Wednesday, August 10, 2005

empty vessels (or false ones)

It seems like Lara Croft is similar to the representation of war fare in gaming. They both posess an emptyness in terms of really representing the realities of those experiences which are being lived through in the game space. Lara allows players to navigate through the game emobodied as a woman, yet even the first lady of gaming, is not represented as truely female, but as having masculine attributes which act as the means for her empowerment. Likewise, the representation of war offers roles within the game space which push towards valour, victory, pride, logic and intelligence - and leave the elements of horror, pshycological torment, and experiences of true f$%*ed up-ness that one could only encounter when in a war for real, out of the main picutre. So both War and Woman (in these two cases specifically - Im not trying to form a rant about feminism) are mis-represented as being somthing ideal, and these ideals filter down into gaming from the powers that be, The Man, the dominant ideological forces etc etc, from those who decide (and cater to also - of course it feeds a demand) what it is the masses will idealise about and consume. How convenient that a war game idealises and makes heroic the role of the soldier in times like these, and how convenient that the first really well knowen female gaming character is one whose only femaleness are tits and arse - not reflective of current society / power relations at all ay ?? ;-) I personally dont believe that these games create a more humanitarian or ground level, eye to eye understanding for those who play, towards those who the gaming focuses on (Soldiers, Iraqi peoples, Women etc) - because the representations that are offered are false, idealistic and exculsive of key information which could have constituted room for greater understanding - and so would do more harm in terms of relations than good. This is my rant, and its only an idea - I like discussing stuff, so if you disagree feel free....etc.

8 Comments:

At 10:22 PM, Blogger Luke said...

Just in case my comment during Jo's lecture today suggested that I thought the ground-level perspective made game spaces more 'humanitarian', I'm with you on that. I just think that it's too simplistic also to say that contemporary (war) games are more de-humanising than earlier, simpler games. But although I never caught the Tomb Raider bug, I'm with Jo insofar as the iconography of Lara Croft is ambiguous and multi-layered, i.e. can't just be dismissed as nothing more than 'tits and arse'. That's presumably why feminists disagree about the topic, right?

 
At 6:52 PM, Blogger mags said...

Yeah, I agree she isnt just booty and bust, so my empty vessel theory Is not really true...but I do believe that while she is a complex sign whose meaning rests in loads and loads of criss crossed stuff - that more than anything she is a falsity. And trying to fit her into power female figure or cyber slut categories dont work - because more than anything she is alien. What seems even more problematic is that feminists claim her as a feminist problem. It would seem to me that its best just to disown her as being any kind of real representation of women, disown her as a problem. Maybe thats a copp out ?? Dunno. But yeah, I agree its more complicated that I made out.

 
At 10:16 AM, Blogger Vasya said...

its a game, a representation of reality therefore it cannot, by defenition be true to life.
I guess what i'm trying to say is that like with wargames, its only a simulation of kiling, which definatley cheapens the actual act of war.
Simularly Lara Croft is only a representation of a female heroine, but in all honesty it is good attempt. Besides. the whole Lara Croft thing is way out of proportion anyway, it should be said she is the first European female heroine because the Japanese have a legion of these Lara Croftlike characters, all much more in depth and with more modest bodies. For instance Oni or the Ghost in the Shell franchise.
So i agree with the proposition of disowning Lara as a problem.

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

I remember reading or hearing that the only reason the character from Tomb Raider was made female was to avoid been sued for the blatent rip-off from the indiana jones movies. I'm not sure if this is entirely true but it's interesting to see how a protagonists gender can create so much debate. She's just a bunch of pixels, its the way people interact and the values we install on her that determine if she is a feminist icon or a 'cyber-bimbo' I think her apperance in the 'girl power' era lends her to been a feminist icon much like the spice girls but to a male poopulation were the spice girls any more than 'tits and ass'
As Vasya said games are a representation of reality and I think that leads towards idealism of war and women. Games are ment to be entertaining, although we feel they should be more socially responsible I think those aspects of horror are more dificult to portray and perhaps not as marketable as war games.

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger mags said...

what does this marketability do morally for the rest of the world though? Is it responsible for the dominant culture to create 'games' for pleasure in which we kill 3rd world nationalities? I dont know ay. I mean, I know it is just a game, I know they are just pixels, but the things we create do represent the way that we think - and its a little scary. The glamour associated with that war game was obscene !! But yeah - I can see how Lara could be seen as a kick ass kind of icon, strong female and all that, but what is strong about her are male traits, and she caters to the whole voyueristic thing - shes not strog in a uniquly female way.

 
At 6:00 PM, Blogger Luke said...

Great discussion: now I don't know what I think!! You may have heard me in a 100 lecture last year making the comment about Lara's gender being initially determined by a sudden panic in Eidos (?) about possible legal action by Universal(?) over the similarity in concept to RotLA. Didn't mean to imply that was absolute fact - like all good folklore it may be true, half-true or entirely false but it raises an interesting issue about the ways in which media representations take on a life of their own which can never be perfectly planned out by producers. What's absolutely certain is that the complex gender politics that surrounded Lara could never have been predicted or consciously encoded.

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger mags said...

True, thats true, because I guess no creative proccess is static - and the amount of people who would have been ivolved in the conception and creation of tomb raider would have been massive (I think??). Still though, when was the last time we discussed a male in a predominantly female game, like, ken in the barbie game? Is he threatened by all that pink? Are his pecks almost like breasts? Is his manhood at risk? Is he a stunted body? Should he be driving that pink cadallac? etc etc. Bad example I guess, simply for the fact that in a male dominated arena such as game making and game playing - the male figure within the game is never under threat of gender/identity questioning. They are 'givens' in the game space.

 
At 8:06 PM, Blogger Luke said...

You're dead right...

 

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