Christina Obmann has completed her bachelor’s degrees in English and American Studies (thesis on the portrayal of chattel slavery in video games, specifically in Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag: Freedom Cry) as well as Media and Communication Studies (thesis on the ‘zombie’ and the The Walking Dead-franchise as serialized transmedia experiences) at the Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt.
Currently, she is working on completing her master’s degrees in English as well as Game Studies and Engineering in Klagenfurt, while also being engaged as a student assistant at the Department of English and the Department of Science, Technology and Society Studies. As a tutor, she is co-hosting the Klagenfurt Critical Game Labs, where she helps fellow students practice critical game analysis.
With an academic background of Cultural, Media and Gender Studies, her research interests in Game Studies include issues of gender and race, ethics, as well as affective game design. When she is not playing, learning, writing, teaching, or talking about games, she is also an avid creator of cosplays, comics, and illustrations.
Gender Portrayals in Video Games: a Reflection of Production Contexts?
While it is still not uncommon to view the content of video games as isolated entity (cue ‘It’s just a game’), video games are products of specific circumstances and they also affect players in various ways. If we consider video games to be cultural objects, it becomes clear that in order to understand them in their entirety we need to consider the socio-cultural and industrial context surrounding and giving birth to them.
The production context of video games has been – and still is – overwhelmingly male-dominated, with a lack of diversity that is then reflected in the games’ nature and content. Especially the representation of gender has long been a problematic issue: From a sheer lack of representation and marginalization, up to stereotypical or even demeaning portrayals of women in games, distinct patterns of gender portrayals have been observed continually.
In this talk, I want to recapitulate patterns of female representation (and the implications thereof) and suggest a way of content analysis to fully capture the specifics of the medium. I will highlight the connection between production circumstances in real life and the (virtual) content of video games. With an exemplary analysis of female player characters in games by the French studio Quantic Dream I want to support my argument that the background of developers influences the portrayal of gender in – for female characters – often stereotypical if not harming ways.