She’s Not There

Absent Agency in Video Games

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While a great deal of scholarship is devoted to the problematic aspects of female representation in the stereotypically male-dominated sphere of video games, less interest lies in an alternative depiction of women that, while not predominant, exists in some video games: that of the ‘absent woman.’ There are games that feature female characters that, though heavily represented throughout the game in various forms, are not physically depicted in any thorough way. This representation might take the form of the unseen character providing narration, leaving traces of themselves in notes, leaving behind memories and/or intentions that live on inside of other characters, to name just a few examples. Continue Reading

Dungeons and Queers

Reparative Play in Dungeons and Dragons

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I play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) at least once a week–more if I can convince my friends to play with me. I have a monthly tabletop gaming group where we try new and weird role-playing games (RPGs) like Fiasco and Dread, where there are a few rules that create a space of play that’s otherwise pretty boundless. But I always come back to D&D. It’s something special, getting to play with friends in worlds that I’ve imagined alone for so long (see also my long-standing obsession with Bioware-style RPGs, heavy on character creation and relationship-building). Continue Reading

Technology Worship, Media Archaeology, and Zombie Media in Horizon Zero Dawn

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Little more than a year has passed since Horizon Zero Dawn’s (2017) release, and if its reception in popular venues like Polygon and Medium is any indication, we will soon see scholarship on its appropriation of Native American cultures, representations of women, its treatment of post-racial societies, and its critique of capitalism and the military-industrial complex. This essay adds to the growing body of literature on Horizon by considering its representations of not just people, but media forms and our relationships with them. To this end, I situate Horizon within the broader context of ‘meta-games,’ that is, games that comment on their own forms, histories, and place in culture writ large. Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 28

“I need more money!”, or The Extended Life of Games

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In this month’s podcast, Pierson, Rob, Betsy and Will discuss the trend towards “games as services” rather than one-off products. They also consider whether there is an increasing tendency towards specialized consumption of specific games. If we are playing a smaller number of games for longer periods of time, are these new developments in game consumption habits? How might changes in making, selling and distributing games be involved in the reasons we are playing specific games longer? Continue Reading

Stirring the Pot

Cooking, Compression and the Quotidian in Breath of the Wild

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I don’t much like cooking in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I understand its aesthetical value—the imperative to scrounge together enough sustenance for basic survival, especially in the early game. However the more I played and more I discovered, the less novel it became, and the lofty rhetoric surrounding the game only made this dissatisfaction harder to swallow. “Get lost!”, “Turn off the HUD!”, “Figure it out yourself!” and contradictorily “It’s the first ‘real’ Zelda adventure, the other games were only legends, man” against “C’mon grandma break out the graph paper, it’s exactly like Zelda 1!” Continue Reading

How Zelda keeps us young

On traveling through changing media

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It was the late 1950s when a young Shigeru Miyamoto started discovering the bamboo forests and caves outside his home in the Kyoto countryside. Harnessing the sense of awe and excitement he felt on these trips, he produced the 1986 NES classic The Legend of Zelda, which would become one of the most popular video game franchises in history. The series’ origin story has become somewhat of a legend in itself, retold by fans and journalists alike (cf. Sheff, 1993). Continue Reading