CHID 250 C: Mediating Identities

The collaborative space and artifacts archive for CHID 250 C: Mediating Identities at the University of Washington, Autumn 2012. Taught by Edmond Y. Chang.

transformfeminism:

floralfemme:

underwater-pineapple:

floralfemme:

excuse me who said hi babe

liam’sbutts

all of them?

just 2

one of them is mine

(Source: flowerfilled, via getouttaqueer)

— 1 year ago with 11 notes

Untitled: CRITICAL REVIEW: Posthuman Technologies in Xcom by Christina Hall →

crh22:

Posthuman Technologies in XCom

XCom: Enemy Unknown is a main stream turn based strategy video game that was recently released and can be played on many different gaming systems. The goal of the game is to figure out the aliens plans, defeat them and have the human race survive the attack….

— 1 year ago with 1 note

Critical Review: Skyrim by Ashton Roth

Skyrim is a single-player adventure game in which the characters are very limited in the way that it is constructed by men, for men. It fits into normative societal structures of power—the white man going to slay the dragon and traverse mountaintop after mountaintop to save the townspeople. The premise of this game is not entirely blatant, though appears to be completing a set of tasks in order to better the town and appear most hyper-masculine. I think this game could be an important addition to the class in the way that it conforms to normative ideologies: heteronormativity, performativity, and the use of technology as it shapes identity.

The options for the main character is always a masculine-presenting, male-identified person who appears coated in armor, without much skin showing, though appears like that of a human. The technologies employed in Skyrim are the obvious armor: the only thing showing being overtly muscular arms but face, torso and other extremities covered completely by armor. These allow the main character to traverse the lands and slay dragons and wolves without being killed (most likely) in the process. Technological identity plays into Skyrim when the characters aren’t whole without their technology. The main character could not exist without his armor when there is no option to be free of it. The extension of self via machinery attached to one’s body is very post-human and would be great to analyze in class.

Other ideologies in place are that the women in Skyrim are lacking visibility, and when they do, they are presented as wives for the main character to choose. This is commonly seen in videogames, and reinforces heteronormative and frankly, sexist, ideals that companies have decided are attractive to gamers. The fact that women are only in place to be passive and to serve their husbands (if the husbands want them) is an extremely antiquated look at what gender roles are in western society. Along with heteronormativity, Judith Butler’s idea of performativity plays a huge role in the construction of Skyrim. The main character is portrayed as this hyper-masculine being who conforms to today’s ideals of what a “man” looks like. Bulging muscles, lack of hips, big and boisterous and overtly aggressive to top of what a “man” is supposed to look like. Butler states, “There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender… identity is performativity constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results.”(99) This translates into the main character of Skyrim by reiterating that this constructs of masculinity that society sees as powerful and strong correspond to what the main character of Skyrim appears to be. This correspondence with technology then challenges identity by posing the question: what gives a human man his strength? Is it the addition of technology to keep his human body from being exposed, therefore making him that of a super-human, or is it the appearance of a male figure who exists to kill and fight for the greater sake of the town, while maintaining a passive woman on his side to ensure his humanity?

— 1 year ago

#critical review 
Jeremy’s Critical Review of Comix: The RPG Comix: The RPG is a tabletop game, like Dungeons & Dragons, that is played with paper, pencils, and dice. As a game, it occupies many critical intersections that are important to this class including access to games via fiction writing analysis, basic access to conceptions of identity and disidentification, tools for discourses on gamification\exploitationware, and social combat and obstacle creation. As a rule system, it is designed to run fast and loose, and the rulebook is cheap, only ten dollars. It is also not set in a specific setting but allows users to customize character type, identity, and skills in a large number of ways that do not involve having character classes or skill groups. As a table top game, Comix, is based on comic books and has a time system based on them. It measures time, from small to large, by panels, pages, comics, and series. This places it as a sort of missing link between literature, meaning comic books, and games, and, therefore, video games. This puts it ideally as a starting point for reading video games as text. In reading video games as text, the purported identities that the ideology of the game established can be read as such. Comix’s specific mechanic that highlights the collectiveness of identification, and by association, identity politics, is the distinction of “minions.” Not only do they only act as a group when in a group of the same type, they can also be used raw materials to create an “obstacle;” which also highlights a mechanic of agency, like using, as the example in the book states, using a secretary “minion” to be an obstacle to someone entering a building. In contrast, non-player characters are not minions and are distinguished by much greater abilities. They are identified by name instead of by identity. While this distinction of characters doesn’t comprise a whole concept of disidentification, it is a useful access point to begin the discussion of the importance. To further bridge the material and virtual realities, the game has a mechanic called “cool points,” a kind of general use gamer currency for in-game advantage. While this is not new to games in general, its acquisition is somewhat unique. The game master may award cool points for any activity that she wishes to encourage including buying pizza for the group and giving people rides to the game as well as doing interesting or amusing things with one’s character and powers. Cool points are a game mechanic that could be described as gamification or exploitationware, and used to spark discussion along those lines. Furthermore, the gaming system of Comix closes a critical gap in many game systems that of social combat and advantage. Where many systems rely on the game master to somehow usefully integrate social situations into the combat and gaming system, Comix makes the mechanism explicit. Each character has a fixed amount of social damage that they can take. When they hit that limit they can no longer take social actions nor receive situational advantages to their rolls and the character who inflicted the final social damage receives a cool point. Not only does this mechanize social combat, it also incentivizes the social oppression of another. This kind of vicious mechanism of social advantage in the game underscores the social realities that this class seeks to bring to light. Not only can players create their own powers, they can also use their powers to establish obstacles in game. For example, a character with the power “hegemony,” could create a permanent social obstacle called “heteronormative matrix,” which could cause a “hindrance” to social actions by queer characters in a certain social environment. This kind of skill creation and usage is beyond the rules system of any game system that I am aware of except Comix but not beyond the powers that are present in our own material reality. In this example, Comix can be used for and read as social commentary in the vein of mediating identities as a technology of the self.

