CTS – Semiotics


 noun, ( used with a singular verb)


the study of signs and symbols as elements of communicative behavior; the analysis of systems of communication, as language, gestures, or clothing.
This sign generally means caution. If someone saw it they would generally know that it means Caution and would either go a different route – if they were on their way to somewhere – or leave if it was in a building. However just because it is a commonly accepted and well known example of a sign doesn’t mean everyone would know it.
Someone from a third world country that doesn’t use these signs might not know what it means and not be deterred. Any sign is generally made up of a signifier and signified. A signifier is what is shown and how the message is communicated while signified refers to what the message is.
A good and almost universal example of this are traffic lights. For instance if a traffic light is red you know that means the cars should stop at the traffic light, if it amber they can prepare to move on and if it is green they are free to drive.
Ideology makes up a large part of our society as it helps define how we think in general. It can tell you how a country operations economically and the path by which it grows. For instance, the United Kingdom’s dominant ideology is Capitalism, sharing it with most of the western hemisphere. Capitalism works on people being able to sell what they want via a free market while competition generates innovation that progresses and benefits the larger society as a whole.
Socialism is based on the method of the state controlling economics, trade, education, housing and more in order to make the country prosper.
Karl Marx, a German who lived in London in the nineteenth century, was a vocal critic of capitalist ideology. He pointed out that it was a tiered system. At the bottom are the working class, who are typically the largest class, who do the majority of the work but have the least economic benefits to show for it. Next are the middle class who allegedly benefit from the working class and live a lifestyle a level or so above the working class.
The next tier is typically the army, then the religious leaders and at the top are monarchs, CEOS and the like who own the majority of the wealth in countries around the world.
What you can infer from this is that the rich would like to stay rich – obviously/understandably – and the easiest way to do this is to profit from the classes below them. The use of things like signs can help perpetuate elements of this ideology and societal structure. The typical image of happy family is that of a father going off to work to provide for his family and put food on the table while the mother stays at home and raises the children and even if the money is all spent on bills they are happy because they have a family.
If someone doesn’t like this idea then they don’t challenge the system, because the system allows them to rise to a higher social status or tier of the capitalist pyramid and they will have risen up a social class. You see people with money having things that are designed to make you want them, regardless of whether they would benefit your life or not and the working class stay working class.
But enough with the cultural and societal revolution and back to Semiotics.
I will analyse the box art for Mass Effect 3 and specifically the Female variation, as your main character can be either male or female.
Commander Shepard (the hero/heroine) stands in the centre of the box art, positioned somewhat above a burning Earth that is in the midst of a very one sided invasion. However bucking the trend of a society-suggestion that women are scared or frightened by things, Shepard does not turn or run away. Instead she faces the “camera” head on, gun at the ready and moving towards whatever threat she perceives. It is quite interesting to buck the trend and it is something the Mass Effect series did quite well as from the start of the trilogy you could choose to be male or female and both were treated with equal respect.
Until Mass Effect 3 both male and females used the same set of animations and until Mass Effect 3 only the male variation was used in marketing material, because the developers were advised that the male version would probably sell more but also because having two different versions of the protagonist would confuse the uninformed, which actually makes a lot of sense. Within the game Shepard (FemShep or DudeShep as abbreviated by the fans) is no more sexualised than the opposite gender and the supposed patriarchy is almost addressed in game with Female Shepard being judged differently because of her gender with the player being given the opportunity to subvert expectations and prove her worth every bit an equal and smash the myth that women are less capable.
Personally I quite like playing as Female Shepard because even though I can’t quite place myself in her shoes when making decisions it prevents a slightly different worldview that I’d never be able to see in real life so it’s by default a bit more interesting to me.