Dementia in diegesis

Signifying progressive loss of self in Dark Souls

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All the behaviors of characters that are going hollow as well as the advancing nature of the illness reflect often-seen forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. In a review of symptoms of dementia, Cereijeira, Lagarto, and Mukaetova-Ladinska (2012) note that the condition includes disturbances to psychological, perceptual, and motor skills. Individuals can start experiencing memory issues, as recollections of different times in life fade in varying patterns. Continue Reading

Mind of Mario

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I was projecting myself on to Mario (borrowing his better life), becoming the hero as I fought through waves of strange enemies, some of which are literally named Bullies. That made it incredibly easy to project my real life tormentors onto these aggressive 64-bit baddies. But sometimes the days were a bit darker, especially when I had been hit, and I murdered needlessly with punches, kicks, and bouncing off of their heads. It felt better to have the power and be the bully for once. Continue Reading

The Politics of Passionate Patti

Sex Positivity and the Problematic Past of Patriarchal Play

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Patti serves as an early—and still decidedly rare—instance of a sex-positive female video game protagonist. Yet, as I argue in this essay, her legacy is complicated. Much like Samus, whose gender is only revealed as a twist at the end of Metroid, or Lara Croft, whose action hero accolades coexist alongside the character’s objectification in promotional materials, Passionate Patti reflects patterns of what I call patriarchal play. Continue Reading

Outer Wilds Helped Me Understand the Relationship Between Progress and Purpose

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Outer Wilds is a game that is humanized by an understanding and conceptualization of purpose that I have never felt. I am humbled by it. The game is still teaching me the higher purpose of progress and the importance of contributing to societal progress, no matter how doomed the universe may be. On the eve of climate change becoming irreversible, examining our individual relationships to progress and activism has never been more vital. Continue Reading

Lunch or Lose

Emergent Language in an Online Game Design Community

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Since the Mafia social deception games were created in the mid-1980s by Dmitry Davidoff and students at Moscow State University, they have been played everywhere from conventions to television shows and films to classrooms. Over the years, robust online communities across hundreds of forums dedicated to the games have grown as well. These communities have adapted the games to a play-by-post system suitable for online forums, where players conduct the game via asynchronous text posts which can also incorporate gifs, emoji, links, and other media. Continue Reading

Thinking Globally at the Microbial Level

Plague Inc. and the Cultivation of Systems Literacy in a Globalist Era

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Originally released for iOS and Android devices in 2012 by developer Ndemic Creations, Plague Inc. is a simulation video game wherein players design a lethal disease in hopes of eradicating all human life on Earth. This game was praised for its unique mechanics, which allow players to customize their disease in order to account for varying geographical climates, the socio-economic conditions of different regions, and even international trade routes. However, Plague Inc. also received attention for its pedagogical potential in the sense that this game introduces players to complex global public health issues in an accessible, streamlined, and entertaining manner. Continue Reading

For All the Broken Vessels

Compassion in the Final Moments of Hollow Knight

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At times it can seem as if the world of videogames, just like the raucous meatspace around us, is first and foremost designed with the loudest and fiercest of stories in mind. All too often, and with relative ease, they appear to drown out the quieter moments for which this unique art form can allow; and taken at face value, the somewhat elusive genre of Metroidvanias seems by definition to fit right into this very mold. After all, its guiding principle is growth—be it in the form of deeper understanding, improved skills, or (of course) greater power. Continue Reading