“War never changes.” Gender Roles and the Transformative Potential for Role Reversal in Roleplay Games with Post-Apocalyptic Settings
Keywords:Role reversal, gender roles, post-apocalyptic, apocalypse, Fallout 4, Horizon: Zero Dawn, game studies, gamevironments
This article tackles the question in which ways the apocalypse has a transformative potential for rethinking gender roles and breaking up with stereotypes in post-apocalyptic Open World Roleplay Games (RPGs). It inquires if and in what way a change in hegemonic structures can be observed on the levels of society, characters, and also in terms of the ludic possibilities provided within the game-worlds. In order to do so, two contemporary post-apocalyptic Open World RPGs are analyzed, namely Fallout 4 (2015) and Horizon Zero Dawn (2017). It is evident that Fallout 4 continues a male-connotated line of motives, transpired by past media. Horizon Zero Dawn uses the potential of the apocalypse, the promised restart, to instead generate a new society. This society has not yet achieved a state of equality but has already reached a new baseline of strong characters of different genders without racial disparity, that is further fostered by the protagonist’s journey. Hurtful gender tropes are thereby overcome, and stereotypes are being subverted.