Male Fantasy and the Apocalyptic Event: Analysing Technomasculinity and Militarized Masculinity in the Dead Space Video Game Series

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 2 Robin Johnson

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Abstract: The Dead Space video game series articulates a struggle in what it means to be a man in popular culture by trying to combine a technically oriented masculinity with a masculinity associated with violence and aggression. However, the series cannot overcome the inherent contradictions between the two and subsumes “technomasculinity” into the action-hero archetype. The female characters and institutional authority such as government and religious institutions are ultimately blamed for the breakdown of order that the hero is tasked to restore.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Chuck Beaver, a senior executive producer of Dead Space, a popular and critically acclaimed sci-fi horror video game created by Visceral Games and published by EA, explained in an interview that the creators tried to break new ground in the action-adventure subgenre of survival horror. Other games deliberately slow the control speed of the central character to ramp up the anxiety of the player who must react to panic-induced threats, and Dead Space was moving away from that. “We’re more responsive than the traditional, sluggish, like ‘little girl with a knife in the corner’ kind of thing, limping around on a broken foot” (quoted in Remo 2010).

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 4 The Dead Space series, which includes three major console releases between 2009 and 2013, does rely a great deal upon a highly responsive male action hero to tell its story. The main character, Isaac Clarke, is not sluggish “like a little girl” in the hands of a player. He embodies “militarized masculinity” (Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter 2003) like most other games in the action-adventure genre, but his engineering background hits upon another form of masculinity growing in importance in popular culture. Clarke and the Dead Space series articulate a push and pull in what it means to be a hegemonic masculine character. By trying to combine a technically oriented masculinity with one based upon traditional idealized notions of a directly dominating masculinity, the series demonstrates a struggle within Connell’s (1987) theory of hegemonic masculinity in the larger culture. However, the series ultimately cannot overcome the inherent contradictions of that struggle, and the directly dominating masculinity maintains its position as the cultural ideal.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 3 Feminist analyses of technology and gender (cf. Cockburn 1985; Berner and Mellström 1997; Wajcman 1991; Wajcman 2004) reveal that technological proficiency and what constitutes as skilled, technical work has long been socially and culturally associated with men (Wajcman 2004). This ideological association results in an unequal sexual division of labor where men are socialized and encouraged to become proficient in math and sciences tied to high paying technological occupations. Technomasculinity best describes this technology-associated expression of masculinity, and it can be defined as a masculinity that ideologically fuses advanced technical competence to men. Although examples of technomasculine characters abound in popular culture, there hasn’t been a systematic analysis of how this expression of masculinity fits into the hegemonic structure. Connell (2005, 165) suggests that historically there have been two dominant forms of masculinity – one based on direct domination and the other organized around technical knowledge that “currently coexist as … alternative emphases within hegemonic masculinity.”

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 4 In the area of popular culture, men associated with a high degree of credentials or knowledge about computer or engineering technology are typically able to express their skills at the amazement of others, and it would suggest that it is an expression of hegemonic masculinity. However, technomasculine men are also represented as lacking key social skills such as leadership, aggression, toughness or sexual prowess, the lack of which are associated with femininity and subordinated masculinities.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 5 Further, direct domination (or militarized) masculinity and technomasculinity are centrally concerned with mastery. Militarized masculinity is often associated with mastery over other social groups or institutions that affect how social groups are organized and regulated. Technomasculinity is associated with mastery over nature and machines through technology (Wajcman 1991). The protagonist of the Dead Space series is a technically proficient engineer who is tasked with saving humanity against an alien threat using both technical skills and militarized action. Thus the series provides insight into the larger machinations of the two forms of hegemonic masculinity in popular culture. One key question that will be addressed in the analysis is what relationships exist between the two forms of masculinity in the Dead Space series? Associated with this question is how other components of the gender system are implicated. Additionally, it is important to consider how power dynamics are represented through narrative and game design practices since these cultural artifacts are games as well as narrative stories. In order to trace the relationship between militarized masculinity and technomasculinity in the series along with other gendered themes, a textual and a game-design analysis were performed.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 1 Narrative Analysis

