Media Artifact: Xbox FTW :)

I’ve gone on ad nauseum about my gaming hobby and therefore passion for Xbox Live, so it really seems like if I picked anything but an Xbox for my media artifact, I’d just be lying. And that’s the truth. I really do love my Xbox.

I’ve been playing video games since I was very young, mainly because I have an older brother. Super Nintendo games like Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island and Mario Kart made me realize just how fun gaming could be, and also made me realize just how big of a gap there was in gaming between boys’ games and girls’. While my brother got all the fun games like Yoshi’s Safari with real working scope gun, I got some dumb Barbie game with four levels where she trips on her roller skates over flying pizzas. Because, really, what else does Barbie have to worry about but flying pizzas?

While my parents and brother never minded me playing his games, it became more and more apparent to me that the gaming that I got into (especially when the Nintendo 64 came out and I found myself completely addicted to Zelda: Ocarina of Time) was essentially a boys’ world, something I’d forever be an outsider in. More and more, gaming companies are realizing this gap between boy games and girl ones and trying to close it with more mainstream titles, but this movement is fairly recent and being a girl gamer still makes me something of an oddity. I get Xbox friend requests daily from people I’ve never talked to who just see that I’m a girl who plays games and thus want to add me. Is being a girl who plays video games really that unusual?

But then again, maybe it is. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the main reason I love gaming so much is that the men in my life have shown me how to do it and shown me how fun it can be. From my brother with his Nintendo consoles to the ex-boyfriend who showed me how to use an Xbox controller, I’ve always needed a translator into this world of male-dominated shoot-em-up action. Why is that? It’s not that men are smarter or more adept, because there are plenty of talented female gamers out there. I think it’s just more that these games are more geared towards men, and we as women naturally feel excluded. And if you feel excluded to start with, it seems like that learning curve feels even more insurmountable because nobody wants you playing with them in the first place. So it’s understandable how when a woman does decide the learning curve is worth it and begins to play games (especially first person shooters, a very male-dominated genre), it causes some excitement—and way too many friend requests.

Though I get friend requests all the time, I don’t often accept them. However, when I do, I have met some really good friends on there. As previously mentioned on my blog, my Xbox Live friend Phurion has taught me how gaming can actually be the jumping-off point for something creative and new. Phurion plays the Halo game series, essentially an Xbox-exclusive first person shooter game, and he’s quite good at it. But what really makes him notable is the fact that he takes the clips that one can re-watch from a past game in Theater mode, and then he uses those clips to create really interesting and well-done montages, which he posts to YouTube.

I’ve been a fan of his montages for quite some time, but when I found him on Twitter we actually started talking and playing together. My Halo skills have gotten somewhat better with his help, and recently we’ve started playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 together. COD, another first person shooter, is really fun and evens the playing field somewhat between me and Phurion. While he’s still better, at least it’s not by an insane amount.
Anyways, as I see what Phurion has accomplished with new media and the way he has used something traditionally consumer-based, like gaming, and turned it into something productive like his montages, I wonder why there is not more of a link between gaming and productive media. While Phurion has found a way to link the two (and in a way far better than most game-related YouTube videos), it feels like many other industries could capitalize on the possibility of consumer-based gaming turning into something more productive, and one industry in particular: education.

There has long been a gap between educational software from the learning industry and fun games, which usually belong completely to the gaming industry. While there are some semi-educational puzzle-based console and PC titles, usually the games that advertise their educational basis are, simply put, not fun whatsoever. Can’t there be a bridge here? Why do console games have to remain just fun? Why can’t someone play a console game and simultaneously be learning something, therefore being productive as well as entertained? The problem I have is the same that I’m sure the learning and gaming industries are facing—how to bridge the gap. Is there logically a way to create a first person shooter that teaches people something at the same time? To a certain degree, the Call of Duty series does teach players some historical information regarding past wars, etc, but there still does not exist a game which bridges education and entertainment admirably.

Though there are not currently any titles adding education to the entertainment, I still greatly enjoy my Xbox, both for the hours of entertainment I experience and the community environment and thus the friends I’ve acquired. Though I feel like the Xbox could stand to have more educationally-friendly titles and definitely a more female-friendly design and marketing system, I would not trade being a girl gamer for the world. There is something truly defining about knowing that I no longer need a translator to tell me what button to push or how to operate in the male world of gaming– indeed, I’ve gotten to the point where I can sit back and enjoy the game, occasionally smiling to myself when the other team realizes they got “beat by a girl.” Why, yes, yes you did.

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