Understanding an Instance of the Human Experience or One’s own Complicit-ness

Choose-Your-Identity game

Your gender identity is difficult to perceive. Because of the cuts on your face from shaving (a five-o-clock shadow already peeking through your skin) and your baggy,“tom-boy” outfit (girly clothes just don’t fit you), people mistake you for a man. You approach the male and female bathrooms. Which do you enter?

1.Female: You walk straight into the stall, but you already get funny looks. A young woman begins to say, “You’re in the wro-“ then cuts herself off, realizing you are in fact a woman. This happens a lot, but you are still not used to it. Do you sit inside the bathroom and cry or confront the person?

Cry: you stay in the bathroom for 15 minutes; you miss the beginning of your class and have walk in front of the whole class to take your seat, feeling your classmates stare at you. This has accomplished nothing and only furthered the humiliation.

Confront: You tell her “I’m a woman,” with your head held high. She makes an awkward, undecipherable noise under her breath and scurries out of the bathroom. You stood up for yourself, and walk to class early, sitting in your chair ready for class.

2. Male: You walk inside and must wait for the only stall in the bathroom, because you can’t use a urinal. So you shift there for a moment, fidgeting and waiting for the man to come out of the stall. Do you curse yourself under your breath for giving into how others perceive you or sit in the bathroom, ashamed of this difference?

Curse yourself for giving in: You are currently in a state of inner turmoil, but it is a beneficial one. While you are in a state of self-despise, it is a productive one: from now on, you will not let others’ perceptions of you dictate how you live your life. You leave the bathroom making a vow to yourself.

Ashamed of self: You continue to be ashamed of yourself, feeling like there is nowhere you belong. You leave the bathroom feeling free, though, escaping back into the world “grey.” You stray away from any place that makes you declare whether you are black or white, blue or pink–even if you are pink, through and through (just not out).

Can anyone tell us why the above rendition of dys4ia is less effective than the real game we played?

In this week’s “readings,” each game had a certain “lesson” or new way of seeing (both figuratively and literally, through these forms of digital, visual, audible media) that they wanted to “teach” the player. They did this in two different styles of game: either  a “choose your own course story” (like the one I wrote above) or a “do this ‘task’ to move on to the next step” sort of game. Each style was chosen intentionally with regards to what would be best to fulfill their goal or lesson. For example, in dys4ia, there was a fantastic combination of doing (completing tasks such as shaving her mustache or chest, or catch/feel the brunt of her girlfriend’s verbal attacks, which made her cry) and listening to a narrator tell her personal story. The rendition I had above (while, if fully realized, would be layered with some of these sort of games or movie clips), was less effective because it must be done with a “you” perspective that had to unfold linearly. It is not enough to say that since many people cannot relate to this uncommon human experience–to us, it is something odd and unthinkable to have characteristics/hormones/genitalia of both sexes–and therefore it is too distant for us; however, with dys4ia, the distancing is part of the effect (to understand someone else’s POV and experience, by listening to her personal narrative and participate through telling, symbolic games).The lesson was more to get the reader to understand this human experience as opposed to feeling responsible or implicated, as was the intent in “Phone Story,” when we had to manually shoot children in order to meet our target “goal.” (Also, when you didn’t meet the goal, the computer screen would say in a “digitalized” voice: “you didn’t meet the goal… don’t pretend you are not complicit,” blatantly calling out the game-user for his role in all of this, since we are clearly using the technology they denounce. Lastly, in the “obsolescence round,” the games get harder and harder as the “goal” has increased, speaking to the race to stay ahead and not become obsolete. As the demand for these technological objects go up, that means that the criminal treatment and murder of these workers increases. Also, there is irony implicit in the page when you fail: “don’t try to stop the progress,” it says, pointing out the fallacy our concept of “progress.”) Through the game-type chosen for dys4ia, the author was able to jump around and show the various difficulties she faces on a day-t0-day basis–but they mustn’t all happen in one day, as the “choose your own path” game-style necessitates.

