Entry #01 June 09-10
For two hours yesterday and 45 minutes today I played Batman: Arkham Origins. I chose this game because I was a fan of the first two, and I have to say it was pretty subpar. Both days I went into it with a decent mood, but came out very bored and disinterested.
Game Play: I loved the progression of gameplay from Arkham Asylum to City. I went from a interesting linear path to an open world crime fighter, where I could choose quests and stop random crimes. While Origins has all that, it so far does not feel like it offers much more. Even a lot of the environment looks the same as in City. It looks beautiful, and would be fun if it came before origins. If you don’t mind more of the same and want to play more Arkham City, thats fine, but for me it feels old as soon as I play it. Maybe I just have not played enough, but it should at least let me taste something different.
Setting: Aside from feeling to similar in setting, this is a prequel. Why does Batman’s technology seem as up-to-date, if not better? It would be cool and make more sense if it was more low-tech to go with the times, and to incorporate that in the game play.
Feminist Critique: As much as I love them, none of the Batman games were really progressive, and this is no exception. I have seen a few women thus far, a couple of which are femme fatales for Batman to beat. Oh, and Vicki Vale was a damsel-in-distress. I have not played the full game, so if anybody would like to add otherwise, feel free.
I also watched a couple episodes of Game Theory. One was on if games were anti-gay. While I didn’t have high hopes for representation in games, I was surprised by how bad it was. I expected stereotypes, but not the consistent outcasting, making them villains, insane, or hiding them in U.S. releases. A particular case I would like to add is that they covered up a transgendered character, or at least made it more ambiguous. Instead of saying she used to be a male she says used to be a black belt, which the black belt trainers are apparently guy. So to be fair, it could be implying, but if your fine with the audience knowing, why would you need to make it ambiguous? I love Poke’mon, and do not have a problem playing it with other people playing it. What I do find problematic is that violence for the sake of entertainment is seen as okay, but being transgender is not.
I also saw they episode of Bullet Bill. While physics is not my favorite subject, I found this video very interesting. I feel it shows how using something a person does enjoy is a good way to educate them. Perhaps such techniques should be implemented in education to keep people interests.
The episode on game immersion made me thing of Jean Luc Godard’s desire to keep viewers aware that they are watching a movie, rather than have them lost in it. An example is how Breathless shift styles, not letting get at comfort with the experience, but jerking you back and forth. I feel the same critique as being made here, but wonder to what degree Godard feels the same, and if he would think the very experience of exploring an environment at will in a virtual world would be to much.
Entry #02 June 10-June 16
On June 10th and 11th I played some Wizorb, overall for an hour-and-a-half. I was in a good mood and enjoyed the colorful pixelated graphics as a nice change from the darkness in B:AO. I started thing about grading games against my ability. The truth is I am not very good at this game. I don’t think there is any flaw in the game design, but these very classic arcade style games (the games is Breakout in the context of an RPG about a wizard) are simply not in my talent. That does not make them bad. The idea of using Breakout in place of combat was a fun and interesting move on the developers part, perhaps taming down the combat in a media type over-saturated with violence. The aesthetics are a beautifully crafted throwback to older pixelated RPGs, proving that more bits do not equal more beauty.
On January 12 I played some of the beginning of Dead Rising. The game starts of interesting and clever, being about a photojournalist in the zombie apocalypse. This mechanic is kept throughout the game, but there is also zombie fighting mayhem involved. Clobbering zombies is fun for a while, but I can’t help but wish they focused more on the photography, perhaps with more stealth and photojournalism and less direct combat. The gender representation is awful right of the bat.It is an overly emotional woman that lets the zombies in to save her dog, and the other memorable character is the “cold-hearted type”, needing to be lectured and scolded by the protagonist. Come to think of it, Capcom can be pretty terrible at representation. Resident Evil 5 had a white man slaying many black zombies (regardless of plot explanation, one can’t ignore culture and history). Also, Megaman Legends 2, you have they choice of being good and bad Megaman (granted you still have to save the day with the main mission). As you become worse, not only does your armor darken, but so does you skin. Even if this is symbolic, the idea of using skin to reflect inner darkness is disturbing.
