Decisive Book Reviews
The Study of Play
However, What Is Your Quest? is not just an historical account. Without being overtly confrontational, What Is Your Quest? pushes game studies outside of the boundaries its practitioners sometimes take for granted, and that, for me, is where the book’s value lies, even beyond its work documenting the adventure genre. Rather than rehash old debates about narratology and ludology, Salter considers adventure games not just from the perspective of videogames, but also from the perspective of multiple media types and users. I think the best example may be Salter’s frequent and persistent use of “fans” to refer to adventure game enthusiasts. In popular culture discussion and academia alike, games are often segregated away as unique and separate from other media forms. What is Your Quest? Is not a fan studies book, and doesn’t go much further in this direction than some references to Henry Jenkins. But by means of the single word “fan,” rather than just gamers or players, Salter keeps her discussion rooted in a larger discussion of new media economy, intertextuality, and transmedia.
If the games of the Dark Souls series (Dark Souls (2011) / Dark Souls II (2014) ) are renowned for one thing, this would be being literally murderously difficult. In Dark Souls every mistake can end deadly, for every opponent can kill the avatar, no matter how innocuous he might appear. All it takes is a tiny moment of carelessness. For narrating stories, other games are renowned—for example the Witcher or Dragon Age series or the recent games by Telltale Games , their narrative quality stemming from the momentous decision-making; or author games by David Cage whose gameplay don’t always live up to the standard of their cinematic narration quality.
Drawing from the international popularity of the Pokémon series, Snap repositions gameplay from the role-playing mechanics of earlier games. Due to its in-game mechanics and integrative real-world mechanisms, Snap shifts the definitions of digital subjects and photographers, illustrating the complex relationship of subject and shooter in digital photographic practices. Ultimately, the practices portrayed in Snap prove to be deeply imbalanced experiences in terms of power dynamics, complicated by the popularity of the Pokémon series which encouraged players to “catch ‘em all.” These competitive practices extended beyond digital spaces with the intersections of print and digital photography and the gamification of photographic practices as taught and presented by the game.
It’s lonely at the top of the mountain. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has reigned supreme more or less uninterruptedly as the Greatest Game of all Time in popular culture for nearly two decades. Other challengers have periodically risen from the masses (The Last of Us, Journey, whatever GTA game came out last, etc.), but the conversation always finds its way back to Ocarina. Conversely, Nintendo has been accused of sitting on its creative laurels with nearly every Zelda game they’ve put out since Ocarina. It’s an unenviable position: how do you navigate the already precarious balance between convention and innovation when the foundational title you put out ten sequels ago remains such an enduring sacred cow?
Two of my favorite pastimes are playing videogames and Magic: The Gathering (MTG). I’ve been playing videogames since I was eight and I picked up MTG at the tender age of eleven. After more than a decade of playing and loving MTG, I can firmly say that the world’s number one trading card game has had a profound effect on how I think about games. Furthermore, MTG taught me many valuable lessons about game design. There are a host of lessons and philosophies I could translate from MTG to videogames and back again, but the philosophy that I find the most interesting at the moment is lenticular design.
What approaches need to be taken to assess the scope, actions, and meaning of GamerGate? A number of questions arise when considering GamerGate in light of its persistence and complexity. Is GamerGate, as Ryan Broderick argues, the last gasp of the “manosphere” and its “angry nerds using mobs of sockpuppets to help them fight their anonymous culture wars,” even as he asserts the worst is yet to come? Or is GamerGate better understood, and analysed, as a recruiting ground for a sophisticated, technologically proficient, and reactionary right-wing movement that has in its sights the hard-fought gains of feminism and civil rights? Or is GamerGate, as more moderate proponents argue, nothing but a “consumer revolt” against “mainstream gaming magazines” that have…
Four members of the Games Institute take a hard look at the Amiibo trend from a variety of angles including: historical materialism, fan exploitation, nostalgia, consumerism, fan cultures, and competing corporate strategies. A good mix of pontificating about Nintendo as a company and a culture and general nerding out.