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Power Member - Level 10
Early in the history of commercial video games, masculinity
was defined by silent muscle-heads with giant machine guns and the 'L' shaped
Tetris block (I refuse to elaborate on the Tetris point.) Anyone who played
games like Contra or Doom got the idea that all men in video games were well in
line with action movies of the same era: long hair held back with a bandana, vein-bursting
muscles, something to kill people with, and preferably a ripped shirt.
He is all that is man. . .
Video games have certainly moved on from the cliché imagery
and tones that come with this kind of portrayal of masculinity. Though there
are still plenty of ripped dudes murdering enemies en masse, not every male
character is the generic, testosterone fueled maniac common of gaming
yesteryear. Manliness has taken a variety of shapes in video games throughout
the years. The days of the loudmouthed, machinegun blazing meathead are well
behind us. . .
Bros 'til the Hyperbolic
. . . for the most part. There's no denying that the gaming
world is still filled with battle-hardened, tough guys reminiscent of the kind
that saturated the early years of action and first-person shooter games.
However, as easy as it is to ridicule the fist bumping nature of these characters,
they have certainly grown out of the military grade armored shells from which
Is Dom flexing his triceps and bicep at the same time? Is that even
Even the most aggressive and violent of shooters these days
attempt to weave a narrative that functions similarly to any other genre of
games. Characters are explored, plots become thick, and conflict runs amuck. A
common theme amongst these games is the feeling of camaraderie. Essentially,
masculine characters end up expressing their admiration for one another through
means of their commitment to a mutual cause.
An excellent example of this can be seen in the Gears of War
franchise; even the tagline of the most recent entry of the series points to
the idea of camaraderie and brotherhood. Though most of the game seems to be painted
with an extraordinary amount of male clichés and action-game genre conventions,
the ideals and philosophies of male bonding through a shared traumatic
experience are still intact. This in turn leads to a sense of community amongst
the characters, something that can even transfer to the players as they engage
with the multiplayer components of the game.
Nothing says "I'm an active member within my community" quite like the
La Familia es Todo
Not every game projects the identity of a man through a
violent lens. Particularly in more recent games, taking control of a family man
has become a viable narrative path. These are characters that are not driven by
the circumstances we have come to expect would incite video gameesque conflict.
Rather, these are male protagonists who do everything with the best interest of
their family in mind. What they do may not always be right or moral, but they
justify their actions to themselves by means of sacrifice rather than
Red Dead Redemption's John Marston showcases his loyalty and
love for his family throughout the entire game. Practically from the moment
Marston speaks, he consistently lets everyone involved with his plight that
he's there for one reason: the safety of his wife and son. Marston's character
design becomes particularly intriguing when juxtaposed with his expressed
cherishment for his family. The gun-toting, rugged Clint Eastwood of video
games has a soft spot? And he's an understanding/patient father/husband? How
Even if you're stranded out in the old west, rabid animals and bandits
amidst, there's always time for a good hug
In Marston's case, his inclination to protect his family
ends up curbing the violent trends of his life. Marston claims that, despite a
shady past full of hardships and violence, he has chosen a peaceful life with
his family. Some games demonstrate the opposite; a peaceful character can be
driven toward an unknown path of aggression and violence in an attempt to guard
his loved ones.
Silent Hill is quite good at this practice. The first two
games of the franchise featured male protagonists chasing after someone they
loved. Neither of these characters gave off the impression that they had or
were able to take up violent tendencies; these weren't ex-military commandos
visiting a sleepy New England town.
James isn't exactly the machinegun wielding type
The idea of how these male characters interact with their
environment becomes even more complex when you consider how Silent Hill worlds
are built. The idea of Silent Hill is that much of the town's appearance and atmosphere
is crafted around the psyche of whoever visits it. When you mull over the world
that is created around James and Harry (the main characters of the first two
games), there seems to be very little in the way of traditionally masculine
themes or tones. No one in Silent Hill is trying to be brave, bold, or courageous.
Rather, the overall feelings are of fear, concern, and anxiety. These aren't
tough guys. These are guys just trying to survive and rescue their family.
