restricted access 3. Playing with Emotions
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. 89 3 PlayingwithEmotions “MY WII STORY” In 2007, soon after the release of the Wii gaming system, Nintendo launched an advertising campaign called “My Wii Story.” Through the Nintendo website,1 people were invited to write in stories about the transformative powers of the Nintendo Wii and how it helped their lives and families. While both sexes wrote in to “My Wii Story,” the majority of the submissions came from women. Several stories were turned into magazine advertisements, often appearing in special interest magazines such as O: The Oprah Magazine and Martha Stewart Living, and all of these magazine versions were written by women. The advertisements did not necessarily promote that women play more, but rather that they use play as a means of connecting their families (and connecting with their families). All of the“MyWii Stories” that appeared in physical magazines start off with a testimonial quote about what people like about theWii gaming system . Below each of these testimonies is a woman’s signature—­ a personal advocacy for the product. For example, one story author, Nancy Ponthier, attests that theWii promoted family togetherness, which is reinforced by a picture showing a mother playfully hugging her son while negotiating the Wii remote (Figure 14). Her headline quote says, “It’s the first video game I’ve really enjoyed playing.” The testimonial continues, “We really like playing together as a family, so we quickly moved it from my son’s room to the living room. We even like making Mii characters together. They’re funny and we get a kick out of describing each other. I took a crack at making my own Mii. Then my kids told me it wasn’t ‘pretty enough’ and made it better. I thought that was sweet. They were just so happy I was 90 . PLAYING WITH EMOTIONS interested in a video game.” This testimonial nicely implies that for her the system is not meant for play, but rather to facilitate the emotional happiness of her family. Further, it suggests that her children love her more—­ even think that she is prettier—­ because she played the Wii with them. In this, the subtext of play becomes a form of what I will identify below as “emotional labor.” Other “My Wii Stories”—­ both in magazines and on the original website—­ carried similar themes of emotionality and nurturing modes of play. Certainly we are all permitted to enjoy emotional experiences in, and because of, video game play. “My Wii Story,” however, illustrates a different kind of emotionality—­ one that hinges on the well-­ being of others. While in the case of “MyWii Story” the emotional well-­being is that of real family members, games intentionally designed for women often employ a similar emotional register for fictional, non-­player characters. One consistent theme—­ which I will be highlighting throughout this chapter—­ is how emotional labor and the work of caring come to the forefront in the designed identity of Player Two. The interplay of emotional labor with themes of productivity and work, I argue, helps to create games where women’s in-­ game labor is always linked to emotional countenance. Yet the emotionality felt within video games is powerful and can resonate in everyday lives.While emotional labor can take its toll, in-­game emotional labor often brings positive effects with it. While in the real world emotional labor is often thankless and unsatisfying, in the game world it can result in satisfying, positive in-­ game outcomes. As with the management of time, emotional labor in games is a mixed bag. In the previous chapter, I ended with a discussion of how the notion of “mania”—­ and all of its gendered stereotypes—­ helps to create a kind of expectation that women’s play necessarily broaches instability and insanity—­ that women’s emotional state is always on the verge of hysteria , and that one small drop in the bucket might push her over. I illustrated the underlying implication that by playing too much, and not being able to control their play, women might become emotionally unstable. In this chapter I offer the flip side of this argument. On the one hand, too much play might cause manic behavior, but on the other, it offers a means of emotional caregiving. Caregiving becomes a more“acceptable” emotional outlet for women, a controlled state that infers a form of domestic labor. The designed identity of Player Two is always inextricably linked to some kind of an emotional state. This emotional state...


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