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CATS- Critical Perspectives Essay

Jason Marc Pook
Games Design (BA)
Hull School of Art and Design
Hull College
28/03/2014

Critical Perspectives Essay
Psychoanalysis of Dead Spaces main character Isaac Clarke and Outlasts main character Miles Upshur.

The two video games I will be comparing by using psychoanalysis will be “Outlast” and “Dead Space” on the characters of Miles Upshur the reporter on Outlast and Isaac Clarke a space engineer in Dead Space both are the main protagonists.

In this essay im am going to use the main characters of the games Dead Space and Outlast to psychoanalyse both the characters and the effect they have on the player. I will talk about player to character connections with the assistance of Jane McGonagall and her theory of “epic win” connections, the different forms of survival how they design the game to scare the player, the use of mental issues to create different ways of getting inside the player’s head, the alterations of experiences in 1st person and 3rd person, , and then compare and contrast of the two. The main discussion will be the 1st person against 3rd person perspective of horror games as these define the franchise and have a wide context of debate. Theories I will use to analyse the piece after playing them first hand will be my own experiences and then research into experiences of others to balance the points made so the piece has depth and variety.
Outlast is a first person horror game set in a mountain asylum, you the player are a reporter who has received a tip of suspicious goings on at this location anonymously. By the time you realise to abort this case it’s too late your trapped and have to find a way out through many jump scares and monsters or crazy people running around. The story behind it is contextual to the real MKUltra experiments conducted by the CIA in the 50s, 60s and 70s in the U.S. and Canada. Those experiments, which are still shrouded in secrecy and that some think continue to this day, dealt with drug use, torture and some form of mind control. Instead of a narrative to the story the game is run by individual investigations throughout by the player using his video camera which engages you in the story to try solve the madness. It’s purely designed to make the gamer suffer as you only have three options told to you at the start of the game “Run, hide or die” no combat skills or weapons to assist you which just fuels the fear. The “Walrider” is the main antagonist of the game who causes the sacrifices of the mental patients and worship as it is all-powerful apart from the machine which allows it to live and host a body.
Dead Space is a 3rd person futuristic horror game set in space on a malfunctioning mining ship called the usg ishimura which is used for new resource gathering planetary methods called “Planet cracking”. Isaac Clarke a space engineer is sent to fix the ship, to find the ship is thriving with an undead species called the Necromorph. Isaac is also looking for his girlfriend Nicole who is assigned to the ship, he received a confusing message of “I wish it didn’t have to end this way”, throughout the battle of uncovering what’s behind the Necromorph he is also going through his own battle with sanity as the “marker” which controls the Necromorph also causes Isaac’s hallucinations and visions which constantly freak out and confuse the player. The psychological battle with the church of unitology the cult behind the Necromorph’s and his nightmares are the driving force of the plot. You fight to fix all this and your own problems it’s a truly on edge game with plenty of jump scares.
I have chosen outlast and the main character Miles Upshur as I want to analyse how the character is used to make you feel as a player like you are in the game. You never see the face of the character you instantly place yourself due to the 1st person view as the character despite the name which is easily overlooked.

“That’s the thing about survival horror: if you’re empowered, then the threat is not as big…you feel you have to be proactive to fight back. But if you know there is no way you can fight back, then that’s when I think the horror is most effective.”

This is a quote from co-founder of Outlast Philippe Morin describing the mindset behind the mechanics of the game, I read into this further and found out they got inspiration of this from a game called “Amnesia” this game released in August 2010 was a clear inspiration for outlasts game play style of a huge focus on psychoanalysis and how they can engage the player into the world of horror, with quotes like this.

“I think it is safe to say that Amnesia is the most successfully frightening game to have been made.”- Rock, Paper, Shotgun

So basing the game on this was a solid bit of context for a successful horror. With that in mind it really helps assist the player’s engagement with the character, you feel his vulnerability, his fear and his desperation throughout various escapes and pitch black navigations. The feature that supports this the most effectively I feel is the 1st person view, this places you immediately in the mindset that you are Miles Upshur, you experience and consider all the notes and video clips he records throughout the game like a detective to try figure out where to next or what’s around the corner. The use of 1st person is supported by the camera you use to record the happenings of the story, but the battery life on this camera is reliant on you finding batteries which are scarce causing missed clues and some scary no night vision glowing eyed enemy moments. Its features include whilst running away you can look behind to see how close your pursuer is, if you approach a corner your hand will rest on the wall so you can peak round and the options to bust open doors or be silent in your stealthy movement depends on the situation it’s truly immersive and slowly engages your connection with the characters physicality as the game goes on, not forgetting the increasing audio of Upshur’s breathing if people are spotted or noises are made which automatically engages you to do the same.

“While there’s rarely any let up in the tension, it always feels like you’re in the hands of a developer at the top of its game, revelling in making the player uncomfortable, but never forgetting to delight at the same time.”- Edge review online.

