Agniq Suaŋŋaktuq and Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (Never Alone)

‘Cause Gaia likes it cold’

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Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (Never Alone) is a side-scrolling, cooperative adventure-puzzle game set in the Iñupiaq landscape amidst a blizzard. Players are placed into the northern setting as a young girl, Nuna, and an arctic fox. The duo embark on an adventure to solve the mystery of the destruction of Nuna’s village. The design of the game, as well as how players interact with it, demonstrates a fundamentally different understanding of, and relationship to, the natural world than most mainstream AAA games. The land is both a challenge to overcome, as well as a support system. Blizzard winds hinder movement, but they can also aid the characters cross large chasms. Bears may try to eat Nuna, but her trusty arctic fox companion helps players solve puzzles. Continue Reading

“We Must Be Better”

Hegemonic Masculinity and Dadification in God of War (2018)

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In an interview with Polygon, Cory Barlog, director of God of War (Sony Santa Monica 2018; hereafter GoW4), notes that the studio’s explicit goal is to address the underlying social implications of the franchise in order to “pull [Kratos] back from the brink” and make him “whole” (Plante, pars. 8 and 9). The interview’s headline says it all: “God of War’s director on toxic masculinity and why Kratos had to change.” Barlog attributes this impulse to redeem Kratos to his own experiences with fatherhood and a desire to prevent the continued dominance of problematic notions of masculinity: “This lesson that I hoped to pass on to [my son]: that the concepts of strength and emotional vulnerability and the ability to sort of be free to feel the range of emotions, that these are not two warring or diametrically opposed concepts” (qtd. in Plante, par. 7). Continue Reading

Unforgotten Fantasies

Romantic Play within the Game Art of Angela Washko and Nina Freeman

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Within the last twenty years, the discussion around whether videogames are art has been in a state of rapid flux, with prominent debates focusing on topics of cultural legitimation and identifying relations to various historical avant-garde movements. Many of these conversations have relied on positioning videogames as a novel medium which needs to be both defined and defended, often in relation to other media forms with longer, established histories such as film and literature. As Aubrey Anable (2018) states, throughout much of gaming history a common assumption about what obstructed videogames from achieving the status of fine art was their apparent inability to “affect our feelings” with the recurring question as to whether or not they can make us cry (location 34). Continue Reading

“You Turned Left”

How Transistor Plays with Agency

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Indie developer Supergiant Games’ Transistor (2014) is a brooding yet beautiful cyberpunk-noir story that features Red, a woman struck mute by a shady elite organization, and her companion, the disembodied voice of a man emanating from a futuristic USB-drive-slash-broadsword.

Red’s muteness places her squarely in a long tradition of silent video game player characters who exist less as integral parts of their personal stories, and more as hollow interfaces for players to project their will into the game’s world and narrative. Continue Reading

Not a Mimic

Deception as a Rhetorical Device in Survival Horror Games

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Samantha Webb holds a Master’s degree in Game Design from Brunel University, London. She is a freelance games writer and narrative designer, working with both AAA and indie studios to develop games. She has an interest in second-level storytelling and… Continue Reading

“Fix my post-apocalypse”

The speculative horror of civilizational end in Fallout 76

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Jason Wallin is an Associate Professor of Media and Youth Culture Studies in the Department of Secondary Education at the University of Alberta. He was raised by wolves in the hinterlands of British Columbia. For Doug M. Since its release… Continue Reading

Folk-Music, Radical Politics, and Bliss

Far Cry 5’s Music as Western Hymnody

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Music has the unique ability to bring people together and speak to them on a fundamental, subconscious level (for more on this, see Ehrenberg and From Lullabies). This aspect of music plays an important role in the narrative of Far Cry 5 (Ubisoft, 2018), as Joseph Seed, the game’s primary antagonist, uses music as a powerful tool for recruiting people into his doomsday cult, the Project at Eden’s Gate. Indeed, Far Cry 5’s music ties more closely with its narrative than any previous game in the series; by exploring its music, we may better understand the populist belief system that underlies Joseph’s “fringe” doomsday preaching. Continue Reading