Thursday, April 8, 2010

S03 - Gaming and Problems of Gender

As I showed earlier in the posted interview Emily and I had, I was never a big fan of computer games, especially not “hardcore” games. They somehow always frightened and/or annoyed me – I guess it was really easy for me to start “believing” the illusions they were creating. The most “hardcore” game I've ever tried was Counter Strike and I got killed as soon as I started playing it. The people I was playing it with were all boys. However, when I remember it now and when I think about representations of gender in computer games, I notice one strange thing – while my guy-friends were always aware of me being of different gender when we hung out, once we started playing Counter Strike that awareness disappeared completely. Before that, they would use only appropriate vocabulary when I was present, but while we were playing, they were saying the most inappropriate things I could imagine. I had a feeling that, at that moment, gender differences did not exist between us.
However, I agree that representations of gender in computer games are very often stereotypical and that “casual” games are often considered more appropriate for female, and “hardcore” for male players. Still, that is not something that necessarily makes me feel bad, because I feel I could always enter the sphere of “hardcore” gaming without fear of being discriminated against in any way, while I don't think many guys would go around talking how successful they were in Dinner Dash. It probably has a lot to do with wish-fulfillment. I think that men often feel pressured to live up to standards of “manhood” presented in popular media and that “hardcore” games give them the illusion of extraordinary strength and power. Therefore, it is no coincidence that “hardcore” gamers are often described as “unmanly” people with poor social lives ( Knowing that computer games provide us the illusion of being better than we could possibly be in reality, we are likely to associate people who enjoy that illusion too much with the lack of power (illustrated through physical or spiritual attractiveness).
Similarly to the assumption that “casual” games are for females and “hardcore” games for males, the assumption that gamers are necessarily socially inactive is wrong. In my opinion, similarly to web sites for social interaction, computer games might be a useful tool to help us learn more about social interaction. That is, if we don't take them too seriously. If we observe our fellow players we can learn about different responses to different situations in the game. Once they “get into” the game, people tend to behave naturally and that can be extremely valuable. On the other hand, if we completely “believe” the illusion that a game creates for us, than that game becomes our second reality. Compared to other types of media, for example television, it is much more interactive and much more able to actively change the way we perceive ourselves. In that way it can be useful and help us build up more confidence, but it can also isolate us and make us more like stereotypes we read about on

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