Essay Gendered Rhetorical Space

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When Europeans arrived in the Americas, one of the rationales for colonialism was that the natives were ‘not using’ the land.

Other representations of navigable space include cartographic traditions such as Mercator projections, which distorted the relative size of the continents in order to fit the entire globe on a cylinder, and modern GPS coordinate systems.

These games conceive of moving through space in a distinctly masculine fashion, in terms of both its role in the game experience, and the narrative milieu in which they take place.

They epitomize what Judith Butler would call ‘disciplinary regimes’ that through repetitive performance construct both gender and gendered space (Butler, 1990).

Looking back to the abstract battlefields of games like chess or Go, or to today’s real-time strategy (RTS) or ‘God Games’ like the Age of Empires (Ensemble Studios, 1997) and Civilization series (Micropose Software, 1992), it is clear these games define space primarily by its ability to be captured or held by players.

Core mechanics revolve around intellectual problem-solving and resource management with the main objective being to amass armies, expand territories, control resources, and dominate the play space of the game.Both Pearce (1997) and Konzack (2006) have noted a spatial transition in video games.In contrast with earlier more abstract forms of expression in digital games, there is tendency within the game industry today to focus on the production of ‘realistic’ representations of space — detailed, three-dimensional models of what Lefebvre would call ‘lived space’, or what Soja terms ‘Firstspace’ (1996). Game space, due in part to the constraints of the computer, and in part to the way in which 3D technologies have been developed, is overwhelmingly Western, Cartesian and male.As Aarseth (1998) says, ‘Every game of Myth (Bungie Studios, 1997) is a fight for position in the landscape …the units will go and do as ordered (with a simple click on the unit and then a click on the position or enemy to be taken) but when the chaos of battle erupts, efficient control is no longer possible, and much therefore depends on how well the player has taken advantage of formation, landscape variation and knowledge of enemy positions’. To a large extent, the video game industry in the U. remains dominated by a boys-only ethos that harkens back to the gender-biased practices in the British academia of Woolf’s day.[1] Games that are female-friendly are often couched in derogatory or dismissive terms: The Sims (Maxis, 2000) is ‘not really a game’; casual games are not counted as ‘real’ games by many in the industry.[2] The result is that certain types of games, game mechanics, play patterns, and, as we’ll see, particular types of game spaces have tended to dominate the field of games. This scene invokes the ways in which women have been systematically barred from the digital playground, both as players and as creators of play space.As Woolf points out in her essay, the solution is not simply to create a distinctly feminine voice (although this is one potential angle of approach), but rather to promote the cultivation of an ‘androgynous mind’, which, she suggests, is already possessed by male authors of great note throughout history (she cites Shakespeare as an example).We propose drawing from a number of cultural practices, literary sources, and existing games in order to pave the way for a playground that is more open to female players.Espen Aarseth, echoing Janet Murray’s previous work, has claimed, ‘the defining element in computer games is spatiality’, however, he says it is ‘the difference between the spatial representation and real space’ that makes gameplay rules possible.In describing a topology of game spaces, ranging from textual, two-dimensional, isometric, three-dimensional, etc., he concludes that in their careful planning as playable game spaces, they are in fact, not realistic at all, but allegorical, ‘figurative comments on the impossibility of representing real space’ (Aarseth, 1998).


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