Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Third Person Effect"

Women as Background Decoration Part 1: Tropes vs women in video games, presented by Anita Sarkeesian host of Feminist Frequency, explores the long history of women being used in negative ways throughout the gaming world. Women are often used to fill the background being referred to as NPC’s or “non-playable characters”. Anita mostly focuses on what she calls the non-playable sex objects. She then shows a multitude of images from various games of highly sexualized characters that use lude phrases and are almost always eliciting sexual favors. One trope was of non-white women being used as “exotic” hyper sexual characters and how this leads to sexual objectification which she breaks down further into 5 categories: Instrumentality, Commodification, Interchangeability, Violability, and Disposability. Instrumentality is described as using NPC’s as tools or props to aid the player. She then shows a clip of a man throwing a dead woman’s body over a ledge in order to distract his pursuers. And another that showed a mission to steal a pimps “hoes” and bring them to a brothel. Commodification refers to the buying and selling of women. Fungibility is a the idea that women are worth the same as other objects in the game. Violability is when “the objectifier treats the object as lacking in boundary-integrity, as something that is permissible to break up, smash, break into”. This is then followed by a clip of  a man forcing a woman into the trunk of his car beating her until she stops shouting and drives off casually listening to commercials on the radio. And even more disturbing, the murders of women that result in the collection of money or points to the player. Disposability is defined as 1. Something designed for or capable of being thrown away after being used or used up. 2. Free for use; available.

The example for this is a man who is propositioned by a prostitute and decides he doesn’t want to buy her but rather hog ties her and takes her to a train track to be splattered by an oncoming train. This is referred to in the game as dastardly (defined as wicked, evil, heinous, villainous, cruel, fiendish, barbarous ect..).

The active playing gives the illusion that the player has a choice of not abusing women in games. However even if you choose not to, the fact that women are put in the game to perform a specific function. I liked how Anita put it when she said “A toaster is still a toaster regardless of whether or not you choose to make toast with it. It’s still designed for the express purpose of toasting bread. And it still communicates that fact even while sitting unused on your kitchen counter.”

The idea of a “Third person effect” where a person believes they are not affected by the game was interesting. I feel like there has been a lot of back and forth about the negative side effects of video games. I’m sure that video games are not the reason why someone would be violent but it does desensitize the viewers to acts of violence and normalizes the victimization of women which then can be carried over into their day to day lives.

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