On January14, I played Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda with my siblings. Contrary to the anti-social stigma associated with video games (addressed in Chapter 5 of out TVGT text) the act of playing SMB brought other together. As I played The Legend of Zelda, I though about how important and impressive it was to just have a game you could explore, and in TLZ my older brother experienced what I did in Fallout 3. I am very excited to say one of the new Zelda games wants to bring this back.
On June 15, I played some Metroid Prime and Mario Party 10. Metroid Prime (a game I am embarrassed to admit I own but have not played) so far is the most gner progressive, have a strong female character without constantly reminding us how feminine and thus how sexy she is. or at least from what I have played. There is still much to be desired. The strong silent hero gives her little of a distinguishable personality, which is also important. Though, in video games, it might be argued having a strong female character we can reflect on and thus identify with based on who we are (Samus is more like Becky in her mind and John in his) could also be considered important, especially for men who are taught to see women as the “other” in binary. This may need to be evaluated differently than in film due to the players role. Mario Party 9 was interesting because as I repeated my brothers experience with TLZ through FO3, my sister has repeatedmine with Mario Party 1-3 in Mario Part 9.
Entry #03 June 17-18
I watched the new Feminist Frequency on women as background sex characters. Interesting to see how a lot of Laura Mulvey’s work still applies to such an active medium. However, concerning the disturbing action component, it does differentiate from the male gaze in film. Not only are they rewarded with the “sex object”, but they are rewarded for harming the characters.
I played Bayonetta for about an 1 hr. and 42 min. This game conjures up mixed feelings. The gender portrayal if awful thus far. The protagonist is a juxtaposition of sexual objectification and the male power fantasy, sexually displayed in ways that don’t build character but simply serve as a sex object, and constantly performing violence during cut scenes and game play. There is amnesia and the hint of a traumatic past regarding combat, which arguably feeds the notion that a woman must be damaged to be strong. I also found a bad storytelling method in video games, which is telling the story as the game suddenly puts you in combat, straining you to grasp both. The cut scene als are full of boring mundane filler, trying really hard at making its characters funny and awesome. That being said, this has some of the most memorable designs as far as villains go. The monstrous angels and have element of ancient Roman art in them are twisted and haunting. Also, I enjoy its version of “Fly Me To the Moon”. Villainous angels? “Fly Me to the Moon”? Some of these game makers were familiar with Neon Genesis Evangelion! Also, there were some puzzle and platforming elements thrown into the mix, keeping it from being overly repetitive. However, that does not change that it is extremely problematic.
Entry #03 June 20-24
So my brother bought a Wii U and that defined a large portion of my weekend. I played Mario Kart 8, Child of Light, and The Legend of Zeld: The Wind Waker.
Mario Kart 8 I would say I played roughly 5-6 hours of over the course of the weekend. I was mostly in a good mood when I picked it up and enjoyed it as I played it. I found that combination of the challenge of the game, the fun environments, and playing with family provided and enjoyable experience. I also enjoyed playing online against others was fun because 1) I felt like it was a good test of skill to go against other players instead of A.I. I still feel the A.I. is a challenge that I am given to meet, but I know a computer could probably just beat me if it wanted. And 2) It was fun to have that sense of interaction with others within a common interest, even if it was limited to that interest.
From gender perspective stand point, it is good that the game has multiple female characters you can play, and Rosalina rides the same sized bikes character like Bowser and DK ride, so it has some physical variation and a more plus size d female character (granted, she does not look much different than Peach and Daisy do. It was very problematic that the female characters ranged from princess to Ms. male character talked about in Feminist Frequency (Toadette and the Koopa kid that is identifiable for being a female).
