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Community => The Rumpus Room => Topic started by: DGMacphee on 30 Mar 2004, 16:08

Title: GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: DGMacphee on 30 Mar 2004, 16:08
Aim/Rationale: I had this idea for a GTD a short while back after playing numerous games and recognising certain sociological, philosophical, and political elements.

I will discuss certain games with semiotic analysis techniques, which means looking at certain characters and elements and asking what they signify. Some examples are from adventure games, while some aren't (though they do include some adventure elements).

This aids in understanding how we relate to the gaming word on the basis of our own experience. Thus, it's useful for developers (like us)  to understand the way a player contructs meaning from games.
WARNING: This thread contains spoilers!


This is my main analysis. For this game, I provide two breakdowns: philosophical and a hybrid sociological/developmental.

philosophical - The main character, Agent 47 aka Tobias Rieper, is a genetic product of a scientist. This scientists refers to himself as Tobias' "daddy" or "father". Obviously, scientist represents God within the game. Tobias is released from the scientist's lab and sent into the world to kill his other creators, thus "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me" (Ex 20:2).

Once Tobias kills these other "gods", he realises all his contracts are from the scientist. Tobias has been manipulated by his "God". The game tells the player that to believe in God and carry out his bidding restricts your freedom i.e. God controls you and even the most violent act becomes justified under God's law. This appears apparent when the player loses after the confrontation with the scientist and begins again in the womb-like state, ready to kill for God again. However, if the player chooses the winning path, Tobais rejects God through the act of killing the scientist and becomes free.

This is similar to the ideology behind Nietzsche's theories. Nietzsche claims in The Gay Science: "God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. -And we- we still have to vanquish his shadow, too."

sociological/developmental - Using the same characters, I provide another analysis based upon developmental theories. The area I want to examine here is the idea of masculinity. The game takes a fairly standard view on the formation of masculine identity. Once again, the lab gives birth to Tobias and he leaves his womb-like state. However, after this, there is no clear mother-figure. Tobias is left to develop based upon his father's instructions, which includes weapon training.

This is where the standard view of masculine and feminine roles becomes standard (or stereotypical, if you prefer). Masculine identity in society appears as a very violent portrayal. Meanwhile, feminine identity appears as nurturing in society. Despite, the standard view, it appears necessary to the game. The game would feel less bloodthirsty if a woman acted in the Agent 47 role. This is not because women can't be a violent as men, but because the majority of  society (and, more importantly, the main demographic of game players -- males, aged 15-40) sees them as less violent.

Nevertheless, Agent 47 develops into a killer based upon his father's teachings. This acts as a study into domestic violence, as we are watching a father beating a son. The final act of killing the father plays like Freudian fantasy, where the son finally re-enters the womb and kills his father.

Another example that emphasises this point is the hotly-debated prostitute that kisses him. When she does kiss him, he shudders. Some have interpreted this as latent homosexuality. This theroy is stereotypically believable (I say stereotypical because I've know a lot of gay men who don't shudder when a woman kisses them), but a more likely theory is simply the lack of a mother-figure in his development. After developing without a mother-figure, Tobias has trouble relating to women.

The only real mother-figure that appears in Tobias' life is Diana Burnwood, who contacts him via a laptop to give his missions. However, we never see her in the game and, we can assume, Tobias has never seen her too. This illustrates that Tobias' feminine role-model is far, far away, which leaves a violent, domineering father-figure.

Also, the relationship between Diana and the scientists demonstrates patriarchal ideology -- the scientist gives Diana the missions to give to Tobias. The scientist is placed above her on the social scale, which demonstrates masculine hegemony. The combinations of all these elements demonstrates a patriarchal and violent masculine role-model that affects the outlook of a developing human being.

I also found many research articles that show serial killers develop as a result of abuse from a parent, mainly the father (Note: There are other factors and influences that add to the development of a serial killer, so keep in mind that this theory is not the be-all and end-all of serial killer research. I use it to illustrate my point about the game).
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: DGMacphee on 30 Mar 2004, 16:08
The next few are shorter.

Deus Ex

Here is another game that has a lot in common with Hitman. The main character is genetically created, he fights a series of missions, has many "father" figures (some good and some bad), and some philosophical connotations (the Dues Ex FAQ states various religious allusions such as JC Denton being representative of Jesus Christ, hence JC). However, the main theories I want to examine in this game are based upon politics.