So you're a Wise Guy,
Some male characters rely on their wit as their dominating
characteristic. These are the smart guys, the silver tongued. For every
near-death situation they have a clever response to lighten the mood. Even when
these guys are driven to violence and conflict, their wits always keep them
Everyone knows the best witty quips happen when you're about to die
It would be difficult to mention a clever male video game
character without thinking about Nathan Drake. Drake consistently keeps a light-hearted
tone about him regardless of the danger he faces. Even as you control Drake
through the game world, he always has snide remarks to his situations.
His body language lends itself to the same idea. Drake cowers around corners to
seek cover, throwing his hands over his head as pseudo protection, tripping and
stumbling over terrain while maintaining an "Awww, man!" facial expression the
A similar attitude can be seen in Ezio Auditore. Ezio's
training to become a master assassin is grounded in his mental fortitude just
as much as it is his physical prowess. Ezio is forced to keep his wits about
him during Assassin's Creed's narrative and gameplay. Simply rushing into enemy
encounters isn't the kind of assassin Ezio has trained to be; he studies his
victims to strike with precise timing.
Okay, so he's not always that subtle. . .
These characters usually rely on their intellect to overcome
adversity or achieve an objective. They're not the biggest or strongest, but
they can figure out how to beat the odds with quick thinking and by out-maneuvering
Silent, Stoically So
Not everyone has the time to sit down and explain things
with hollow words of dialogue or monologue. Some men have to pick up the tool
they need to get the job done and get to work. These are the types who let
their actions speak for them.
The Xbox's championed hero, Master Chief, is well known for not
participating in conversation. Sure, the Chief throws in a line of dialogue
here or there to let everyone know that there is a person under that suit and
not a robot, but while everyone else is jabbering on, he's usually taking down groups
of hostile aliens.
I bet when he puts down the guns, he picks up a pen and writes
The most infamously quiet man in video games is Gordon
Freeman. Freeman has an intricate and deep story crafted around him without
ever contributing even a single word. Despite his commitment to forever being
speechless, everyone around Freeman responds to him enough to generate a
Evidently, getting a Ph.D. in physics requires absolutely no oral
It may seem like a generic way to create a male protagonist,
but it does reflect how much of western culture (particular American culture) expects
a man to behave. Traditionally, men are to be relatively silent and repressive
of emotion, letting what they do perform the heavy lifting for identity.
Have Fun Storming the Castle, Boys!
Some guys just want to save the day. With little rhyme or
reason, they want to bring down the mean fellow who stole the girl, set his
castle on fire, and call it a day. As simple as it may seem, this convention of
gaming can lend itself to some interesting analysis. After all, these
characters are almost completely selfless in their endeavors. Their interests
rest solely in the wellbeing of another person; they risk life and limb with
little or no guarantee of reward.
Nintendo practically set the foundation of this kind of game
with the likes of Mario and Link. Both characters brave through a treacherous world
with practically no regard to their own safety or health. They both take on
quests that test their character in nearly every respect.
Sometimes the best way to impress a girl is to show her how far you can
throw a chicken
When we consider how this behavior looks outside of how it
might represent masculinity, it seems more obsessive and borderline creepy than
anything else. But this kind of selfless commitment is a classic convention of
male characters in all kinds of cultural productions. Chivalry of this caliber can
be traced all the way back- and probably further- to medieval literature and
culture, when the reason of the hero's sacrifices weren't even to benefit tangible
people but rather abstract ideals and morals.
Gawain's green knight
Video games have played with the themes and tones of this
kind of male character, though, most notably in the game Braid. Tim, the player
controlled character, seems like your average selfless hero at first. For the
sake of spoilers, let's just leave it at his objectives aren't exactly like
I'm not sure what that pinecone looking guy did to deserve that. . .
Masculinity in gaming no longer coincides with whatever
blockbuster action movie is in theatres at the time. Male characters have come
a long way from the generic meathead model to showcasing a variety of definitions
for manliness. As the variation of male character creation continues, however, it
brings up the question of what gender really means when crafting personality.
Does being a man no longer inform what our characters will be like? Or is
considering gender still an important part of analyzing our digital