Child of Light is beautiful game that plays with gender in a very interesting way. The protagonist is Aurora and has to fight through what seems like a dream but is really another world she is trapped in, and she does in the gam play type of a JRPG. Aside from having beautiful painterly and expressive backgrounds, this seems to rework the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty in away that gives power back to Aurora. She not just the damsel-in-distress waiting helplessly in slumber, but is an active female fighting her way through the dream. It doesn’t just strengthen her through violence, but through her abilities to solve platform puzzle and her powers such as flight. So far I have been joined female character that is a clown. This interesting because we normally associate comedy and(or) being a comedian with men. We do find out though that she has been split from her brother, who I remember correctly is still performing. So perhaps it is even proving commentary on that? I can see it running into an evil stepmother trop, but who know, it might surprise me.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a game I currently am wondering why I did not like when I was younger. It is a beautifully designed cel-shaded world to explore, and aside from having sword play, it is also about problem solving in terms of traveling and stealth, not expressing that violence is the only way to solve your problems.
Its gender representation is problematic thus far in terms of women. Link’s little sister is the damsel-in-distress, and Tetra is thus far this too, as well as arrogant and insensitive. In all fairness, I have heard she becomes more capable throughout the game. Also, while Link is still engaging in the masculine journey, he lacks the stoic nature heroes are often given. While Link and Mario are not visual the most hyper masculine characters, they lack expression regarding the danger the dangers they are encountering, or at least from what I have seen (there is plenty of both characters games I have not played). In TLZ: Ocarina of Time I remember some awe in Link’s face, and in Super Mario Sunshine some surprise in Mario’s, but that is it. Link seems scared and unsure to become older wear clothes modeled after the hero of legend (him in a past life). He is also sad to leave is grandmother on a trip, and scared when being shot out of a canon. This does not make up for the female characters, but it is a progressive step compared to the stoic hero without fear or expression.
I also like the presence of culture in its world. The Link in this game become older and has to wear clothes based on the legendary hero that defeated Ganon at his age. Aside from making the world more fleshed out and real, seeing culture constructed in a fun video game helps build ones interest in what culture is and how it comes to be.
I enjoyed all these games for the aesthetically worlds they brought me in and the gameplay. Mario Kart 8 was more fun socially. Child of Light the TLZ: The Wind Waker were fun to explore and solve puzzles in, with there own combat mechanics. CoL was more interesting in gender representation, while TLZ: WW provided a more interesting look at culture.
Entry #05 June 25 (Sorry about the entry typo above.)
Today I played three games within the time of about an 1 hr. and 45 min. I started of enjoying it but ended pretty underwhelmed after the third game. Ironically,it was the one I was best at.
The first game was the original Sonic the Hedgehotg. I am a Nintendo kidand prefer Mario, but I can see the appeal. With his speed based dynamics (all though according to Game Theory, Mario was actually faster than Sonic in this game) it has its own take on the platformer. I am bad at this, but is good for what it is, and at least thus far there is no damsel-in-distress objective in the game (Sonic did get that one right).
Super Meat Boy is a game I have a love hate relationship with. It has fetishistic violence like a lot of, but in a different way. Rather than being focused on you hurting people, it rewards you after mutlple tries on certain levels by showing you a relplay of eever attempt, showing all the meat splatter. Its like watching a home movie of your actions without you present, see trail you left behind, making me think of Vannevar Bush. It also further complicates notions of home video, going from film to digital recording to recording the digital. Another thing it made me meditate upon was how some game character seem like Buster Keaton. They use athleticism and cunning to escape danger even though they are meant to appear weak in comparison to them. This is furthered by the fact that the creators where trying to go back to old school gaming, just like Buster Keaton is a silent era comedian. It is also hard not to appreciate what they did after seeing Indie Game: The Movie, which shows how they put their blood (especially blood), sweat, and tears into the game. From a challenge standpoint, this games gets extremely difficult, the accomplisment of which is rewarding to the player. Also, the level design is beautiful, reminding us of classic gaming but keeping its unique look. However, I can’t ignore the annoying continuation of the damsel-in-distress trope, and that it further the over-saturation in violence.
