MANHUNT: READER BEWARE R18+ THEMES

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Manhunt was an extremely controversial game that was originally released in 2003 on PS2, X-Box and PC. The story follows a Death Row convict whom has been released into the city, on provisor that he kills multiple people, in the most gruesome ways possible, whilst being filmed on camera for an underground Film Director named Lionel, whom then on-sells the videos to buyers from the black market. The game was banned in multiple countries, but made it’s way to nationwide release in New Zealand. I sadly, have played this game. I stupidly hired it out when i was 15, with the help of my mother, but that was under the assumption that It’s content and narrative focussed on a ‘wrongly imprisoned man, whom breaks out of jail”. Oooooh how wrong I was….. The game is questionable as least and can be seen as highly problematic in so many ways. BUT before I continue, watch this clip and I’ll unpack some of the major issues I’ve found with Manhunt in relation to violence, or representations of violence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0NQJSGavKg

Okay, so now that you’ve seen how to: suffocate a man with a plastic bag, snap another mans neck, smash a Policeman with his own barton till the blood flows out of his head, drive a hammer through someones skull, guts and face, stab someones chest multiple times, bludgeon someone with a baseball bat, decapitate someone with a chainsaw, and ‘bandy-saw’ someones neck with sharp wire…… let’s move onto gameplay.

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The Gameplay: The aim of the game is to murder people, and not just to execute them or kill them quietly and quickly, but to torture them with various melee attacks, weapons and camera angles. Yes that’s another element of the game. You have a rotating camera that follows you throughout the diegesis, so you can watch your killings in any angle you want, all with gruesome sound FX which only makes this game feel so much worse. The player is rewarded for his masochism, and players of the PS2 version even have the added option to attach microphones to their game platforms, in order to use their own voices to distract unsuspecting victims, luring them toward the shadows and their bloody demise. The introduction of the interactive aspect of the voice-commands give rise to questions of immersion. Is your voice within the diegesis a technique that draws a gamer in further ? Hmmmmm… lets look even further.

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The Procedure: The game can’t continue if the gamer doesn’t partake in gory ‘level three’ murder (‘level three’ is an indicator of the intensity of the murder, more blood and gore = higher level). There is no choice between right and wrong. There is only one path. The plot of the game pushes the gamer to kill others, so that he can earn his freedom, and his family back, but any person with an understanding of the justice system, would see that more murder isn’t the path to freedom.

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The Representation: The game is presented in an all male world. I think this feeds a stereotype that women don’t murderer which is false. The only time a female is present in the game, is when they are positioned as the family of the protagonist. I also found that a lot of ‘gang culture’ is thrust into this game, and gang groups are situated as one of the main evil yet again. Sadly in a real life turn of events, there was a murder of a young man by his best friend. The mother of the accused stated that “my son had been playing this game continuously” before he killed his friend. I know that the media do create narratives and don’t have a good relationship with the videogame industry, but it really is a new field of study, and we can’t completely rule out how engaged, how immersed, or how affected this young man was by Manhunt.

The Other Side: Some game critics heralded this game as pushing the envelope from game to artwork, saying that “Manhunt is theClockwork Orange of video games, holding your eyes open so as to not miss a single splatter — asking you, is this really what you enjoy watching? Had Manhunt been poorly made, using the snuff film angle as a cheap gimmick, the game would have been shameful and exploitative. What elevates it to a grotesque, chilling work of art is both presentation and game play“. – I to some extent see how pushing the boundaries can and have been beneficial to contemporary societies for example in the fight for equality, but still have some reservations as to how artistic this is. These types of killing sprees are not teaching me anything, other then that money and freedom seem to control anyone to do anything, and that brings me to the next point…

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The Rhetoric: What types of things is Manhunt trying to teach me ? I feel the game teaches people to to some extent, admire vigilanteism. The protagonist kills gang members and corrupt cops, which plays into that notion of bad = you deserve to die. I also think this game teaches people to sympathize (only merely) with mass murderers, placating that this protagonist and possibly many murderers, only kill for freedom or for family. The game teaches me that brutality and murder is synonymous with the goings-ons in the black-market, and It also teaches me that vengeance is a goal, and the sole activity that brings equilibrium to the protagonist because ***SPOILER ALERT*** (you end up murdering the film director, and your biggest competition, another mass-murdered whom also kills on camera)

The game did end up being banned in multiple countries due to it’s excessive violence, but what do you think ? Is censorship needed ?
Post your responses below.

