Produsage in Video Games

“A significant paradigm shift is now underway”  (Axel Burns)

The change in the way content is created, particularly in video games, is simply remarkable. With the introduction of the internet, we are now able to share and gather information from anywhere in the world. For some, this would be considered dangerous, but for others, like me, this is very exciting. As a gamer, it is a very exciting time: games are no longer restricted to the boundaries set by game producers, as players are now able (in most video games) to customise their own characters and worlds & then share them online for others to use. Think of it like a player-created DLC (Downloadable Content). Take GTA V, for example. So much of the game’s appeal and popularity is no longer simply down to the ability to carry out all sorts of criminal acts or destroy everything. It is now heavily appealing to those who  simply enjoy creating races, characters and vehicles. Another example would be the incredibly popular Minecraft, in which its whole purpose, is to allow the user to create content (buildings, worlds etc.). It’s an exciting time, for video games, and I’m excited to see how much further video games will allow players to create and share content.

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Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed: Cases of Orientalism in video games

What are the first that come to mind when you think of the Middle East? Vast, empty deserts? Exotic women in extravagant dresses? Grand, majestic palaces? All of these ‘perceptions’ of the Middle East stem from the way the Middle East is depict in the media, whether it’s film or video games. In this post, I will be specifically addressing the claims of Orientalism in the popular video-game series’ “Prince of Persia” and “Assassins’ Creed”.

The popular video game series “Prince of Persia” first originated in 1989 and was created by a Yale student by the name of Jordan Mecher. Since then, the game has spawned numerous sequels and reboots and has even been adapted into a big-budget Hollywood film starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The original game revolved around an un-named Prince, who has to overcome a series of puzzles and obstacles to rescue a Princess from the nefarious Jaffar. Interestingly enough, many elements of the game were borrowed by the 1993 Disney hit “Aladdin”. However, the video-game series has been claimed by some to be a stereotypical depiction of the Middle East. Šisler (2008, pp.207) argues that the imagery featured in the game “is particularly dominant in reference to the ‘Middle East’”. However, Šisler (2008, pp.207) also goes on to say that the fore mentioned elements “are typical for common medieval fantasy settings”. Having played Prince of Persia several times, I agree with Šisler’s argument that many elements in the game are orientalist. The mysterious nature of the prince, the exotic appearance of the princess and the vast, desert landscape all epitomize the West’s fetishized perception of the ‘Other’.

Original 1989 cover for "Prince of Persia"

“Assassin’s Creed” is another immensely popular video game series which has been claimed to be orientalist. Originating in 2007, the game sees the player take control of an assassin in ancient times, with each game based on a different time period. The series also borrows features from the fore mentioned “Prince of Persia” series and features a similar style. The orientalist elements in the first “Assassin’s Creed” are not hard to spot. The sandy-buildings, the mysterious protagonist and exotic women all feature in the game’s depiction of the Arab-Islamic culture. Yet, the question which Komel (2014) attempts to address is whether the orientalism in the game is used positively. Komel (2014) argues that it is, by stating that “in Assassin’s Creed we find at work a certain self-orientalistic sub –version that meditates a positive identification” Komel (2014, pg. 72). Whether this is the case is irrelevant, as what it is important from that statement is that the claims made for the game being orientalist are warranted.

Image from Ubisoft's 2007 hit "Assassin's Creed"

References

McLaughlin, R., Collura, S., & Buchanan, L. 2010, ‘IGN Presents: The History of Prince of Persia’, IGN, 18th May, viewed 28th March 2015, http://au.ign.com/articles/2010/05/18/ign-presents-the-history-of-prince-of-persia

Komel, M 2014, ‘Orientalism in Assassin’s Creed: Self-Orientalizing the Assassins from Forerunners of Modern Terrorism Into Occidentalized Heroes’, Terojia in Praksa, vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 72- 90.

Šisler, V 2008, ‘ Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 203-22

Don’t Blame it on the Media

The representation of violence in media is an issue which has been under constant dispute and has seen the mediums of film, television and video games come under very heavy scrutiny for the ‘effect’ it has on certain individuals (both children and adults) in society. But are the media really to blame?

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There has been considerable research undertaken, over the years, which has attempted to link the portrayal of violence in media to the behaviour of consumers in society. Yet, the question we must ask ourselves is, as Gauntlett (1998) states “why are there no clear answers on media effects?” In response to this question, Gauntlett (1998) goes on to suggest “that the media effects research has quite consistently taken the wrong approach to the mass media, its audiences, and society in general.” I, myself, own violent video games and films and I have watched my 13 year old brother interact and watch these games and movies. Sure, he thinks it’s ‘cool’ when two characters engage in a violent gunfight, but does this make him anymore violent then the next 13 year old? I don’t believe so.

Christopher J. Ferguson (2010, pg.40) believes that one of the problems in the studies of violent crime is the fact that studying violent crimes experimentally would clearly be unethical which rules out the ability to “examine the measure of aggression in the laboratory”. Another factor, which I found fascinating in the reading of David Gauntlett’s “Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’, is that “the effects model is selective in its criticisms of media depictions of violence”. This refers to the fact that researchers have focused merely on violence depicted in fictitious media as opposed to non-fictitious media (e.g. news). This, I believe is another good point which I believe is important in considering whether the media really is to blame for violent crimes.

In the end, we must consider the media as only a possible factor in the cause of violent crimes. I believe that essentially it is how an individual perceives what they see that is to blame, rather than the media itself.

REFERENCES

Gauntlett, David. ‘Ten Things Wrong with the ‘effects model’, in Approaches to Audiences – A Reader, Roger Dickinson, Ramaswami Harindranath and Olga Linne (eds) Arnold: London, 1998 http://www.theory.org.uk/effects.htm

Ferguson, J. Christopher. 2009. Violent Crime: Clinical and Social Implications. Sage Publications Inc., Thousand Oaks. CA

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