Technology and the profound influence of cyberspace has progressively chipped away at the traditional societal foundation that predominately defines one’s self-identity. Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” discusses the role of humans being embedded in technology and how we are forming into one entity consisting of humanity and machine. For Haraway, this unification of nature and technology will drastically change how we view the world and the individuals comprising of it, especially women. In the digital realm of online gaming, individuals are released from the confines of reality to create, build, and establish themselves as they chose fit. The popular strategic game called “War of Nations” is an excellent example of what Haraway’s manifesto claims to happen for women in confronting prevailing norms.
The game is a strategic builder and battler, where there are no avatars or personal characters attached to the players but only the troops and bases that they build. The layout of the game is divided into a grid of hexagons in which you construct buildings to expand from your home base. Building troops, factories or really any component of the game consumes resources and its up to the player to build enough oil derricks, iron mines, and gas refineries to supplement their need. Troops in the game, don’t include actual soldiers, rather you build military equipment such as tanks, helicopters, planes, artillery, and scouting drones. Battling other players allows you to steal their resources or even capture their base, and you accumulate battle points, which rank you against the rest of the world. The game allows up to 50 players to form teams or alliances, as their called in the game, to better acquire their individual goals and empirical power in the digital world. In these alliances, you can see a similar hierarchy as in a real-life military, with each group appointing a General, who then appoints his or her Colonels, Captains, Sergeants, and Privates.
It’s interesting that in War of Nations, the individual is stripped of any sense of identity besides their custom name and what alliance they pledge their loyalty to. There is no indication of what may be the player’s gender, race, location, or age. The game is merely based on merit and ability. Yet with the capability to message one of another in group chat circumstances, you see a great deal of effort for individuals to let others know, what culture and geographical location they are from and more importantly, their gender. The biggest reason the men seek to gain knowledge as to whether they are playing with a woman or not is to allow them to address the player in a way that they would like to be addressed in the social setting of the game. But ironically, more times than not, if you didn’t know that an individual was a woman, you would never notice a difference amongst the players concerning the way they communicate or their ability. As a matter of fact, some of the best players in this game are women. Actually a woman leads the alliance that I am apart of as our General. It’s also important to note that, at least in my observation, you hardly ever come across sexism or defamation as a result of having a woman playing the game even when she dominates the majority of male players.
By stripping all traditional identity attributes in the game, War of Nations is an extension of Donna Haraway’s theory in which technological advancement has redefined how people attach themselves to culture, philosophy, and the preconceptions of others. With a completely level playing field from the beginning, the same opportunities for success and the ability to seize power and control are presented to each and every player in equal measure no matter their ethnicity, gender, or age.