Introduction The topic of gender and gaming has gained increased attention and prominence in recent years, and has created a large amount of discussion (and controversy) within the gaming community. This module seeks to explore a number of general themes within this topic, such as the representation of women in games, inclusiveness of gender and sexuality, and women gamers and industry workers. Game Choices (choose one) Persona 4 provides an experience that shows both positive and negative or damaging treatment of gender and sexuality. This masterful JRPG centers a group of high schoolers with surprising intellectual complexity that learn they can travel into a TV world to save people from otherwise assured death. Play time: 10-15 hours (end of second dungeon) Overwatch is a vibrant, exhilarating team-based first-person shooter that features perhaps the most diverse cast of playable characters in any modern game. The most gender diverse FPS, and with twice the female player base of any other FPS at 16% of all players, Overwatch makes a conscious effort to develop characters, relationships, and backstories that reflect an inclusiveness and diversity of sexuality and gender. Play time: 10-15 hours of quick play or arcade, + all lore videos. The Last of Us is an adventure survival horror game following the journey of two protagonists, Joel and Ellie, as they attempt to survive in a post-apocalyptic setting ravaged by zombie-like, cannibalistic infected peoples. Considered ground-breaking not only in its portrayal of female characters and sexuality, this game is thought by many to be one of the greatest of all time. Playtime: 15 hours Tomb Raider allows you to explore the fictional island of Yamatai in the 2013 installment of this series. A large island shrouded in a rich history and home to a cult of misfits, Yamatai hosts adventure and excitement around every corner. Enjoy the visually stimulating gameplay and spectacular origin story of the series that has been shrouded in gender-based controversy for years. Playtime: 12 hours Readings Read all of the 5 of the PDFs in the “Gender, Everyone Reads” content section. These files are named JanszMartis2007, LynchTompkinsvanDrielFritz2016, ShawFriesem2016, Huntemann2014, and GamerGate. Please read the JanszMartis2007 before you read the LynchTompkinsvanDrielFritz2016 reading. You should also view both of the “Damsel in Distress” videos (part 1 and part 2). Gamers who choose to play Overwatch should also watch the videos in the “Overwatch Videos” folder. Reading Diary Questions All gamers should answer both of the following:
(1) As most of the module readings discuss, experiences that men and women have while gaming are often distinct. How do you feel your experience with gender affects the way you game? As we know from Jansz and Martis (2007), Lynch et al. (2016), and Huntemann (2014), women tend to identify more strongly with and enjoy games more that feature females in leading roles, as in The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, and Overwatch. Additionally, there is evidence that suggests women are frequently relegated to healing or support roles (expected to be the ones to “fill in”), as in Overwatch. How might something like this be problematic and speak to problems of gender and society more broadly? What are some other parallels between gender + gaming and gender + society that you can draw from the game you played? Discuss in detail using at least two examples. (50 points)
(2) The barriers that exist to certain players fully engaging or enjoying games are prevalent on
many different levels –there are barriers within the industry (the game developers) and also those to gamers themselves (the consumers). Using information gleaned from the readings and also your own game, what do you think the biggest roadblocks are that stand to equitable representation and enjoyment for all types of players? Do you feel any of these roadblocks have ever personally affected you? Discuss at least three examples of this in detail. (45 points)
In addition, please answer ONE of the following questions, depending on which game you decide to play: (45 points)
(3) Persona 4: According to Shaw and Friesem (2016), the treatment of gender and sexuality in video games is, at worse, completely unrepresentative or counterproductive, and at best, quite nuanced. In what ways did you see representation in the diverse cast of characters and their interactions in Persona 4? How do you think the game handles LGBTQ+ issues? Why? Does the game fall prey to many of the stereotype traps mentioned in Shaw and Friesem, or does it go deeper? Do you think the game helps to depict intricacies in both gender and sexuality? Discuss using at least 3 examples. In addition to this, Persona 4 is filled with many gendered symbols or otherwise symbolic events. What are some examples of this symbolism? Discuss at least 2 examples.
(4) Overwatch: One of the most praised aspects of Overwatch is its diversity and inclusiveness
among the characters. Through both the video/extra content and gameplay itself, what are some of the types of diversity you see? What strikes you the most about the game’s diversity? Discuss at least three examples of diversity, and how you think these examples may impact gamers or the gaming community more broadly. This should be discuss using information and insight gleaned from the readings. Second, what was the community you played with like? What different kinds of people did you play with, and did you experience something that stood out to you in your observations/interactions with others? For example, think about Gamergate and how some of its seeds may manifest in communication during online games.
(5) The Last of Us and Tomb Raider: Both The Last of Us and Tomb Raider feature prominent, highly characterized female protagonists that vary in a number of different ways. What are ways in which your experience playing as a female protagonist (Lara or Ellie) may have been unique? Was there anything distinct? Did you find anything problematic about the portrayal of Lara or Ellie, or other female characters in the game (e.g. exaggerated sexualization that is
not plot-significant)? With frequent reference to the readings, discuss in detail at least three of these unique observations. How do you think these games contribute to the representation of women in games more generally? Why is this important?
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