Jeremy’s Critical Review of Comix: The RPG Comix: The RPG is a tabletop game, like Dungeons & Dragons, that is played with paper, pencils, and dice. As a game, it occupies many critical intersections that are important to this class including access to games via fiction writing analysis, basic access to conceptions of identity and disidentification, tools for discourses on gamification\exploitationware, and social combat and obstacle creation. As a rule system, it is designed to run fast and loose, and the rulebook is cheap, only ten dollars. It is also not set in a specific setting but allows users to customize character type, identity, and skills in a large number of ways that do not involve having character classes or skill groups. As a table top game, Comix, is based on comic books and has a time system based on them. It measures time, from small to large, by panels, pages, comics, and series. This places it as a sort of missing link between literature, meaning comic books, and games, and, therefore, video games. This puts it ideally as a starting point for reading video games as text. In reading video games as text, the purported identities that the ideology of the game established can be read as such. Comix’s specific mechanic that highlights the collectiveness of identification, and by association, identity politics, is the distinction of “minions.” Not only do they only act as a group when in a group of the same type, they can also be used raw materials to create an “obstacle;” which also highlights a mechanic of agency, like using, as the example in the book states, using a secretary “minion” to be an obstacle to someone entering a building. In contrast, non-player characters are not minions and are distinguished by much greater abilities. They are identified by name instead of by identity. While this distinction of characters doesn’t comprise a whole concept of disidentification, it is a useful access point to begin the discussion of the importance. To further bridge the material and virtual realities, the game has a mechanic called “cool points,” a kind of general use gamer currency for in-game advantage. While this is not new to games in general, its acquisition is somewhat unique. The game master may award cool points for any activity that she wishes to encourage including buying pizza for the group and giving people rides to the game as well as doing interesting or amusing things with one’s character and powers. Cool points are a game mechanic that could be described as gamification or exploitationware, and used to spark discussion along those lines. Furthermore, the gaming system of Comix closes a critical gap in many game systems that of social combat and advantage. Where many systems rely on the game master to somehow usefully integrate social situations into the combat and gaming system, Comix makes the mechanism explicit. Each character has a fixed amount of social damage that they can take. When they hit that limit they can no longer take social actions nor receive situational advantages to their rolls and the character who inflicted the final social damage receives a cool point. Not only does this mechanize social combat, it also incentivizes the social oppression of another. This kind of vicious mechanism of social advantage in the game underscores the social realities that this class seeks to bring to light. Not only can players create their own powers, they can also use their powers to establish obstacles in game. For example, a character with the power “hegemony,” could create a permanent social obstacle called “heteronormative matrix,” which could cause a “hindrance” to social actions by queer characters in a certain social environment. This kind of skill creation and usage is beyond the rules system of any game system that I am aware of except Comix but not beyond the powers that are present in our own material reality. In this example, Comix can be used for and read as social commentary in the vein of mediating identities as a technology of the self.

