Space, Navigation, and Queerness in Gone Home; or Toward a Queer Spatiality

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The house’s spatial design mimics moments of secrecy and Foucauldian confession in interpersonal relationships; that is, things are only hidden in order to be discovered (Foucault 20-1). This is maybe most apparent in the game’s map mechanic, in which spaces are revealed only after they have been discovered in-game by the player. The map indicates which rooms have yet to be explored, but does not reveal the purpose of unexplored rooms. This continues to do the work of de- and re-familiarizing the player with the domestic space as well as creating a drive to explore the house and “collect” all the rooms. This mechanic is not unique to Gone Home, and is particularly common in first-person horror games. It’s one of many horror mechanics and tropes used in the game—perhaps because in this sense, the work of making something queer is similar to the work of making something creepy or uncanny. Both work to make that which should be familiar unfamiliar. Continue Reading

Writing New Bodies in Digital Fiction

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A significant scholarly and popular media criticism of bodily-focused video games is that they perpetuate harmful body image (Barlett and Harris; Sarkeesian). Yet, game scholars such as Kafai, as well as significant subsets of gaming communities, have argued that the medium can act as a resistance mechanism for heteronormative, racist, and anti-queer sociopolitical influence. In a Western context, gendered notions of appearance in media work to affirm an idealized body image for women, communicating that a body that is not white, able-bodied, thin, toned, and feminine, is, in fact, inferior. Continue Reading

Modern Masculinity In Red Dead Redemption 2’s Old West

How Arthur Morgan’s Vulnerability Is His Biggest Strength

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By virtue of its thematic setting, Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games, 2018; hereafter RDR2) is inherently anachronistic, in that video games are typically thought of as cutting-edge media technologies, while the Western genre has a more historical appeal. Not only historical in that the game takes place in 1899, but in that Western movies and TV shows had their boom in 1950s-1960s with a post-war “injection of violence” (Cook, 1999, p. 134) into popular media. The Western genre has in fact had several bursts of popularity, with a rich literary history beginning when the frontier still existed in the late 1800s. Red Dead Redemption (hereafter RDR), while not the first Western video game—Wild Arms, Call Of Juarez and RDR’s spiritual predecessor Red Dead Revolver all came first—was the first Western video game to have such a significant cultural impact. Continue Reading

Educational Board Gaming and Counter Politics

A Short History of the Election Game

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The election simulator, borrowing nearly all of its mechanical traits from the Eurogame, is primarily about indirect player competition. The primary difference between these two genres is the election simulator’s simulation of voter manipulation. Regardless of why this genre has received so little attention, it is my contention that critical game scholars should include this genre as a part of the discourse on educational and historiographical game designs. What follows is a brief history of the intersection between educational board gaming and the election simulator with a discussion of the game Shasn as a case study. Continue Reading

Moral-Making Through Gameplay

Life is Strange and Existential Simulators

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From arcades where people would take turns playing the machines, to console gaming with multiplayer options, to massive-multiplayer online games and online discussion forums, videogames are not always a solitary experience. Let’s Play videos, in which players record and upload their playthroughs of games, are a central component of many videogame communities. Since the Let’s Player narrates their feelings and choices in their videos, LPs “reveal a hidden layer of the game narrative: the story of the player and the experience” (Kerttula, p. 17). This is especially relevant to the discussion of morality and moral-making because the narration of the moral and ethical choices moves the discussion from an individual to a community space. According to Sari Piittnen, “LP narrations significantly feature complex moral evaluations, and explore the discursive means through which these are produced” (p. 4672). Continue Reading

Mountains of Trash

An Essay on Videogames, Recycling, and Digital Culture

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In Getting Over It, as the player ascends and almost inevitably suffers the occasional dramatic plummet down to the foot of the mountain, Foddy delivers a witty voice-over monologue about a range of subjects like perseverance in the face of failure, the underestimated value of frustration, and the trash-like nature of digital culture. “When everything around us is cultural trash,” he says, “trash becomes the new medium, the lingua franca of the digital age.” Continue Reading

“Is that your only ambition for me? To follow?”

Gender in A Plague Tale: Innocence

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The universality of armed male threats throughout the game is perhaps one of the most visible signifiers of war and violence as masculine spheres within the game. This is reflective of a traditional “masculinisation of war” (Herbst, 2006); whereby warfare and violence are seen as masculine domains. This corresponds to a simultaneous and traditional association between victimhood and femininity, an association that has hindered women’s participation and framed their experiences of warfare. Continue Reading