Wolfenstein 3D left me feeling as hollow as the game looked.I I see why from a design standpoint it was important, and the cold colors and empt looking levels even help with giving it a morbid feel. I will admit that I hate exploring when it all looks the same, making one get lost not in a fun immersive way but an annoying way. But my MAIN criticism is the commercialist, sensationalized, empty, hollow use of history, in away the contradicts the very idea of the video games villain.The Nazis are the villian because they are bad guys, and with out historical context, even if we know history, it diminishes the importance of it for a violent fantasy, one carried out through a hyper-masculine blonde-haired blue eyed protagonist who often has a smug grin at the bottom of the screen. They game is a about a white manrelishing in his power, which is what the Nazi’s celebrated. Also, the murderous romp ignores the real trauma fighting in WII had on soldiers, continuing a destructive and insensitive notion of masculinity. This is game is extremely problematic and ironically seems to celebrate the antagonist with it’s protagonist.
Entry #06 June 26-30
This week held some repeat. I played a load of Mario Kart 8, and mostly had fun upon starting my play sessions. I emotions ranged from happy, to excited, to frustrated. Upon this play, I started applying the home video idea to the Wii U. Something that particularly came to mind is Andy Warhol’s comment about everyone being famous for a brief period of time in the future. For a while whether I am doing well or terrible, people from around the world know who I am for my performance of their television screens…and then probably forget me.
In regards to are reading on post-modernism and video games, my alteration in character choices reflects the change in my persona. On the N64 and the Wii (up until Mii’s became available) my favorite character was Donkey Kong, showing I valued the powerful characters. Now, I prefer to use Rosalina, reflecting my interest in female empowerment and diversity (she does not completely copy Peach and Daisy’s size).
I also played board games with my family, including Smallworld, Cycledes, and Stone Age. Smallworld is about different people and creatures taking over the land, Cycledes is about worshiping different Greek deities to form civilizations, with a strong emphasis in militray, (pure war anyone?). Stone Age is about working toward a functioning society through hunting, agriculture, and architecture. All games concern themselves with rise and fall of societies, with war beeing needed in Cycledes and Smallworld. I thing that these games, despited being board games, are more bare when it comes to Manovich’s point about data and algorithms. While these games are beautiful designed, there is more focus on accomplishing the task than the aesthetic of us performing them. There is know bloody visual when my Swamp Amazons(one of my most successful combinations ever) slay Flying Giants. However, Resident Evil 4 gets very graphic when I slaughter zombies. I also think about how it does not feel fair to say board games or video games are more intimate than the other, but immerse us in different ways. Video games through the large worlds they create, and board games through the physical touch.
I believe played Marion Kart 8 for about 5 hours overall.
Entry #07 July 1-10
The games I have played lately include more Mario Kart 8 and Child of Light, with the addition of Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. Wii, Peggle, and Pico Dating Sim 2.
Mario Kart 8 was more family fun is at this point more of an observation of myself as a gamer. I have realized that while I am not competitive as a typical rule, such as things like sports, I can be when it comes to video games. Granted this is to a certain degree. I would never be the type of gamer that trash talks others, (not that this game would allow it anyway). Once it is not fun and friendly, I have no desire to play. I also enjoy testing new vehicle combinations against others, being it has a special thrill.
Child of Light has introduced a male party character. I like that thus far he is not physically the most powerful, going against stereotypes. He is instead a powerful magic user.
I had never played Mario Bros. It is a single screen game, with some camera movement upward. This game is more about the challenge of taking out the enemies. Though there is creative design in the level, it is not as color, interesting, or immersive as Super Mario Bros. From what I played there was no female representation.
Super Mario Bros. Wii continues the SUper Mario Bros. gameplay mechanic. While it is fun and pretty to explore, it has its own life with its 3D graphics, new level design, and power up, not replacing the originals charm, but helping revive its fun side scrolling. My main complaint that it felt a little sluggish in the controls at times.
Peggle made me think of the reading. While it is a puzzle game, it has these assistants that help you, giving it characters to have empathy with while maintaining its puzzle mechanics. While they are not as fulfilling as more fleshed out (Megaman Trigger) or historically present (Mario) characters, they add some fun with there techinques and grant some empathetic connection. Wizorb does this better with the protagonist’s stronger presence.
