Sins of the Father

Playing Mom in Death Stranding

When I played Death Stranding in 2019, I played for nearly ten hours before I even saw an enemy NPC. When you finally do, you see they look just like you, wearing the same gender-neutral jumpsuits—and you pretty much just run away and try not to trip. Like in Kojima’s previous games, you can choose to kill enemy NPCs, but this doesn’t just cause you to lose points. Death Stranding goes beyond disincentivizing killing—the game barely provides the mechanics to do so and penalizes flagrant video game killing with both a fail state and a permanent crater-sized pockmark in the otherwise gorgeously designed open world. My mom would like the game. I love it. Continue Reading

Designing Games for Affect

A Two-Year Post-Mortem

For games, affect theory lets us look at a game’s mechanics, visuals, soundscape, systems of interaction, and forms of movement as contributing to a specific affect. In my Master’s thesis, I focused on the affect of intimacy, which I understood as a vulnerable, precarious closeness, the feeling you might get sharing a passing look with a stranger on a train or opening up to a friend about an insecurity. I looked at Overwatch, The Last Guardian, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to see how they created different kinds of intimate affects. I found that each game, in its own way, created a sense of intimacy through its systems of interaction, visuals, sound, and temporality. Continue Reading

Persona 5’s Ann Takamaki is Derailed By The Gender Politics Of Pop Music

Ann Takamaki is the only ‘band member’ who appears to resent the role given to her, and she is clearly cast as ‘the sexy one’. Often, ‘the sexy one’ translates to vacuousness or lack of intelligence. Being sexy and being a bimbo are often the same things when it comes to pop music, with the media of the early ‘00s depicting Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera especially as airheads. Imani Perry writes that “women are often presented as vacuous, doing nothing but swaying around seductively” (2004, p. 137) in music videos, but this is one stereotype that Ann Takamaki breaks. She is ditzy and bratty but has clear agency, demonstrated both through the fact she is a competent party member and through her actions and dialogue as the game progresses. Continue Reading

A Short Stay In Station Square

Sonic Adventure makes me feel like the game is often asking me to suspend my disbelief, putting more effort in convincing me of its magnitude than detailing its nuances. It also seems to be asking me to keep my hands inside the ride most of the time, not letting me set my own pace. The game doesn’t seem to trust that I will enjoy it, so it tries to impress me again and again in order to manage my experience of it. Despite the developers’ intended experience, the actual experience is still enjoyable, even if some of that enjoyment is derived from a fascination with pushing up against its borders and boundaries. Continue Reading