This is it! The last “day” of new material. Your Essay #2 Final is Due Monday, 6/22, so I hope to have feedback on your drafts to you by today.
Watch These and Think
There’s not too much to highlight about these videos. I’m more interested in your take on them, so don’t forget to post on Canvas. Here’s the prompt:
Last post!!! In 250 words, please reflect on the following prompt before Friday, 6/22 by 11:00 pm.
Video games are quite often science fiction related. Players use futuristic weapons, travel in hi-tech vehicles, and boost their health immediately. The music Video: Red Hot Chili Peppers “Californication” (1999) is a comment of American culture, and it’s set in a video game engine similar to the Grand Theft Auto “sandbox” games. The video game sequence from the GTA: San Andreas (2005) “Black Project” walkthrough, which takes place in the fictional Area 69, an obvious parody of science fiction tropes of the government hiding alien secrets.
Consider our other texts (especially the virtual reality ones) and comment on why video games are a more interactive and immersive technology for indulging in science fiction themes.
Interactivity and Immersion in Video Games
I might have mentioned once or twice that my video game book came out in January. In it, I discuss the interactive nature of video game in several chapters, but “interactivity” isn’t the main goal of any one chapter. Below, I’ve excerpted passages from the book that deal with interactivity and immersion.
Video games have always been interactive, but contemporary video games are more immersive experiences, allowing gamers to become the avatars they control on screen. Americans (as well as citizens of other industrialized nations) have many electronic options for entertainment beyond traditional media such as television and film. Video games, like all entertainment, fulfill a demand for fun, leisure, and escape. Entertainment choices and popularity reveal prevailing ideology, suggesting a culture has leisure, capital, and collective interests to which entertainment industries market. American ideology influences the violent video games popular in America, but the themes are not unique to American culture. However, the popularity of these video games suggests violence, misogyny, and the apotheosis of the individual are desired themes marketed toward gamers—mostly male gamers. Video games reproduce cultural messages of, among other themes, masculinity, femininity, and misogyny. It is impossible to remove misogyny (or racism) from patriarchal society, and the phallocentric themes reproduced in video games and other media can be said to be values of the culture. Although not everyone in a culture may value misogyny, its reproduction in video games suggests misogynistic themes are popular for the mostly male audiences to which these games are marketed. (p. 122)
Excerpt # 2
The immersive worlds of video games often mimic closed, yet free-market virtual economies. Capitalism influences much of the game design and, obviously, the economics of the game industry. This highly profitable industry entertains (and will continue to entertain) millions of Americans. As noted previously, these virtual worlds are places to indulge in fantasies impossible in the real world. They extend gamer abilities, allowing leaps, flights, acrobatics, etc., by manipulating a controller. Perhaps not for all video games, but for adventure and role-playing games, starting a new game begins a new adventure to embark on. The individual may very well accumulate skills, resources, lovers, and vast amounts of virtual currency. Video games allow gamers to indulge in the fantasy of the American Dream, the myth where everyone succeeds. To some extent, other media allow this indulgence, but video games offer a much more immersive environment for doing cultural work—reproducing ideology. (p. 144)
Consider the following examples that valorize competition: sports, dating shows, and reality TV challenges. Video games allow players to indulge in all of those and more. Sports indulgence is obvious when considering the Madden NFL series is thirty years old, so, for at least that long, players have been able to tackle, kick, and score virtually. Dating is not as obvious (except GTA: SA as discussed in chapter 5), but saving the princess is a common enough theme metaphorically representing “winning the partner of one’s dreams.” Shows like the Bachelor and Bachelorette certainly demonstrate the popularity of dating competitions. Reality competitions—other than dating—have an interactive counterpart in video games, reflecting the contrived challenges of shows such as Survivor. Although the competition begins as a team effort, contestants vote off undesirable, expendable teammates, ending with a sole victory at the conclusion of the season. Contestants on the show have very limited resources and must complete arduous physical challenges to advance to the next rounds. A similar video game text that reflects this competition is the Fallout series, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. These single-player role-playing adventure games require characters to build themselves up in order to survive in the video game world. Resources in the world are scarce, requiring players to gather glass, metal, batteries, etc. to assemble weapons, protection, and other tools. (p. 159)
Note: 22 (p. 165): Other popular reality TV competitions somewhat similar to popular post-apocalyptic video games are the contrived challenges of cooking shows such as Guy’s Grocery Games, hosted by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. In that reality TV show, contestants have a certain amount of time to make a meal using only items related to the challenge’s theme. These challenges test the contestant’s ingenuity and efficiency in a timed setting.
Toscano, Aaron A. Video Games and American Culture: How Ideology Influences Virtual Worlds. Lexington Books, 2020.
Your Essay #2 Final is Due Monday, 6/22 on Canvas in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format. Hope you enjoyed the material this summer term. Take a look at the reading lists for other science fiction courses I teach if you want more reading or viewing to bring joy (or despair…it happens) to your lives.