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

Technology Worship, Media Archaeology, and Zombie Media in Horizon Zero Dawn

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Little more than a year has passed since Horizon Zero Dawn’s (2017) release, and if its reception in popular venues like Polygon and Medium is any indication, we will soon see scholarship on its appropriation of Native American cultures, representations of women, its treatment of post-racial societies, and its critique of capitalism and the military-industrial complex. This essay adds to the growing body of literature on Horizon by considering its representations of not just people, but media forms and our relationships with them. To this end, I situate Horizon within the broader context of ‘meta-games,’ that is, games that comment on their own forms, histories, and place in culture writ large. Continue Reading

How Zelda keeps us young

On traveling through changing media

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It was the late 1950s when a young Shigeru Miyamoto started discovering the bamboo forests and caves outside his home in the Kyoto countryside. Harnessing the sense of awe and excitement he felt on these trips, he produced the 1986 NES classic The Legend of Zelda, which would become one of the most popular video game franchises in history. The series’ origin story has become somewhat of a legend in itself, retold by fans and journalists alike (cf. Sheff, 1993). Continue Reading