Janet Murray on why some players and critics still cannot tolerate narrative in games

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When Hamlet on the Holodeck came out in 1997 it became the catalyst for a foundational debate in Game Studies, the tension between stories and games as distinct genres of human expression. I have never changed my own position on this controversy. I believe that games and stories are both forms of representation (neither one is more “real” than the other) and that they have shared many structural elements from ancient times onward as they continue to do in emerging digital forms. I reviewed the controversy again for the new edition of Hamlet on the Holodeck, updated and reissued from MIT Press this year, noting how the self-described “ludologists” had come to accept narrative strategies as legitimate parts of game design, and how many players had responded enthusiastically to new interactive narrative formats. Continue Reading

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged?

The Sociology of Community Discipline in MOBAs

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Anyone who’s spent much time playing online games has seen it: cooperation balanced on the edge of a knife, always at risk of instant collapse into a torrent of ethnic and gender slurs. For all its many achievements, the Internet has also provided a forum for angry individuals seeking to vent their angst on the world—and in few contexts has this proven more pernicious than in the realm of online gaming. Something about the fusion of competition with the Internet’s general digital anarchism elicits displays of spectacularly terrible sportsmanship, and MOBA-style games—multiplayer online battle arenas (specifically League of Legends, Dota 2, and Heroes of the Storm)—have proven particularly susceptible to this. Continue Reading

Dimensions of Identity in Games

A Review of Gaming at the Edge by Adrienne Shaw

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I have never identified as a ‘gamer’. I transitioned from casual to serious player in the months just prior to the drastic increase of online harassment campaigns, and the fierce attacks against diversity that characterized them. The toxic, sexist rhetoric that spread across gaming communities seems to have tainted the label of ‘gamer’ in my eyes. Of course, this movement did not go unopposed, and the calls for increased representations of diversity in video games have been numerous and vehement. An essential addition to this conversation is Adrienne Shaw’s book Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture. Gaming at the Edge offers an ethnographic study that explores the ways members of marginalized groups engage with video games, how the ability to identify with the characters represented in games shapes this engagement, and argues that ongoing conversations about diversity in games should be reframed to account for the intersectional nature of identity. Continue Reading

Dr. Livingston in No Man’s Sky

The effect of researching interactive media

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Since its inception, the camera has captured and confounded us. The introduction of recording devices ranging from the phonograph to the photograph marked an astounding technological achievement: we could now collect moments in time. Relatively recently, this affordance has been extended to our gaming experiences. Consoles have incorporated screenshot functions into their operating systems, like the PlayStation 4’s dedicated “SHARE” button for recording and sharing gameplay. More dynamic “photo mode” features are creeping into many of the most visually compelling games as of late, such as Shadow of Mordor, Grand Theft Auto IV and V, Uncharted 4, and Batman: Arkham Knight. Continue Reading

Becoming Sensate

New Approaches to Observing Play

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Games move us (Apperley & Jayemayne, 2012; Giddings, 2009). They teach us how to play them, how to move through their worlds, how to learn their protocols, and how to negotiate their persistent blending of virtual and physical worlds. The moving parts of a situation of gameplay – the platform, the narrative, the player and her environment – act as an assemblage, a constantly changing interaction of humans and nonhumans influencing one another. The notion of play is not a fixed reality, but a result of these elements in constant contact and becoming what we recognize as play (Massumi, 2002). Continue Reading