Monday, April 16, 2007

Reuters Ignores Women Gamers, Plus Geek Girl Stereotype Bingo

In a piece of enlightened journalism, Reuters blames video game accessories for strained romantic relationships between men and women. The article, as is expected, thoroughly stereotypes women and their relationships with gamer guys. At least Brenda Brathwaite is featured in the second half of the article--for the sake of balance I suppose. However, it isn't enough to shake the heterosexual-infused, women-are-weary-of-video-games attitude of the article. Therefore, I've decided that this article could benefit from a treatment of tekanji's "Geek Girl" Stereotype Bingo:

Relationships mentioned as being important to women: This is the main point of the article. As the first sentence says, "enter the video game accessory as date killer".

Mentions shopping or accessories: Yep. The equivalent to video games and accessories are... shoes.

"Social" as being attractive to women: The end of the article speaks to double dates and games. Also games can "serve as a his-and-hers social elixir."

Women are seen as "casual" / non-serious users: I would argue that the description of Guitar Hero as a game that "encourages friends to duel against each other as spectators cheer them on" and therefore women enjoy it, is an attempt to make it seem casual.

Let's see, 4 out of 9 squares. I say we have a bingo.

Via Joystiq.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Second Half of My Adventures with a Purple Prophecy

As promised, the second half of my impressions of Indigo Prophecy:

III. Game Play Issues

I feel I’m pretty close to beating the game. I got that things are wrapping up feeling from the tone of the story. With all my other work, I haven’t spent too much time with it, so I’m a little surprised. The formula is still keeping me interested, although I have to complain about the lame “action” scenes. All that they consist of is moving the analogue sticks in the right directions in the right order, a la Simon Says. At first I didn’t mind so much, but after the twentieth time I’ve done this now, it’s getting a little flat. The actions totally remove me from the experience. It feels tacked on, like the developers thought they had to have the players do something during the cut scenes. What has happened is that I can barely focus on the over the top action at all. I’m to worried about what direction the light is flashing. Though maybe it’s for the best, because the action scenes go on for way to long and the content of them just seems so out of place. Why does he need superpowers? Is that really how you validate your “movie game,” cloning the Matrix? My hopes for the game to be more mystery than action movie are fading fast. I guess I just have to wait to see how it all turns out.

IV. The Ending, Rife with Spoilers

Indigo Prophecy has easily the worst ending to a video game that I have ever played. The extent of the failure was accentuated by my enjoyment of the game up until my last post. The ending however was so terrible, it makes me question any positive feelings I have for the game. The first element of the game that fell through was the narrative. It became incohesive and introduced bizarre plot twists. The plot twists included, but were not limited to, a race of AI beings that existed on the internet that were trying to kill you. The whole superpower and sci-fi thing was getting out of hand, but by the end it overshadowed any interesting character developments that were formed previously. The end opted to focus on uncontrollable action scenes to finish out the story, instead of offering any real resolutions to the problems of the characters. The writer obviously did not go into this game with any real message, philosophy, or social plight he wanted to reveal or discuss. I wouldn’t mind this in Street Fighter, but in a game that was meant to redefine video game narratives it’s pretty sad. I just wonder why he didn’t just make a traditional action game. The fantastical elements seemed to be a gimmick, and reminded me of the reading that discussed immersion. The extent of the fantasy seemed out of place in the world that was presented through most of the game. At least, the parts that were more real world were much more interesting, so I identified with them. I felt alienated when the game shifted away from the detective story formula that I had grown attached to.

The worst part of the ending was the complete destruction of my favorite character in the game. Carla, the detective who was chasing Lucas, underwent a character shift that had no basis in what was previously understood about her character. As the world is being covered in an ice age, (which is never fully explained) she decides to sleep with the DEAD version of Lucas. Lucas died, and the AI internet people brought him back to life, but his body was still technically dead. Carla made multiple references about how cold his skin was, as if he was dead. Then she sleeps with him, and falls in love with him with no real motivation other than the fact that he is the main character of the game that I’m playing. This act does not match the character that was presented before hand. There was nothing suggesting her feelings for Lucas. Carla abandons her job and playability in the game as soon as she finds the right man to hide behind. She is demoted to nothing more than the love interest. The ending movie pushes her farther down the respectable character ladder by making her ultimate purpose in the grand scheme to give birth to Lucus’ super baby. No matter what ending you get, Carla is pregnant. This interesting, well developed character was turned into nothing more than a womb.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Adventures With a Purple Prophecy

In order to breathe some life back into this blog, I thought I'd put up some posts that I wrote up for my Games and Culture class. Before I jump in I want to give a nod to some other blog posts out there that do a great job looking at Indigo Prophecy: Pat Miller's Indigo Prophecy Reinforces White Male Supremacy Part 1 and Part 2, and tekanji's Introduction [Gender in Indigo Prophecy Part 1] and What's in a character, anyway? [Gender in Indigo Prophecy Part 2].