— 1 year ago

#critical review 
Critical Review: Anda’s Game. -Marie Shimada

“Anda’s Game,” by Cory Doctorow, is a short story about a twelve year old British girl, Anda, who enjoys playing online multi-player games. Although the exact name of the game she plays is never announced, it is evident that this game is nothing dissimilar to World of Warcraft. At the beginning of the story, Anda uses a male avatar because her parents told her that if she played a female she would be an “instant perv-magnet.” Anda meets another female player, however, who ultimately persuades Anda that she can accomplish more in the game if she takes on a female avatar. Once Anda begins using a female avatar, she is invited to join a special clan: Clan Fahrenheit. In Clan Fahrenheit, Anda meets another female player, Lucy, whom Anda goes on “missions” with, and basically, these two just kick lots of online ass. Because Anda in real life is sort of a chubby introvert, her new found confidence in her female avatar crosses over to give her confidence in real life. Anda begins to excel in her PE class, which is a big deal to her, but mostly to her father. Anda and Lucy become so good at their “missions,” that a mysterious donor begins to pay them to go out and kill other avatars. Anda and Lucy enjoy receiving anonymous paychecks, so they never really question who sends them. During one certain ass-kicking mission, Anda meets a new character, Raymond, who tries to stop Anda from killing other avatars. Raymond asks Anda if she knows who it is that she’s killing, which temporarily discomforts Anda, but Lucy forces Raymond out of the scenario. Raymond continues to pop up in their missions, but each time Lucy kills him. Finally, Raymond is able to explain to Anda that the characters they have been killing are actually child slaves in Mexico who are building up avatars to later be sold to rich buyers. In the Introduction to this story, the author explains that this practice is known as gold-farming (similar to what we saw in the in-class movie “Second Skin”). Lucy, however, thinks Raymond is a nuisance, and she continues to kill him. One day, Anda tries to stop Lucy from killing Raymond, but Lucy gets mad and attacks Anda. Anda worries she will be kicked out of the game for fighting with a fellow clan member. One of the leaders of the Clan, however, tells Anda that what she did was right, and that this gold-farming issue is a real thing. Together, they devise a plan to start attacking the avatars of those who support and contribute to this gold-farming, game-wrecking industry.

There are many themes and ideas present in “Anda’s Game” that are relevant to our course. For starters, the use of a female avatar in this story contradicts the online sexism mentioned in class, and replaces it with a real-life confidence-enhancing tool, that simultaneously becomes an online vigilante. The fact that Anda’s online personality can travel over to her real-life personality proves how identity and gaming are interlinked.

There is also a theme of good versus evil going on in this story, between the Clan members and the factory (slave) workers/owners. This raises an extremely important question: in what ways are people abusing technologies? This could open up a class discussion on technology ethics, or discussing the responsibilities of the consumer (gamer) to take action against those who do abuse these technologies (games). It is also critical to understand how people can use technology for both good and bad agendas.

In the author’s introduction to the short story, Doctorow states, “The easiest way to write about futuristic science fiction is to predict the present day” (57). Here, Doctorow uses this approach to help spread the word about gold-farming and how harmful it is, but also acts as an almost psychic predictor of these gold-farming booms. Doctorow explains how this story acts as another story about the “age-old fight for rights of oppressed minorities”- similar to the controversies surrounding GM’s labor workers from Mexico. 

Works Cited: 

Doctorow, Cory. Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present. New York: Thunder’s Month Press, 2005. 57-100.

— 1 year ago

#critical review  #marieshimada  #Anda'sGame  #CoryDoctorow 
CRITICAL REVIEW: Minecraft by Caroline C.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIhs8_m5qPc

Minecraft is a wide-open sandbox PC/Xbox game developed by Markus Persson, or “Notch”, and developed and distributed by Mojang.  The world is block-based, with cubes made of different materials that spawn to simulate the “natural environment” in terms of aesthetics and gameplay.  There are three gameplay modes: survival, creative, and hardcore.  In survival mode, your character, Steve?, wakes up at sunrise on a random spot in a randomly generated map and has 10 minutes of daylight to figure out how to protect himself from the mobs that spawn after the sun sets.  To do this, you have to collect wood blocks from trees and use them to craft tools and weapons, so that you can kill passive mobs for food and hostile mobs in combat.  Getting killed will respawn you back at where you started, and you have to find your items again.  In creative mode, you have access to unlimited amounts of items and blocks, cannot die (except in the Void under the map), and have the ability to fly and destroy any block instantly.  In hardcore mode, you play as you would in survival, except with the condition that you cannot respawn after dying.  Instead, you have to delete the map. To “finish” the game, you need to defeat the difficult to find Ender Dragon boss mob, and slaying the Ender Dragon will take you to a poem of sorts that suggests that both the game and the “real world” are a long dream.  The dream analogy enforces the idea of a narrative in this otherwise wide-open game.  

One of the interesting things about this game is your avatar, Steve?.  His default form has somewhat brown skin, brown hair, and blue eyes, and is apparently male if his nickname is enough of a signifier.  In terms of gender, Notch has declared all Minecraft characters to be without sex, but the game itself indicates otherwise with the animals, such as the cows, that have a clear gender.  Animals reproduce by “kissing” for about four seconds, which indicates that two animals are necessary for the game’s version of sex, so it’s left somewhat ambiguous how gender works for them.  As for Steve?, he is referred to as male because his default form has no indicator of gender except for his male-sounding name.  His racial identity is even more problematic, as he looks vaguely black, but by changing your “skin”, which is the design of your avatar’s surface, you can make a different-colored, or even a different-gendered, character based off of style signifiers used in the “real” world.  This avatar customization does not allow your character to wear a dress, which makes female identification difficult while indicating the male as the default and skirts as stereotypically “girly”.

