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ready player one

The Contradiction of Stereotyping in Video Games

Video games seem to defy the ‘laws’ of society: playing a video game is regularly quoted as an escape from ‘reality’; players can choose who they want to be; unmitigated violence is entirely acceptable; animals, aliens, and monsters regularly interact with humans; imaginary worlds with unique laws are created.  Yet, Ready Player One maintains the stereotypes of gamers, particularly with Wade Watts, the protagonist.  As an overweight, poor, reclusive teenager, Wade fits neatly into the media-generated stereotype of a hardcore gamer.  Then, we have the Asians, collectively called Daisho, Alex (the ending certainly throws a nice twist to this character, but maybe I shouldn’t spoil too much!), and Art3mis.  Aech and Art3mis do not fit into any particular common stereotype I have of gamers, but Art3mis does remind me of your typical nerdy yet cool blogger girl, a currently ‘hip’ type to be.  Aech is just the cool friend. 

Why is Ready Player One invested in portraying the stereotype of gamers in Wade Watts?  Why is the main character Wade and not Art3mis?  Even more perturbing, with the unveiling of Aech what could be an interesting discussion and critique of both gender and race in video games is pushed aside because of Wade’s slight feelings of betrayal.  Cline comes close to touching a critique of marginalized gamers but backs off, disappointingly.  From my preliminary research it seems that video games are not critiquing the social landscape.  Women are hypersexualized, men are hypermasculine, and most dominate characters are white.  While literature, art, and photography often push the boundaries of social norms, video games seem to be falling into the traditions of pop-culture film and music.  These mainstream medias do not often depict ‘questionable’ or untraditional social relationships, until they have been largely accepted by society.  Video games seem to push away from conservative society in most ways except for the societal expectations of ‘types’ of people (i.e. gamers, men, women, whites, etc.).  Video games would provide a perfect play-ground to question traditional social relationships.  Ready Player One perpetuates traditional views of gamers and interpersonal relationships, reminiscent of the button-up era of the 1950’s.  Even in a dystopian society about 11 years down the road, traditional society reigns and people do not break out of their role – even Aech, whose identity is complex, is dismissed in favor of the emotions of the white, male, stereotypical gamer protagonist.  

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “The Contradiction of Stereotyping in Video Games

  1. You ask why the main character isn’t female. I’m not sure how we can answer that question except by speculating on the author’s intentions. I’m not sure what to make of this kind of judgment. Does Wade reflect stereotypes about gamers? yes, but such figures don’t usually get to be the heroes. You point to Art3mis and Aech, who are the other two main characters in the book, but remain unsatisfying. Could the text have focused more on the theme of gender? Could one write a similar novel with a female POV? Probably, it would have be a different novel, though. Rather than gender specifically we get a discussion of online identity (we don’t know if Art3mis or Aech are male or female in real life). The main theme however is the corporate ownership of culture. It is the hatred of IOI and the Sixers and fear of what their control of OASIS might mean that drives the characters, far more than the promise of great wealth.

    Posted by Alex Reid | June 19, 2013, 9:17 pm
  2. I don’t know why I kept referring to Aech as Alex I just realized….

    But anyways, the authorial intention about Wade being a male or female cannot be answered, but I just have to wonder if it does have anything to do with the dominance of males as characters, players, and developers (I think it must).

    I think what was unsatisfying to me about the issue of gender in the novel is that Cline came close to addressing it but then quickly backed off, in the case of Aech especially. Art3mis is first seen as a cute, intriguing girl rather than as the strong, witty player and blogger that she is.

    Posted by emmajani | June 19, 2013, 9:23 pm

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