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Gaming + Exercising = Exergaming

Exergaming is the new term to describe the mode of video gaming which requires players to move their body along with the game. Exergaming became an almost overnight phenomenon after Wii was launched in 2006. Today exergaming is a multibillion dollar industry which seeks to appeal to a wide audience, young, old, fit, weak, male and female. It’s success stems not only because of its new hand held motion controller and other peripheral devices, but because it changed how consumers viewed gaming consoles and was popular with everyone including parents.

Todo sobre: Eyetoy

While the companies who have created these exergaming consoles make big claims surrounding increased energy expenditure, weight loss and fitness, there is still little evidence to support the claim that exergaming improves health. One of the concerns I have with the impacts of gaming is the sedentary nature which is problematic for young gamers. Exergaming claims to be the answer to the sitting down, couch potato nature of common gaming. Today, many of the activities young people like to engage in  are sedentary in nature, for example using the computer, watching TV and going to the movies, which is exacerbated by the popular and addictive nature of video gaming. 

The timing of the introduction one of the first ever exergaming tools, Playstation’s “Eye-Toy” fulfilled a gap in the market which was perfectly timed with the ‘obesity epidemic’. With exergaming becoming an overnight success, grossing revenues of $2.9 billion dollars and counting, I think parents have justified purchasing exergames, more so than other forms of video games because they have bought into the perpetuated myth that their children will become more physically active and ‘fit’, as well as spending less time on idled movement gaming.

Look don’t get me wrong, exergaming is fun, social and it is perfect for gamers who struggle to engage in physical activity. I find it awesome that young gamers can play their exergames in the privacy of their own homes in discretion as much or as little as they like. In reality, some physical activity is better than none at all, I guess.

While exergaming has been shown to increase energy expenditure under laboratory conditions, there is still little evidence to support the long-term benefits of relying on it to improve your health. Early research exploring the health benefits of exergaming focused on the energy used while playing. They showed that Wii games, for example, could contribute to health benefits from physical activities and reduce sitting time.

The face of exergaming has developed significantly since the ‘Eye Toy’. New exergaming technology has the potential to monitor energy expenditure through heart rate reading and better body tracking. This might also encourage people to be more active when playing (as they may be able to see actual physiological responses, changes and improvements).

There are probably health benefits to be gained from existing exergames. However, like many existing pieces of exercise equipment they require motivation to set up and turn on, discipline to use and perseverance. As the technology evolves there is certain to be plenty of opportunities for them to be part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Teaching kids with games

In Wednesday’s lecture, the idea of video games as potentially harmful to children was briefly touched upon – in the traditional, narrow-minded broad generalization kind of way. I completely disagree that videogames are harmful to kids, despite what the Jack Thompson’s of the world may say. Obviously not all videogames are going to be child appropriate, and it’s up to the parents of said kids to monitor what they engage with, but both as a fun pastime and as a tool for learning and development, I think videogames have great potential.

Below is an article written by Catriona Wallis that briefly discusses the impact of videogames on children – and I agree with her point that whether or not video-gaming is detrimental or beneficial to a child depends greatly on the game and how they engage with it.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/catriona-wallis/video-games-are-teaching-our-kids_b_4209621.html

I think it’s interesting to consider video gaming as a medium (rather than games as objects with which to interact). As an anecdotal example, last year my partner did a little part time work with a New Zealand-based company called Bubble Dome – an afterschool for children and teenagers that teaches them how to use various programs, including those with which they can use to build their own games. Here’s a link to their website: http://bubbledome.com/

By chance he ended up working with a small group of children who were described as having learning difficulties or behavioral problems, and who weren’t all that well catered to within traditional schooling environments. What he noticed was that when he asked them to talk about a concept they had learnt in the Bubble Dome program or in school, these children readily turned to the gaming software they knew in order to explain and give a clear example, rather than simply communicating verbally. He also noted that for many children, learning to build their own games provided an opportunity to explore concepts that they said they found boring or difficult to understand in school as the games were something fun and relatable.

