We Gotta Get Out of This Place (If it’s the Last Thing We Ever Do)

Horizons of Expectation in The Room Three

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If there’s one trait of videogame series about which I’ve always been certain, it’s that sequels in a series are essentially the same game as the original but with a different story. Though the odd sequel is truly innovative, more often than not, the key principles of gameplay in a sequel will be roughly the same as in its precursors. Whether I’m playing Halo or Halo 5, I will always massacre aliens; whether I’m playing Assassin’s Creed or Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, I will eventually leap from a height to stab a Templar in the head; and whether I am playing Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune or Uncharted: A Thief’s End, I will inevitably end up hurling my controller through the drywall when I die during a mission involving riding a jet-ski or a boat for the forty-fifth time in ten minutes. Continue Reading

Re-Imagining The Borderlands

A Review of Queer Game Studies

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There’s a scene that Bonnie Ruberg describes in the final chapter of Queer Game Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), which still resonates long after I finished the work. It’s a scene of the inevitable social banter after a panel discussion at an academic conference where, as Ruberg states, she feels “pressured to either tone down my queerness […] or to perform it” (271). For Ruberg, her queerness is not evident in people’s assumptions of her while also simultaneously too evident in her research in queer gaming. She reminds herself to not mention her ex-girlfriend and to silence her kinkiness; she dresses the professional part to blend in and answers questions about her research with a smile on her face—and yet, she still deals with feelings of being “the weird grad student” and with people’s seemingly never-ending questions of “Queerness? And games?” with a twinge of disgust (272). Continue Reading

Everything Is Dying and It’s All Our Fault

Post-Apocalyptic Videogames as a Necropastoral Space

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With 2017 smouldering around us, let’s talk about the apocalypse!

Many readings of post-apocalyptic media present the genre as inherently judgemental of humanity’s violent effects on the world, and on each other. It’s sometimes argued that the genre should foster empathy, responsibility and (possibly) change. Hyong-Jun Moon suggests that the genre possesses ‘the bold desire to imagine a totally different world by questioning the current order of things’ (Moon, 2014). In a video game, we might suggest that we have the opportunity to live through apocalypse and roleplay survival in a way that helps us cope with the fear of apocalypse occurring. Back in the 80s, Greenberg and colleagues suggested the idea of ‘terror management activities,’ that mitigate our fear of death. Continue Reading

It Gets Worse…

The Female Voice in Video Games

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Despite their historically tumultuous relationship with issues of gender and representation, many scholars and game journalists have argued that video games are generally moving in the right direction (Lynch, Tompkins, van Driel & Fritz, 2016; McNally, 2016), at least visually. While progress on the image front has taken us from scantily-clad polygon Barbies to humbly-garbed warrior women, vocals – we argue – have done the opposite, regressing from synthetic vowels to overdramatized breathy moans. Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 22

Do Not Adjust Your Scare Goggles: VR Horror and Horrific VR

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“Is 2016 The Year of Virtual Reality?” Chris Morris asked in 2015 in an article for Fortune. In June of this year, Brian Crecente writing for Polygon magazine declared 2016 “both the peak and turning point of virtual reality”. The sense that the crest of VR’s popularity may have already peaked was the idea behind this month’s podcast, in which our participants Betsy Brey, Rob Parker and Justin Carpenter revisit the question with only a slight revision: was 2016 the year of VR? Continue Reading

Friendship, Intimacy, and Play-by-Post Roleplaying

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Earlier this year, Shawn Dorey (2017) wrote a piece for First Person Scholar on play-by-post roleplaying (PBPRP), which is broadly defined as a form of text-based online roleplaying. In this activity, participants take on the role of specific characters and take turns contributing to the creation of a fictional world through narrative storytelling. Sometimes the world and characters are based on existing media, but all the writing is expected to be original. In her article on Livejournal roleplaying, Sarah Wanenchak (2010) provides a detailed description of PBPRP and observes that this kind of activity “is not a ‘game’ by the most traditional definition: there is no ultimate goal and no system of points, and the focus is on the creation and development of an ongoing story” (para. 18). Since, as she states, “[g]ameplay takes the form of written narrative in the style of traditional fiction[,]” this activity is often thought of as “collaborative writing” rather than playing a game (para. 18). However, Dorey sees the socialization involved in this type of roleplaying “as a form of metagaming” and argues that navigating through the rules, plot, and social hierarchies “functioned a lot more like playing a game than simply participating in collaborative writing” (para. 3). In short, Dorey argues that PBPRP is a game and that the contributors are players. Continue Reading

Art in Play

An Interview with John Sharp about games and art

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Alejandro Lozano: Before getting into details, let’s start with a definitional question. What is your concept of aesthetic and how do you apply it to games when you connect them to art?

John Sharp: Aesthetics means a lot of things. It can refer to having your fingernails painted or to the visual appearance in visual arts. If you talk about it with animation students, they will talk about the aesthetics of a film and what they mean is the visual style. That is one part of aesthetics, but to me, aesthetics is the evaluation of experience and the value of a work of art. By extension that means some philosophical framework underlying and serving as a guide for both the way you focus your attention during the experience and also the things you value and the things you do not. Continue Reading