Another interesting aspect is the difference between Survival and Creative mode.  In survival mode, the game is designed to be realistic, with the blocks mimicking forests, deserts, oceans and caves, and there are rigid boundaries in your abilities, such as your hunger bar and health bar, as well as added danger during the night phase.  Creative mode, on the other hand, gives you far more flexibility.  While neither mode explicitly states a goal, both modes have specific formations of identity: in survival mode, your experience points accumulate as you go for long periods of time without dying, and in creative mode, you have the time and resources to build massive, elaborate structures that you can invite your friends to see and explore.  There is overlap between the two, however, as you can still build in survival mode.  In fact, building elaborate structures is more satisfying when you have to collect the blocks for them deep in an underground cave while minding lava and exploding creepers. 

In short, these strange formations of identity would make Minecraft a very interesting game to play with “mediating identities” in mind.  The avatar customization and the culture of building and survival would be interesting to explore, as well as the freedom allowed in the gameplay.  The YouTube video is one of a vast number of short songs written about Minecraft, describing the many structures one player has discovered while exploring various servers.  

— 1 year ago

#minecraft  #chid250c  #critical review  #steve? 
Critical Review by Ted Lee — Alpha Centauri

It is a running joke among fans of the cult classic computer game Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (developed by Firaxis Games, published by Electronic Arts in 1999) that you can tell its quality through the fact that the YouTube comments for videos of the game actually attempt at intellectual discussion and are relatively free of the inane, abusive comments YouTube is infamous for. This is because Alpha Centauri attempts to seriously engage in productive speculative fiction by trying to follow current technological advancements and trajectories to their teleological conclusions.

Read more
— 1 year ago

#Critical Review 
Critical Review – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess By Nick Cutlip

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a 2006 game produced by Nintendo for the Wii. While the true genre that the game belongs to is up to individual interpretation, most would consider it to be an action game with some elements of an RPG. Twilight Princess follows the adventures of Link, a young human boy, as he struggles to free the Kingdom of Hyrule from an invasion by the denizens of the Twilight Realm. The Twilight Realm is an alternate reality to the “real world”, one that interestingly enough contains many visual elements similar to our modern depiction of cyberspace (a parallel could be drawn here between the invasion of our “real world” by cyberspace, although I don’t believe that this is the most significant relation to our class that this text contains).

Leading up to the release of Twilight Princess, one of the most advertised features of the game was that throughout the adventure, Link would switch between embodiment in a human form and a wolf form. Obviously, this feature bears some very important connection to our readings and discussions concerning posthumanism. While Link is in the form of a wolf he is unable to speak to other humans, in fact most anyone who he encounters will scream and run away from him. Nevertheless, when Link in wolf form approaches other animals (from chickens to cats) he is able to understand what they are saying, at the same time that these animals realize that he is “more” than just a wolf. While all this is carried out in the context of the game in a lighthearted matter, the dynamics of this animal/human relationship are not insignificant. For one it’s interesting what happens when the player is able to switch between the wolf and human versions of Link at will. Is Link any less “human” when he is in wolf form? Is he a cyborg? Is he no longer a human and instead an “animal”?  The game makes a point to constantly remind the player of Link’s humanity even while he is in Wolf form through his interactions with his companion throughout the game, Midna. In this way it seems to suggest that the essence of consciousness is not specific to the human form, nor is a given consciousness rooted to a single physical form.

(Link as a wolf, on the bottom, and a human, on the top)

 

Speaking of Midna, I believe that she is the next useful aspect of Twilight Princess to our class. I see Midna, who is eventually revealed to be the “Twilight Princess” that the game’s title refers to, as a queer character in the game. Midna as she originally appears to Link is of ambiguous gender and ambiguous origins. She refuses to explain her motives to Link, constantly demonstrates otherworldly powers, and for the most part is shrouded in mystery in general. At times she seems to be flirting with Link, teasing him (whether he be in human or wolf form) and deriving pleasure from her ability to keep him guessing at her true intentions. At other times she seems to feel extremely strongly towards the Princess of Hyrule, Zelda. Midna and Zelda seem to have a bond closer than simple friendship, as demonstrated by Zelda sacrificing herself in order to save Midna’s life mid-way through the game. Eventually Midna is freed from the form in which she has been trapped and her “true” form as the Twilight Princess is revealed. This form is heavily feminized and heavily sexualized, providing a very stark contrast to Midna’s other form. It is interesting that the game’s producers chose to resolve all of the ambiguity concerning Midna through this final revelation, nevertheless her presence throughout most of the game challenges the heteronormative matrix in some interesting ways, providing much room for the player to ruminate on the nature of her sex/gender/sexuality.

(Midna in her two forms)

The third and final aspect of Twilight Princess that I wish to discuss as relevant to our class is the proliferation of different races within the land of Hyrule. Twilight Princess treats race in a very creative way, its world is filled with several different “sentient” races. The main three races are humans, gorons, and zoras, although there are others such as the twili race to which Midna belongs. Despite their differing physical features (examples of a goron and a zora are shown below), all the different races of the game are shown as being sentient and intelligent. Nevertheless, they are treated in some problematic ways. For one example, the gorons, who for the most part dwell in and around a massive volcano, are characterized as being Rastafarian in many ways, and overly reliant on brute strength in others. The zoras, an amphibious race that dwells within a series of lakes, are portrayed in much the opposite way as feminine and delicate. Finally, the human race is shown as invariably white. The one exception to this rule is the character Renado, depicted with darker skin than the rest of the characters, whose role in the game just happens to be synonymous with that of Native American shaman. Coincidence? Probably not. I think that the interplay between these three races presents some interesting results that certainly leave the player in doubt as to how much the race of a character in the game determines that characters disposition, attributes and the like. While the differences between the races are always dealt with in a light-hearted manner, there would definitely be some interesting points here for our class to consider.