Thankfully, as these kinds of programs are gaining traction, the perception of video games as a negative influence on children is slowly changing. Another company that operates along a similar line, The Mind Lab, has recently opened in Newmarket, and provides classes for children that teach coding and game design – encouraging creativity, curiosity and logic (they also run adult workshops if anyone here is curious…). It’s awesome to see more and more organizations utilizing gaming as more than just a pastime, and teaching kids what they can do with it as a medium; as something that can be used for a multitude of purposes and creative tool.

Bonus reading: “How Video Games Are Teaching Kids” http://www.gamespot.com/articles/minecraft-in-education-how-video-games-are-teaching-kids/1100-6400549/

Smartphone? More like Genius phone.

It is not breaking news that many people play games on their phone. Whether or not it should be considered gaming is another topic entirely, but ultimately it is undeniable that gaming has crept into our daily lives through smartphones.

When I scoured the net for something to attribute this rise in mobile gaming to, I found some rather interesting statistics. Turns out the average mobile gamer is in his 40s, is 42% likely to play daily, spends over half his gaming time on the couch and in public transport and spends $8-$15 a month on gaming.

This is a far cry from the previously lecture-mentioned statistics regarding average gamers being in their 30s with a long history of gaming. I have a few opinions as to why things are changing.

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Firstly, accessibility allows almost anyone to game anywhere, anytime. Since the world is becoming more and more glued to their mobile devices, and distractions more commonplace, it is easy to feel bored and pick up your phone and play on it for a bit (or- if you’re into candy crush- for 3 hours). Our natural competitiveness and need to rid ourselves of aggression make games on mobile phones the perfect de-stressing platform.

Secondly, it is ridiculously cheap/free to game on mobile devices. New levels are constantly being created in a variety of games (not to mention new versions of said games)and it inspires our human curiosity to explore it all.

Lastly, the lines are being blurred between social networking and gaming.

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A friend of mine who is addicted wholeheartedly to Farmville told me the only reason she started playing was because the pop-ups kept annoying her so much on Facebook to the point that she had to try it to see what all the fuss was about. Games like Second Life are another example of virtual reality social networking because essentially you combine your world with one that is completely at your control all the while maintaining relationships.

Ultimately gaming seems to be heading in a slightly older direction. If this is the case, my question is why does society continue to blame the kids?

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Games are fun but look at that sunset

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Studies have suggested that 10-15 per cent of gamer’s exhibit signs of addiction as recognized by the World Health Organization’s criteria for addiction. At this stage gaming is not recognized as an addiction in the way gambling is even though the two addictions share similar traits. Built into games are a number of ‘hooks’ just like in gambling. The most easily recognizable of these hooks is the high score. For more traditional games the idea of beating or ‘clocking’ the game compels players to stay engaged. Games are created in such a way to challenge but also be beatable to provide the player with the satisfaction of winning. The player is constantly given small wins to keep them playing similar to gambling machines. However it is the possible developmental detriments of games they I find more concerning. The role-playing element of games gives players the opportunity to create a character which they subsequently become emotionally attached too, with that avatar they can embark on journeys of discovery from the safety of their homes and finally there they can build relationships. These relationships are built within the online community which often becomes the place that the player feels most comfortable. Like compulsive behaviour such as gambling, teen (and adults alike) become so involved in the fantasy world of gaming that they neglect family, school, work, friends and other factions of life.