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 3 Dead Space (EA Redwood Shores 2008), Dead Space 2 (Visceral Games 2011), and Dead Space 3 (Visceral Games 2013) were released by publisher EA and developed by Visceral Games studio. The player controls and performs as white male protagonist Isaac Clarke (voice actor Gunner Wright[1]), a ship systems engineer working for a space mining corporation. In the first game Clarke is part of an emergency maintenance team that is deployed to fix the Ishimura, a giant space ship designed to mine planets. The team arrives at the aftermath of an apocalyptic event, where most of the crew of the Ishimura has been killed and many have also been transformed into “necromorphs,” mutated, zombie-like creatures out to kill Clarke and the others. The team is led by Zach Hammond (Peter Mensah), a black male security chief, and includes Kendra Daniels (Tonantzin Carmelo), a white female[2] and a computer systems specialist who turns out to be a covert agent working for the government.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 At the beginning of the game, Clarke receives a troubling, cryptic transmission from his romantic interest, Nicole Brennan (Tanya Clark), who is a white female medical officer on the Ishimura. Clarke must perform a number of technical and engineering repairs to get the ship operational while searching for clues as to whether Brennan has survived and where she might be. As the story unfolds through the levels of the game, Clarke learns that the Ishimura is owned by a corporation that acts as a front for a powerful religious group called the Unitologists, and the captain – a religious zealot – wants to remove a prophetic stone called the Marker from a mined planet below and take it to Earth. Ultimately, Clarke returns the Marker and prevents the spread of the violence and chaos.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 In Dead Space 2, Clarke awakes to discover he has been kept in a medical research facility on Titan, a moon of Saturn that was “cracked” or mined for minerals. The government has been using him to create its own Marker, and this leads to the same destructive chaos and violence as before. The government, led by a black male character named Director Hans Tiedemann (Lester Purry), orders Clarke and his fellow patients to be killed, but he is able to escape thanks to a woman, Daina Le Guin (Tahyna Tozzi), who later double crosses him, revealing that she is a Unitologist who wants to use him to create Markers for the religion. Clarke decides to that he must destroy the Marker the government has created while fighting off dementia that causes him to have visions of Brennan, who killed herself in the first game. Clarke enlists the help of Ellie Langford (Sonita Henry), a light-skinned, black female CEC heavy equipment pilot, who becomes his new romantic interest. Clarke eventually gets Langford away from danger and destroys the Marker. In order to succeed, Clarke also has to destroy Titan and sacrifice himself; however, Langford comes back to rescue him.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 1 Dead Space 3 opens with a dejected and destitute Clarke, who has lost Langford as a romantic partner because he cannot cope with the trauma he has been through. The Unitologists are waging a successful uprising against the government, which is on the brink of collapse. The leader of the church, Jacob Danik (Simon Templeman), is pursuing Clarke because he knows he can destroy Markers, which would prevent the Unitologists from triggering their religious apocalypse. Clarke reunites with Langford, who is on a deep space mission to ultimately destroy the original source of the necromorph outbreak. When he finds Langford and her crew, Clarke decides that they need to travel to the planet where the outbreak started to end things once and for all. Clarke ultimately sacrifices his life to stop the apocalypse, killing Danik along the way.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Apocalyptic threat to the social order

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 4 Hegemonic masculinity is tied to rationality and expresses an ideal that men can and should control their social and natural environment. In the Dead Space series, two simultaneous control needs emerge from the total environmental threat of an alien-necromorph attack resulting in an apocalyptic environment. Engineer protagonist Clarke must reestablish technological control over several different malfunctioning systems. At the same time, he must reestablish social control over the breakdown of society (everyone is being killed and converted into killers by an alien technology). The space of possibility – or the space in which the rules of the game allow the player to make decisions on how best to overcome obstacles and avoid dying – is thus doubly tied to the masculine imperative to control. Technomasculinity and militarized masculinity are both needed for different objectives. The two expressions of masculinity become fused or complementary in order to succeed at engineering tasks and tasks designed to restore social order.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Reestablishing technological control

