#Which: the issue of #gender in games and game #audience

{Posted as #rgmooc week 6 co-op}

The game “Which” offers a compelling gaming experience, effectively taking advantage of blurry visuals and two equally jaw dropping ending alternatives to create a dark atmosphere, paying homage to the horror / splatter genre. Along with its undeniable effectiveness, when it comes to delivering game content successfully, the narrative poses plenty of questions concerning  female character portrayal.

**spoilers**

Should the player find the key that leads to the room containing the dead body’s heart, the headless corpse decides to sacrifice itself to the benefit of the player, as the symbols written on the wall demand that only one of them shall eventually leave the premises. If, on the other hand, the player comes across the “head” first, the body becomes a ruthless female figure that stabs the player – one too many times – to ensure her own survival.

In both cases, one cannot fail to discern two extreme  predominant notions of a game character:  benevolent, caring, sensitive and life-giving, even to her own demise or sadistic, opportunistic and selfish. To serve the game’s purpose, heart over mind or vice versa becomes absolute. To procede with the analysis further, the “heart” ending hinges on the somewhat stereotypical notion of motherhood in the outside world; emotional and self-sacrificing, heroic and tragic at the same time. The ruthlessness of the “head” ending made many players scream out of horror for the unexpected.

Violent women and female characters killing off their opponents is certainly not a novelty in the gaming world, especially in MMO RPGs. “Which” captures the look of a wicked looking woman, determined to save herself by virtually slicing the player open. One could possibly insinuate that this is the “male” aggresiveness coming forth, of which the gaming industry is to blame. Games do allow for unperceived freedoms, concerning character depiction, environment and storyline. Taken to an extreme, violence is a relatively shocking, yet indispensable element of game narrative, especially for this type of genre. How is it that we would expect a male NPC to brutally kill players, yet we cringe in front of a woman doing so? Cyberspace enables game designers to form worlds “where gender is fluid and multiple“, hence taking a considerable amount of liberties; still the average gamer feels safer in a “gendered environment […], more more stringent and rigid than in real life” ( Christensen, 50)

What about the female audience playing this game?  The haunting effect of the game constitutes a persuasive rhetoric, regarding logic and emotion. If you have a heart, you ‘ll save others; if you don’t you ‘ll save yourself.  Thus, it is not a question of a female audience (that sounds awfully biased) but a matter of audience perception in general. People might become emotional with the sacrifice of the NPC, regardless if they are men or women playing the game. Others might feel vindictive against the cold hearted stabbing regime. It all depends on the gamer’s personality, not his /her gender.

Presenting the exact opposite choices, both endings call for a brutal dilemma: “Which” one will you come across?

Works cited:

Christensen, Natasha Chen. “Geeks at Play: Doing Masculinity in an Online Gaming Site.”Reconstruction 6.1. N.p., Jan.-Feb. 2006. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/061/christensen.shtml&gt;.

Inel, Mike. Which. Computer game. Gamejolt.com. Vers. 3D. Lucent Web Creative, LLC, n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://gamejolt.com/games/adventure/which/1523/&gt;

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4 comments on “#Which: the issue of #gender in games and game #audience

  1. it sounds really interesting. Me personally, i couldn’t give a crap what can kind of gender i play. As long as the story is good and there is something about the character that i can relate to in some weird way. Although there are quite a few games which feature female leads. The newest ones i think is remember me and if you count the tomb raider reboot. I’m sure we will see a lot more tough female protagonists in the future.

    Anyway, nice article

    • Thank you for your feedback! Yes indeed th LaraCroft reboot finally presented gamer audience with a much more realistic version of a woman in peril and adventure ( and one which didn’t have double Ds) – the story needs ti be good, I totally agree, the Last of Us being an excellent example. Still the game industry has a long way to go but it’s a start….

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