Archive for November, 2009

How Easy is it to Dismiss Identity?

In class we discussed that people may deliberately not think about identity as much when playing games because it may interfere with the flow or fun of the game, as well as the fact since violence is a sensitively charged topic, people might not want to think about their identity in too much detail or with too much thought.

I found this interesting to apply what we talked about above to games such as “Rapelay,” since it is a first person game and because it was intended for the exact reason of rape, and not something like “Rollercoaster Tycoon,” where the violence of dropping people into the water is only a side feature. I feel that if the violence is the purpose of the game, for instance as in a FPS game, then yes, people may not want to think too hard about their identity, as in “Call of Duty 4,” where the player can shoot innocent civilians in the airport of the “No Russian Mission.” This ignoring of or pushing aside the knowledge of identity may be because it is not socially acceptable, for instance, to be a terrorist in the United States (even if you are acting undercover, you still have the option to kill the people in the airport). The player might not agree with doing something like what they play in games versus in the real world, but in VR if the player doesn’t analyze or scrutinize his or her identity too much, it is a little easier on the conscience, and in so many other ways general as well.

On the other hand, the rape in 1993 with the clown in a text-based “room,” was also intentional, and a first person experience, (as well as “Rapelay,” as I said above, earlier), but I am not sure how players in “Rapelay” or the clown in the text-based “room” would feel about identity. I think these two situations (FPS vs First Person Rape, for lack of better wording) could possibly be something totally different from what we discussed in class – the idea of thinking about/acknowledging identity too much may interfere with the fun or the flow of the game. In these two cases about rape, I think the player (or clown) could actually be acknowledging identity very much so, and that is why they are raping in virtual reality in the first place. Again, because it is not socially acceptable, and the player has come to realize this, the player instead does it in VR, where it either acceptable or “more acceptable.” Therefore, the player must have acknowledged both his or her real AND VR identity to figure this out. I think the player therefore thought about identity in detail, rather than it being ignored or shoved to the side. Perhaps since what happens in VR can be thought of as non-permanent, it is easier to dismiss the action of rape, but then also easier to get away with it?

Genered Play Spaces — Identity

Article Summary

“Complete Freedom of Movement”:  Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces

by Henry Jenkins

 

This article has basically two themes, the first setting the stage for the second.  The first theme is that as backyard and neighborhood open play spaces are diminished, the need for exploratory play remains, and for many children, the “open spaces” of video games can fill the void.  The second theme is that there are differences in traditional “boy culture” and “girl culture”, and that many of the present day video games which fill the role of creative play for those without open spaces reinforce the stereotypical gender roles, or simply are designed “to gratify preadolescent males, not to empower girls” (p. 24).

Jenkins spends a lot of time describing the creativity inherent in spatial exploration of outdoor spaces, even if the outdoor space is a sidewalk.  He shares the value of freedom of exploration in an open space as opposed to the stifled play that can occur in a circumscribed way at places such as parks or playgrounds, which have been designed by adults for specific play. Jenkins goes on to show that due to our present day way of life, many children do not have backyards or open spaces, and video games can help fill the void for creative play and spatial exploration. He especially points out that although behavioral problems may have increased in children, we should not look to video games as the cause, but rather an inability to break out of a confined physical space as being the problem, and that video games may offer an alternative to this confinement.

Jenkins points out that in general, when we discuss physical play and play outside, we are really talking about boys and their play. Historically, he describes a “boy culture” as independence from adults, daring physical prowess bringing recognition from peers, need for mastery and self control, competition for “top dog” position, physical aggression and dominance, adult role playing, and bonding. Overall, he describes gender segregation in play, and shares that girl culture centered around staying close to home and mother and nurturing play with dolls.  The author describes written books which follow the same type of gender differences:  boy books about adventure and danger, such as Treasure Island and Huckleberry Finn, and girl books about secret spaces, being alone, and meeting the needs of others, such as The Secret Garden and Little Women.

Video games have followed similar gender stereotypes, though the author spends quite a bit of time describing the Secret Paths in the Forest game by Purple Moon as being more of an open space for girls to explore which combines female nurturance and love of magic and secrets with spatial exploration (of secret paths and areas in nature) and mild risk taking. It is a game designed to foster interdependence and sharing among girls as well as to practice social strategies. Another game intended for girls is a game based on the book Harriet the Spy, in which spatial play within a town is combined with spatial exploration outside the town and its people, intended to develop a sense of curiosity and interconnectedness among the people and their spaces.