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 1 In Dead Space, most of the game levels are oriented specifically toward establishing technological control over various systems that will either fix the space ship or stop something from destroying it until the order (not issued by Clarke, who follows orders from others throughout the first game) is given to stay and clean up the chaos rather than trying to get away. Fixing the ship is the job of a CEC ship systems specialist, which is Clarke’s engineering position within the corporation’s organization. The narrative of the first game would not work with a hero who only represented militarized masculinity. Progression through the levels depends on getting the ship to function properly and can only be done realistically by a technically proficient engineer. However, toward the end of the first game and throughout the entirety of the second, the narrative changes to one that is driven by the need to restore social order with goals that needn’t necessarily be accomplished by a technomasculine character. And in the final game of the series, the underlying motive is always to restore the social order. Although some ship systems engineering tasks enter into the third game, curiously another character determines what Clarke needs to fix. As the series progresses, militarized masculinity subsumes technomasculinity to become the ideal.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 2 In Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3, establishing technological control is almost always in the service of progressing to another location to end the chaos and reestablish social control. The protagonist’s technomasculinity is still useful as a tool when it is needed, but Clarke’s actions and decisions are always driven by the need to reestablish social control. For example, Clarke repairs equipment such as elevators, transportation systems, drilling machines, and power systems that comprise the totality of technical tasks in the second game, and all further the progression of Clarke from one area on the map to another in his pursuit to reestablish social control.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 The analysis revealed that the reestablishment of technological control manifests itself in three ways in the series. First, it is represented through technologically oriented engineering objectives that must be completed to progress through the levels and win the game. Second, the goals of these objectives are completed using the player’s cognitive and/or physical actions, and third through the technomasculinity inscribed in Clarke’s engineering suit.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 3 The player’s hand/eye coordination or physical reaction challenges to fix ship systems and other mechanical malfunctions is represented as the character hacking into systems and equipment. Technological hacking in the game relies on hand-eye coordination as the player rotates a controller pad and selects a button when a light on the screen changes briefly. Although this displays Clarke’s hacking skills on screen, the essence of hacking, which is largely cognitive and haptic, is missing from the players’ experience. Hacks are a reaction gameplay element, which means the skill required is in how the player reacts, not in how the player thinks or uses his or her cognitive abilities. This is a representation of a hack, although the player doesn’t have to actually think through and fix a technical problem. This glorifies hacking by showing its usefulness for the character, but it doesn’t extend the usefulness, challenge and pleasure of hacking to the player. Thus the technomasculine representation of hacking achieves a level of cultural legitimacy but at the expense of any practicality it may have as an activity involving thinking and problem solving.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 1 Puzzle-solving objectives are also gameplay elements of the series and represent the closest attempt to combine the technomasculine pleasure of hacking with the games’ design. The player’s cognitive coordination and puzzle solving actions are achieved through the engineering suit’s special abilities to manipulate or maneuver in the physical world afforded by the sci-fi technology of “kinesis” and “stasis.” Stasis is the ability to slow down fast-moving objects and enemies, and the player uses kinesis to move large objects that humans wouldn’t normally be able to move on their own. The suit also allows Clarke to maneuver in a gravity-free environment.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 3 The engineering suit transforms Clarke’s body into an unstoppable force and provides superhuman abilities associated with masculinity. The series relies on the importance of the suit to fuse masculinity to its wearer. The suit is a technology designed to amplify blue-collar and white-collar masculinity that prizes strength and tough work but without having to exert much muscular effort because of the suit’s engineered design. It extends the technics of human appendages with its ability to slow down and move objects without touching them, and it also substitutes for affective care because the suit stores medicine and oxygen while regulating the body’s health, symbolically removing the reliance on caregivers. The suit and body are fused together. The masculinity of the character and the masculinity afforded by the suit are one.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 4 The suit’s fearsomeness precludes the communication of emotion or intention. It’s not designed for such “soft,” affective human traits. When Clarke first meets Ellie Langford who is in a gun battle with aliens, his helmet retracts into the suit so he can show his face and communicate his intentions (Visceral Games 2011). Although Langford doesn’t initially trust Clarke after this exchange, she does work out an arrangement to help him, which leads to a slow establishment of trust and finally to a shared sense of purpose in the game. The suit contains masculinity and is masculinity’s container. It embodies a utilitarian philosophy and a libertarian ideology, exposing the hidden gendered hostility underpinning each. It keeps Clarke alive and provides him with the tools he needs to accomplish his technical tasks.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Reestablishing social control

