Gendered Space Beyond the Game

In Lana Polansky’s article “The Poetry of Created Space”, the author explains how Shelley’s poem Ozymandias objectifies the narrative significance of a game’s environment and designed space. Polansky demonstrates how games like Black Ops cameo the poem in order to emote “the power of a sense of an antique place—[…]to make us feel some kind of fundamental, mortal dread. That no matter the greatness you achieve, it will be left forgotten in the dust someday”. Much like Shelley’s poem, every artistic decision made in a game’s setting is constructed for a purpose. The space within a video game enables the performance of acquiring aims and accomplishing goals. While Ozymandias becomes a stand-in representation of player huberis in video games, Fullerton, Jacqueline and Pierce’s article discuses the production of space of one that denotes the male huberis more specifically.

This article introduces the gendered space in video games through a quote from Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which describes a scene that invokes “the ways in which women have been systematically barred from the digital playground, both as players and as creators of play space”. In both cases, Ozymandias and A Wolf of One’s Own denote the competitive and contested gender aspects of gameplay. Furthermore, “A Game of One’s Own” also states how “[FPS] games conceive of moving through space in a distinctly masculine fashion” thus arguing that they employ gaming techniques which “cognitive research suggests, by and large, tend to favour males”. Both Woolf and Shelley’s texts describe the construction of an environment that is otherwise dominated by stereotypical masculinity. Although the articles discuss the overwhelming presence of male politics within video games, both articles fail to elaborate on the same dichotomy between men and women within the video game industry. Whereas women are not openly welcome to the “digital playground”, this diversion between female and male players also ostracizes the games enjoyed by female players from the community. For example, while the highest grossing videogames like Call of Duty of Grand Theft Auto don’t explicitly exclude women from their audiences, the female presence in these games in the online community are either patronized or sexualized. There is a growing ‘white knight/black knight’ dichotomy present within game forums that pigeonhole female gamers into stereotypes that assume they are either helpless, or ready to be sexually antagonized. In 2014, a male player named Aris Bakhtanian went so far as to claim that “sexual harassment is par of the culture”. Bakhtanian broadcasted his views on a live stream of a game competition named Cross Assault, saying: “it’s like going to a strip club as a female and getting upset that the chicks are all naked. For me it goes back to freedom of speech” (Fielding). The fact that X-box forums online include threads titled: “Fat, Ugly or Slutty”, without being banned or reported demonstrated the fundamental problem of women subsiding within the video game space as a console unit and a community withstanding. Consequently, games that women consequently gravitate towards (like Sims), are not considered to be ‘real games’. The infrastructure of this community enables and supports misogynistic trends like Gamergate that ostracize women, women in video games, and also the games that attract a female audience.

Works Cited

Fielding, Kyle. “The World of Video Gaming Has a Problem with Sexual Harrassment.” 7 Nov. 2014. On-Line. Available: http://www.slideshare.net/kylefielding1/the-world-of-video-gaming-has-a-problem-with-sexual-harassment

Fullerton, Tracy, Morie, Jacquelyn and Pearce, Celia. “A Game of One’s Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space.” Proceedings of perthDAC 2007: The 7th International Digital Arts and Culture Conference: The Future of Digital Media Culture. 2007.

Polansky, Lana. The Poetry That Created Space. Bit Creator. 2012.

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