Continue to last post about violence, plot and awareness, this post will discuss the two immersion and violence.

As the last post said, diegetic immersive player may not be able to realize any violence element at all because the player’s attention is not on nothing but the story, not violence. Being diegetically immersed is like when watching a Hollywood action movie, you simply expecting the happy ending at the end by enjoying watching and listening the massive explosion during the movie. It is not important what, or who was blown up but you have to see, even if foreseen already, that the hero is happy ever since. But if an audience has really notice about the violence, like while playing a game, a player realized that he has to kill to continue the story, the diegetic immersion maybe breaks due to the awareness of the element outside of finishing the story. By notice the violence as an event, the player may still experiencing immersion. But by realizing it is violence, which has turn the player’s attention the essence of a mission in a game, which is violence, instead of stick on the story, the immersion experience will stop. For example when playing Counter Strike, if one focus on winning the other team, he is immersing and won’t care about the “violenceness” of killing the avatar of other player. But when he had made a head shot to someone he particularly doesn’t like, he may have notice the insult that the extra violence has bring to his enemy, therefore he may laugh at the game control of the enemy in real life. In this case diegetic immersion has totally broken due to the realization of violence.

 

But when diegetic immersion is break due to the awareness of violence, intra-degetic may become stronger, because a player may have realized the violence within a game, but rather than starts considering about it as a violence game element in game design term, the player may just put himself within the game space even deeper and simply be violence, and enjoying it. In this case violence really helped experiencing the intra-diegetic immersion because of the interaction nature of a game has provide the game player a chance of being part of the violence, and being violence is part of the gameplay that belongs to the game space. So violence is actually help created a more immersive game environment. Same example as above, if the player is not aware physical existence of himself or his enemy, and forget to make fun of other player’s control skill, he may simply enjoy the feeling of giving a head shot to someone he doesn’t like, therefore expecting to head shot him another time next round, and violence has created the space that he can act into, to be further violence and satisfying. But on the other hand, violence may not helping with intra-diegetic immersion at all if the diegetic immersion has broken, because the two types of immersion cannot exclusively exist without experiencing the other. Especially since experience Diegetic immersion is the basic condition of experiencing intra-diegetic immersion.

When Violence was designed in video games

By the meaning of “violence was designed in a video game” I mean the violence that exists within the game story and not the player’s initiative choice.

 

One possibility about video game violence is that the game player, who is mostly the prime mover and the audience as well, may not recognize or realize it at all because of immersion. As Taylor’s definition about diegetic immersion, is that a player is being caught up in the story, so that the viewer forgets they’re watching a media text. In other words, when a player is diegetically immersed with a game, all other fact will be ignored including violence within video games. Apart from fighting games, violence in most games is a subset of the game plot regarding the game story itself. There is no violence game just about violence game. It is just an outcome in order to finish the game story. The unaware of violence is because the player’s attention is turned elsewhere, and normally is the game story. In order to finish it the player must acting within the pre-set code of the game, follow the rules and kill whoever needed to be. Like, my first time playing GTA SA, I am urged to know what has happened to Sweet (CJ’s brother who was taken and held by the police) and I simply don’t care, or never noticed what I have to do to find the clue. I was immersed with the game story, and by the time when it comes to a killing mission, I kill. Not because I am enjoy it but because I know in order to find out the story I have to do this, and I want to find out too badly to care about the NPC character I just killed. When violence happens to a diegetic immersed player, he probably would never realize it.

 

The other possibility is after the violence was recognized; the player sometimes has to be a part of it without any choice due to the lack of agency. Similar to the first situation that game player has to do violence thing to finish the story, in this occasion players need to follow the game design too, only the player is aware and forced this time. For example the Airport Massacre Scene in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is really disturbing when I was playing it. But simply I don’t have a choice, I have to be part of the massacre to continue the game and I don’t have the integrity to close the game and never play it. The lack of agency of the game made me no choice, even if I never fire a shot I will have to sit in front of the computer and watch it happens. These NPC characters have to die because as a player I wasn’t given the ability to manipulate the story and stop it from happening.

 

In either of the situation player was forced to be violence, with or without being realized. But for different reason, the player has to continue the violence without bypass it. In the first situation very few will feel guilty because of the unawareness. Some may find it extreme guilty regards the second situation, with the lack of agency, the helplessness will reach a player’s emotional bottom whereas some may find the guilty pleasure, having fun of being violence without have to worry about the NPCs at all.

Sexism may not translate the same in different language.

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Video games are reflections of the world, even with all the fancy visual effects and movements, therefore characters within video games are creations that are based on the existing world, even those with extraordinary body and skills. Since sexism could appear in every corner of this world across culture and language, it is not surprise that offensive video games about gender, or female in particular, exists.  However. one game may considered extremely sexism and offensive in one culture, but not as much in another. Japan and Japanese culture for example, would have different view of sexism among video games.