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 2 Although the premise of the series is that Clarke is a technically competent engineer but also an “everyman” thrown into a kill or be killed apocalyptic situation, the narrative compels him to also reestablish social control by adopting militarized and violent masculinity to achieve this objective. The advent of the chaos – essentially humans are being changed into violent, destructive, mutated, single-minded zombies by an alien technology – taps into long standing fears expressed by white Western masculinity about black men’s potential for violence and racial miscegenation under colonial and racists systems of social organization. The narrative analysis also revealed a strong anti-authoritarian/libertarian message as the series faults two primary institutions for the necromorph outbreak and continued fascination with the destructive Marker.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 1 One institution at fault is organized religion. Organized religion is represented in the series by a religion called Unitology. The Unitologists believe that the Marker’s destructiveness is the first step to a religious event called convergence. The believers don’t mind the death and chaos because it will lead to salvation for the followers. The captain of the Ishimura expresses the willingness to bring about chaos in the name of spiritual transcendence in Dead Space, and Le Guin furthers this message in Dead Space 2. Dead Space 3 pits Clarke against central antagonist Danik, the leader of the Unitologists who wants to kill Clarke and hasten the triggering of the convergent end of times. Clarke also has a personal reason to distrust the Unitologist church. Clarke’s mother became a member and spent all the family money on tithing, so Isaac wasn’t able to afford the tuition for the great university that had accepted him.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 In Dead Space 2, Clarke travels to the Unitology church. Text logs, special indoctrination rooms, and the existence of a scale that measures whether someone is gullible with low self esteem, all reveal the church’s motivation to gather and recruit a docile flock. That it knows this is what it is doing suggests disrepute and deepens the distrust in organized religion. And finally, religious leader Daina Le Guin double crosses Clarke so she can use him to build a Marker for the church after initially helping him escape from medical confinement.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 1 The narrative also lays blame on the breakdown of social order on the institution of government. At the end of Dead Space, the narrative reveals that Clarke’s team member Kendra Daniels is actually working as an undercover government agent. She says that the government was originally the institution responsible for building a Marker to see if the alien technology could be replicated. When the experiment failed, it was covered it up until the Unitologists came to recover it. The second game essentially elevates the government’s chief responsibility for unleashing the chaotic event. The government authority from the beginning of the game has kept Clarke as a medical prisoner and then attempts to kill him.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Tiedemann, the government leader of the Titan space station, becomes the central antagonist in Dead Space 2, cutting off life support systems to an entire sector to prevent Clarke from pursuing him and sending soldiers to prevent Clarke from restoring social order. Tiedemann and by extension, the central government, display a severe lack of compassion for their people. The social contract of representative or democratic government is destroyed through cover ups and the spread of propaganda. Kendra Daniel’s double cross of Clarke also expresses an extension of the distrust of the state.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 4 The masculine individual represented by Clarke takes the weight of social and technological control and places it onto his shoulders. The series relies on this ideology of manly individualism and libertarianism to drive both gameplay and narrative. It is an ideology that is suspicious of authority. Both the government and the Unitologist church cannot be trusted, and both want to unleash the destruction caused by the Marker. The ideology of rugged individual masculinity becomes the underlying authority in the absence of institutional rationality and control.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 The role of women in the narrative

