Transcript of "Analysis of Play, February 10th, 2014"
The Analysis of Play
1) What we’re looking for.
2) Analysis 1: check-in
3) Playing Zelda: What did you notice about the
genre of the game?
4) Some quick feminism
5) The readings
To start today, I want us to look at your lists of
definitions of “play” and “game.” Both are
posted to the course site.
Form groups of 3-5. Look at all of the definitions,
and based on what you see, construct a bulleted
list of what we SHOULD be looking for when we
You will read these aloud, but also email the list
to me. (alexanp3 @ miami OH dot edu)
Hopefully you have started on your first analysis
paper. It will be due on February 24th.
Does anyone have questions about that
Let’s talk a bit about the Legend of Zelda (in
whatever iteration you played it).
As a point of trivia, does anyone know why the
original NES Zelda game is particularly
…of the Zelda world is that Link, our hero, is
always in some way tasked with saving Princess
Zelda (even in the game where she helps him
… is that a good thing?
“White men are saving brown
women from brown men.”
• Gayatri Spivak
This sentence aims to convey how certain brands of
feminism become an excuse for colonial and neocolonial forms of violence. So, when white men
are all like, "Hey, you! Yeah, you Third World
Women, you! You look oppressed! Why don't
you come live in our super progressive (but still
sexist, heyo) First World countries and be free
from harm… they're actually further silencing the
“Representation of the world, like the
world itself, is the work of men; they
describe it from their own point of
view, which they confuse with the
“Art is an attempt to integrate evil.”
• Simone de Beauvoir, from The Second Sex
“A pedestal is as much a prison as any
small, confined space.”
“No man can call himself liberal, or
radical, or even a conservative
advocate of fair play, if his work
depends in any way on the unpaid or
underpaid labor of women at home,
or in the office.”
• Gloria Steinem
“... that gender is a choice, or that
gender is a role, or that gender is a
construction that one puts on, as one
puts on clothes in the morning, that
there is a 'one' who is prior to this
gender, a one who goes to the
wardrobe of gender and decides with
deliberation which gender it will be
• Judith Butler, from Gender Trouble
The games are captivating to males primarily
because players compete with each other and with
the machine to "save the princess." They know this
narrative well from multiple sources and are eager
to actually become the hero in the tale. The
heroines, as Teresa de Lauretis explains, are "in
someone else's story, not their own." They become
"figures or markers of positions-places and topoithrough which the hero and his story move...to
accomplish meaning" (1984:109).
Boys see the option of playing the princess in
Mario 2 as strange because "she's the one
you're trying to save"; girls see her as the
heroine who saves the mushroom people, much
like she does in the other Mario games but with
a distinct difference-she doesn't need Mario to
release her from a spell.
In Metroid, the heroic character is female, but the
boys did not find that strange, perhaps because she
is an alien. "She has green hair, I think," said one.
The other remarked, "I picture it as an it." Despite
the game booklet's description of the character as
female, girls thought the character was male. "He's
got an astronaut thing, a helmet." Thus, the same
game is discerned differently-the female becomes a
green-haired monster for boys and a male action
figure for girls.
Blonde haired, blue eyed princess with a ponytail
who can kick bad guy ass all over the screen. She
doesn’t see Peach as the neurotic, helpless figure
that I did, she sees her as powerful…as her. Sam
meet tons of bricks, ton of bricks meet Sam. Now
all of this time I have been struggling with my own
historical narrative of Peach just as Pea was
building her own narrative for her. For her the pink
was powerful because it was what she wanted and
it still allowed her to kick butt in the process.
…while princesses can be negative role models
that they are not necessarily so. While pink can
be a way of marking something as “inferior” or
used for gender coding in a heteronarmative
society that it can also be empowering if your
choice is just that an informed choice. This is
something that I am sure to struggle with as
time goes on and I welcome the opportunity to
think it all through critically.
Jenkins and Cassell classify this aspect of Metroid as one
of the “abundant reasons to judge the video games of
today as reaffirming sexist ideologies and circulating
misogynistic images”[viii] by citing it as a reward for
player competence[ix]. This revelation is not in any way
integral to the storyline or the progression of the game.
In fact, as discussed earlier, it stops the progression of
the game entirely to allow the player to gaze upon and
control the sexual aspects of the character. The bikini
removes the threat posed to men by a powerful, capable
woman by making Samus vulnerable to the impact of the
male gaze, which seeks to control and fetishize her in the
same way that the less capable Peach is controlled and
The last example of a female video game character,
Princess Zelda, almost manages to escape the
confines of sexuality imposed upon her by the
male-dominated video-game industry. Within
the Legend of Zelda games, she acts as a guide to
the main character, Link, offering him instructions
and giving him necessary tools to complete his
quests. In addition, she takes independent action
on a number of occasions, and while she ultimately
needs to be rescued by Link in many circumstances,
it is difficult to see her as a typical damsel in
Girls who enjoy games that have been traditionally
designated as “boy games” have also started to rebel
against this stereotype, “embrac[ing] traditional fighting
games, especially Quake, as a space where they can
confront men on their own terrain and literally beat them
at their own game”[xviii]. In doing so, they often
exaggerate their sexuality, deliberately emphasizing
female attributes in much the same way that video
games and cinema do and are criticized for by feminist
theorists. By making this emphasis explicit and
deliberate, however, female gamers are attempting to
adapt the power of the gaze for their own purposes,
rather than having it act as demeaning.
• Read for class: Frasca
• We will discuss the major split in
game studies: narratology vs.
• BE PREPARED!
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