(a goron)

(a zora)

— 1 year ago

#critical review  #zelda  #chid 250 

CRITICAL REVIEW: Hardcore Diablo III by Bryan

After a twelve year wait, Diablo III was finally released in May of 2012 by Blizzard Entertainment. Diablo III takes place in a dark world called Sanctuary and picks up twenty years after events in Diablo II. The story begins with a few humans in Sanctuary enlisting the help of the player to stop the demons from resurrecting Lord Diablo, the most powerful demon in existence. The story is split into four different acts where each consecutive act leads to the final showdown between the player and Diablo. 

Diablo III is a gear driven dungeon crawler hack and slash action role-playing game. Starting out, the player can choose one of five different classes each with their own unique methods of slaying endless hordes of demons. Once slain, the monsters drop loot in the form of armor and gold. Finding loot is the ultimate goal of Diablo III and provides the longevity of the game. Blizzard’s randomized stat allocation on the gear that drops, insures that there is an extremely low, if not impossible chance of two items having the exact same stats. The reasoning for this level of randomness insures that players can continue playing through the game over and over in hopes that the next piece of loot will be an upgrade. The time investment for players to equip their character with the best gear possible is astronomical leading to hundreds of hours of gameplay.

Blizzard uses players attachment to their time investment to create two different modes of gameplay, softcore and hardcore. Softcore mode allows the player to die with minor consequences and resurrect endlessly. On the other hand, in hardcore mode the player only has one life for the character. If the character dies, it is dead forever and there is no way of playing or recovering anything on the slain character. Hardcore mode adds a completely new dynamic to the game where the players time investment on their character is at stake every time they log into the Diablo III. Gamers explain their reasoning for playing hardcore as a deeper emotional connection to their character. They love the adrenaline rush when their character drops to one percent health in the middle of a fight or the sense of loss they feel when the character dies because of a mistake. The yearning for the high stakes, high risk, adrenaline pumping style of play that always eventually ends in loss is very compelling, because usually games do everything they can to protect the players time investment. 

The hardcore death mechanic in Diablo III seems to be a parallel to the cultural science fiction understanding of cyberspace and the internet where people must jack in mind separate from body. If the individual within cyberspace gets injured in some way the body outside of cyberspace is also harmed.The heightened stakes of hardcore mode, leads players to relate on a deeper emotional level to their character. The character becomes part of their identity as a gamer. When this piece of their identity is lost due to the character death, some players quit playing hardcore mode completely because they cannot handle the sense of loss. The depression comes from how integrated the character becomes to the player’s identity within the hardcore gaming subculture. Players often brag to others about how many hours they have managed to survive without dying or the risks they have successfully taken to boost themselves ahead in competition. It becomes a sort of social hierarchy among the group. 

Diablo III allows us to look at the players who are using a video game and more specifically a character to shape their technological identities. The mediating identities class would benefit from looking at this game because it gives an atypical representation of what technological identities means. The attachment of the gamers to their characters survival and achievements is used to shape their personal and social identities. Even more interesting is that players use a medium which will inevitably disappear because their character will die at some point and they suffer a complete loss of that portion of their technological identity.

— 1 year ago

#critical review  #Diablo III 
CRITICAL REVIEW: Borderlands 2 - Bo

Borderlands 2 is a mix between an action role-playing and a first-person shooter video game and is a sequel to the first Borderlands that was released in 2009. The game is developed by Gearbox Software and reaches multiple platforms of PC, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, which creates a larger possible population to attain and participate in playing this game, especially that it is also an online-game. 

The focus is to complete quests and missions, an overall campaign, as a “vault hunter”, in which the player can choose from four different characters and to kill Handsome Jack. The setting is on a planet called Pandora, which inhabits all types of people, animals, hybrids, robots, and aliens and covers different types of landscape. As the game progresses, the player develops increasing skills, attaining the status of higher levels through experience points and various guns.

The four characters display an interesting array. The first character presented is a Caucasian, blonde-haired, army-like man named Axton that is in the Commando class. His combat style is to “keep to cover and never give the enemy a chance,” which is already implying that he is the good guy.Secondly, Zero is the Assassin class, who is visually seen as an androgynous robot, wears a helmet similar to the helmets Daft Punk wear. It’s interesting that its action skill is Deception because of the idea that there is a fear towards non-humans because of their intelligence and non-humanistic qualities. Thirdly, the only female, Maya of the Siren class, who looks fairylike with blue-abstract tattoos, blue short hair, and a modern looking Kill Bill yellow jumpsuit. Her combat style is to control the ebb and flow of the battlefield. Lastly, Salvador from the Gunzerker is the only identifiable minority, a Hispanic background. He is a buff, testosterone-filled male that seems to be powerful, but yet is shorten by his height. His action skill is “Gunzerking” and combat style is “Bigger Guns! CHARGE!” He is short in height compared to everyone. 