The world of games is growing. Graphics and gameplay are constantly becoming more advanced and appealing. Games have become a place for socially awkward teenagers to escape into during those crucial years of social development. Many of these young kids don’t feel welcome or accepted at school so instead, they look for acceptance online in an environment which provides little threat to them. These games may give them a temporary sense of purpose but are these kids being giving an ‘easy out’ of those socially awkward teenage years, the years where they must learn how to develop into socially functioning adults. Instead is gaming culture leaving the planet with a generation of socially awkward adults? Teenagers can be cruel but the cruelty of teenagers is often a necessary evil to toughen us up for the next step of life. In Daria J. Kuss and Mark D. Griffith’s recent article, Online gaming addiction in children and adolescents: A review of empirical research they agreed by saying that gamers “appear to use gaming as a strategy for emotion regulation in order to decrease negative feelings. This seems particularly problematic because those adolescents who play online games excessively are likely to get little chance to actually develop healthy ways of coping with stressors because they are constantly occupied with playing online games instead. Therefore, their psycho-social development may be significantly impaired. The consistent blocking out of and passive coping with stressful experiences is a strategy that may be successful in the short-term. However, viewed from a long term perspective, it may limit the potential to have fundamental experiences that are necessary for developing a protective way to cope.” Without all the necessary steps in life you can fall behind. When I was in high school I got put forward one year in maths thus effectively skipping a whole year of the mathematics curriculum. I never caught up; maths no longer made sense because of what I had missed. So let’s try to not miss anything.

The more technology evolves and the more complex and amazing games become, the more I find I like the simple things like trees…and sun sets. Let’s be honest, who needs second life anyway? First life is far more challenging, complex and compelling. So let’s get playing!

Unintentional, but Ultimately Problematic Racism within Video Games

This issue was brought to light in the lectures during the last week and even more so in the tutorial, and it got me to think of a particular instance within a video game which could certainly be identified as a scene containing an example of problematic racism. I have almost no doubt in my mind that this was not intentional on the part of the producers or game developers, so who, if anyone, is at fault?

WARNING!!! The following contains potential spoilers for ‘The Last of Us’

The particular scene I am thinking of comes from arguably the game of 2013, ‘The Last of Us’. In this particular cut scene the character of Sam turns from a human into one of the infected due to a bite on his leg. To put this into perspective and give it appropriate context, the two main protagonists in the game are Joel and Ellie. Both can be considered as white, middle-class Americans living in an apocalyptic wasteland. Joel and Ellie encounter two other characters named Sam and Henry. Sam is 13 and Henry is his much older brother. Both characters are African-American, and can be considered to come from low to middle class America. As mentioned previously, Sam, is bitten on the leg while attempting to escape from a horde of infected. He doesn’t actually tell any of the group this and in the morning when Ellie goes to check on him, he attacks Ellie and as a result, henry ends up shooting his infected, younger brother before shooting himself as he cannot bear the thought he has failed in protecting his younger brother.

When playing through the game, I thought nothing of any racial ramification this scene may have had, but on looking back it’s rather obvious that there’s an instance of problematic racism in that it is the young, black child that turns into one of the bloodthirsty infected. This may be looking into it too far, but having Henry shoot himself straight after doesn’t help with giving a positive image of the two main African-American characters within the game. Sam, turns into a monster effectively, and Henry kills himself, possibly leaning toward a notion of cowardice?

The latter part of that may be a stretch too far as the crippling emotional pain is unfathomable unless you’ve experienced something similar, but coupling Henry’s action with Sam succumbing to the infection does not leave a positive image of the two main African-American characters within ‘The Last of Us’.

Is anyone really to blame for this? The truth is, it’s very difficult to say. Being able to take a more critical viewpoint into games now may mean I see these instances recurring more often in video games, in which case maybe these moments of problematic racism are so much the norm that we regard them as normal, hence why I didn’t pick up on it in the first place

Cara Delevinge is a gamer?

I remember in lecture when we were talking about Anita Sarkeesian, and how she began a Kickstarter campaign to fund her for making videos. And how she got harassed for this, from “rape and death threats” to an internet game called Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. But then this lead to her supporters donating over $150,000 dollars to her project.

Cara-Delevingne

This very different compared a picture posted by Cara Delevinge on instagram.

