefront of its appeal, with the apocalypse setting eventually fading into the background. I found it interesting that Violet’s distain for The Last of Us’ inability to accomplish anything interesting with its protagonists’ relationship resulted in her calling the game “another tired hyper-masculine experience.”
I am satisfied with the similarities that cross between my posts and the posts of my peers, as they allow me to fill in the gaps where my Game Logs fail to speak to each other. If I had to find a significant similarity that exists between two of my blogs, however, I would have to point to the personal anecdotes I use in Game Log #3’s discussion of Bioshock’s music and the gameplay of Halo I mention in Game Log #10. In both of these instances I used memories of my old gaming days that I had not thought of in years in order to prove my points. In writing Game Logs about them, I was able to determine what it was about these memories that made them so special to me in the first place. This was certainly an educational and valuable experience, as I was able to greater contextualize the joy I felt playing Bioshock and Halo for the first time all those years ago.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead is not a game that overtly discusses racial issues throughout the course of its narrative. While the game’s main protagonist, Lee, is African-American, this is a fact that largely goes unmentioned by the other characters he interacts with in his story. Racial undertones are on display in The Walking Dead from its opening moments, however, … Continue reading Game Log #6 (The Walking Dead): Race and Expectations →
Telltale’s The Walking Dead is not a game that overtly discusses racial issues throughout the course of its narrative. While the game’s main protagonist, Lee, is African-American, this is a fact that largely goes unmentioned by the other characters he interacts with in his story. Racial undertones are on display in The Walking Dead from its opening moments, however, and are largely utilized by the game’s developers in order to subvert the player’s expectations.
As the game begins, the player is introduced to Lee as he sits in the back of a police cruiser on the way to jail. Though it is not revealed until later in the story that he is being hauled away for the murder of a man that was sleeping with his wife, The Walking Dead still situates Lee in a position that fits with the sort of stereotypical position one would find an African-American character in modern media. Running immediately counter to this, however, the player can learn through conversation that Lee previously held a job as a professor at the University of Georgia, a position in life that runs counter to the standard, base criminality the player intially expects of Lee. From these opening moments, The Walking Dead exploits the player’s expectations about race and directly subverts them, foreshadowing the unexpected nature of events to come. As if to answer this calling for the unforeseen, moments later the police car hits a zombie and runs off the road, setting the game’s story in motion. Ultimately, The Walking Dead relies on these unspoken racial themes and biases in order to establish its tone.
Lee’s backstory as a murderer is not one that I personally have a problem with. In fact, I would guess that the developers gave Lee this portion of his backstory as a way to make his transition into zombie-slaying survivor a bit more believable (Lee does, after all, shoot a zombie in the head with a shotgun shortly after the police car crashes). His role as a murderer also has the potential to cause narrative conflict as Lee is forced to defend his relationship with Clementine, a young girl that he takes under his wing at the story’s outset. In this way, Lee’s murderer backstory creates a reason for the player to lie to other characters, causing tensions later on as more life-and-death situations present themselves. Furthermore, the murder that Lee commits is “sympathetic” in a way, fueled by a relatable passionate hatred for a man sleeping with his wife. As far as murders go, Lee’s is on the more understandable side, which prevents him avoid complete alienation from the player.
I cannot help but think, however, of the class discussion we had concerning race in video games. Specifically, I am reminded of the piece we read on race and video games by Anna Everett and S. Craig Watkins that discusses the ability of games to express racial bias. The article puts forth the idea that games can act as learning spaces, and so they have the potential to perpetuate ideas of racial bias and otherness through the regular utilization of stereotypes. While Everett and Watkins heavily rely on examples like Grand Theft Auto that include overt racial themes, I do see some parallels between the argument posited by the article and the racial undertones of The Walking Dead. While Lee may be a college professor, of course he is also a murderer. It is as if this typical racial trope was unavoidable given his African-American identity. As I have expressed above, I do think that Lee’s violent backstory is incredibly important to the game’s narrative and I do not consider it to be a poor choice on the part of the developers. However, I do think that it warrants consideration that Lee is characterized as a murderer despite all of the elements of his character that run counter to stereotypes. While I certainly do not think that this was done by the developers with any sort of ill intent, it is interesting that the game’s attempt to give Lee depth ultimately falls in with racial cliches that accomplish the opposite.
I played Telltale’s The Walking Dead on my iPhone. Despite the connotations that typically surround mobile games, The Walking Dead is anything but a simplistic, time-wasting experience. Instead, the game functions as a sort of next-generation choose your own adventure, with the player’s decisions and relationships with in-game characters shaping the course of the story. Beyond this, actual gameplay … Continue reading Game Log #5 (The Walking Dead): Is This a Mobile Game? →
I played Telltale’s The Walking Dead on my iPhone. Despite the connotations that typically surround mobile games, The Walking Dead is anything but a simplistic, time-wasting experience. Instead, the game functions as a sort of next-generation choose your own adventure, with the player’s decisions and relationships with in-game characters shaping the course of the story. Beyond this, actual gameplay is limited to occasional swipes to navigate and interact, and The Walking Dead ends up sharing more similarities with a movie than it does with anything else. It even progresses in a series of episodes in the spirit of The Walking Dead television program on AMC.
Is The Walking Dead a mobile game? Intially, I would have to say that no, it is not a purely “mobile game.” While I played it on a mobile device and had the ability to be physically mobile while I played, its length and price run counter to the short and sweet characteristics typical to most iPhone games (I recognize that countless hours can be poured into certain mobile games, but I am referring to how many of these games are designed to be played in short, incremental sessions in moments of boredom). At a length of 5 episodes and a 22 dollar price tag to purchase all the installments in a bundle, the The Walking Dead certainly resembles a full-fledged game experience that one would find on a PC or a console. This is due to the fact that the game was made for these platforms along with the iPhone version that I played.
On the other hand, I also have trouble defining The Walking Dead as a purely console or PC game. The fact remains that I did play it on a mobile device. While I occasionally played it in long stints, I also used it as a time killer just as I would utilize Angry Birds or Bloons Tower Defense, with some of my gaming sessions admittedly occurring during visits to the restroom. The mobile version of The Walking Dead also has an in-app purchase system for acquiring the different episodes, and I will profess that this turned me off from playing beyond the first episode. In-app purchases tend to push me away from continuing to play a game as I feel as though I am missing part of the experience due to a paywall. The reaction I had to The Walking Dead was similar to ones I have had to countless pay-to-win apps that I have downloaded and quickly deleted in the past.
So the question remains: is The Walking Dead a mobile game? I would have to conclude that in this case, there is not a real distinction to be made. In the same way that viewing a film on a phone may not be as “full” an experience, will lesser visuals and sound, the film can still be watched on the device regardless. The movie, at its core (title, dialogue, plot etc..), remains the same movie regardless of the screen it is watched on. I think this is an effective way of thinking of The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead treads the line between console and mobile categories, but in this case there does not seem to be any reason to make a distinction. Telltale interactive even designed The Walking Dead with an engine specifically designed for multi-platform compatibility, and I think it is safe to assume that to them, the game was never strictly meant for one platform over another. To the developers, multiple platforms ensured maximum players and profit.
While I understand this may not be the most revolutionary of conclusions to make about the game, the fact remains that The Walking Dead is neither a console nor a mobile game. It’s both.