A Letter to the Editor

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This commentary is framed as a response to an editorial in the journal Game Studies (of which I’m a member of the review board), and I hope it’s clear that it’s an agonistic one: an incitement to further discourse. A playful bite but a real bite all the same.

Since this commentary was written in December 2019, the renewed attention to sustained anti-Black violence by police and other social institutions in the U.S. and beyond, as well as the increasing prominence of violence and harassment directed at East Asians, has helped to bring public attention to how racism continues to inflect so many aspects of our social, economic, and political lives. As we ask “what can game studies do” in this moment to support meaningful social change, recall that white privilege and prejudice against Black, Indigenous, mixed-race and people of colour (BIMPOC) in game studies was already one context of this exchange, and it’s one we can continue to dismantle together. Continue Reading

Plague Tale and the Pied Piper Myth Turned on Its Head

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In the story of the Pied Piper, it is always a town and thus citizens of a lower status that suffer from death or loss. In A Plague Tale, I encountered many empty towns and cities where those who are considered lowerborn are the first to suffer from the plague of the Macula. While at the time the Grand Inquisitor doesn’t hold the power to control rats, it is clear that he and his Inquisitors are still using their position as authority figures in order to pick and choose which individuals will be thrown into the jaws of death in order to profit off the plague itself. Is it any surprise that the common folk are considered ripe pickings, such as they were in the Piper story? With no money, no protection and no insurance of a profitable life—their being left to suffer seems a given. Continue Reading

What Fate Brings

Final Fantasy XV's Chosen Ones

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FFXV makes use of a rather classic storytelling trend: that of the chosen one. But as opposed to a game like The Legend of Zelda where you might only have one chosen one, FFXV has two that are diametrically opposed throughout the entire game to a certain point. With that being said, the two chosen ones, Noctis Lucis Caelum and Ardyn Izunia, were handed their chosen one status by the gods of the game’s universe known as the Astrals. Both were given specific roles within the grand scheme of the story and were never really given much choice in the matter. This sort of setup was something that really caught my interest and helped further my love for both of these characters. Continue Reading

The Gendered Mechanics of Pokémon Sword and Shield

I’m Sorry But I Have to Talk About My Force Masc Kink in a Pokémon Game, Oh Gosh

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These possibilities do still exist within frustrating limits on fluid and non-binary expression. When you pick a character, the game won’t say this is what Game Freak thinks a “boy” and “girl” look like, but it will treat them as such. Temtem and Battletech have already shown through a separate pronoun option how gender is not an unspoken aesthetic of bodies, and Sunless Skies provides one of the most sound systems I have seen represent gender. As Ruth Cassidy describes, the unordered presentation of body parts, clothes, and titles that are gendered in our world works for the game that doesn’t comment on gender: “Sunless Skies is a game that cares about telling stories, about people and their temptations and curiosities, and at no point does it need to define the player’s gender to do so.” I’m left wondering why Nintendo thinks they need to have—or rather, why they think they can get away with—a facsimile of inclusion when the boutique in Motostoke only offers my avatar, Ada Lovelace, a fraction of its inventory. Maybe walking while trans has made me hyper-aware, but I notice every time an NPC insists on calling them different pronouns and nouns based off the binary set of bodies I chose from. Continue Reading

To Bloom New Possibilities

Atlus's Hypocritical Portrayals of LGBTQ+ Narratives in Catherine: Full Body

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While there was hope that Catherine: Full Body could fix the narrative issues from the original, it does the exact opposite. Catherine (either version), in essence, is a game where you play as a character who is -phobic and misogynistic, surrounding himself with others who mostly think like him. Vincent is sleazy, but we are encouraged to support his quest since he is the “hero” of the game. However, Vincent rarely learns that his behavior is abhorrent—the only time he has repercussions for his actions are in the “bad” endings of the game, and even then, there is no indication that Vincent would change anything about his behaviors. Continue Reading

Where Are the Disabled Sims?

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I am talking about disabilities. In a game franchise that is centered around simulated living, the creation of a universe intended to mimic the real world in which players can be and do and create whatever they wish, the utter lack of disabilities seems at best odd and at worst a willful neglect of a community that already sees a lack of representation in modern media. One in four adults live with a disability in the United States – 61 million people (CDC, 2018). The Sims has never been more inclusive to its player-base; this is why the exclusion of a major population seems so abrasive. Continue Reading

A Chain of Memories

What does it mean to share a game?

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When I play Final Fantasy VIII on my own, I’m not going back to play Final Fantasy VIII. I’m using it as a conduit to tap into the memories of that time of my life. It’s a way to feel the feelings I associate with listening in rapt silence to a friend’s reading of the game’s dialogue. It’s a way to remember coming home from school, homework done before the final bell rang at 2:45PM and begging my mom to buy more Cheetos for another late evening of RPGs with the first older person to treat me like my opinions truly mattered. Continue Reading