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

Lunch or Lose

Emergent Language in an Online Game Design Community

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Since the Mafia social deception games were created in the mid-1980s by Dmitry Davidoff and students at Moscow State University, they have been played everywhere from conventions to television shows and films to classrooms. Over the years, robust online communities across hundreds of forums dedicated to the games have grown as well. These communities have adapted the games to a play-by-post system suitable for online forums, where players conduct the game via asynchronous text posts which can also incorporate gifs, emoji, links, and other media. Continue Reading

Thinking Globally at the Microbial Level

Plague Inc. and the Cultivation of Systems Literacy in a Globalist Era

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Originally released for iOS and Android devices in 2012 by developer Ndemic Creations, Plague Inc. is a simulation video game wherein players design a lethal disease in hopes of eradicating all human life on Earth. This game was praised for its unique mechanics, which allow players to customize their disease in order to account for varying geographical climates, the socio-economic conditions of different regions, and even international trade routes. However, Plague Inc. also received attention for its pedagogical potential in the sense that this game introduces players to complex global public health issues in an accessible, streamlined, and entertaining manner. Continue Reading