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 The Dead Space series presents four main female characters whom Clarke relies upon romantically, professionally, or both. Betrayal and ulterior motives drive three of women’s actions in their relationship with Clarke, while one is able to win his trust, but only after accepting a subordinate role.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 1 Nicole Brennan, Clarke’s romantic interest in the first game and a constant presence as a manifestation of dementia in the second, represents the threat of femininity in its perceived ability to weaken or destroy men’s emotional and cognitive control. Brennan represents Clarke’s quest to rescue heterosexual love from the total breakdown of society, but she also becomes a manifestation of his dementia, ultimately controlling his actions in his mind.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 The opening cut scene in Dead Space is a garbled transmission from Brennan to Clarke. The message is cryptic, setting up one aspect of the mystery of what has occurred that resulted in an apocalyptic threat.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Clarke is confused as to whether Brennan is alive or dead and he searches for clues of her fate among the technical tasks he is assigned. He becomes convinced that Brennan is alive and is helping him put the Marker back, which will contain the outbreak and restore social order. In the final level of Dead Space, Kendra Daniels tells Clarke to watch the original transmission from Brennan, and it shows that she has killed herself. Brennan hasn’t been helping him; rather, her manifestation was serving the alien life force.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 1 Brennan’s ghostly image stalks Clarke throughout the second game. She shows up in moments when his dementia overtakes him. But Clarke knows that she is dead, so he repeatedly tries to shake her from his head. He knows he has dementia, but he cannot stop her. “You know I’m not real, yet here I am,” she taunts (Visceral Games 2011). The dialogue throughout the game has Brennan nagging Clarke’s actions like a stereotypical spouse.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Clarke’s dementia is a struggle for control over his mind and body. As he crawls through a maintenance shaft and enters a room through a vent, Brennan grabs him, trying to force a hypodermic needle into his face. Clarke fights her off, and she disappears. Clarke discovers that he was the one holding the needle to his face. He eventually tries to fight Brennan’s manifestation by talking to her directly, challenging her with macho bravado. “You’re not going to break me,” he tells her (Visceral Games 2011).

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 1 Ultimately, Clarke kills the manifestations of Brennan controlling his mind. One of Clarke’s weaknesses is his willingness to love and his strong desire to rescue his romantic interest, which carries with it the risk of losing rational, dispassionate control. The heart takes over the mind, and the game’s narrative suggests that this is uncontrollable and hence a threat to masculinity.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 Kendra Daniels and Daina Le Guin assist Clarke in different ways throughout the series, but they both double cross him, revealing that they have ulterior motives that align them with the failing institutions of organized religion and government. Daniels uses Clarke’s engineering skills to repair an escape shuttle but betrays him, leaving him to die. Her betrayal is immediately punished when Clarke recalls the shuttle remotely; she is killed by an alien that violently knocks her off the shuttle dock.

