Monday, March 10, 2008

Girl Power?

This week's class readings have all been about gender and video games, and are mostly from From Barbie to Mortal Kombat : gender and computer games and Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New perspectives on gender and gaming. The pieces we read shared a general theme: girls like games with the following characteristics:
- female characters who are more than just pretty faces/bodies
- affective involvement (knowledge of emotions and social interactions with characters)
- opportunities for social networking
- less violence
- narratives

So, where does AofE fit into this? Lately I've been playing "Campaign" mode (I think this is the right one, as opposed to Skirmish), where you follow the Black family through the generations as they help to settle the new colonies. The narrative is appealing, but it's really secondary to the action. I have to wonder if it was added to appease both an educational focus as well as a gender-neutral focus. The storyline tells small details about the history of the time period, but also wraps in ideas about loyalty, love between cultures, trust, etc. Seems very girl-friendly, no? Also, I've noticed that this appears to be the only place in the game where females take on a more active role. Elsewhere, women are only settlers, helping gather food and gold, with no other contribution to the colony. Here there are two women "in power": a Native American woman and Lizzie. The Native American woman is sent home when the battles get too dangerous. Lizzie is a pirate queen. Historical accuracy??? I don't think I've ever heard of a pirate queen before. Both characters dress in a sexually seductive manner. I would assume that if you are planning to do battle, you'd want a little more coverage and support . . .

Edited to add: Clearly it's not just me. I googled "Pirate Lizzie" and "Age of Empires" and the only pictures I could find were marketing shots. I don't think it's so easy to get a good screenshot of AofE.

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