How Grannies are portrayed in Casual Games

Did you know that #grannies are popular in #casualgames alongside zombies and ninjas?

Sara Mosberg Iversen has analyzed the representation of old women (grannies) featured as player-characters in four casual digital games: Super granny, Granny vs. zombies, Angry gran and Granny Smith. In the article “Not without my kitties”: The old woman in casual games (FDG, 2015) – the writer shows the polarity of how old women are portrayed in the four mentioned games. Grannies are at the same time unimportant, homebound, lonely and childish and yet they are highly capable and resist victimization. Mosberg Iversen describes that the cause might be how old women are seen as “Others” in the society who must contain both hopes and fears towards aging. The games can also be seen as parodies, they are humorous comments for the earlier digital games in the genre or as notions of active aging.

The article lists examples from popular portrayals of older women. Sylvia Henneberg argues that there are actually only three portrayals. Those are 1) weak and incapable, 2) overly concerned with the safety and well-being of their families to the detriment of their own good and 3) evil crones. These roles are seen in popular films and in popular comic strips before 21th century. Even though the conceptualizations have been changing over the last twenty years, there are newer notions how aging women remain useful as long as they adhere the requirements of youthful presentability and be economically productive as consumers at the same time. There’s only a fine line between acceptable powerful old woman and the witch.

In the article games are understood to be consumer products and such have a discourse on ageing and gender that will appear understandable and credible for the large audience. She analyses the chosen games using her own playing experience and also user reviews, player comments and the gameplay videos of others. The things she focuses are grannies’ looks, representation of settings, actions, relation to the outside world and the player of the game. For example, the potential to fail is always the player’s fault and not the player-character’s, so role of being old and incapable can be reversed in the execution of gameplay. All of the grannies have that stereotypical granny look: old fashioned, grey, thick glasses, thin figure. Only one granny has a cape as a sign of being over-powerful or a superhero. They are not properly behaving old women because some of them are angry and have an over attachment to cats and apples. They also don’t want to be victimized and that way fight against the defenseless old lady stereotype.

If the games are read as parodic texts, the viewpoint actually reveals the discursiveness of otherwise well-established truths, thereby questioning the texts that they refer to. From other point of view, they can also be seen as a testament to Western society’s continuing unease with old age and its prospect of death.


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