Tag Archives: Video Games

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Obsessed Culture


-Emily Fraysse

I play “Magic: The Gathering,” have a collection of all the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings DVDs, display a Where the Wild Things Are poster, read graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen, and watch anime films like Spirited Away.

I believe that we are not only the “lost culture” in the ways of being glued to our cell phones and iPods, but that we are “lost” in the realm of these make-believe lands, characters, and stories. I find that today more people are open to reading graphic novels and comics, and are obsessed with pop culture, horror, sci-fi, anime, gaming, film, and fantasy in general. While the range of fantasy literature is vast, it usually involves a type of magic in an imaginary world and plays out stereotypes like clever thieves, wizards, dangerous monsters, and dark threats. The gaming industry has contributed to pop culture as well as advancing videogame technology. This has had a sociological, psychological, and cultural impact on the individuals who play, as well as the rest of civilization.

Men and women alike gather at Comic Cons around the world, dressed to the nines in homemade or store-bought costumes of sci-fi or fantasy characters. For that day, they get to look and live like their obsession or merely a favored individual.  Just as Michelangelo sculpted his iconic, muscular statue of David, many of the characters seen in these genres epitomize what the male and female bodies are supposed to look like. The men tend to look built, fit, and agile, while the women tend to look beautiful, thin, and wear revealing clothing.

Much of fantasy-themed literature and gaming emphasizes the male ideals of heroism, responsibility, and power. In the popular game Skyrim, the hero spends his or her time running around a vast world, going on daunting quests, collecting weapons, improving skills, and battling demonic animals in order to protect the relatively peaceful community that they live in. The same ideals are seen in J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of the Ring or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The lands are spectacular, imaginative works of splendid beauty like ancient forests, forgotten caves, and little villages. Usually, years of thought and grueling work goes into them, as seen in the film The Indie Game, which highlights the history of gaming, the tedious process that gaming developers go through, and the effect that it has on consumers.

“It’s not just a game,” Phil Fish, creator of the game Fez, said in the film. “I’m so closely attached to it. This is my identity.” His game sold 20,000 units the first day it debuted and a year later hit the 200,000 mark.

In a society that constantly seems to be dealing with an overwhelming amount of unsolved problems and issues, gaming allows the user an escape to become a part of a different world. Despite the ideals of grandeur that the quirky tales and characters play out, the underlying grand themes are displayed in a sort of juvenile and child-like tenor. It is almost like regular gamers should be diagnosed with the Peter Pan effect—they reach out to these games to enter another world, where making a potion or combat have no serious consequence other than having the potion go wrong or losing a leg during the battle and grudgingly having to restart the game. But it also goes deeper than that. It is a way of communication, a relation with a character. Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, said his game was “making it was about ‘let me take my deepest flaws and vulnerabilities and put them in the game.’” And that was exactly what he did.

Image by Andy Simmons.

A few reasons why working in the games industry kind of sucks for women

-Eder Campuzano

Video games are a tricky business. Talk about Xboxes with anyone born before 1990 and the image that immediately comes to mind is of a bunch of twenty-somethings downing Rockstar energy drinks in front of a 52” HDTV fragging the hell out of each other in Call of Duty.

Unfortunately, that perception is alive and well within the industry, which is why feminists the world over flocked to the #1reasonwhy hashtag on Tuesday. Posts in this category detailed the trials and prejudices women in the industry face, whether they’re creating games or covering them for media outlets. The most impactful Tweets were posted by industry insiders: writers like Leigh Alexander tweeted that working in the games industry can be disheartening because “my male colleagues are allowed to occasionally be obnoxious, silly, immature, annoying, drunk. i’m (sic) not.”

Games designer Mattie Brice tweeted that “I had to make my own game in order to see someone like me as a main character.”

You couldn’t refresh the search results for #1reasonwhy fast enough on Tuesday. The stories posted seemed more like something you’d expect from an episode of Mad Men than contemporary accounts of life in one of the most profitable industries on the planet. But why is it so tough for women in the games business to be taken seriously?

Remember the bros chugging Rockstars and playing Call of Duty?

The aforementioned franchise breaks sales records every time a new annual installment arrives on store shelves. Its protagonists are gruff, stereotypical military men who blow shit up and spout cheesy one-liners while they chase gruff, stereotypical evildoers who plot to blow shit up and spout cheesy one-liners. In fact, most flagship franchises are cut from similar cloth. You need look no further than games like Gears of War, Uncharted, and Halo to see that the most popular franchises are anchored by archetypal men who like their explosions big, their women curvy and mysterious, and their guns loud.

