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

What the Final Girl Sees

Gender Psychology and Slasher Tropes in the Deception Series

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Content warning for discussions of sexualized violence.

Outside a small handful of reviews with each new release, little attention has been paid to the Deception (Tecmo, 1996-2015) series. This is in spite of the critical depth a close reading of these games can afford. In an industry that has consistently struggled with representing women, all but the first Deception game see female protagonists driving the narrative (Zorrilla 2011, Van Name 2013, Statt 2016). And during a time when commercial games like Resident Evil (Capcom 1996), Alone in the Dark (Infogrames 1992), and Clock Tower (Human Entertainment 1995) looked to film for their exploration of horror (Edge 2010, par. 5; Rasa, 2017), the Deception games looked to slasher films and offered players a world in which they both actively perpetrate violence and avoid such threats themselves. Continue Reading

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