This quote from edge’s review rated 4.5stars of 5 sums up the intentions of the designer they love-making you believe it’s you but don’t neglect some breathers so it’s not overwhelming tension. Although everyone around him is mentally unstable with signs of dementia and insanity miles manages to keep mental stability until becoming the host of the antagonist the walrider in the end when he disconnects its original host’s life support system causing Miles to be in the end the cause and reason behind his investigation so you the player are essentially mentally stable but end up the cause of the insanity through digging into something you shouldn’t have. The player never loses touch with the game as there are no cut scenes in the game so you are purely playing and stopping the take notes then back to the madness, no breakages in the plot means smooth game play that doesn’t disengage you at any point and never reveals the appearance of Miles.
I chose Isaac Clarke the main character in dead space as I want to question the player’s engagement into another person’s journey of both mentally and physically how they use realism of the story and back story with cut scenes to emotionally attach you to this character. Isaac had previously been living with Nicole Brennan prior to her assignment to the usg ishimura 2 years before the blackout of communications, so when assigned to go fix it the mission became much more personal and also engaging as despite an alien outbreak there is focus to be achieving that “epic win” that Jane McGonagall talks about in her TED talk on “gaming can make a better world” as you the player want Isaac to succeed, you bond with Isaac across the narrative as you want to escape as much as him due to you are experiencing it aswell. The developer does this most effectively with the game introduction giving you a back story and context to Isaac. Only to be dragged along his path of insanity when he contracts dementia, you are witness to this man’s mental torture which the ‘marker’ uses Nicole to haunt Isaac despite the actual truth being she died at the start of the outbreak taking her own life which is the end of the video clip that he is sent, so the marker uses her to try destroy him and you which several frightening hallucinations and very eerie voices in his head. This powerful narrative really drags you deep into someone’s mental instability and you connect the protagonist Isaac strongly creating your own mistrust and views on other crew members when separated who also seem to use “We will find Nicole” to manipulate Isaac further into helping them. The key to Isaac’s recovery was acceptance and letting Nicole go after the shocking realisation of her suicide, you the player witness all this as a 3rd person party this gives you the opportunity to derive your own theories on what has actually happened and what hasn’t, in some cases you are wondering what is a hallucination and what isn’t, this psychological journey is of Isaac’s mentality but also your depiction of the actual events. By designing the game in this way you the player naturally try to predict what is coming next or who did what, as soon as that kicks in the writers grip you with many twists and shocks you never saw coming like Kendra a crew member betraying Isaac trying to escape on her own to her own peril. As the 3rd person view with many means of killing these necromorphs it gives you chance to appreciate the world around you more you pay more attention to the finer details in the scenery for example in one of the elevator hallucinations where Nicole’s eyes look like they are beaming right through you the effect you can see on Isaac really immerses you in his feelings of what horror he must go through and how you have to get him out.  Also 3rd person allowed me to see the physical exertion going into the character when taking hits or dealing damage, he hobbles on low health grabbing his stomach breathing heavily that engagement of visuals supports the emotions you are supposed to feel for the protagonist further supporting his cause. But they do not give him a voice,

“the original which features no voice acting for the character and is only seen out of his helmet at the very beginning and ending of the game” (giantbomb.com article)

So by doing this you the player make your own assumptions on his personality and all of his features due to the majority of the game he is just a suit.
I want to contrast the differences between the user experience of 1st person in outlast to 3rd person in dead space and how it makes you feel. This is a much debated topic in gaming culture of which is better for a horror genre game 1st person or 3rd person. Multiple blogs I have sourced have different views here are some.

“First person, hands down. Instead of being some bodiless entity floating over the left/right shoulder of main protagonist, you ARE the protagonist seeing what he sees through his eyes.”- (horrorgameforums.com)

That is in support of 1st person but on the other hand,

“I feel third person would be better because you can see your character, which makes you more immersed in the game and feel the horror that the character is experiencing. Also, you can see yourself get attacked”- (yahoo.com reference question)

But then there is the middle ground of,

“I think that 3rd person tends to emphasize the player’s sense of vulnerability via the visible exposure of the player character, whereas 1st person emphasizes the sense of viscerality by situating the player as the direct recipient of attacks. 3rd person horror = exposure, 1st person horror = enclosure. Each perspective has its respective strengths, but given that ‘horror’ tends to encompass a range of emotions, it’s hard to say any one is better than the other.” (idlethumbs.net/forums Walter).

Many views can be taken on this from let’s say quote 1 the capitalised “Are” emphasises his point that you are the character you see through his eyes so you experience his fear. Whereas the contrast quote 2 references to having a connection to the character and seeing pain through emotion or physicality it’s like you’re on a journey together. Then quote 3 sums up the differences and how you pick specific ones to portray specific styles of horror game exposure or enclosure. My personal view is that 1st person is lots more engaging so I was a lot more scared of outlast than i was of dead space purely down to it felt like I was the main character throughout you could be stood still in a narrow corridor thinking im not going down there and have no idea that a 8ft hulk like monster is behind you towering over your body that’s the mindset I was in. Yes I did feel a connection to Isaac as a protagonist and that I was there to guide him with weapons but I can’t think of anything more scary than 1st person realistic horror with no means of fighting back relating back to outlasts co-founder quote o,

“That’s the thing about survival horror: if you’re empowered, then the threat is not as big…you feel you have to be proactive to fight back. But if you know there is no way you can fight back, then that’s when I think the horror is most effective.”