Chronology isn’t essential to dys4ia story, but in games like “Inside the Haiti Earthquake,” the immediate cause-effect relationships are essential to “lessons” in each of the three stories. Here, the “what would you do” idea and “you” point of view heightens the responsibility of the reader who must put themselves in the shoes of this sort of character (a hypothetical real human put in very important, dire situations) and choose how to proceed. In each of the three characters, there was a different lesson that I learned: for example, for the Aid Worker, there were a lot of situations that led to different (perhaps equally or ethically questionable) conundrums. Using the “soldier” approach for handing out rescue goods made the most “vulnerable” get left behind, but working with the UN system takes a long time, and oftentimes causes people to wonder why goods are being stored when so many people are starving. Furthermore, my big lesson as The Journalist, was to not commit to an story angle without learning all of the facts/stories–this was an important lesson because understanding perspectives and getting a well-rounded, more “true” story is what this game was about.  As the Survivor, I ran into a lot of pitfalls, where I had to choose which human need I should prioritize… it was difficult and made me anxious, and I oftentimes went back to take another turn (knowing full-well that I could not do that in real life). I felt as though I was cheating, teaching me how lucky I was that I was not in that position, and how others had to make these same decisions without a “life-line.”

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~ by khughes80 on March 24, 2013.

6 Responses to “Understanding an Instance of the Human Experience or One’s own Complicit-ness”

  1. Kelsey Hughes

  2. This post intrigues me because of the level of discomfort it puts me in. Right away from the “Choose Your Identity” direction, it gives me a scenario that I cannot possibly comprehend (very similar to the dys4ia game). I don’t have experience with the mind frame of this situation, I cannot comment on it without realizing the limitations of my opinions being as I have no actual pathway into the emotions of someone feeling this way. I was put into a dilemma just by being shown the truth of what people go through every day that I can’t understand and have probably contributed to, whether in my accidental confused glances or in my general ignorance of the situation. Having this compared to Red vs. Blue, I can see an eerie outlook on the game. We have no real control despite Halo seeming like a game where the FPS can do basically whatever they choose (because we’re still playing within a set of rules, objectives and limitations) and therefore the idea of “progress” and completion seems just as pathetically unreachable as it might in dys4ia.

  3. This post really provokes a lot of thoughts, mostly about the choices that are made in development of the game. It all depends on what message we want to get across, and how we want to do it. I like the beginning of this post, because it applies the ideas of the game in a form we’ve seen before in this class. Rather than experiencing feelings ourselves, we are told how to feel, and everything is artificial. It’s nice to have control, but it can also lead us down paths we don’t want to take.

    Using your example and the Haiti game as an example, we can see why this strategy has faults. We make the decisions that we either personally think are better, or we think are right, or what we would do in that situation. Depending on how high stakes the question is, we could still move on, or the game could tell us that we’re wrong, make us feel bad, and end. In your example, there are clear choices that we should make: the ones that end with the character being the happiest. We don’t want to intentionally make decisions that make us sad, or end the game early, but there’s no way to know which one is right before you decide it. Our choices above are either “everything is good, you feel great and your life will be awesome” or “you suck, you’re miserable and you lose, kill yourself.” There’s no middle ground, and unfortunately that is a very real concern for developers of these games. You can’t make everyone happy.

    Using the style of game that dys4ia is, we have a straightforward story that we can interact with, and not having choices means that we won’t feel like failures for picking the wrong answer. It’s nice when games have clear beginnings and endings, that don’t require the user to determine them, because that takes a lot of pressure off of the player. As much as our society is moving towards interaction and “make your own adventure” type games, it’s nice to sit down and play a game from beginning to end and just play it, rather than dictate it.

  4. Liked how you incorporated options into your post. So, so, so clever. Also really significant how you identified the male aspect of the situation… similar to the circumstances in dys4ia, only it’s the issue regarding what it’d be like to be a male with outer female qualities. You also asked the questions and gave the decisions in the “you” POV, which, like you note later in the post, adds a relatable feel to it. I like how you chose these three games in particular for your post. You target the sincere affects the ‘games’ produced on you, and by acknowledging those feelings of cheating and disgust and empathy as you’re able to both do and listen, you’re hinting at the immense impact a ‘game’ on a computer can create. I could completely relate to your post and found the format and details of your reaction to be profound. You captured the overall reaction I had in a very in-depth, creative, intelligent manner.
    -Sarah

  5. Great post. Most of the post is an insightful analysis of how the various gameplay mechanics of dys4ia and Phone Story work to express the author’s ideas. But what really sets this post apart is the the unconventional first section. The vignettes, along with the accompanying question “Can anyone tell us why the above rendition of dys4ia is less effective than the real game we played?” together work to self-demonstrate the contrast between the mediums of text and video games. You’re vignettes show the limitations of text, even when powerfully written, I really like how this breaks my expectation of a normal prose essay, providing me with a narrative thread that impacts me emotionally in furtherance of its expository purpose.

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