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There are games like Dead or Alive (Team Ninja, from 1996) , famous for the very “simple” dressed characters and wobbly breasts, cute face but deadly fighting skill. The target market of this game cannot be more straightforward: Otaku. Otaku is a term that similar to the Nerd, common in Japan but not necessary link to loser, usually love “little or big sister” and obsessed with cuteness. The game is offensive to female, over the world I think, but considering about modern Japanese culture and its’ social environment, it become more reasonable in Japan. Therefore it is not the game maker who should be blamed.

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Adult entertainment has a long history in Japan and always considered respectful, always protected by law, those sex supplier women were even considered sacred, holy and memorable because they had served for the whole country during the WWII period. Adult video, or porn in Japan, has become an expensive films industry, female actors who become stars were considered as respectful as conventional TV stars, even seen as harder worker, they are commonly seen on TV, in advertising or events. Some even invited to TV shows for young people as a kind, caring older sister.

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Influenced by Manga, or maybe influencing Manga, cute is a label for Japanese girls. Yes it is a stereotype, but it is commonly welcomed among Japanese people. Cute when there is a male around, independent when she is along. This was considered the goal of most japanese girls. With such cultural background, it is not a surprise that game like Dead of Alive comes out. Cute as a little sister but strong and protecting as a big sister, even big brother like. Sexy as the whole country has been expecting for centuries. Those Manga like characters, are considered way less sexism among Japanese female than Western female.

Agency, a word that I can’t understand.

Agency referrers the ability of controlling the game, with the ability, game player is able to make choices and end up with a consequence that change the game world. But to me, Agency is a reaction that made by the combination of choices and changes, initiative and freedom, narrative and interaction. Agency is a feeling created by the right combination of those elements. The feeling of controlling and manipulating. With agency, players could have initiative action and have a satisfying consequence. A game with high agency have persuasive power that if something goes wrong in the game the player can blame nobody but the choice he himself had made. Agency provides the illusion of freedom but never associate with absolute in-game freedom, as the gamer always playing within the rule and the code. In other words, every ending, every consequence is plotted, it is only the number of options left open matters. If the options is much enough to make difference and at lease one consequence is satisfying to the players, the agency within the game is considered existed.

Despite the simpleness of the game, “One Chance” is all about choices that players could make, different choices immerse players with totally different ending. Saved his wife, kid, himself or dead. With many options available with difference consequences, I see the game as a high agency game, especially compare to the game “Pathos”, which left player no options but only interactively follow the instruction, like a movie. The only difference between Pathos and a very short movie is the interaction, which is let the player to click to continue to next move. I see Pathos as a no agency game.

But interestingly as the name suggests, the game “One Chance” only has one chance in the game, once you made your choice there is no coming back, without refresh and restart the game from the beginning(at lease my experience), player cannot experience an alternative consequence but accept a somehow unsatisfying result. If a player only plays One Chance once, there would be no difference between the game and Pathos, and if the player is a non gamer who doesn’t realize those different choices lead to different endings, this game would consider to be a no agency game too. Moreover, if all these choices made in One Chance were leading to the same ending, like Call of Duty, whether the game could still considered as a high agency game could be argued. Some may argue that games like Call of Duty, could have variety of ways of going through, for example in CoD player could play as a sniper or play rush, with different choice of weapon and different way of play, the gaming experience could be different, therefore agency exists within such choices. Whereas others may argue the game followed the script and leave the player no other choices, exits were blocked in a relatively opened map, very little agency were given. Same argument could goes on if One Chance provides different choices but all end up with same consequence.  Just like the game “Today I Die”

In the game “Today I Die“, the lack of instruction but let the player figure out what to do would give players a sense freedom, a feeling of high agency, whereas the ending are quite the same.  (Despite how many times I tried, I always end up with two, with or without the boy) Assuming the game has only these two endings, it is a relatively low agency game. However with the somehow weird beginning and heart warming ending, and the maze-like step by step discovering interface, the game provided much interacting game experience and could considered as a high agency game. The discovering element make all meaningless action meaningful because it helps going through the game. The experience would be totally different if instruction was provided. Murray define agency as “satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices.” So step by step figure out how the game works could be considered as satisfying power and meaningful action. In this case, trying hard to kill enemies in CoD would also considered as meaningful action. But only in CoD, we foreseen the result: the enemies were killed, despite how we play it. In “Today I died”, player hardly know what will happen.

After all, to me, agency is a word I am still confusing with, but I see it as a feeling, a feeling that creating curiosity to other possibility, and the ability to discover, to control it. Not necessarily end up with a satisfying consequence but at least the player has the power of making a satisfying consequence. Neither necessarily positive, for example if the Airport Massacre chapter in CoD were left an option of not killing those people and still alive, or has the opportunity to successfully stop the killing, some players may choose or at least try the Massacre regardless, therefore agency is not lost and those who chose to kill are still satisfying.