Memories Shaping Identities

An Overview of Dontnod's Games

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While French studio Dontnod is still releasing new episodes of Life is Strange 2 and is teasing a new project, Twin Mirror, they have already developed four games in five years. To me they all bear a common theme which leads the experience: memory and how it defines identity. Let’s see how each game uses these ideas in their themes and gameplay and what it could mean for the studio. Continue Reading

A Shack, a House, a Prison

The analogy of the shack and videogame production

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I want to be very careful about how I approach this subject. I do not claim to speak for videogame production writ large, nor do I want to. I am concerned with forming a body of knowledge around certain exploitative practices which occur in much of the videogame industry – an industry to which unfortunately few game scholars have ready access. Like the historical development of television, radio, and film, videogame production is experiencing growing pains that need to be addressed if the conditions are ever going to change. This article utilizes the analogy of the ‘shack’ as developed by Bachelard (1964) and Robertson (2011) to understand one of the struggles that prospective and early-career videogame developers often experience: being recruited for their passion (Kerr and Kelleher, 2015; Bulut, 2014 and 2015; Johnson, 2013a, 2013b, 2019), then having that passion used against them. In other words, appealing to the ‘passion’ of employees allows for exploitative working conditions and work culture, all under the auspices of someday “making it” in videogames (O’Donnell, 2014, 153). Continue Reading

The Musical Narrative of JRPGs

“The Melodies of Life” in Final Fantasy IX

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Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs) have come to be known for their sometimes-formulaic plots, as is beautifully lampooned by this CollegeHumor video. Typical plot-points include: a great evil slowly taking over the world (often by collecting powerful crystals), a small team of unlikely heroes, playable characters that have secret past lives, sudden and unavoidable deaths of important main characters, and numerous side-quests (or minigames) that have largely nothing to do with the main plot of the game. Nonetheless, fans of JRPGs have come to love and expect these narrative devices as key elements, and some of video game’s most successful and acclaimed franchises, including Fire Emblem (Nintendo, 1990-ongoing) and Final Fantasy (Square Enix, 1987-ongoing) series, fall into this genre. Continue Reading

Remembering Katamari Damacy

YouTube era nostalgia and memories of childhood play in Keita Takahashi’s cultural critique

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The last time a work of art made me cry was at a local screening of My Neighbour Totoro. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a film that captured what playing pretend as a child felt like, befriending magical creatures that live separately from the world of adulthood.

The credits rolled, and a little girl sitting in front of me asked her mother in amazement, “Mommy, is Totoro real?” and I was a sappy, sobbing mess.

In games, such overwhelming, positive experiences often come from the resolution of an epic story, or completion of a difficult final boss. Think to the moment in which we complete a difficult final boss, with quivering hands and your heart in your throat as you land the final strike. Continue Reading

An interview with Andrew Reinhard

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Andrew Reinhard is as old as Pong. He is currently a third-year “mature” PhD student at the Department of Archaeology at the University of York (UK) where he is completing his thesis on archaeological tools and methods for investigating digital cultural heritage. Past video game archaeology projects include the excavation of the Atari Burial Ground, the No Man’s Sky Archaeological Survey and the Legacy Hub Archaeological Project, landscape archaeology in Skyrim VR, and the code archaeology of Colossal Cave Adventure. Continue Reading

Gaming’s Hidden Toxicity

What is Salt-Mining?

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At the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Todd Howard, executive producer at Bethesda Game Studios, revealed to an ecstatic audience the new instalment of the popular videogame franchise Fallout, titled Fallout 76. Nothing much was new here regarding the game’s core principles: rather, what captured the attention of news outlets and gaming fans alike was the announcement that, unlike previous titles, Fallout 76 would only be playable online. Fans’ reactions were, to put it mildly, polarized: some enthusiastically welcomed the new direction of the franchise, while others expressed their concern that making Fallout 76 online-only would open the door to toxic player behaviour. Continue Reading

Darkmoon Tomb

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For me, being trans is a lifelong experience. My childhood and adolescent memories are coated in a thick layer of sadness. Something that was invisible and omnipresent. Because I didn’t have the language to understand myself, and that language was the subject of high scrutiny. Constantly marked with the label of “impolite conversation,” keeping it, seemingly, forever out of reach for a kid like myself. I had to learn to cope with dysphoria without knowing what it was. It was a lot like being trapped in the dark. I can tell when I’ve tripped, hurt myself on a cave wall or stray rock. But I can’t ever see the things that cause that pain. Continue Reading