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 Le Guin offers to help Clarke escape from the medical experiment facility and the security forces hunting him down in Dead Space 2, although he has never met her and doesn’t know where he is. His initial thoughts are to distrust her but to accept her help.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 Rather than accepting help on its face, Clarke seeks to control the situation despite his subordinate position. He demands to know why he should trust her. This moment of the narrative extends the distrust of women who “help” him. Clarke presses on and makes it to Le Guin, despite being disempowered. When he reaches her, Le Guin’s men detain him, and she reveals her double cross. Like Daniels, her betrayal is immediately punished through a violent death.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 2 The ideology of rugged individualism cannot be understood outside of gendered power dynamics. Clarke needs his teammate Daniel’s computer skills and Le Guin’s directions and cure. He accepts one as a teammate and accepts the help of the other to save his life. But these gender partnerships are fraught with uncertainty and secret scheming. Both women have ulterior motives to restoring the social order. The narrative is clear in its expression that women can’t be trusted to help save the world. They connive while Clarke’s motives are presented as pure. Both women reveal their betrayal and are killed in short order. The instant karma drives home the point.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 Clarke’s relationship with Ellie Langford represents what amounts to an “appropriate” hierarchical gender order and the ideal of the heterosexual relationship built upon the tacit authority of men. Langford performs an idealized contemporary femininity. She is strong and independent but still subordinate when it matters and in terms of possessing a feminine affective, caring disposition and deferring decision making. Langford is tough, having survived among the chaos. Clarke enlists her to his mission and asks her to care for another medical prisoner – a psychotic killer whom Clarke thinks can help. While Clarke does technological repairs needed to get to the next level of the game, he leaves Langford to use affective labor to care for the psychopath, despite the fact that she is heavy equipment pilot by occupation. She doesn’t question Clarke’s unilateral decision to care for the killer, whose psychosis is so severe that he is barely able to function and is actually a burden. For the majority of the narrative in the second game, this is Langford’s primary responsibility.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 As Langford works more with Clarke, she loses some of her early toughness, suggesting a “true femininity” underneath a tough guise. At one point in the narrative, she loses her cool, and Clarke calms her down. Later, Langford caringly asks if Clarke is all right after he escapes a particularly dangerous situation, and he says he is. She catches herself, and she begins to adopt her previous demeanor – tough, standoffish, and cold. The narrative suggests that Langford is naturally soft and emotional. Her tough stance is just something she wears to mask her true gendered identity. Langford, after proving her commitment and relative subordination, substitutes as Clarke’s heterosexual love interest, which carries over into Dead Space 3. In that game, Langford has left Clarke and is with another man, and Clarke must become the hero again to prove that he is a worthy man.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 There is some give and take in the relationship between Langford and Clarke. She doesn’t do everything he asks of her. However, Clarke’s combination of direct domination and technomasculinity position him above her in authority. Clarke decides courses of action throughout the series without discussing or seeking any input from Langford. The cultural ideal of hegemonic masculinity needs to be justified, partly, on its ability to protect women from social and technological disorder. Langford represents the narrative reestablishment of a successful heterosexual partnership within a contemporary world where women work alongside men. This kind of relationship closes the circle of distrust between women and men after there has been a reestablishment of technological and social control.

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 From sequential to fused masculinities

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 The Dead Space series’ antagonist begins with two divergent, sequential masculinities consisting of his technical competence as an engineer and his new-found militarized skills shooting and killing aliens. However, as the series progresses, the two divergent types are fused together under a unified masculine hero archetype. This suggests, at the level of a cultural ideal, that men cannot embody both techno and militarized masculinity without one subsuming the other.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 The Dead Space series relies on the use of “objectives” to drive gameplay design and structure the narrative. An in-game, Head’s Up Display (HUD) information interface is utilized and is typically accessed during moments when the player is not actively engaged with killing enemies and is meant to keep the player abreast of various gameplay components such as weapon and ammunition inventory, mission, a database of previous recorded messages, and level maps. Objectives show up under the “Mission” tab, and attached to each objective is texts consisting of Clarke’s personal journal.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 An analysis of all objectives in the series revealed two main types: technical objectives and game-progression objectives. Technical objectives consist of times during gameplay when the main character uses representations of engineering skills and knowledge to repair, hack, repurpose, engage or disengage various components and systems, including mechanical and computer systems. Game-progression objectives consist of times during gameplay when the main character needs to move from one location to another using militarized masculinity through a series of weapons to kill enemy non-player characters.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 The first game weaves technical objectives into the narrative as Clarke performs a number of tasks associated with his engineering occupation. Often, the technical objectives in each game require the player to utilize his or her cognitive, puzzle-solving abilities rather than hand-eye coordination. Clarke’s personal journal also explains the importance of whatever technical task is at hand, and sometimes, there is an explanation of what went wrong with a system and what Clarke will do to repair or hack it.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 1 Tables 1 and 2 show the relationship between technical and game-progression objectives and the extent of each game’s progression relying on technical objectives.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 Table 1. Analysis of gameplay design between different types of objectives and the frequency of technical to game-progression objectives.


Technical Objectives

Game-progression Objectives

Percent Technical Objectives

Dead Space



60 percent

Dead Space 2



35 percent

Dead Space 3



24 percent

Table 2. Analysis of technical objectives in the series and whether the goal of the objective is to establish technical or social control in the game narrative.

