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Publication Title

Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture








While sports games try to recreate the atmosphere of a stadium or of television broadcasts of games, role-playing and action adventure games attempt to duplicate cinematography through animation. For Tomb Raider, the virtual reality created by the cinematic animation of the game produces an environment for male-to-female cross-gender identification, a topic that has received little critical attention. The sense of identification intended in this chapter comes from psychoanalysts Jean Laplanche and Jean-Baptiste Pontalis, who describe identification as a "psychological process in which a subject assimilates an aspect, a property, a characteristic of another and transforms himself [or herself] totally or partially on the basis of this model." Indeed, psychoanalytic literature considers such an indentification to be atypical if not abnormal. Thus, Ouellette examines the cross-gender identification between the (male) audience and video game icon Lara Croft. While the reverse phenomenon, females identifying with male protagonists, has been explored, this study is (currently) alone. This chapter draws on previous works for it's theoretical basis while providing a challenge to the conception of the "male gaze." More and more video games also have interactivity as a built-in feature, which alters the experience from one of passive viewing to active participation. This point is raised frequently in relation to the violence contained in many video games. The combination, it is assumed, leads (young) game players to become violent themselves. The argument that players of video games assume violent personalities of their on-screen counterparts assumes an identification with those personae, but this is as far as the critiques go. The need exists, therefore to consider the nature of these identifications and what occurs when the player and the persona are of different genders. This chapter should be of special interest to film scholars and those interested in psychoanalytic theory as it challenges normative beliefs about media and its relation to its audience.


© Marc Ouellette. Posted with permission of the author.

Original Publication Citation

Ouellette, M. (2006). "When a killer body isn't enough": Cross-gender identification in action-adventure video games. Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, 6(1).