Nancy Drew and the Case of the Neoliberal College

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A disillusioned professor desperate for tangible research results. An ambitious new Ph.D. angling for a tenure-track position. Research assistants performing rote and menial tasks. Contract staff bound by restrictive agreements. Research teams dependent on the benevolence of corporate sponsors. College students angry that their campus is increasingly devoted to commercial enterprise. Continue Reading

The Paratext of Video Games

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A compelling but often overlooked part of video games is what we call the ‘paratext.’ The term was coined in literary studies to discuss the pieces of information which appear outside of the text (the main body of writing), but which nonetheless participate in and influence our reception of the text. For instance, the paratext of a novel would be the novel’s title, the author’s name, the synopsis on the back cover, chapter titles, publication details, or the cover art. It appears marginal to the experience of the text, but actually provides a significant network of ideas around which our approach to the text is shaped. Continue Reading

What We Do in the Darkness

Exploring the Trauma of Town of Light's Renée

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Content/Trigger Warning: Discussion of trauma and sexual assault.

Darkness is often synonymous with fear; where things go bump in the night, where monsters live. But what could make someone fear the light?

For Renée T., the protagonist of the LKA’s The Town of Light, the light bathed her with hellish attention, turning her inside-out. The game’s title, which initially strikes one as pious and placid, is actually a description of terror. The town is a mental asylum where young Renée is confined, in an Italian village at the height of the Second World War. Women couldn’t vote in Italy; lobotomies were all the rage; ‘hysteria’ was a diagnosis. Continue Reading

You’ve Got Wang

Asian Representation in Video Games from Shadow Warrior to Shadow Warrior

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Modern video games owe a lot to the Asian continent, from the revitalization of the industry after the crash of 1983 to the oft-used gimmick of “eastern mysticism,” the idea that being from an Asian country connects a person to a spiritual and/or magical force that conveniently moves a plot along. But despite the large output of video games from Japan, China, and Korea from the 1980s into the 2000s, actual representation of Asian cultures has been fairly minute in games that have either been developed in the west or localized for a western audience. The number of influential games with Asian protagonists is even more limited, especially when considering that a fair number of Asian-developed games don’t see a release in western territories. This is not always true, of course, but the presence of stereotypical portrayals of whole cultures is undeniable. These eastern-developed games focus on generalized concepts of life in the east that appeal to a western market. That is to say that, on face, they feature the same sorts of protagonists and settings the west has already become comfortable with through exposure to years of other media, like movies. Continue Reading

“Thank Goodness you’ve Returned”

Retracing Nostalgia in Diablo

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Working with games, I am often asked an impossible question, one you have probably been asked, too.

“What game do you wish you could play again for the first time?”

My answer varies. I might smile and say Skyrim or Final Fantasy IX. If I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll say World of Warcraft or Diablo II. Sometimes I shrug and admit, “every single one of them.” Because there’s really nothing like that, the first triumphs and failures of a game. Continue Reading

East of the Key Sword (and West of the Triforce)

Rethinking Cultural Influence in Mia Consalvo’s Atari to Zelda: Japanese Videogames in Global Contexts

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It seems impossible to discuss the history of videogames without considering Japan. Specific events, like Namco’s development of Pac-Man — the most successful arcade game of all time — or Nintendo’s revival of the North American game console business with the release of its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the mid-1980s, have become celebrated milestones in the story of Japan’s role in videogames. Continue Reading