When selecting characters, there is provided very interesting options to change appearance and the name of the character. The player is able to change the “head” of the character and “skin” which is costume and hairstyle. (can be seen in the video provided)

**Please skip to 2m19s.

What happens when every time your character dies…

The revival of death is very virtual reality-like. The character just warps through some cyberspace tunnel and returns to living. There is nothing human about this. 

Borderlands 2 would definitely be a strong match to the course syllabus because the characters presented plays a lot with gender, posthumanism, heterosexuality, class, and race. Personally, while playing this game, I had noticed many of these elements immediately because of the knowledge I had learned in CHID 250. On the other hand, the concern lies in customers that buy this game because to the individual it is just “awesome” or typically enjoy playing these games, do they notice these elements? Do these elements matter? 

This game provides a world that is post-humanistic and seemingly complicates the idea of that Earth no longer exists and living has become ether. In a world, where the character relies on the direction of a robot and also encouraged by a female hologram called the ECHO communicator. Identities are available to be changed over the course of the game. This video game performs the idea of cyberspace and its freedom; 1) externally, an individual has the ability to play into a world separate from Earth and its normalities and 2) internally, the character lives in a cyberspace itself, freedom to roam the landscape and the act against an enemy instead of laws and systematic government. 

— 1 year ago

#chid250c  #critical review  #Borderlands 2  #videogames  #identity  #posthumanism 
CRITICAL REVIEW: Skyrim by Emily Tenenbom

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, released in November 2011, is the fifth and latest installment in the action role-playing video game series The Elder Scrolls. Developed and published by Bethesda, the game was a commercial success, selling over 7 million copies within its first week, and was highly regarded and praised by critics internationally. The game takes place 200 years after the events of its predecessor, Oblivion, on the fictional planet of Nim and within the province of Skyrim.

            The ultimate goal in the game is to defeat Alduin, a dragon returning to the continent of Tamriel, who is prophesied to destroy the world. ‘The future of Skyrim, even the Empire itself, hangs in the balance as they wait for the prophesized Dragonborn to come; a hero…and the only one who can stand amongst the dragons” (elderscrolls). However, there are multiple layers of goals that overlap and co-constitute ongoing objectives. A perpetual aim is to improve the skill set of the player’s chosen character. Once the character gains the necessary experience to strengthen skills in the categories of magic, combat, and stealth, the player-character is then encouraged to accept tasks relative to their new capabilities in order to advance levels in the game. Within the broader context of the main quest of defeating Alduin, players are given smaller quests by NPCs (non-player characters).

            One of the most notable features of Skyrim is that it is a role-playing game which contains open-world gameplay; the player-character can explore an incredibly deep, complex fictional space indefinitely, and even neglect or disregard the goals of the main quest. The nonlinear gameplay allows one to travel the expansive landscape, explore the various communities and cultures, interact with other players, pick up mundane objects, and even study history by reading books. The ability to infinitely take on quests and even to develop your own creates within a spectacular and meticulously-detailed world the tendency to lose the physical body and escape or become absorbed into Skyrim. Thus, this game is a perfect example of mediating identity through technology simply because of the vastness of the fictional world and possibilities of adventure. It truly is a whole other world that can consume the “real life” individual.

            A second feature that makes it ideal as a representation of a technology of the self is the ability at the beginning of the game to choose one’s character from within a variety of races—human, elf, or anthropomorphic humanoid figures such as a cat or lizard. The characters all have different physical appearances, as well as variance in natural abilities and distinctive advantages in combat. They also each have particular stereotypes. For example, the Khajiit are feline figures that are generally considered to be thieves, and thus the NPCs interact with them accordingly and with distrust. In this sense, Skyrim is not only realistic in that its depictions are often lifelike and include extensive detail, but it is also realist in that behavior and social hierarchies of domination are not excluded from gameplay. On the other hand, while the Khajiit are obviously members of a significant underclass and are treated as such, they are appealing to players because of inherent advantages in combat, such as claws. Thus, the racialization of players is not straightforward, but rather a complex matrix of subjugation and domination manifesting on various levels—economically, physically, and socially.

            Skyrim’s text interrogates and complicates our understanding of culture and about our world. The setting is essentially a parallel universe, also with hierarchical and intelligent beings, relationships, and ramification-bearing actions. It could be said to represent the gamification of life in an ordered, heteronormative society. The game highlights aspects of society that might go unnoticed or unquestioned, and therefore requires that the characters and players look critically at their own real-life cultures and normalized attitudes and behaviors. The text allows players to step into an identity different than their own, but without necessarily assuming the form of an existing real-life identity and the perceptions and assumptions that come with it. Thus, Skyrim does not explicitly question existing racial, gender, and sexuality paradigms, it creates an entire world that forces us to face the phenomena of hierarchy, domination, and choice. 


