Gorilla Warfare

Playing Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Together in 2017

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We shrink down from three dimensions to two and a half, assuming our more primal forms: I an ape, she a smaller ape. Together we jump over chasms and swing from tree to tree on vines, gathering bananas, coins, puzzle pieces, and balloons. Occasionally, we succeed in collecting elusive blocks, each emblazoned with a letter: a K, an O, an N, or a G. Continue Reading

Gotta Scan ‘Em All

No Man’s Sky and The Universe of The Possible

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I just need to find one more species. The constant background radiation is frustrating but not impossible to deal with, though it is starting to make the search a little tedious. I got lucky spotting species 5, finding two Upicenae Elgarten after cresting a small ridge and sighting them in a depression below me. I was doubly lucky that the massive carnivores didn’t spot me so I was not forced to elude their pursuit. Now I just need to find species 6 and something tells me it is also a carnivore. I’m not sure what it is, just a sense that I have based on extensive personal experience that is right often enough that I’ve learned to listen to it when it is insisting on something. Continue Reading

Let’s Play with Research Methodologies

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What is the most effective way to formally incorporate my game play experiences into my highly personalized research plan? How can I study not only the games that I am playing, but my own reactions to those games? How can I do justice to my genuine experiences and reactions without having to break my immersion during gameplay to take field notes? How can I convince my interdisciplinary (and strictly disciplinary) peers and supervisors that my game play experiences, and game play related memories, can be studied following a formal research methodology? Continue Reading

“The World Could Always Use More Heroes”

Why Overwatch Matters

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Earlier this year, I presented my dissertation research in the Game Studies area of the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association conference; the community among these interdisciplinary scholars was so great that I ended up sticking around for almost every panel on games for the rest of the weekend. And I was struck by a common theme: Blizzard Entertainment’s team-based first-person shooter Overwatch (2016) came up in almost every one! Continue Reading

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

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

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