Type of Game-progression Objectives

Dead Space

Dead Space 2

Dead Space 3

Establish Technical Control




Establish Social Control




Percent Technical Control Objectives that progress the game

50 percent

18 percent

18 percent

85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 2 Dead Space primarily relies on technological objectives to drive much of the gameplay, and this suggests that Clarke’s technomasculinity is an important component of the overall game. There are game-progression objectives in the first game, but most of these are also associated with technomasculine challenges to reestablish technological control. The other game-progression objectives are related to ultimately stopping the spread of total environmental chaos, but the lower numbers relative to technological objectives and game-progression objectives associated with technological objectives position Clarke as a technical engineer thrust into a role of savior, a role for which he didn’t apply. In the second and third games of the series, the majority of objectives are game-progression objectives, and the majority of those objectives are not based upon establishing technological control.

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 The gameplay objectives align with the narrative – as the series progresses, the objectives rely less on engineering and technology and more on militarized masculinity – telling a heroic story of a man’s quest to end a potential apocalypse through the use of violent force, vanquishing enemies with weapons to move through the game.

87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 Conclusion

88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 2 The Dead Space series articulates a process at work within the cultural arena of hegemonic masculinity as technomasculinity begins to become a more relevant alternative in the information and digital age. In the realm of interactive fiction in an industry dominated by men, the male hero can be both technomasculine and directly dominating. The double bind that acknowledges a divergence between aggressive, macho masculinity and the rational, science-oriented masculinity is removed. The protagonist is not put on the spot when these contradictions would be manifest in activities. The series does ultimately subsume technomasculinity into the action hero archetype, but it doesn’t do it at the expense of technomasculinity.

89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 1 Most of the expense goes largely to women and institutional authority. Women are represented as competent and independent professionals but with ulterior motives and schemes that threaten the establishment of social, technological and emotional control. Institutions are feminized as well as either ineffectual or with similar scheming motives. In the Dead Space series, the only trustworthy person is the individual male hero.

90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 2 The fictionalized apocalyptic event and its defeat by a white male action hero who is also a technological virtuoso is a particular masculine fantasy response to real social and economic conditions in the first two decades of the new millennium. Responses to neoliberalism and shifting gender preferences of service-oriented capitalism vary among those affected by its extreme ideology of eroding state support of social welfare programs and the dislodging of stable, well-paying or unionized employment. In the case of the Dead Space series, the response to these political economic conditions is to double down on the idealized ability of individualism and hegemonic masculinity to restore stability through patriarchal and scientific norms of control.

91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 Works cited

Berner, Boel, and Ulf Mellström. 1997. “Looking for mister engineer: Understanding

masculinity and technology at two Fin de Siècles.” In Gendered Practices: Feminist studies of technology and society, edited by Boel Berner, 39-68. Linköping University: Almqvist & Wiksell International.

Cockburn, Cynthia. 1985. Machinery of Dominance. Dover, NH: Pluto Press.

Connell, R.W. 1987. Gender and Power. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Connell, R.W. 2005. Masculinities. 2nd Edition. Los Angeles: University of California


EA Redwood Shores. 2008. Dead Space. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts.

Kline, Stephen, Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter. 2003. Digital Play: The

interaction of technology, culture and marketing. Ithaca, NY: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Remo, Chris. 2010. “A new vocabulary for development: Chuck Beaver and Dead

Space.” Gamasutra. Accessed January 2012.  www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/132193/a_new_vocabulary_for_development.

Visceral Games. 2011. Dead Space 2. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts.

Visceral Games. 2013. Dead Space 3. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts.

Wajcman, Judy. 1991. Feminism confronts technology. University Park, PA:

Pennsylvania State University Press.

Wajcman, Judy. 2004. TechnoFeminism. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

108 Leave a comment on paragraph 108 0 Notes:

109 Leave a comment on paragraph 109 0 1. The Dead Space series uses the likeness and motion capture of their voice actors for the main characters.
2. The character does resemble the voice actor, although the character’s skin tone is lighter. The narrative does not emphasize Carmelo’s American Indian identity.

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