The author believes that since most existing video games are designed for the boy culture, fast paces and full of danger and competition, we need to design video games that can entice girls to play, since both genders need the outlet of a digital play space when true outdoor exploration is a thing of the past. Slower pace, less danger, believable characters, and places to discover may fill this need in video games for girls. Jenkins also points out that we don’t simply want to recreate the division in video games that already exists in books between “boy books” and “girl books”.  This will only foster the separation of the sexes. Providing themes that do not stereotype males and females is a key to providing the means for girls to explore their competitive side and develop confidence and for boys to slow down and explore character relationships and magical thinking. Perhaps then boys and girls can enjoy the same play space in a way in which they never have before.

A Woman’s “Open Relationship” with God — The Onion

I read a story at http://www.theonion.com/content/node/67089, titled:

I’m In An Open Relationship With The Lord

By Bonnie Nordstrum
Polytheist
September 26, 2007 | Issue 43•39

It’s just an interesting  article on a woman’s relationship with God and how she identifies herself through that relationship…I also figured she posted it on a website, so VR is involved as well as  religion and how Nordstrum came up with her “open relationship” theory/analogy on God, worshipping, and feeling “fufilled” through having a special identity with this “open relationship,” which she explains in the article.

Here is a little bit of the beginning of the article to get you interested (it gets better as it goes on, so click on this: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/67089 to read the whole article (which you definitely should — it’s not too long, funny at times, and not hard to get through):

With Jesus as my personal Savior, I felt like I had it all. But then we hit a rough patch, and before long, I was beginning to question both my faith in Him and His commitment to me. At one point, it seemed the relationship was doomed. But I did a lot of soul searching, and together we found a solution that fit both of our needs by adopting an alternative theological lifestyle.

Now that I’m in an open relationship with the Lord, I feel a greater spiritual satisfaction than I’ve ever known.

It all started when I was 16 and first asked Jesus to enter my heart. It was incredible. He filled me up with His love. I’d never been redeemed before, but with Jesus it felt so right, as if the sins of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. For a while there, we were communing via the sacraments several times a week! And every night we spent what seemed like hours in long, mutually satisfying sessions of prayer. I worshipped Him.

Soon the honeymoon period ended, however. Whenever I spoke to Him, He seemed distracted and distant—sometimes I wondered if He was listening at all. Daily devotionals felt like we were just going through the motions of repetitive, meaningless dogma. A few months later, I made a potentially disastrous discovery: I found out I wasn’t the only one He was sanctifying….

Check it out and let me know what you thought of the article…

Intimate Confessions on the Web…

Article Summary Day

“Intimate Confession Pour Out on Church’s Web Site” by Neela Banerjee writes about a website called mysecret.tv, which is an evangelical site based off of LifeChurch. . The Church holds a conservative view on homosexuality and abortions. LifeChurch is based in Edmond, Oklahoma, and has nine locations.

At mysecret.tv, people can write confessions anonymously to the LifeChurch Founder, Reverend Craig Groeschel. After 16 years of working at the ministry, he thought of mysecret.tv because “he knew that the smiles and eager handshakes that greeted him often masked a lot of pain.” The Reverend did not want secrets to “isolate” people, so 10 years later he created LifeChurch.

Even later, about a month ago when this article was written, mysecret.tv. was set up as an online forum.  LifeChurch  now has “an interactive Web site tied to its sermons,” mostly for the need of confessions. Throughout LifeChurche’s nine sites, it draws 18,000 total of people to weekend services. LifeChurch is also online and has a virtual campus there as well which technologically “binds” and intertwines the campuses through actions such as broadcast sermons.

Since mysecret.tv has gotten off the ground, 150,000 hits and 1,5000 confessions (since the article was written). The author describes a few other places online for confessions, but then brings her writing back to LifeChurch and mysecret.tv. Banerjee states that mysecret.tv may be special from all the other confessional sites, because “it gives people at LifeChurch an easy opportunity to act on the sermons…”

The confessions are of all types, usually just a paragraph or two, some “rushed and without punctuation, as if the writer needed to get it all out in one breath,” whereas others are “eloquent, almost literary.” The article describes intense confessions, such as the confession of a woman who shot her abusive boyfriend, or of an adolescent who as been molested before, including by her mother. Sometimes in the confessions they wonder if there really is God.

The article ends by saying a few negative things, such as: because the site is anonymous, there is no way to reach out for help, and points out that the resources section of the site at the moment lists mostly religious books, not lists of places for mental health services.

The last bit of the article discusses the major positive point – that since people can read these anonymous confessions online they now know they are not alone, they are not the only ones out there struggling for hope.