She’s Not There

Absent Agency in Video Games

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While a great deal of scholarship is devoted to the problematic aspects of female representation in the stereotypically male-dominated sphere of video games, less interest lies in an alternative depiction of women that, while not predominant, exists in some video games: that of the ‘absent woman.’ There are games that feature female characters that, though heavily represented throughout the game in various forms, are not physically depicted in any thorough way. This representation might take the form of the unseen character providing narration, leaving traces of themselves in notes, leaving behind memories and/or intentions that live on inside of other characters, to name just a few examples. Continue Reading

Technology Worship, Media Archaeology, and Zombie Media in Horizon Zero Dawn

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Little more than a year has passed since Horizon Zero Dawn’s (2017) release, and if its reception in popular venues like Polygon and Medium is any indication, we will soon see scholarship on its appropriation of Native American cultures, representations of women, its treatment of post-racial societies, and its critique of capitalism and the military-industrial complex. This essay adds to the growing body of literature on Horizon by considering its representations of not just people, but media forms and our relationships with them. To this end, I situate Horizon within the broader context of ‘meta-games,’ that is, games that comment on their own forms, histories, and place in culture writ large. Continue Reading

How Zelda keeps us young

On traveling through changing media

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It was the late 1950s when a young Shigeru Miyamoto started discovering the bamboo forests and caves outside his home in the Kyoto countryside. Harnessing the sense of awe and excitement he felt on these trips, he produced the 1986 NES classic The Legend of Zelda, which would become one of the most popular video game franchises in history. The series’ origin story has become somewhat of a legend in itself, retold by fans and journalists alike (cf. Sheff, 1993). Continue Reading

The Fun is in the Dying

Difficult Games and Metagame Strategies

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The idea of games as “difficult” engagements has been popular in both our colloquial conversations around games, as well as some critical discussions. Much research has been conducted on the function of difficulty as an aspect of immersion and engagement, but less has focused on the particular ludic mechanics that define the difficulty of a play experience. It seems fair to say that some of the more visible games that fall into this category are FromSoftware’s action RPG ‘Souls’ series. Continue Reading

Playing/Healing

The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask and the Playable Memento Mori

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The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a game preoccupied with grief, atonement and confronting death. The apocalyptic, cyclical framework of the narrative allows players to interact with characters who fear their own deaths. The medieval memento mori tradition is an aesthetic and (sometimes) narrative trope by which medieval writers, artists and songwriters came to terms with their own mortality often through a confrontation with a corpse. Continue Reading

VR: An Altered Reality for Disabled Players

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Rebeccah Redden is a Kitchener-based filmmaker, writer, and science fiction nerd. She spends most of her day living with mental illness and helping kids do 3D printing and virtual reality. She enjoys having an opinion on everything and reminiscing about… Continue Reading

“Share Melancholy Thoughts”

Playing with Mental Illness in The Sims 4

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I wake up sad, but I ignore the mood and continue with my day, taking care of my needs, going to work. When I return home, I file reports on my computer, cancelling the impulse to talk to my desk, as the reports will take longer if I do. I keep progressing, always a forward trajectory: I become charismatic, get promotions, work towards my aspiration by learning to play chess and keeping a half-built spaceship in my backyard. I am developing a friendship that might become more than that with a neighbour who constantly sports a tweed newsboy cap and a blue silk shirt. I’m playing The Sims 4 and my character is my first intentionally “insane” character. Continue Reading