The comparison of the two games I would have to go down the path of the usage of mental instability to drive or coincide with the storyline. Outlast uses it a lot being set in a ‘mental asylum’ but it did have some contextual reference to it as explained before in mysterious CIA conspiracies of mind control and dementia. Whilst your character isn’t mentally unstable everything around him seems to be crumbling all of which you are trying to get to the bottom of with many scary obstacles and strange sacrificial occurrences going on. I feel the use of mentality in outlast is key to capture it correctly in the game if they hadn’t have possibly gone over the top in some cases with the doctor taking a few of your fingers you might not have believed the scale of the madness which then loses interest.
Whereas in Dead Space not only is Isaac fighting an alien outbreak you are being affected by the ‘marker’ which caused the outbreak and is now making Isaac lose his sanity taking the form of Nicole his loved one in hallucinations a side effect of dementia. It’s a real exhausting journey for you and Isaac slaughtering countless necromorphs and dealing with what is real and what isn’t as his condition escalates. This is vital in the storyline you really gain connection with Isaac it’s like you are on this journey together but you’re not sure what is what or who to trust as nobody seems to be trustworthy as they use Nicole as a driving force for Isaac to keep going thinking he will find her and repent for telling her to take the job here in the first place. Most people said on the blogs I read for 3rd person horror vs. 1st person that the 3rd person narrative does sometimes heavily rely on strong narrative and dead space really pulled it off,

“An incredibly atmospheric and disturbingly gruesome deep-space adventure that will haunt your dreams and leave you begging for more.” – (Lark Anderson on October 13, 2008 gamespot.com review 9/10).

So in both games this feature is a key factor of the narrative and has been pulled off successfully enough to make the different interpretations of dementia and insanity believable for the player so that they can truly engage in the game.
In conclusion the topics I have discussed behind the psychoanalysis of main protagonists of Dead Space Isaac Clarke and Outlast Miles Upshur is that both games have different styles of engaging the player into the horror by means of either game play realism or gripping narrative throughout. If I have to pick my choice of which did the better job of getting into my head it would have to be outlast purely on the basis of the 1st person view I can’t help but feel that when the character Miles is attacked that I sit there and say “that monster just hit me run!” emphasis there on ‘me’ whereas with Dead Space it was “Isaac run keep going its behind you” or “he’s dead” not im dead so it was more a personal engagement to believing it’s me that made it more scary. But to keep it neutral ground for their different but also similar styles of horror game you can’t say either one had done a bad job at making the player engage with the game in some way that would grip them to the screen begging for more.

References
Butler, M. 2014. Interactive Nightmares: A History of Video game horror. Kindle ed. Amazon.
GameSpot. 2014. Dead Space Review. [online] Available at: http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dead-space-review/1900-6199349/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Giantbomb.com. 2014. Isaac Clarke (Character) – Giant Bomb. [online] Available at: http://www.giantbomb.com/isaac-clarke/3005-1197/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Horrorgameforums.com. 2012. First Person vs. Third Person?. [online] Available at: http://www.horrorgameforums.com/public.html/showthread.php?95-First-Person-vs-Third-Person [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Idlethumbs.net. 2014. Horror games, 1st person or 3rd person? – Video Gaming – Idle Forums. [online] Available at: https://www.idlethumbs.net/forums/topic/962-horror-games-1st-person-or-3rd-person/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Krawczyk, M. and Novak, J. 2014. Gave Development Essentials: Game Story & Character Development.
Official PlayStation website. 2014. Outlast. [online] Available at: http://uk.playstation.com/ps4/games/detail/item620625/Outlast/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Official PlayStation website. 2014. Outlast. [online] Available at: http://uk.playstation.com/ps4/games/detail/item620625/Outlast/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Outlast Wiki. 2014. Miles Upshur. [online] Available at: http://outlast.wikia.com/wiki/Miles_Upshur [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Polygon. 2014. Outlast is a stealth horror game designed to make the player suffer. [online] Available at: http://www.polygon.com/2013/6/19/4444548/outlast-is-a-stealth-horror-game-designed-to-make-the-player-suffer [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Appendices:

Outlast-2

1st person outlast found hiding

Dead-Space-2-Nicole

Dementia, Isaac’s hallucination of Nicole gets scarier the worse his condition is

3rd person Dead Space

3rd person Dead Space Isaac Clarke

1st person Outlast

1st person Outlast found hiding

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CATS Log Book Entry 6- TED Talk- Sherry Turkle, Connected but alone?

This is the second of the TED Talks that we was asked to write up upon for further research as part of our “Contextualising Digital Cultures” topic about the area of “Futures”.

Sherry opened with her daughter texting her “you will rock” and went on to say I am a person who loves getting texts I am part of the central paradox but I will go on to say too many texts are bad for you. 20years ago she did her first TED Talk and was going to be on the cover of wired magazine for her work.