Cara Delivigne COD

Which is a picture of her playing a video game with the comment and hashtags “Just got to play the COD new maps!! Ahhhhhhh #callofduty #toomanymen #CODghosts #onslaught.” What caught my eye was the # with toomanymen as we just talked about it in lectures and tutorials. But what was even more interesting was the comments to this photo.
“Your’re my perfect girl”
“perfect girlfriend”
“You B Mt wife”
“Bad Ass bitch” (don’t know if this is the good or bad)
“BADEST BITCH”
“GEEK”
“perfect game and perfect girl”
“what is your gamertag?!?! Plsss add me omg”

These are just a few of the comments made on the photo, but it seems none of them are not like the comments or review Anita Sarkeesian got. Absolutely no hater comments. It seems very unfair. Is it because Cara Delevinge is a model and famous?

Also interesting fact that I did not know was that she is in Grand Auto Theft V.

But anyways, I just thought this was an interesting topic to bring well, as well as that there Cara Delevinge’s photo was there.

What makes FEMALE play videogames become such big an issue?

It’s not uncommon to see sexual harassments or threatens on MMOs or game forums towards female player.  What makes females playing games such a big issue?  They are just like everyone else wanted to play game.  The prejudice of female gamer is directly related to the female figure been under presented in videogame, media in general and in the society.  The boy club stuff and some of the wrongheaded male players has driven women away, or at least trying to keep female the other within videogames and probably to stay in kitchen.

In regard to the Team Unicorn’s “G33k & G4m3r Girls” video and comments about fake geek girls, the fact is how you perceives them strongly depends on what you believed in.  The meaning of the content is solely relying on their audiences to interpret them through reference to their own feelings and relationships with the images.  I can’t say no to people who argue that there are girls play games to grab attention, but that’s just the minority and there are far more serious female gamers.  The reason for people only sees these “fake geek girls” is because only who needs approval will stand out and the real ones don’t have to and probably don’t even care.  In fact, in many MMO environments the most successful and skilled female gamer will tend to use a male character in order to hide their gender.  This is not only due to the fact that male characters have higher fighting ability but also to be treated by other players fairly and respectfully.

Video from: http://www.upworthy.com/some-geek-boys-called-these-geek-girls-fake-they-certainly-wont-be-making-that-mistake-again-7

There are only 2 major aspects of women characters which stand out in most the games which is their leg and breast.  Sounds sad, but most of the times their intelligence and bravery were never mentioned.  I guess the market demand which is driven by Freud’s psychosexual theory still has a louder voice than feminists who calls for equality.  Many of the well educated people, not only women, are considering themselves as feminist.  All they wanted was to have some respect for females especially within the videogame culture.  The presentations of underdressed female are so common where it becomes a stereotype.  Many of the times unless it gets points out you probability fails to realise it.  Prejudice doesn’t disappear in a day, but takes time and effort.  A good point to start would be stop drawing gender lines, make women comfortable within the industry.

Representing War

  Video games based on wartime stories are very popular in gaming industry. The games about the World War II are the most common one. However, the representation of war in games in controversial and not that authentic. The reason for it that game producers are not historians. Well, these are games, not history books. The majority of such games are quite recent and mostly based on the modern representations of war in films, although some may argue it. The game world is mostly bipolar, there are ”goodies”, there are ”baddies” (enemies). The representation of who are heroes and who are enemies in the game was made clear. Our world is not that bipolar therefore there is a danger of misconception, that young people, especially teenagers, playing such games can get a forced perspective viewpoint on the events in history. Therefore,  the World War II games are really common because the horrors of Nazi regime are famous all around the world. In spite of it, the visual representations of Nazis as enemies in the games is distorted on purpose.  For example, ”Nazi Zombies” games – the name tells for itself, Nazi portrayed as zombies, and Nazi soldiers are portrayed less fast, smart and strategic that supposed heroes. Of course, there are also games with alternative endings, like ”Wolfeinstein: The New Order” , which lets Nazis win, and series of other video games that allow the enemy win (enemy, of course from the perspective of the country where the game was produced).
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The problem of authentic representations remains, as video games are still being a different visual medium, and the aim of war video games is not to educate players about the war but make them play it, and act within the set story. Video game can be seen as an interactive medium of storytelling, yes, but video game is still a game, a fiction. The game creators do not even plan to make the game historically authentic, it is not their target. Even though it looks like reality, the setting is a fictional virtual space after all, and gamers are aware of playing the fiction. In this case, is the subjective representation such a big problem? Depends on how you see it, and it is up to you to decide.

