Against Timelines

The Legend of Zelda as Variations on a Theme

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The chronology of The Legend of Zelda series is a source of great debate among fans, who have created several potential timelines, most involving three divergent realities in their convoluted attempt to incorporate every game. Even articles that discuss the timeline logistics in earnest acknowledge how absurd the undertaking is (Jackson 2017). Nintendo developed each game without planning an inclusive timeline, yet this fervent fan speculation prompted Nintendo to release a “definitive” timeline in the 2011 collector’s book Hyrule Historia (Aonuma et al.). The fact that the most recent release in the Zelda series – 2017’s Breath of the Wild – has no evident place in these timelines draws renewed attention to their inadequacy. Continue Reading

What the Final Girl Sees

Gender Psychology and Slasher Tropes in the Deception Series

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Content warning for discussions of sexualized violence.

Outside a small handful of reviews with each new release, little attention has been paid to the Deception (Tecmo, 1996-2015) series. This is in spite of the critical depth a close reading of these games can afford. In an industry that has consistently struggled with representing women, all but the first Deception game see female protagonists driving the narrative (Zorrilla 2011, Van Name 2013, Statt 2016). And during a time when commercial games like Resident Evil (Capcom 1996), Alone in the Dark (Infogrames 1992), and Clock Tower (Human Entertainment 1995) looked to film for their exploration of horror (Edge 2010, par. 5; Rasa, 2017), the Deception games looked to slasher films and offered players a world in which they both actively perpetrate violence and avoid such threats themselves. Continue Reading

From Passion to Power

Game Unions and Historical Lessons from Media Labor

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The standing-room-only roundtable on unionization at the 2018 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco occasioned a meeting of minds across industrial sectors. On one side, the roundtable represented a recent groundswell of labor consciousness in the mostly-unorganized field of video game development visibly spearheaded by Game Workers Unite, a grassroots pro-unionization group whose buttons and advocacy literature had already spread throughout the conference (Williams, “After Destroying”). On the other side, invited speaker Steve Kaplan from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) educated the crowd on practical steps for organizing, and encouraged them by saying that “unions focus leverage…. If you’re not at the table you’re essentially on the menu” (Orland). Continue Reading

Hauntological Remediation

within P.T. and Resident Evil 7: The Beginning Hour

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In the decade following the release of Resident Evil 4 (2005), each successive entry within Capcom’s flagship horror series began to become more focused on producing action set pieces rather than genuine scares. This all changed with the release of The Beginning Hour, a short demo released in 2016 for the then upcoming Resident Evil 7: biohazard (2017). Continue Reading

Sonic Spaces in Dark Souls

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Dark Souls (2011-2016) is a challenging experience but also one that is solitary and quiet. The only sounds heard for the bulk of my time in Dark Souls were monsters wheezing, weapons clanging, and my character grunting in pain or death. When I pushed through a fog gate into a boss fight for the first time, I knew a special experience awaited me: not only was I facing down a considerable challenge, but music had also flooded into the space. The aural landscape shifted from being solely inhabited by diegetic noise to a mixture of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. Continue Reading

She’s Not There

Absent Agency in Video Games

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While a great deal of scholarship is devoted to the problematic aspects of female representation in the stereotypically male-dominated sphere of video games, less interest lies in an alternative depiction of women that, while not predominant, exists in some video games: that of the ‘absent woman.’ There are games that feature female characters that, though heavily represented throughout the game in various forms, are not physically depicted in any thorough way. This representation might take the form of the unseen character providing narration, leaving traces of themselves in notes, leaving behind memories and/or intentions that live on inside of other characters, to name just a few examples. Continue Reading