Those devices in our pockets are so powerful they don’t only change what we do but they change who we are. some quick examples are texts during work, school, meetings etc. which is referring to how texting is taking us away from the social aspect of life, the importance of real life connection and eye contact is key to build us as a human being, we are setting ourselves up for trouble. I strongly agree with this as I hate the idea that if I for example said to my friends “want to go play football at the park” that they would reply with through text message or some form of communication “im ok, we can just go on fifa” this is taking away social interaction we as human beings believe we are still interacting but when really we are hiding behind some form of screen so we are alone, and that is removing us from an important aspect of life which is interaction with other people/ social skills.

We are alone but together as we are connected through social networks, contacts, messages etc. but you only want to pay attention to the bits that interest you as if  you are hiding from each other. Sherry calls it the “goldilocks effect” not too far, not too close, just right its controlled to their liking, its a problem for the younger generation as they don’t develop any communicative skills. She talked to a 18 year old boy who texts for nearly everything and he said to her “…someday, someday, but certainly not now, I would like to learn how to have a conversation…” which makes you think what? how have you not got them skills its a aspect of life, and the answer is edit and delete and perfect what we say though social communications, conversation is now connection. People think that all those tweets, texts, posts add up to one big communication but they don’t as they remove the understanding and the learning of conversation with others effects the conversations we have with ourselves. Its so vital for children to interact with others to avoid segregation but if you would rather “text than talk” it allows people to chose to ignore you and that no one could be listening behind the technology.

Socialable robots is the term she used, we are losing so much confidence we think that the computers care for us that’s why things like Facebook are so appealing to make us feel like we are being listened too when actually its removing us. Its pretend empathy.

We now expect more from technology and less from each other, as technology appeals to us best when we are vulnerable so it gives is an illusion of companionship as we are afraid of real life companionship and its problems whereas the computer seems to be the centre of a perfect storm as we never feel alone. “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved” but connection is a symptom rather than a cure it shapes a new way of being to try make yourself understand you rather than feeling we connect to try bring a feeling causing isolation.

“All we will ever know is how to be lonely” as the lives on the screen isolate you rather than make you communicate. I do agree with her to some extent as yes the devices are used to connect to others to talk but that doesn’t mean that us as people are becoming purely connected through these devices, I know I myself would rather talk to someone than text as it breaks down the barriers and allows you to bond with another people to create a friendship or possibly more. But if we recognise our vulnerability to technology then we will truly see that the virtual worlds are not truly us the human life is us.

If technology is used properly it can lead us into the future and our dreams it can make this life “the life we love”.

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CATS Presentation Evaluation

For my presentation I had to create a timeline of the history of gaming with key moments in that timeline with links to each topic. The 3 topics I chose was Pong, How Nintendo saved the Games Industry and The Evolution of the PlayStation. The key content that I addressed in my presentation was that each 3 topics are iconic in there own way and it works perfectly linked as without the previous topic the next wouldn’t have ever happened. Pong is the first commercially successful game which incidentally caused the beginning of the gaming industry, yes there was games before but Pong was the first one to be commercially successful making Atari Inc. the main runners in the games industry. Without Pong doing this Nintendo wouldn’t have come about as Nintendo entered the market originally with a variation of home pong on a home console.

Thus leading to my 2nd topic Nintendo saving the game community after the video game crash of 1983-85 with rules such as the Nintendo Seal of Quality and the limitation to 5 games a year to prevent flooding of the market which resulted in them dominating over 70% of the market. So this was probably the biggest turning point in gaming history.

Which then incidentally links to my final topic of Evolution of the PlayStation, without Nintendo saving the games industry this would have never happened but that’s not Nintendo’s only involvement in the PlayStation. Nintendo worked with Sony and Phillips to create a CD-ROM/ Cartridge system called the Play Station (notice the gap this is how Sony escape Nintendo’s grasp) but when the operation went sour Nintendo closed it but behind there backs Sony continued and launched a few systems, dropped the SNES port closed the gap in the name so Nintendo had no hold on the PlayStation. Which is now currently with the Ps4 the fastest ever selling console in the UK.  This outlines my PowerPoint briefly and points out key factors showing the links.

I felt like my presentation went well I turned up in a Christmas jumper and funny Santa glasses to lighten up the mood in the classroom before I began so people might be more engaged in my work. Once removed and professional I felt I delivered it well to the class, I must say I did stumble a few times when speaking and had to refer back to the screen for words but I tried to make as much eye contact with everyone to engage them in the talk. I used my own personal experiences with certain features to bring slight humour to the PowerPoint as it was quite information heavy and less visual but I still felt I made it work. Things I learnt from researching this topic was that I learnt that I myself do have a good knowledge about gaming history as most of my topics I knew enough detail about to expand on without script whilst presenting, things I gathered such as statistics and key facts were useful to help make an addition to my knowledge as its something I can use in the future being my chosen career path.

