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

Let us live in hope

Hopeful Engagement in Pre-Release Game Communities

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There are no publicly playable builds, and much of the music, graphics, and even game mechanics remain to be designed. Nonetheless, the developer, Visionary Realms, Inc. has already organized multiple livestreams of material and even had YouTube personalities play and “review” the game – such as it is. These small drips of content then permeate spaces likes r/PantheonMMO, where community members spin out thread after thread analyzing the precious little information they have, speculating about the future, and even producing their own ideas and concepts for the game. Continue Reading

Dementia in diegesis

Signifying progressive loss of self in Dark Souls

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All the behaviors of characters that are going hollow as well as the advancing nature of the illness reflect often-seen forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. In a review of symptoms of dementia, Cereijeira, Lagarto, and Mukaetova-Ladinska (2012) note that the condition includes disturbances to psychological, perceptual, and motor skills. Individuals can start experiencing memory issues, as recollections of different times in life fade in varying patterns. Continue Reading

The Politics of Passionate Patti

Sex Positivity and the Problematic Past of Patriarchal Play

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Patti serves as an early—and still decidedly rare—instance of a sex-positive female video game protagonist. Yet, as I argue in this essay, her legacy is complicated. Much like Samus, whose gender is only revealed as a twist at the end of Metroid, or Lara Croft, whose action hero accolades coexist alongside the character’s objectification in promotional materials, Passionate Patti reflects patterns of what I call patriarchal play. Continue Reading