Works Cited:

 

http://www.elderscrolls.com/skyrim/overview/

http://www.gamespot.com/features/the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim-walkthrough-6345388/?page=2



— 1 year ago

#critical review  #Skyrim  #Elder Scrolls  #Khaajiit  #video games 

Critical Review: Halo 4

Halo 4 is a first person shooter for single player and multiplayer modes. Halo 4 is the 4th installation of a Halo franchise that consists of Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Anniversary, Halo 4. Halo 4 is the latest installation to the series being the highest grossed on its launch day.

The game is set in the year 2557 where you are able to play as the protagonist Master Chief, John-117. The plot builds on the prior of the series taking place 4 years after the events in Halo 3. Master Chief has a companion throughout the series that is an A.I named Cortana, a young women hologram. 

In the end of Halo 3 Master Chief is lost in space as he drifts away from the wreckage of his space craft. Four years later, Master Chief in hyper sleep, is woken up by Cortana when there is a disturbance on the ship the he bestows. The covenant, a enemy of man kind for most of the series, tries to board the ship. Master Chief then lands on mysterious Forerunner planet, Requiem. This planet has a gravity that is like earth and resembles it in other ways as well. The battle is fought mainly on this planet and essentially Master Chief and Cortana attempt to save the Human ship known as the UNSC Infinity. *spoiler alert* Cortana and Master Chief save the ship but Cortana is lost and the game ends.

The plot is a simple save the human race story that has evolved over the series of the game. Something that is very interesting to look at is the interaction between Cortana and Master Chief. Cortana is young woman hologram and a semi-seductive voice. When observing their relationship and the way that the Master Chief attempts to “save” he is very interesting. It posed the question of, “can one have a relationship with an A.I?”. In the context of the game, A.I have a life span of 7 years. Cortana being on her 8th year she is on the edge of being considered “insane”. The personification of the A.I. Is interesting along with the love relationship. 

When looking at this game for game play it is one of the best first person shooters to this day. The complexity that goes into the design of the multiplayer maps and controls is simply stunning. For example, the time it takes for one to reload is just enough time, that if you run out of ammo in the middle of a fire fight the opponent will finish you by the time you are able to reload, assume the opponent is decent. The online multiplayer is designed with a ranking system where you gain experience and level up. Currently anyone is able to achieve a high ranking if they merely play enough but they are working to revert till how it was in Halo 3 where the better you are the higher your rank.

This game certainly employs a “sports” aspect. In multiplayer, there are teams, a winning team and a losing team. Professional tournaments with commentators. Unlike a third person RPG the first person shooter gives the player a different kind of “skill” based game. I would argue that this is why there is a growing market for Halo as a spectator “sport”. 

I really like the game because of the competitive aspect, I have no yet beaten the campaign because playing by myself does not really appeal to me in video games. If one was to look at this game in class I think that it would be very interesting to look at the male female gamer dynamics, the game as a sport, the fact that Master Chief is a post-human character, and the relationship between the protagonist and the A.I. 

If anyone gets the game I would love to play with you on line. My Gamer tag is “XxSWAGNOSTICxX”

There is also a video that I posted earlier in the quarter that pertains to this game with an awesome trailer for the game. 

—Nate Vail

— 1 year ago

#critical review halo 4 
Critical Review: The Sims 3 by Ariel Tang

image


The Sims 3 Gameplay

The Sims 3 official Trailer #1

The Sims 3 Late Night Trailers

The Sims 3 is a life simulation PC game developed by The Sims Studio and published by Electronic Arts. Since its 2009 release, the Sims 3 has sold over ten million copies worldwide and became one of the best-selling computer games of all time. To expand the market, the game extended its platform from computer to game consoles and smartphones to invite more players to join the Sims experience, such as, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, Nintendo DS and Wii. It is very easy for gamers or non-gamers to dive into the Sims world because the game is highly accessible. Everything in the Sims 3 is customizable and players are encouraged to explore and engage in the Sims community online. I think the Sims 3 could be a great lecture text for the course of “Mediating Identities” because the game is a virtual reality that allows players to manipulate almost anything to their Sims avatars, including appearance, personality, relationships, careers…etc. This game enables players to escape the reality with brand new identities, or extend preexisting identities to the virtual world that reflects the real world’s issues regarding race, gender, and sexuality.

CAS   


To start the game, a player will enter Create-a-Sim mode (CAS) to begin by designing a Sim character according to the player’s preference. First, players will ask to input a name, age, and gender to get a pre-built Sim in CAS. Then players will have the full control of how their Sims will look, which they can spend unlimited amount of time customizing and tweaking the Sims’ facial features, skin color, build and body weight. Players will also need to dress their Sims’ based on occasions, such as, everyday wear, sleepwear, formal wear, athletic wear, and swim wear. Besides from appearance, CAS allows players to select the Sims’ lifetime wishes and traits. Players can choose 5 out of 60 traits in Sims 3, which creates more options compare to the older versions. The selected traits will affect Sims’ behaviors later in the game. After creating a Sim, players can move on to customizing a house or the entire neighborhood if they desire to.