The improvements I would make on my PowerPoint would be mainly the way it was portrayed, I did feel when I was putting it on the projector that it was more text orientated than visual so if I included a few more pictures as a visual aid maybe it would have helped assist the talk better. Also I would like to improve on my personal presentation skills I was referring back to the screen a few times and this could have been avoided with say some little note cards of speech which would have given me a much more strong body language than I felt I had.

Other information I would include is a few videos to help me present, I did have a video on the PlayStation topic but due to timing I didn’t get chance to use it so if I cut down the information I could have shown some video with some narrative information. Other than that I felt for my topics that I covered them well in my script and presentation, I presented it like everyone in the audience was completely oblivious to what I was talking about so facts and information was all given to not a patronising level but an informative level.

I felt that I have learnt some very useful key statistics for my chosen topics which will definitely be relevant in my other work, I have learnt how to improve and mould my presentation skills to assist me to present in a better way should I need to present my work in the future, I learnt some interesting facts about the likes of how much Pong earned a day $400-500 which was un heard of in the coin operated system industry previously and things like a survey in the USA found that more of them recognised Mario to Mickey Mouse at the time of Super Mario Bros after the game crash. Overall I am really pleased with my outcomes from the presentation I felt I did a good job and gave the audience enough information as well as my own personal views/experiences to assist them to a more personal level of the information.

 


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CATS Log Book Entry 5 Addition- The Virtual Revolution- The Birth of the Internet.

As part of Session 5 of our CATS lecture, we watched a video called “The Virtual Revolution“. It is a documentary that the BBC made and the particular part that we watched dealt with “The Birth of the Internet“. The episode started talking about how the internet came to be, specifically, how businesses took advantage of the internet. But then it moved to the topic of how the internet collects and uses personal data.

It goes on to explain the internet and all its supposedly “free” aspects such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. But the video address and explains how they are a free service to us. Its all done by the world of Advertisements, websites and businesses need to get themselves out there and the most efficient way of doing that is by advertising your own business. amongst other ways such as:

The internet has dramatically impacted the business world in the last few years and this trend will certainly continue well into the future. Many companies have discovered the advantages of having a presence on the internet and have successfully addressed corporate objectives by integrating their web site as part of their business strategy.

A web site can generate awareness and provide a world-wide store front for your company while automating many business procedures 24 hours a day. Let tech help your company benefit from the many advantages listed below that are available with a well designed and marketed site on the World Wide Web.

Establish a presence– Over seven Million people have access to the World Wide Web with more and more added every day. Your business can’t afford to ignore this many potential customers. Become an active member of this new and growing cyber-culture by developing a web site. Your company can easily and inexpensively expand with a new store that is open 24 hours a day in one of the fastest growing cities in history.

Networking– Develop lines of communication that promote contact with potential clients and organizations. What an easy way to pass out hundreds or thousands of business cards advertising what you do and how your clients can contact you.

Provide business information– Like any printed form of advertising, your web site can post your business services, hours, location, phone and e-mail for the public to view, but unlike the traditional advertising mediums, your web site can have instant communication with information about your company that changes regularly. A restaurant may allow customers to check on reservations for availability, search the menu for vegetarian dishes, and see what the chef has posted as the special of the day to help them quickly make an informed decision. Information on how and why people should use your company, frequently asked questions, and more can all be just a few mouse clicks away.

Service your customers– Your customers can have access to business information and services that may not be available any other way. Your clients can be from anywhere in the world and shop in your store like never before and from the comfort of their homes. Even if you have a large inventory, anyone can easily and quickly search your database and locate the exact item that they were looking for and purchase it online.

Conduct business– A web site does not have to make money to be considered a successful endeavour, but it does not hurt to generate some type of income. Your web site can provide your customers with the tools needed to locate the exact product that they are looking for and the forms needed to purchase any item or service online. This can occur automatically without draining human resources 24 hours a day

Provide files to download– All pamphlets, brochures, advertisements, and even a demonstration video of your product or service can be down loaded from your web site. Anyone interested in your company will have access to files that can be designed to print beautiful informational brochures, complete with pictures of your staff, or tables and graphs of information about your company. These same files can have links to picture, sound, and video files to enhance your ability to deliver an interactive and effective introduction to your company’s products and services.

So Google is run by people paying more and more to become that related add at the top of Google when you search, otherwise you don’t rank as high as others in the advertisement ranking. The way that Google works and relates advertisements to you is through the method of Cookies. When Google was originally pitched it was pitches as an advertisement free service but it was quickly shunned as it would work the money would drain away from processing and funding it eventually shutting it down. Cookies use tiny mini internet spiders called meta- crawlers to gather up all your recent search history to give you the most related and specific advertisements e.g. I searched for a suit jacket in topman and soon as I went on my social network site Facebook page a advertisement on the right under “suggested adds” showed that exact suit I clicked on as a hyperlink to try get you back there. It is done by Google’s system called “Ad words” they also use a similar process to function your searches by matching your words typed with words in the site and views of the site etc. to tailor to your exact needs.

An example of an invasion of privacy is when AOL released a list of searches by 650,000 people using the AOL services. A journalist was then able to find out exactly who this person was just by using the information from the data released by AOL and a phone book. So even though legally they are required to protect your information in this case that was violated and everyone’s search terms were revealed.

