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Tuesday, Sep 7, 2010
We discuss a variety of male characters, their body types and personas, and how they relay messages about masculinity to players of video games.

Following up last week’s podcast on “Femininity and the Female Body in Video Games”, this week we decided to discuss masculinity and the male body in games.


This week’s contributors include G. Christopher Williams, Nick Dinicola, Thomas Cross, and our guest from last week, Kris Ligman. We discuss a variety of male characters, their body types and personas, and how they relay messages about masculinity to players.  In addition to traditional heterosexual constructions of male bodies, we also consider some of the presentations of homosexuality and the masculine.


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Friday, Sep 3, 2010
For a brief sequence, Final Fantasy XIII uses its battle system as a means of character development, not just tactical fun

Combat in Final Fantasy XIII is pretty simplistic. Characters get many of the same abilities so there’s not a lot to differentiate them in terms of mechanics. Every class (or rather, Paradigm) learns the same moves in the same order, and the “auto battle” option during combat ensures that I never have to think too much about what I’m doing. Despite this focus on simplicity, after about 20 hours I encountered a sequence where characterization and these combat mechanics came together in a way rarely seen in games, let alone any RPG.


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Thursday, Sep 2, 2010
Starcraft 2 doesn't ever feel like war to me. It's hard for me to feel that anything going on is even representative of something important.

When I was young, I was obsessed with what my parents called, “those chit games,” strategy games with hundreds, sometimes thousands of little quarter-inch cardboard squares that represented military units. Some of the more user-friendly games might have a picture of a knight or a tank in silhouette on them, but most of the ones that I was most intrigued by just had simple symbols used by real military types: an oval for armor units, an “x” for infantry. OR was that cavalry? The most complicated ones, like the massive World War 2 wargames from the Europa line had thousands of pieces with scores of arcane symbols on them.


The simplicity of these symbols conjured up immense battles in my imagination, with a single piece of cardboard signifying an entire armored division of Panzers ready to roll into Russia. And when you got two thousand of them all together on one eight foot long map, that looked like one helluva war. I should note here that it took my friends and I a whole day to set up Scorched Earth, a half day to play the first turn, and ten minutes to decide that we’d never finish. Oh, and another ten minutes to scoop all the pieces into the box. I did however successfully play some of the smaller Europa games (with only several hundred pieces per side) on multiple occasions and enjoyed them a great deal. The point was, whether recreating the invasion of Russia or Greece, those little chits really created the illusion that they had something to do with war.


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Thursday, Sep 2, 2010
Starring none other than the Android logo, this intriguing game points to good things for the future of gaming on that platform.

“Do you have Angry Birds?” Within days of getting my new HTC Desire smartphone, this question had become a frequent irritation. My phone’s superficial resemblance to an iPhone gave that phone’s users a feeling of kinship with me, leading them to assume that the ornithological puzzler was available on my handset, too. Apparently Angry Birds is being ported to Google’s Android operating system as I type, but in the meantime, I’ve felt that I needed to investigate Android’s own gaming possibilities as they stand. Surely the platform has its own killer app?


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Wednesday, Sep 1, 2010
Despite featuring a side quest that consists of completing a pornography collection, Mafia II is surprisingly prudish when it comes to featuring nudity in its more serious scenes.

Mafia II features a lot of nudes.  51 of them to be exact.  I know this because the game features 50 collectible Playboy centerfolds that can be viewed (after collection in game) in the main menu.  There is also one nude in the in game sequences themselves.


The inclusion of 1950s Playmates apparently is intended to add an air of authenticity to the period in which the game takes place and to the seaminess of the mob lifestyle of the game’s protagonist.  While the Playmates presence in the game are actually anachronistic if the game were set in a historical United States (since the game’s main action takes place in 1943 and 1951, years prior to the release of Hefner’s magazine in actual history), assumedly the fictional city of Empire Bay resides in an equally fictional alternate timeline of United States history, in which Playboy emerged on the American scene about a decade early.  The authenticity of these nudes is probably derived more from their more demure quality (something that most players would associate with pornography of a period perceived to be more prudish than the current one) than an adherence to real historicity.


In that regard, the nudes featured here are certainly more buttoned up than what one might expect to encounter when performing a Google image search with SafeSearch disabled in 2010.  None of these images feature full frontal nudity (as no Playboy pictorial did prior to the 1970s).  Many of them feature women merely in sheer clothing or often feature a bare bottom rather than bare breasts and are generally less raunchy than contemporary pornography.  Nevertheless, the game makes it abundantly clear that these nudes are here to be viewed.


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