Even Super Mario, the man who replaced Mickey Mouse as the most recognizable children’s character in the early ‘90s, is guilty of one-sided gender portrayals games. In the 25 years he’s graced American television screens, Princess Peach has saved him and his brother Luigi a grand total of—wait for it—one time. And that was in a spinoff title for the Nintendo DS. Heaven forbid that game to make it onto a console.

In the 12 main-series platformers the portly plumber has appeared in, Peach has been playable just once, a fact that becomes less and less forgivable with every new release of the New Super Mario Bros. series, which allow up to four players to share the screen. What’s wrong with having the princess join in on the action every once in awhile?

As much as gamers would like to think that the industry is making progress, it just isn’t happening on an acceptable scale. Games, by and large, are designed by men for men. Even the titles featuring female protagonists marginalize their stars. Remember Lara Croft’s enormous, um, assets? Or the Metroid series’ Samus Aran and her Zero Suit? We don’t even want to touch the Dead or Alive series of fighting games. Those developers invest more time in jiggle physics than it would take to tour the country twice over via unicycle.

But there’s hope. The same people posting #1reasonwhy also created the #1reasontobe hashtag, which encourages women to remain in the industry. Megan Patterson, technology editor for the Paper Droids blog, put it best: “b/c if you don’t, it will never change.”

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Image from the Tomb Raider press site, Tomb Raider Chronicles.

It's All Fun and Games Until Somebody Turns You into a Zombie

-Eder Campuzano

So there I was: I had just hopped off my bicycle outside of Knight Library with naught but one bullet in my pistol and the eerie sense that danger was just around the corner. If I let my guard down for one brief moment, terrible things could happen. One second of inattention and I’d soon be counted among the living dead.

If I was ambushed, I only had one shot. I had to make it count. So as soon as I hopped off the ol’ Comet Two-Sixty—so I’d named my bike—I was ready to pump some lead into the nearest zombie.

Okay, so maybe the only looming threat was the possibility of getting tagged by a kid with a bandana wrapped around his head. And I didn’t exactly have a handgun on me—it was a Nerf shooter. But I was still plenty scared.

We’ve all said it at one time or another: “Gee whiz, I sure wish life were more like a video game.” You may not have sounded like a 9-year-old from the ‘50s, but the sentiment is the same. Well, for one week a few of us got to live out the fantasy.

Did you encounter students with bandanas wrapped around their arms or heads? Then you bore witness to a game of Humans Vs. Zombies, my friend. The goal of the game was simple: survive at any and all costs. The game started with a handful of zombies. These were the kids who wore bandanas on their heads.

We humans wore the same bandanas around our arms. If you were tagged by a zombie, you became infected and, in time, joined the army of the dead. A strike with a Nerf bullet or a sock ball—it’s exactly what it sounds like—stunned zombies long enough for you to escape.

And so a select few of us were granted that ever-elusive wish every kid seeks. We were practically thrust into a zombie apocalypse for one week.

In true video game fashion, the Humans Vs. Zombies moderators mentioned that they’d hidden body armor cards—think of it as an extra life—throughout campus. And if previous encounters with zombies, werewolves and Koopas had taught me anything, it was that these things would be found in the most obscure locations on campus.

And so I ventured into familiar territory thinking I might rustle up some real-world powerups. I checked the shrubs around the Earl dorms. Nothing. Maybe there was a scrap of body armor in the hedges around Knight Library? Nope.

Video games have given me the (clearly wrong) impression that valuable resources could be found in the most obscure places in any given location. If you’ve ever played a Resident Evil game, you’re well-acquainted with the tedium that goes into the quest for every spare ammo clip and health upgrade.

Sure, it’s all fun and games when you control an avatar that can literally run for hours without breaking a sweat. But when you’re hoofing it from building to building on a mildly warm afternoon, it gets a bit tiring.

Compound that with the terror that comes with the possibility of danger lurking around every corner and suddenly you’re more stressed than the time you waited until the night before your ten-page research paper was due to start typing (admit it, you’ve done this). At least the most I had to lose during my week in the zombie apocalypse was a neon-pink bandana. Oh, and my dignity.

So you wish life were more like a video game? No, you don’t.