I preface by stating that Deus Ex is ahead of it's time. Had the developers scheduled the release date after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, one of two things would have happened: 1) the developers would not have released it based upon respect for those who were killed (after all, the game sympathises with terrorists), and 2) the developers would release it and gamers would claim the game was directly based upon September 11. However, the game touches upon a few points that relate to the War on Terror, even though they are purely coincidental.

JC Denton begins the game fighting with UNATCO (the military force of the UN) against a terrorist organisation called the NSF. However, JC later finds himself caught between the ideologies of both sides. This morally ambiguous game raises some important points to consider about contemporary society. One could view UNATCO (or Majestic 12) as the Bush government of Deus Ex's world. Bob Page could represent a George W. Bush figure (or Rumsfeld, Cheney, or Wolfowitz, depending on who you think is in charge of the Bush administration). The NSF could also represent an Al Quida of the future. People like Tracer Tong and Morgan Everett could  represent Osamas or Saddams. But, the game does something remarkable with the NSF. Instead of treating them like villains, the game shows that even the NSF has an ideology that they consider worth fighting for. One has to remember that the same applies to Al Quida. While both Al Quida and the NSF's methods are questionable (using violence), one also has to consider their reasons for fighting. One of which is the global domination of a hegemonic entity. In the game, it's Majestic 12. In real life, it's the United States government. In the game, it's a war over viruses and communication technology. In the Iraq War, it's over WMDs and oil. And consider that a lot of the game is set in New York, with a destroyed statue of Liberty, which not only invokes memories of September 11 before it happened but act as a symbol for the destruction of freedom (or it could just be a Planet of the Apes reference, so who knows).

Although comparing the War on Terror to a computer game may seem trite, a few net users already acknowledge such a comparison:

The game also comes to a point where we see communication as the key to power. Communication technology can change society in vast ways -- a theory known as technological determinism. This appears true in our contemporary situation. Consider the passing of the Patriot Act, which allows the government greater scrutiny over communications. The game illustrates that control over communication in a democracy can lead to corruption. Thus, the endings provides three different points of view: 1) anarchistic (Tong's option), 2) totalitarian (Everett's option), 3) player-based (merging with the AI -- in other words, the ending appear very open and depends on player ethics).

Also, from a article on freedom of speech in games:

At one point in Ion Storm's Deus Ex, the player (you are an American counterterrorist agent) must acquire important information from a Hong Kong bartender to progress further in the game. To talk with him, you're presented with a conversation tree -- a series of statements the player can make in the dialogue. (A common interface in gaming.) The bartender has a decidedly leftist bent, and he's not buying the player's naive faith in the Constitution. Accordingly, your options in the conversation tree are now: "I'll take a drink," "I'll get a drink later" and "The separation of powers acknowledges the petty ambitions of individuals; that's its strength.

And see this for a list of other references in the game:

All the above shows that the game aids in an examination of multiple sides of the political spectrum through it's characters. Certain characters mirror contemporary events and issues, despite that the game was released before the start of the current heated political climate.

I wish I could expand more on Deus Ex, but it'd take ages to do a full-blown analysis.
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: DGMacphee on 30 Mar 2004, 16:09
Pleurghburg: Dark Ages vs Grim Fandango

This one compares two games in one analysis.

To further a political analysis, look how the doctrine of the separation of powers applies to these two games. Grim Fandango's shows how corruption exists when law and government are not separate. Neither the law (represented by Bogan) nor the executive government (represented by the Department of Death) keep a system of checks and balances upon the other. Therefore, both are able to act in their own corrupt ways (i.e. Bogan takes bribes, the Department of Death is hoarding gold tickets).

Meanwhile, Pleurghburg shows a more stable system of democracy where the police act independently from the executive government. Jake, as a representative of the law, is able to freely investigate the government, which is corrupt and signified with its links to The Order.

Grrr! Bearly: Sane

This game acts also as a Freudian/Nietzsche fantasy similar to Hitman. Dan the Bear ends the game by killing the theme park owner, which symbolises an act of killing God/a father-figure. Also, we see the impact of brutal father figures as the main character's action stems from his level of anger. Without a high-enough level of anger, the player character ceases progression.

Those are my analyses.

Anyone got one too?
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: Kweepa on 30 Mar 2004, 17:56
Ummm, what does GTD mean? Is it Game Theory Discussion?
I searched the forums but only found more references to GTD.
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: DGMacphee on 31 Mar 2004, 01:04
Yup, that's what it is -- a discussion on game theory.
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: auhsor on 31 Mar 2004, 04:02
That was quite an interesting read about Deus Ex. I didnt realise you could make all those comparisons with how the world is now after September 11.