I already discussed the dating sim. Its use of women as obstacles for another woman as a reward is downright awful. I guess I will also add that, though a lesser annoyance, that certaing right or worng answer at your job are completely random, and are just a matter of guessing. While it can be funny, it can also be really annoying, with your character falling short through no fault of your own (granted, based on my criticism the character deserves it).
Entry 8 July 11-14
I played about an hour and a half of Duke Nukem Forever. I have never played one of his games before, and hope to never again. I started of somewhat excited because, while I did not expect it to be progressive and thought provoking, I though he might be an amusing parody of hyper masculine characters. However, the game gets so into showing how great their characters is, it gets annoying. Duke Nukem has a luxurious mansion full of his own merchandise such as posters. He also has crowds, particularly of women have sex with him, gathered up at his door wanting to get in. The president also “smuggly” tells Duke to stay out of it, saying they don’t need to go gunning first and ask question later, and that he is a thing of the past. But of course, the need Duke to save them I know its supposed to be comedic in its arrogance. But from what I played it had nothing to poke fun at its arrogance, making it seem more genuinely so. On top of that, it seems so out of place. My main problems, even more so than the arrogance, were 1) The whole we need heroes that gun first DOES seem out of place and insensitive. This is in a post-9/11 and post-Columbine United States of America full of paranoia, such as the prejudice Muslims have faced sense. While it is one thing for games to have guns, to glorify the whole “guns first mentality” as excellent problem solving for killing aliens in disgusting, especially in country that has seen so many terrible things happen with guns and that has a paranoia of the “other” that they wrongly perceive as alien from them. 2) There was a gay joke, granted it was in the detail of some art and you had to look for it to find it, but its mere presence is vulgar and homophobic. In a place where there are multiple cigarettes, there is box named after what is both a slur towards the gay community and another word for cigarette, There is also a picture of a sexually dressed male.
This is a game that was in development hell for years, and unlike it suggests, not everyone is just waiting. In fact this game was received pretty poorly. I would like to think part of it is the mentality criticized, and according to Game Theorists this is part of the case. I thin they also made a pretty fair critiques when they pointed out the 80s action hero was out of place in a modern era with characters that are not just brutes but more calculated. I might also add that the updated graphicsmight be aesthetics tampering with formula, with rougher graphics being important to Duke Nukems style and formula, The more polished games makes him feel far less rough then the old graphics did
In terms of gameplay, the game was mediocre. Nothing was exceptionally wrong with the controls, but it was just a standard FPS where you walk and punch, throw an object, or shoot. You can also press a sprint button, but it feels clunky, making it easy to just run into something. Even good game play would not up for any of the already stated problems. I would still give this game a whopping 0 out of 10 if I had to scale it.
I played about 2 hours of the new Tomb Raider, and it is lightning in a bottle. The story is about Lara Croft’s ship crashing on an island, and trying to get together with the other crew as well as fight and escape the villains on it trying to capture and kill you. While it is annoying at times when Laura needs to hear a man tell her “she can do something” it at least refuses to make her a damsel-in-distress. At the point I got to, she now has to rescue the man that does this. Also, Lara is a complex hero. She has intellectual ambitions, is physically capable, and cares about her crew, as shown the fact that she is looking for a place dear to her friend and is now trying to rescue someone. However, she also struggles with the overwhelming nature of her predicament, and is stunned by how easy it was to kill the first time. She is a hero but is also human. This is good because while we need strong female characters we also need the with more complexity. Simply following the power fantasy is its own problem, being in terms of masculinity this has created limitation for men who are expected to live to a certain ideal and nothing out side of that. We need various female characters versus the stereotypes that we often see, and as a feminist film theorist, I feel simply giving the women characters power fantasy is a limitation. This has already become one of the stereotypes, with people often trying to solve it my making the female character powerful, though this is often in an easy way out with nothing much beyond. It also is often to a lesser extent to males, and they are still sexual objectified. (Ripley in Aliens, Shiek in TLZ: OoT, Aya in RE: 4, fighters in Tekken, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, many comic characters, etc.)
