#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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#CLOUD: presenting persuasive #rhetoric in a #game

 A rhetorical situation occurs when an author, an audience, and a context come together

and a persuasive message is communicated through some medium.

(OWL purdue)

{posted as #rgmooc week 3 co-op}

Introduction

The game CLOUD features a dreamy landscape, where a boy, flying through the air, manages to collect clouds and then use them to create various shapes or induce rain upon a heavily polluted city (puzzle / adventure free-to-play PC game).  The game was created by students at the University of Southern California in 2005 and by 2006 this indie game amassed huge admiration and a considerable amount of downloads.  Journey‘s Jenova (Xinghan) Chen is credited as the lead designer of CLOUD, which was inspired by the creator’s childhood memories; as a child he suffered from asthma and spent a lot of his days in a hospital daydreaming, much like the boy in the game (Wikipedia “Cloud“).

Audience

Thatgamecompany“, which was created by the founders of CLOUD shortly after their graduation, made it clear that their target player body are the so-called “core” gamers, meaning that CLOUD is not intended for the average hardcore or casual gamer alone; preferably even a non gamer would appreciate its artistic concept and serene minimalistic design. It doesn’t take too much of your time to grasp the basics – the first stage is perceived as a tutorial –  and the actual focus is rather on creating emotion and a “powerful interactive experience” (Thatgamecompany, “About” section). Chen himself quoted the necessity of creating “mature” games (gamesindustry.biz) that have little to do with short-term lasting, basic instincts, such as enthusiasm or rage, which mostly apply to teen gamers; instead, the game industry ought to seek enhancing its emotional rhetoric to adults by fortifying game elements accordingly . A game can become a work of art and have similar impact as a good film or an exceptional painting. That, according to Chen is not only art but also entertainment in its purest, most long-lasting form:

“what I realized during the development of Cloud was that entertainment is about feelings”. (Gamasutra)

Game mechanics and elements

To achieve attracting primarily a non gamer, adult audience, CLOUD employs several game elements that contribute to structuring a beautiful, escapism dreamland. Music ought to be mentioned first, since the exquisite sound of Vincent Diamante achieves supreme levels of eliciting feelings. Flying through the air becomes something more than a childhood fantasy; it literally relocates the player to a domain free of angst and hardships.  Despite the simplicity of in-game graphics – it was after all a student project – the design is up to par, with a clever exploitation of light and dark shades to symbolise “friendly” clouds vs rainbringers. Nevertheless the strongest advantage of this endeavor is the narrative itself. The boy is held up in a tedious, depressing hospital room much like we are trapped in a daily routine; his only wish is to fly, something to which any child or adult can easily relate. The touching connotation of the boy’s illness, clouds being presented as “friends” and the original motto of the game – “Let’s make more friends” – raise expectations for a social message, larger than life. Chen and his team prove that constructing a successful narrative can make games tell a story in a most artistic – dramatic even – way. Thus, narrative aimed at arousing human emotions becomes a core game mechanic, rendering CLOUD an “art game” to be emulated.  As Brice puts it:

If game mechanics are meant to provide players with experiences such as fun and anxiety,

then narrative actually is a game mechanic, as much as game mechanics can also be narrative elements. (popmatters.com)

Consequently, it would seem that mature or non gamer audiences deem persuasive narratology and rhetoric as key to opt for a well designed gaming experience. CLOUD is definetely one of those.

Works cited:

“About.” Thatgamecompany. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20100723142221/http://thatgamecompany.com/about/&gt;.

Brice, Mattie. “Narrative Is a Game Mechanic.” Web Blog post. PopMatters.com PopMatters Media, Inc., 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/153895-narrative-is-a-game-mechanic/&gt;.

“Cloud Game.” Cloud Game. The Division of Interactive Media at the University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television, 2005. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://interactive.usc.edu/projects/cloud/game.htm&gt;.

“Cloud (video Game).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_(video_game)&gt;

Irwin, Mary Jane. “The Beautiful Game.” GamesIndustry International. Eurogamer Network Ltd, 19 Feb. 2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20090429105251/http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/the-beautiful-game&gt;.

Kumar, Mathew. “Thatgamecompany’s Chen On How Emotion Can Evolve Games.”Gamasutra.com. UBM TechWeb, 15 July 2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20100810013800/http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/24442/Develop_2009_Thatgamecompanys_Chen_On_How_Emotion_Can_Evolve_Games.php&gt;.

Pepper, Mark, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Angeli. “Elements of Analysis.” OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab. Purdue University, 30 Sept. 2010. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/725/02/&gt;.

Retrieved 15th August 2013 from http://interactive.usc.edu/projects/cloud/