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

Destructive Tumbleweeds and WereBeavers

Attuning to Time and Space in Don’t Starve Together

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Dropped into a wilderness with no instructions, no inventory, and no end goal, Woodie the Lumberjack and Wilson the Scientist wait for my partner (Adam) and I to take control and guide them around Don’t Starve Together’s randomly generated world. These characters have the skills to craft tools from sticks, scavenge food from animals, and properly cook berries and meat over a campfire. In return, we as players must lead them to resources and develop a strategy for keeping the characters alive. The only problem is that we have no idea what we’re doing. Continue Reading

Getting Good: An Introduction to the Becoming Machine Series

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As a researcher who studies games and their practices, communities, and industries, I am deeply interested in the ways that my own proficiency with games (or lack of) modifies how and what I know about them. To take a pithy example, my years-long experience playing in Guild Wars 2’s PvE scene affords me some insight into the ways that the game has evolved to create some opportunities for incidental collaboration between players while suppressing others. At the same time, my utter incompetence with the game’s PvP play leaves me less capable (and less willing) to investigate it – to ask, for instance, how the Guild Wars 2’s meta has evolved in response to the demands of top competitive guilds. Continue Reading

The Trouble with Bodies

A Trans Reading of Nier

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Last year, my friend convinced me to play Nier for the first time. Upon initially booting up the title, it seemed like a typical grimdark male power fantasy with severely floaty controls and a muted, masculine aesthetic. Today, I consider it the only mainstream video game I have played that embodies the trans experience. Over the course of my time with Nier, what at first seemed to be a weak narrative scaffolding attempting to justify fetishized violence transformed into a subversive work of empathic queerness. The game has a series of endings, each building upon the last, culminating in a nuanced network of meaning-making. Through these multiple playthroughs and endings, a cohesive queering of the text emerged in my player experience, with the intersection of my own lived-in qualia of being a trans person and the game’s transgressive body politics acting as the thematic core. What follows is the result of this—a deeply personal close reading of Nier as a triumph of trans narratives. Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 17

Isometric RPGs with Special Guest Cameron Kunzelman

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This month on the First Person Podcast, special guest Cameron Kunzelman joins Chris, Rob, and I to talk isometric RPGs.  How and why has the genre persisted after all these years? What function does long form textual narrative have in today’s… Continue Reading