Websites that involve shopping now use certain features similar to Googles “Ad words” for example Tescos do it to show you when you search for a product what other people bought alongside this item or what they viewed in similar products. This allows people to be sort of drawn towards other products that they may not have considered e.g. a TV is what you want but they suggest a stand or even a surround sound unit to go with you TV. Its all very clever and well organised.


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CATS- Critical Perspectives Task- GTA and Feminism.

#gta-then-and-now

GTA Then and Now still women’s role remains unchanged.

For my Critical Perspectives essay I am going to choose GTA V created by Rockstar very recently in 2013 and the issues surrounding how women are portrayed in the game.

GTA is a game that has caused much conflict with its challenging morals and different take on reality of the world where you can freely do pretty much everything you shouldn’t do in the real world. It is a game that involves you playing as your given characters to partake in violence, drug deals, heists, races, murder, assassinations, stock market manipulation and much more which is incredible illegal in real life as it is on the game but in a game you don’t have real life consequences, this particular game is the 11th instalment in the series although it is labelled GTA V (five) which makes it one of the most successful games franchises ever especially with the success of GTA V hitting 1billion in sales in just a week, people like to feel they can live a life of crime with no consequences and that’s this game despite much debate on its morals. But aside from the main protagonists which are incidentally 3 men, the role of women in this game is one that sparks much debate in the way of feminism. Women in this game are never portrayed as the protagonist and you never at any stage control a female character to play the game in the story mode. Females in the game are mainly seen as prostitutes, issues, and inferior.

Things weren’t looking good right off the bat. As errand boy gangster Franklin you quickly meet Tonya, a crack head who offers you sexual services to cover for her boyfriend by towing cars (services which you don’t accept). There’s also Franklin’s aunt who goes on powerwalks with other middle-aged women where they run and chant “I am woman, hear me roar!” The implication seems to be for the player to think “Hah, look how silly women are when they think they’re empowered!” its all purely sexist in its portrayal.

The ladies in the life of Michael, the retired bank robber, aren’t much better. There’s his wife, an ex-stripper who does literally nothing but scream at him every time she’s onscreen, and cheats on him frequently off-screen (tennis teacher and yoga teacher both resulting in Michael’s angry rampages). And there’s his daughter, obsessed with nothing but making it big on the reality show “Shame or Fame.” and was also caught in one mission by you Michael her father on what’s said to be a boat which shoots pornographic scenes which you pull her off to the anger of some gang members. Objectification of women is absolutely all over the portrayal of women in this game and its wrong.

Most of all shocking is when you first become the third of the playable characters which is Trevor and he is having sexual activities with a girl who has a boyfriend and when the boyfriend says he’s had enough of Trevor’s ways being aggressive he gets killed by several stamps to the head.

As time goes on you continue meeting psychotic women, like Mary-Ann, the fitness-addicted side-quest giver who you race as all three characters while she laments being 39 and childless she is self obsessed in her appearance and always speaks in a patronising tone of voice about how your character is a man and how men think. And of course there’s the funhouse full of strippers you can ogle as any of the three male leads, and if you’re charming enough, you can actually take them home, get their phones numbers and call them round for a free dance at anytime. online you can even charm them through you headset further getting you to speak in that way to women degrading them to try and pick them up for a dance. This could have effects on the real life as men who may have got too enthralled in the game may treat women and speak to them as the game has encouraged him to do causing much problems and harassment orders.

The only woman you would say is “normal” in the story would be the wife of Martin Madrazo who I met when I kidnapped her as the character Trevor and he eventually grows extremely fond of her threatening her husband the most powerful man in Los Santos to treat her good with a whimper as he walks away (showing a feminine side to him). Possibly the random women you retrieve purses for or vehicles when they have been stolen as they are extremely thankful and one even gave me 100,000 shares in her company and a free suit for my character.

Overwhelmingly the game has a terribly negative portrayal of women. But also the game has a terribly negative portrayal of men too. Really, the characters of Grand Theft Auto are all pretty awful people, no matter their gender. GTA 5 is no exception.

#gta-5-online-gameplay

The introduction to be a playable female character in the online version of GTA V could be a sign that times are changing and maybe in the next instalment of GTA there very well could be a female protagonist as the question for this one was 3men surely there could have been one woman.

 “GTA V has little room for women except to portray them as strippers, prostitutes, long-suffering wives, humourless girlfriends and goofy, new-age feminists we’re meant to laugh at.”- Carolyn Petit- GameSpot Reviewer.

In conclusion the overall view on women in GTA V is that of a demeaning nature as they try to portray the men as the superior sex in multiple different dialogues as previously indicated. Women are constantly objectified with sexual connotations and actions like the strip club and how easy it is to be talking to them in a degrading way due to the games encouragement. But its not all bad even thought the majority of women are portrayed in a sexist way the emergence of the playable female character in the online multiplayer could suggest changing times. This concludes my critical perspectives essay.