The game play is amazing. The solving of environmental puzzles, such as doing actions to alter it for your benefit, paired with jumping and climbing your way around creates a satisfying environment to play in. The controls are tight and fluid, but also challenging. Lara moves well but so do the enemies, so you have to be quick and aim well with guns and time efficient with bows an arrows. The also have different purposes. The gun is faster but the arrow is more quiet, so if you are trying to maintain stealth it is what you want. You also can search for treasure, this being something that adds to the story like a journal entry, or an actually artifact with added historical and cultural context. So either you build the story or learn something that can help develop an interest in things such as cultural anthropology, history, art history, etc. The game gives emphasis to Lara Croft as a physically capable hero and an intellectual, making it also reflect her character.
The visuals are breathtaking. The worlds you explore are beautifully designed, and combined with the good control this makes an immersive experience. While Lara Crofts deisgn is much better, with them drawing less emphasis on breast, she is still highly sexualized. While she is more than a sexual object in the game, this itself comes of as objectifying.
There was another game I played, but I plan to save my thoughts on that for my essay. That being said, Duke Nukem was a terrible experience full of problematic violence, politics, and jokes. Tomb Raider was an overall progressive and fulfilling game experience featuring a complex female protagonist with awesome game play, and a brilliant environment that reflect her abilities.
Entry #09 June 15-21
Over the course of this week I picked up where I left off on Banjo Kazooie months (maybe even a year) back and played about four hours of Banjo Kazooie, and I enjoyed beginning and playing through the levels each time due to its combination of nostalgia and newness (it is and N64 game but one I did not play until it became available on Xbox Arcade). While it is dated it is still a very colorful and aesthetically pleasing game, being one of the prettiest games from that era. The platforming, while the controls are a little clunky for todays standards, are overall very smooth. And it is fun to figure how to move across and solve puzzle for such painterly environments. The story however is very anti-progressive. Yes, Kazooie is a wisecracking female hero that is fun to listen…er…read. Bust the story is about them saving Banjo’s little sister from the which Gruntilda, who iwants to steal her cuteness to make herself beautiful. Top that of with Gruntilda’s sister that constantly body shames her to Banjo Kazooie, and you have a pretty shallow portrayal of women with problematic reinforcement of real world issues, maintaining the standard for looking “pretty” as an ethical one, maintaing a terrible logic that has existed since Shakespeare’s Richard III and before that even. I also understand that at the end, I am to recollect these insults for a quiz against Gruntilda, turning it into a form of justice. If you get a game over, Gruntilda becomes a sexy witch and Banjo’s sister is a monster. While this is not taking itself seriously, it still maintains a problematic value system as what is at stake, and does not challenge us to look beyond it.
Entry #10 July 22-August 1
Since I will analyze it plenty in my paper., and technically I played this last week. All I will say is that Limbo was an excellent game. I was very interested when I started playing it. Without having the 3D graphics, the silhouettes make it at times look like well lit photography, in a way looking more real. This to about 4 hours to play through, but game me a lot to think about in regards to gaming and cinema.
I also played a half hour of Super Mario World. The world is beautiful and the mechanics are good.However it is another damsel-in-distress game.
I also played a couple hours of Mario Kart 8, which I found joy in my progressing as a racer. I enjoyed it throughout , and see what it means to player to watch themselves get better at something. One of the main reward is building a skill while performing escapism. There is stress relief and talent. As a film theorist that analyzes films, something often for escape, I can appreciate that.
I’ve learned through this that I have changed as a gamer. I am 1) A more social gamer. I enjoy games not just for interactivity with the screen, but with other. I spend so much time studying what is on the screen, so it is a comforting environment to me. 2) I appreciate JRPG style games now. I like the challege of timing and arranging my actions. This may be in relation to my appreciation for The Samurai Trilogy, where stillness is apart of the power in the final fight. The strength of just being brave and present up against a wicked foe is more admirable than the violence itself.
It was interesting to see how I changed as a gamer. It was also interesting to see how it related to film for me. I hope to keep studying games along with film in the future.
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