“The Cavalry’s Here!”

Transmedia Storytelling in Overwatch

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During its reveal at the 2014 BlizzCon, Overwatch introduced players to its vibrant and colourful world with the character Tracer announcing that “the cavalry’s here!” (“The Exhibit”). This line now functions as her signature phrase, perhaps reflecting the continuously expanding roster of characters and collection of media that make up Overwatch’s story universe. Continue Reading

A Shack, a House, a Prison

The analogy of the shack and videogame production

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I want to be very careful about how I approach this subject. I do not claim to speak for videogame production writ large, nor do I want to. I am concerned with forming a body of knowledge around certain exploitative practices which occur in much of the videogame industry – an industry to which unfortunately few game scholars have ready access. Like the historical development of television, radio, and film, videogame production is experiencing growing pains that need to be addressed if the conditions are ever going to change. This article utilizes the analogy of the ‘shack’ as developed by Bachelard (1964) and Robertson (2011) to understand one of the struggles that prospective and early-career videogame developers often experience: being recruited for their passion (Kerr and Kelleher, 2015; Bulut, 2014 and 2015; Johnson, 2013a, 2013b, 2019), then having that passion used against them. In other words, appealing to the ‘passion’ of employees allows for exploitative working conditions and work culture, all under the auspices of someday “making it” in videogames (O’Donnell, 2014, 153). Continue Reading

The Musical Narrative of JRPGs

“The Melodies of Life” in Final Fantasy IX

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Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs) have come to be known for their sometimes-formulaic plots, as is beautifully lampooned by this CollegeHumor video. Typical plot-points include: a great evil slowly taking over the world (often by collecting powerful crystals), a small team of unlikely heroes, playable characters that have secret past lives, sudden and unavoidable deaths of important main characters, and numerous side-quests (or minigames) that have largely nothing to do with the main plot of the game. Nonetheless, fans of JRPGs have come to love and expect these narrative devices as key elements, and some of video game’s most successful and acclaimed franchises, including Fire Emblem (Nintendo, 1990-ongoing) and Final Fantasy (Square Enix, 1987-ongoing) series, fall into this genre. Continue Reading

Gaming’s Hidden Toxicity

What is Salt-Mining?

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At the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Todd Howard, executive producer at Bethesda Game Studios, revealed to an ecstatic audience the new instalment of the popular videogame franchise Fallout, titled Fallout 76. Nothing much was new here regarding the game’s core principles: rather, what captured the attention of news outlets and gaming fans alike was the announcement that, unlike previous titles, Fallout 76 would only be playable online. Fans’ reactions were, to put it mildly, polarized: some enthusiastically welcomed the new direction of the franchise, while others expressed their concern that making Fallout 76 online-only would open the door to toxic player behaviour. Continue Reading

How Fantasy Games Deal with Race

As Demonstrated by The Elder Scrolls

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Video games have politics. With many developers insisting that their games are not political in any way, and with recent games desperately trying to say as little as possible about their subject matter, many critics find that there is once again a need to stress this point. The ability to be political stretches across genres and settings, though some genres and settings lend themselves to being seen as more overtly political than others. For instance, criticising racialised depictions in games set in the ‘real world’, like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series, is often quite straightforward, especially given the shallowness and harsh stereotyping these depictions usually entail (Dyer-Witheford & De Peuter, 2009, p. 164-70; Gray, 2014, p. 24-26). Continue Reading

Video Games: The Future of Documentaries

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Technology has changed the world. Every year, devices become more powerful and they will continue to do so, according to Steven Kotler and Peter Diamandis (10). This reality has changed the practice of many professions (Frey and Osborne 2) and journalism is not an exception (Bogost et al. 8). The digital era has given journalists more options to reach their goal of telling real-life stories, including multimedia articles, interactive content, and hyperlink texts (Pena 183). Although these developments are mostly positive, they also create hardships. Continue Reading

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