I. Beginning Impressions

Indigo Prophecy, why not? I heard interesting things about it, and thought this would be a good opportunity to get me to play it, and experience this so called “movie game.” I must say that this game is pretty full of itself. It loves the fact that it’s “different,” to the extent that the creator not only wrote an editorial in the manual explaining it’s greatness, but put himself into the game. In the tutorial, there is a polygon representation of David Cage the writer and director, explaining the controls, what you can expect, and how you will love it. I can’t think of any other examples of this kind of intrusion into the game space by the developers. It had the feeling of an AMC or Turner Classic Movie introduction, with a old white dude telling you the history and how great this movie your about to watch is. It definitely added a strange kind of validity to the game, but I still think the game is full of itself. I’ve always been of the mind that a piece of art should speak for itself. You don’t need to goad me into liking this game, I will or I won’t. And in all reality, it’s not that different from your standard point and click game on the PC, it’s been done before.

Now the content of the game is pretty original. It seems like I will be playing two sides of a murder story: from both the killer’s perspective (who is kind of innocent), and the police. I really like the set up, and love how I first had to escape the seen of the crime, and then investigate it as the cops. It’s like my loyalties are split, I have to succeed as both opposing forces. It’s really interesting, and makes me care a lot about the characters and what’s going on. I get all the perspectives of the story and then can relate to all the characters. And I just have to say how brilliant it was to start the game with, “you have to cover up your crime and escape.” It really brought the learning curve of the game into part of the experience. I was frantic to clean up the evidence and escape while trying to learn the controls. I was as panicked as the character. We both had no idea what was going on. There were multiple options and methods, and I had to decided which would best help me in the situation. It was a unique emotional experience. Then I got to examine all the actions I chose when I played as the cops. I found the clues that I left before, and question the witnesses that saw me escape. Fun!

II. Representations of Race and Gender

I want to look at how Indigo Prophecy handles representations of race and gender. Out of the three playable characters so far (in order of appearance), one is a white man named Lucas, one is a Latina female detective Carla, and third is her partner, an African American man, Tyler. This list represents the order of playing–Lucas, the white guy, started off the bunch. This fact, along with the box cover, and that the story centers around his initial act of murder, leads me to take him as the main character of the story. However, the time spent playing as him is just as equal to the other two characters. So even though the main character is a pretty typical example of what to find in video games, more time in the game is spent between the two characters of color, one of whom is a woman. The game allows you to chose which character you want to play as during a certain episode in the overall story. You have to play all three eventually, but the player is given the option to chose which view of events they want to see first. Most importantly, each character has been fully developed in their own right. I know just as much about the detectives’ lives, personalities, fears, and loves as I do Lucas. At this point, the game is very egalitarian, and achieves this with very little effort. They just write all the characters as people, and not some stereotype. My favorite part of the game so far has been the ability to walk around the character’s apartments. You really get an insight into their personalities by looking through their stuff, and how it is arranged.

This is also the location of my two snafus that I found in the gender and race department. This one’s up for debate, but Tyler’s apartment really pushed the whole “this character’s black” vibe. His walls were painted like something out of 70’s. The furniture was also all poofy and loud, with a dome chair, furry TV, and a record player. It isn’t terribly damning of the game, but it just didn’t seem to fit with his personality that much, and screamed “black man’s funky apartment” to me. I think it detracted from the great, complex character development, and that it represents the only real indication that the game gave that “this character is black,” besides his skin tone. Compare that to other games (*cough* Gears of War *cough*) that love to remind you at every opportunity possible that a character is black, and therefore must act much differently than white people, Indigo Prophecy does a pretty good for a game.

There was also an instance in which the game reminded everyone that Carla is a woman, and that, yes, women are sex objects, regardless of how good of a detective she may be. The game determined that the best way to do this was put their super cop in the shower. One of her episodes started in the shower and gave a clear view of her nipple-less breasts. Afterwards, the game awarded the male gaze with overly revealing panties and tank top–which you did get to cover up at any time by getting dressed–but regardless you got an eyeful. There were options to take showers as the other two characters, but none of their “private” areas were exposed and the resulting underwear covered much more, and was much more realistic in what those characters would wear. Why would a woman who is obsessed with her job, and has no love life wear sexy undies? Unfortunately, there was no equivalent, no brief bulge, programmed into the game. This incident was quick and the only attempt to make her sexy so far. Though, again, it stood out from a great and complex character, belittling her in a way.

Overall, this games really seems to make an effort in treating all of it’s characters with respect. Despite a few classic instances of the white and male gaze, the game so far allows the player to view life from perspectives not normally given in video games.

Tomorrow I'll post the rest of my observations of the game. I'll mainly discuss game play and my thoughts of how the game wrapped up.