Interview?

A 2010 survey into the demographics involved in organised sports found that, of the 24000 people surveyed from varied places around the country, 29% of males and 24% of females were involved in organised sports (ABS, 2010). This data obviously demonstrates that females have a very similar level of direct, physical involvement in sports to that of men. Why, though, do female representations in sports media and broadcasting not correspond to this statistic? Any cursory examination of sports publications, web sites or television programs supports the common belief that sports media, at least in the mainstream, has its attention skewed drastically towards sports being played by males.

It is this belief that has spurned my group in BCM210 to focus our survey and subsequent research on the perceptions of our peers regarding female sports and their coverage in sports media, as well as to measure any support already present for a future greater female focus in sports media. Draft questions have since been organised and, to give them a bit of a test run, I’ve decided to give a quick interview to a good friend of mine, a woman who will be known as O.G.

______________________________________

Interviewer: Thanks for taking part. First question, do you like or are you interested in any sort of sport?

O.G: Well, I enjoy playing it.

Interviewer: Do you follow sports news closely or watch any game broadcasts?

O.G: Nope, not at all.

Interviewer: Ah. I should probably include a question like this in the survey to exclude people who aren’t interested in sport, regardless of a players sex, to keep them from skewing data.

O.G: Seems like a good idea. You’re as smart as you are handsome.

Interviewer: I’ll just skip down to the other question that applies to you then… Would you possibly be more interested in sports media or sports broadcasts were they to take a equal focus to female and male sports?

O.G: Nope, not at all.

Interviewer: Thanks for your time.

______________________________________

The dry run didn’t exactly go to plan.

It did function well, though, to expose a possible compromise in my data collection and a possible side set of data that would highlight a group of people that, though interested in sport, were not interested in sports media. A flow chart could be used to separate this group and collect data about how they would react were there to be a greater focus on female sports in media; which would help to determine whether a greater presence of female sports would be sustainable in the future. Oh, data.

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010, Involvement in Organised Sport and Physical Activity 2010, 6285.0, accessed 17 April 2015

<http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/6285.0Explanatory%20Notes1April%202010?OpenDocument>.

SpecOps: The Line, Violence and Why You Should Feel Like A Dick

(Image Source)

One of the strongest emotions I have ever had inspired by media wasn’t a pleasant one. Indeed, it made my skin crawl and my stomach churn in a way that no creepy classical painting, heart wrenching song or hardcore horror film ever has, and it did this not with vivid visuals or evocative prose, but with interactivity.

Spec Ops: The Line is a video game that was released in 2012, amidst the market saturation of military entertainment, or “Militainment” (Payne, 2014), and the games marketing reflected this. The poster and case displayed a stoic hero, gun held high, staring down any buyers, just like the legions of other games around it. The trailers were riddled with gunshots, explosions, helicopter crashes and distorted guitar riffs. Pure badassery, waiting to be unboxed. What actually awaited a gamer, though, was something completely different, and the marketing perfectly sets up the player to be shocked by what they end up playing and who they end up playing as.

The premise is loosely based on Joseph Konrads Heart of Darkness. A soldier, Captain Walker (the protagonist), is dispatched to assess the situation of a battalion of US soldiers led by Colonel John Konrad who, after the city was almost destroyed by super-sandstorms, volunteered his battalion to maintain order in the city and evacuate civilians. Of course, no one has heard from Konrad or the battalion, save for a garbled radio transmission stating that evacuation is impossible. After a trudge through the desert, you meet some Angry locals who capture an American soldier and kill a bunch of others. This forces Walker and his two squadmates into the city, declaring their reconnaissance mission now a rescue mission. You load your guns, prime your war face and charge into the city.

It’s after this that the game gets interesting. As the story unfolds, new factions enter the fray, all of them either American or American led. As well as this, about half way through the game Walker, and the player, unwittingly commit a pretty atrocious war crime. These two factors and the character spirals that these instances catalyse make Spec Ops: The Line, at least in my opinion, one of the most important games of recent years.

As I mentioned earlier, though there is so much to talk about in this game, I want to focus on the guilt that this game inspires, especially as a result of the aforementioned war crime. I can’t really go on without specifics, but I’ll try not to mention any of the particularly disturbing details. After encountering a fortified enemy position, Walker and his men use a White Phosphorus mortar to wipe out dozens of soldiers and, unwittingly, 47 refugees the soldiers were moving to a safer location.

It is important to mention the way that the phosphorus is delivered.

(Source)

Walker aims his bombs from an infrared visual on a laptop, hearing screams in the background. When the smoke billows high enough they allow walkers face to be reflected on the screen, and we see who the scene is really accusing. The digitized massacre playing out is not meant to be the actions of Walker, but the player directly. When the player walks through the compound, past the screaming wounded and into the refugee area, the player is forced to recognize the weight of his or her earlier actions. The game, through a digitized readout of death and destruction in-game, makes the player equate the digital violence that they relish in entertainment to flesh and blood. It shows the reality of the players violence in the most confronting way possible in order to give back the weight to violence that recent war games have sapped away.

It doesn’t stop there, as the game further obliterates the fourth wall with confronting loading screens. From this point, mirroring the failing mental health of the protagonist, the loading screen text changes from standard shooter advice (eg. “Use grenades to flush enemies out of cover”) to confronting things like “This is all your fault?”, “Do you even remember why you came here?” and, my personal favourite, “Do you feel like a hero yet?”. The game deliberately and directly contacts the player to question them as to how much they had disassociated themselves from violence just so they could indulge in an escapist traipse through modern warfare (Payne, 2014). In the final confrontation with Konrad, the fourth wall is almost completely discarded as he attacks the actions and motivations of the player; pointing out the atrocities he or she has committed just so they could “feel like something you’re not… A hero.”

This is such a rich text, and for once the word count has been against me. I wish I could go on, because this game covers so much more, like PTSD, US foreign policy and masculinity. God, what a game. Anyway, it’s still around, though you are more likely to find it in bargain bins or steam flash sales than shelves. If you do ever come across it, I recommend it not because you will enjoy it (you won’t), but because if you enjoy violent video games as I do, then you need a game like this to remind you of the weight that should be applied to the portrayal of violence in every media; especially to video games, a market saturated by gallant heroes gunning down NPCs in the thousands without consequence or care.

References

Payne, M.T 2014, “War Bytes: The Critique of Militainment in Spec Ops: The Line”, Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 265.