 


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CATS Log Book 7/8 Critical Perspectives

To conclude semester 1 of log books we did our final lectures on Critical Perspectives.

Our 7th and 8th CATS lectures were about “Introduction to Critical Perspectives”. This lecture began with some simple questions in relation to critical perspectives and its role in technology:

  • How do we use technology?
  • How do we interact with it? Physically? Mentally?
  • How does this effect us as a subject?

The definition of the subject is “a person or thing that is being discussed, described or dealt with” or “a thinking or feeling entity; the conscious mind; the ego, especially as opposed to anything external to the mind”. We then went back to the TED Talk that we watched by Sherry Turkle which I have already written about separately.

I then learnt that critical perspectives can be used to help develop analysis of society and culture. And we can identify key perspectives within cultural studies that can also help us to think about ourselves as subjects (producer/audience) and society. I We were then introduced to two key theoretical perspectives Psychoanalysis and Feminism.

This is where theory becomes a very large part of thinking critically as its such an important area for us to understand the history of the subject we study. We use the theory to help us to understand and then think critically about cultural production, its content and meaning. Critical perspectives give us the capacity to form our own thinking and make up a part of the toolbox of skills necessary to advance further.

At this point, we all split into groups and watched two game trailers. We were given two key theories and an image of the game to assist us with this. We then had to use our understanding of Critical Perspectives to analyse and study these theories in the image and videos then to feed back to the class our findings to collectively see what we may have missed. The games we were given were Silent Hill: Book of Memories for Psychoanalysis and Tomb Raider for Feminism.

My group came up with the following suggestions (with me trying my best through Skype due to my injury):

Silent Hill: Book of Memories

  • Creating a personal avatar – puts the player into a more personal state of mind that this is them in the game.
  • Avatars created resembled teenagers which means they are of an adolescent mind-set. Adolescent mind-sets are more easily manipulated, and this puts the player into that mind-set. It also suggests the target audience of the game.

Tomb Raider

  • There is a question as to whether the design of Lara Croft is objectifying women or if the design of Lara Croft causes her to be a feminist icon, this was due to the original first ever female character being large chested really skinny and overall a sort of sex icon which she still is.
  • Designed by men in the mid 90s, attitudes have changed since then so was it purely aimed to attract men.
  • In the newest game the latest instalment to Tomb Raider, Lara is designed to be attractive, despite being battered and bruised which makes her more relatable as she is no longer indestructible and perfect she really does take a beating most levels (spike through the head was the most gruesome of deaths I was involved in)
  • Appearance was changed to be more relatable for female gamers, from a large pointed chest perfect figure to a more natural beauty look.

Using critical perspectives will help in the analysis of most cultural artefacts as it helps you with:

  • Representation
  • Stereotypes
  • Character Design
  • Narrative
  • Concepts/Motifs
  • Experience
  • Genre and Stylisation
We can use cultural theory/ critical perspectives to help us understand and think critically about cultural production, its content and meaning.

At this point, we were introduced to Sigmund Freud. Freud was an Austrian Psychiatrist. His career in psychology is very important as he invented the therapy of psychoanalysis. Freud graduated from medical school in Vienna in 1881. Freud’s ideas in the field of psychoanalysis continued until being forced to leave Austria to seek refuge from the Nazis. He moved to London in 1938.

We went on to cover what exactly psychoanalysis is. This can be summarised by the following quote.

“Psychoanalysis is a theory of the human mind, a therapy for mental distress, an instrument of research and a profession. A complex intellectual, medical and sociological phenomenon”- Ivan Ward and Oscar Zarate, Introducing Psychoanalysis, 2000

We learned that over time, Psychoanalysis has shown:

  • The relationship between sexuality and human motivation
  • The hidden meanings of psychological events
  • The importance of childhood
  • Psychic conflict as part of the human condition

We then were introduced to two notable feminists, Linda Nochlin and Griselda Pollock. They are both “Feminist Art Historians”. We learned that analysts in feminist circles suggest that the cultural system and it’s writing of history have institutionalised sexism. We also were introduced to the concept that the very idea of “The Artist” and “Art History” could be viewed as a construct of masculine nature. The idea behind feminist theory is that female artists are and have been ignored and “written out” of cultural history.

What is feminism?  well its the issue of rights for women first became prominent during the French and American revolutions in the late 18th century. In Britain it was not until the emergence of the suffragette movement in the late 19th century that there was significant political change. A ‘second wave’ of feminism arose in the 1960s, with an emphasis on unity and sisterhood; seminal figures included Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer. Feminism still continues today with push for rights in workplaces and pay amongst other things.

We then looked at exactly what feminism is. The definition of a feminist is “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. We then learned that gender is largely a social construction and feminism allows us to think more critically about these stereotypes.

In relation to games and new media, these following quotes illustrate the current state of gender in the games industry.

