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Time to Reminisce and Die: Representing Old Age in Art Games

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Gender has recently increased in relevance as a game analysis topic. Representations of masculinity and femininity in games have become a growing interest for scholars. Still, little has been written about representations of aging and older persons. Starting from this status-quo, we propose an analysis of age displays in a subtype of video games, namely casual art games. These are designed to encourage reflexivity and perspective-taking on a given topic, examining the human condition and offering a critical view of society. We examine several casual art games and we discuss how they depict and model older characters and the process of aging: What are the game-based narratives of aging? How are elderly characters portrayed and what place do they take in the emerging game story? How do game mechanics model the situation of 'old age' and the process of 'aging'?
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... Older adults are rarely visible in video games, except for the cases where they are used as a resource for humor to encourage reflection on dim aspects of existencedeath, disability, decay (Rughiniș, Toma, & Rughinis, 2015). Representations of powerful elderly characters are an important, yet scarcely developed subject in the field of game studies. ...
... Flemeth is an important character as there are very few old women represented in video games and there are even fewer older women represented as powerful characters. Flemeth disrupts stereotypical portrayals of old women and mothers in video games, as the funny grandma or the old woman concerned with her or others' death (see Rughiniș et al. 2015). Due to the ideological potential of texts (Dorthy E. Smith, 1990) and video games (Wildt, 2014), subversive stories like Flemeth's are important, as they can challenge dominant ideologies and contribute to a more inclusive society. ...
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As games are becoming an increasingly popular medium in various demographic and professional strata, scholars are discussing their content and how they shape society. However, despite an increase in gender analysis of video games, little has been written about orienting games towards an elderly audience, or game representations of aging and older persons. Games specifically designed for older persons are focused on improving cognitive functions, starting from the assumption that the elderly are in need of special games in order to repair age-related deficits. This repair-focused design philosophy comes at the expense of pursuing a broader understanding of quality of life and non-programmatic entertainment. Games-for-fun that also explicitly target the elderly as an audience are almost invisible. In this article we turn our attention to a powerful elderly feminine character in an AAA game designed for entertainment without a serious mission, namely Flemeth from Dragon Age. We discuss how the game depicts and models older characters: What repertoire of portraits has Flemeth as an old woman, in the Dragon Age games? How does Flemeth contribute to an enlarged repertoire of portrayals of old women in video games? We conclude that Flemeth's gender and age displays in Dragon Age do not impoverish her portrayal but, on the contrary, turn her into a powerful and complex character, thus offering a model for game design to represent and invite older players. Keywords Representations of the elderly, subversive stories, gender and age displays, gender and age tropes
... To illustrate better their potentialities, but also their shortcomings vis-à-vis age-related stereotypes, here we juxtapose quotes from the game press praising the empathic connections they create, with our own criticism for their potentially reductive depiction of aging. Although the two selected pieces were not conceived as scholarly work, and there is little academic research on both to-date (De Schutter and Vanden Abeele, 2015;Rughiniş et al., 2015), they nonetheless resonated among game designers for their effectiveness in making users empathize with avatars that are clearly different from those usually present in escapist computer games. As no critical analyses of the two artifacts are available in scholarly venues, we turn to signed articles (e.g. ...
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