For those, who want to know some more, here is a link to an article describing other lies video games tell us about war: http://www.gamesradar.com/10-lies-video-games-tell-us-about-war/

I am not your heroine.

So I was browsing the class blog when I saw this picture.
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I had another post planned, but I got mad. I got really mad. I got so mad I wiped out everything I had written previously and started this post instead. (N.B. I thought the post itself was very good, and agreed with many of the OP’s points.) Girl monsters are a rarity, in all forms of media, but especially in video games. Girls and women who are beyond humanity, who exist for their own purpose, girls who are not defined by their relationship to others. Heroes exist to save the day, villains exist to antagonize the hero, and monsters exist as a force of pure evil. A villainous woman is not the same as a girl monster. 
 
As a female, who has hovered between girl and woman for the last half a decade, monster girls are something I crave seeing. I am hard pushed to recall any female dungeon bosses, with the possible exception of the Gohma, a recurring low level boss in the Zelda franchise. But even they are primarily defined by their ability to spawn larvae, as mothers of monsters and not monsters in and of themselves. Male bosses in the series summon the low level support enemies with various powers or allegiances. Not through reproduction. In fact, female monsters in a wider context tend to become mothers of half human hybrids. Again, they become defined by their ability to bear progeny. This is a problem in the way it defines women, wombed and fertile, and as sexually attractive to males.
 
Games where you create your own character often result in bizarre sexual dimorphism in the “monstrous” races, especially in one of the first MMORPGs I tried to get into, World of Warcraft. Female character designs varied in terms of skin colour and appendages. I ultimately lost interest because my character was so much like the other females. The female character designs were minimally muscled, exaggeratedly hourglass and beautifully postured, even when that contradicted the male race equivalent body. A girl monster is a thing that promotes female autonomy, she says her body doesn’t need to fit into the acceptable spectrum and her motives are hers not to explain as much as she wants.
 
It’s not enough to have heroines. You can keep giving us female protagonists in tank tops and combat boots and that is great, but it’s not enough. It promotes the idea that a certain kind of femininity is right, namely the type that appeals to a male viewership. Lara Croft, Princess Peach, even the much acclaimed Chell follow the model of women as a package deal; long haired, able bodied, slender but strong. It’s not enough to have female villains either, because then you are defining women by their relationships to heroes. That contradicts the idea that they are people in their own right (or unpeople as the case may be).
 
Girl monsters, however, exist as independent entities. They roam the forests and fields doing whatever it is NPCs do in their free time. And when they are approached with a weapon, they fight back. Girl monsters need to exist as a means of empowering the female ego. An orcish, black tongued, half rotted, female is a way of saying not only do I dare exist outside your conventional standards for women, but I don’t care that you think that it is disgusting. That character exists for me, the creator, and not you, the audience. It’s a power fantasy, in the same way that men are given options for green-skinned dragon-men with biceps the thickness of their necks, a reptilian female without mammalian breasts and with the ability to forge steel with their breath tells women that their fantasies are legitimate even when they do not involve children or mates. But we couldn’t have that.
 
The lack of representation of women in video games is symptomatic of a wider issue involving acceptable standards for women. The regulation of female bodies and behaviours should be concerning, and it should concern you if you thought at any point while reading this “why doesn’t she pick the male option then.” If you did, you missed the point. Women are not a minority. Evil women exist. Women who enjoy chaos and bloodshed exist. Women exist in as many casts and creeds as men and yet are washed over in limited character design and are expected to want to look a certain way. My problem is not the fact I am a woman, it’s being told how I should be a woman.