“Today there is a ‘general recognition that things are more complicated in terms of games and gender and that the older stereotypes are often being perpetuated by the games industry and a certain hardcore contingent of players but do not reflect actual player demographics or interests.”- Steven E. Jones, The Meaning of Video Games, 2008

“Despite the increase of female players and women entering the industry, the stereotypes and the industry itself still need major renovations.”- Casell and Jenkins (1998) / Kafai et al (2008):

An example of a feminism and how its portrayed in a video game would be that of Mario, in Mario he is always on the hunt to save Princess Peach a beautiful blonde haired princess who is captured by a big bad guy. This is stereotypical that the man needs to saved the woman as she’s too frail and cant save herself. It is the video game industry that is still using these questionable stereotypes in certain games, only up until Lara Croft the lead female role in Tomb Raider was a woman portrayed as the hero and used as the lead character.

This concluded our final log book lecture as in proceeding weeks we are presenting our presentations of gaming timelines to the class. I learnt that some things I just didn’t pick up on in games like the role of women are actually there if you look properly, a little further research I did on this was women’s roles in Grand Theft Auto none of them are lead and they are all objectified or portrayed as weaker than the main antagonists, this being a already controversial game with its content has given me another angle to pick problems at now when previously I thought nothing of it.


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CATS Log Book 6- TED Talk Jane McGonigal The Future of Gaming.

This is an addition to my Log Book 6 as further research on the “Futures” topic in our Contextualising Digital Culture series. This video is  TED Talk from Jane McGonigal who talks about the Future of Gaming and how it can make a better world.

Her name is Jane McGonigal she is a Games Designer who has been in the industry for 10years, she opens with a statement of what she wants to do which is “to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is in a online game” from her research she found out the world plays 3billions hours of gaming a week but that is actually no where near enough to be solving all the worlds problems, the world doesn’t game enough. Sounds mad as most people have a lot to do outside the world of gaming but she wants 21billion hours of gameplay every week which is 7times the current amount if we are to survive the next 100years on earth.

A phrase she used to describe an image of a captured game face of a gamers on the very of an “epic win” an epic win is a term I use a lot in my gaming time as it refers to a huge/ awesome success in your gameplay its a shock of your capabilities in game, recently for me it was finally defeating the Master difficulty on Resogun PlayStation 4. This was used to contrast the face of people who solve the real worlds problems which we see as a bore as its not as much as a “epic win” as in the game world, I think this insight is a fantastic way at looking at things the passion of “epic wins” achieving what you think is the impossible why cannot that be used to bring out the best of us in the world today. Collaborations in games of how 100000’s of people are ready online to assist you in your future endeavours, like a quest on a massive online multiplayer role playing games people from all over the world might want to join you due to their particular skill sets. We don’t get that enough in real life.

Another quite humour related thing she said was the level up reference, in games we level up e.g. +1 strength +1 vision etc. so we have a sense of achievement every time we play games which gives us progression, whereas she said “im not going to go off the stage with +1 speaking +1 crazy ideas…+20 crazy idea you don’t get that in real life”. Its so inspiring to be on the verge of a epic win people spend so much time gaming to achieve that so if that was incorporated into real life achieving.

The 10,000 hours of success theory was then mentioned, referring to research that young gamers now play by the age of 21 on average of 10,000 hours of gaming so this is a parallel education to school. So what do gamers achieve and what they learn? well gamers are always made of these 4 superpowers:

Optimistic: they always think an “epic win” is possible.

Social fabric: gamers take a lot of trust to collaborate and work with someone else so collaborations in real life are much easier for gamers it builds stronger co-operation.

Blissful productivity: we know when we play a game we are more happy to work hard than relax on something we want to focus and be inspired into.

Epic meaning: gamers want to be world saving heroes so meaning to life with an epic objective will bring the best out of people who game more.

Gamers are “super empowered hopeful individuals” they believe and want to save the world but are confused to think they can only do it in the game world when they can do it in the real world with these 4 superpowers combined.

“We have to make the real world more like a game” I cant help but want to jump up in joy at this statement from her, gamers are so underestimated in all areas of life and sometimes are shunned or rejected due to their gaming activities when its actually games have been proven to increase all your reactions and give you these superpowers as Jane said so we are the future of the human race. Games are used to get away from all the worlds bad like hunger, famine, drought, disasters etc. what she references is making a world real life game where everyone is given a adventure from e.g. a roll of a dice it will give them a sense to achieve the “epic win”.

She rounded up with 3 survival real life simulated games which the first one was “world without oil” where they use your current location to gather feeds of data about cost of oil and what you have to do is solve how you can live without oil “if you emerge them in an epic adventure most of the players keep up the habits they gain in the game”, the 2nd was “the global extinction awareness computer” it made everyone collectively decide on the future of energy, health, food, security and social safety net it made people come up with over 500 insanely inventive ways of the human race future, and finally the 3rd game is “evoke” “if you have a problem, and you cant solve it alone, evoke it”- African proverb. If you complete the game you will be certified by the World Bank Institute as a social innovator working with universities all over Sub-Saharan Africa to imagine there own world saving social enterprises.  All these games are simulations of getting people to achieve the “epic win” in a simulated real life situation, especially with the last game making you a certified social creative is fantastic.

“Gamers are a human resource that can be used to save the world”. Let the world changing games begin.