Since the last two weeks of the course is focusing on videogames, I think Sims 3 is a great text for breaking apart the relationship between game players and their avatars. Players can use Sims 3 to create representations of themselves, which just like Waggoner stated, “characters in video games are agents rather than avatars.” The more time players spent on modifying their Sims in CAS, the more identity they have put in. However, the CAS feature fails to resemble the diversity of race, gender, and body types. Sims are racialized only by a simple scale of skin color, which a Sim could be relatively pale and dark. Players can tweak the default Sim’s Caucasian facial feature and hair color to match a certain race, but the look will be a result of a stereotypical representation of a racial group. In order to start the CAS, players are forced to choose a gender, male or female, which amplifies and reinforces the binary model of gender in our mainstream society. The CAS also neglects body types regarding to height and disability.     

The game can be both beneficial and problematic to our society. The Sims world could be a gate-away from the real world for players because they can create Sims to fulfill their goals and dreams that seem impossible to achieve in reality. It can improve players’ confidence and self-esteem by being a “better” self, such as, non-disabled, healthy or good-looking. On the other hand, the game is problematic because it promotes the dominant ideology in our culture, such as, heteronormativity and the idea of forming a family. Hegemony is heavily perpetuated in the marketing of Sims 3, which its trailers and commercials are all featuring the mostly light skinned, Caucasian looking, and slim-built Sims. Also, the dominant ideology of family is also reinforced in the ads, which often show an opposite-sex couple forming a home with a newborn baby or a child.

Sims baby

The popularity of the Sims sequel shows the underlying problems in our reality, which fails to provide a safe environment for people to staying true to their identities and thus seek games to mediating certain identities. The Sims 3 is a good text to scrutinize the dominant hegemonic system, regarding race, gender, and sexuality in our culture.

Referenced:

http://www.carls-sims-3-guide.com/reviews/thesims3.php

— 1 year ago with 1 note

#critical review  #The Sims 3  #Games  #Virtual world 
Critical Review: Mario Kart 64

image

Mario Kart 64 is a single and multi-player racing game that allows players to race grand-prix style against up to 7 other racers on an array of different fantasy-like courses. Before each race starts players can choose between 8 characters with different attributes including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Wario, Donkey Kong and Bowser. Their appearances are as follows: Mario, Luigi, and Wario are male, Italian looking humans; Donkey Kong is a giant gorilla; Toad appears to be a gender-less small being dressed as Aladin with a giant red and white shell on its head; Peach is a blonde-haired blue-eyed princess with a pink dress; Yoshi is a green gender-less dinosaur; and Bowser is an extra large turtle-dinosaur cross with sharp fangs and spikes sticking out of its shell. In addition to their differing appearances, each character has different strengths and weaknesses in gameplay such as the smaller characters being able to drive faster than the bigger ones but be easier to push off the course. 

I believe that this text would make a strong addition to the course syllabus because of how the makers decided to deal with the gender of the characters.  I believe that there was a purpose in only having 4 characters where the gender of the character is known. Mario, Luigi, Wario, and Peach have the genders of male, male, male and female respectively. Mario, Luigi, and Wario are all dressed in what appears to be a overalls with separate individual colors but with matching appearance that I believe was meant to depict 3 working class men. 

When dealing with Peach, the designers of Mario Kart 64 chose to go a very conventional, conservative route when making the only definitively female character in the game. By choosing to have Peach as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, elegant pink wearing young woman the designers effectively chose to give girls playing the game a re-solidifying manifestation that this is the type of identity that they are to perform if they are to be considered female.

Finally, we come to the seemingly gender-less characters of Donkey Kong, Bowser, Yoshi, and Toad. When dealing with Donkey Kong and Bowser I think that it is too easy to label them as “male” just because of their mean, muscular appearances. I think that since there is no definitive indication of gender that we cannot label them and then must analyze what we have left to work with. This leftover appearance of a giant gorilla and an evil dinosaur-turtle hybrid could be said to be made to be a choice to users to perform an identity that is dominant, muscular, and possibly different than one’s non-game identity and/or personality. When dealing with Yoshi and Toad, a user has a choice of two separate nice and sweet looking characters that one cannot decipher the gender of. My interpretation of this is that these two characters are meant to provide players a choice of characters that is opposite to Bowser and Donkey Kong. This choice is of two characters who appear to be passive yet nice and genuine. Once again this could be due to the game designers thinking that those who have dominant identities that they perform in the non-game world will want to perform a different, opposite identity while playing.

Identifying that the creators of Mario Kart 64 could both be trying to reflect and change current ideas of identity through their game ties directly to our class because it is a form of technology that is helping to link and break bonds between identity.

-Patrick Gallagher

Referenced Articles:

http://www.ign.com/articles/1997/02/21/mario-kart-64

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aundeN2eX_E

— 1 year ago

#critical review