That is definately a game where it would be possible to study in alot of detail. It also a very cool game.
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: DGMacphee on 31 Mar 2004, 04:10
Ironically, my now-defunct pet-project Dark Hero was going to have some War on Terror undertones.

Then, I bought Deus Ex last year and realised someone had already done what I wanted to do in a game -- only several years earlier.
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: Barcik on 01 Apr 2004, 02:11
In your analysis of Hitman, you spoke a little of the feminine influence (or lack of thereof) and a god-like male figure.

I think we see a god-like female figure in Monkey Island. Elaine is for Guybrush the ideal woman. The ideal woman concept has appeared in many places throughout human history. The most dominant example is that of the mythological goddess. This divine being is usually described as an intelligent and beautiful creature. Furthermore, as myths are written from a male point of view the goddess is more than all attractive - physically and mentally. Actively or passively, the goddess seduces the male. He longs for her companionship, love and passion. Plenty of myths tell of men who went through great peril to win the hand of their beloved perfect being - the goddess.
So, if Hitman provides the player with a god-like male influence, Monkey Island does the same with a god-like female influence. Whereas the male god-like figure demands for agressiveness, the female one seduves. To further extend on your use of the Freudian fantasy, it can be said that the sun wishes to defeat his father, male god-like figure, to have his mother, the female god-like figure, all for himself.
Elaine is Guybrush's goddess. Despite the way she treats him, he cannot see beyond the aura of the goddess. He is seduced, trapped in her charm. He undertakes the three trials in order to win her love. In Hitman, the protagonist seeks to best his god-like figure, because his influence is that of agressiveness and naturally leads to the final confrontation. This perhaps 'justifies' the difference between the games from the most basic point of view - Hitman is an action game because its main god-like influence is male, while Monkey Island is an adventure game because its main god-like influence is female.
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: DGMacphee on 01 Apr 2004, 04:40
I guess you could take that a step further and say LeChuck is a Freudian father-figure, because Guybrush "kills" him at the end of the first game.

Also, notice that he "kills" LeChuck with a phallic symbol (A fizzing bottle of root beer being a metaphor for ejaculation).
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: Barcik on 01 Apr 2004, 13:08

Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: IntentInsane on 01 Apr 2004, 21:34
In Metal Gear Solid 2, we see Raiden meet a man. Snake. Snake becomes his new father figure, his original father/god was Snake's brother, Solidus. Solidus never loved or even liked Raiden, he used  to be his legal father but he only adopted Raiden to kill people, and didn't let him make his own choices.
Later in life, when Raiden meets Snake, he is taught that he doesn't NEED a father figure, and that what Solidus did to him was evil, he had done nothing wrong, he had been mistreated. Solidus confronts Raiden, Raiden knocks him off the roof of the Wadhington Memorial after their fight, and does not help him. Thus rejecting ever having been involved with him.
Title: Re: GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: on 09 Sep 2005, 00:38
As a game artist/designer with several titles under my belt, it scares me to think what some of you guys might deduce from the games I worked on... 

I read Neitche & Freud and many other psycology writers.  I also took every hallucinogenic drug I could find (even stuff like DMT) and watched stuff like Eraser Head and Man Bites Dog.

God...  10 years on, I realize I'll never get that time back :o, nor will my brain completely recover.

Sorry Psych Majors, but my since my parents did spend over $50k, getting me "analyzed", and I almost married a Psych Major, I should have the right to my opinion...

I truly believe I'm worse off from it all, even from the more recent Psychologist/Psychiatrist visits.  Strangely, every one I went to hated the very idea of a God (Atheist it's a strong enough word).

Nowadays, I just get a prescription for my "suicidal depression" (lack of serotonin/dopamine) from a local Doc and I'm better than I ever was, searching for all lifes secrets OR chasing my tail around and around and around... :=

You want some good game ideas?  Try reading some good fiction!!!  Still want a mind-rub?  Then read some H.P. Lovecraft (like "Mountains of Madness" and "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath").

Title: Re: GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: Helm on 16 Nov 2005, 18:02
Title: Re:GTD: Media Analyses of Games
Post by: sovka on 16 Nov 2005, 19:45
Also, notice that he "kills" LeChuck with a phallic symbol (A fizzing bottle of root beer being a metaphor for ejaculation).

Still one of the sickest things I read on these forums. Sick but true at the same time, of course I like it a lot.

Also, I would like to play those psychedelic games by Mole but all I could find were pictures of his room (