There is No Escape

How Hades Connects Game Genre and Greek Myth

So how does Hades fit into the history of refiguring Greek mythology? The theme of fate and the extent of free will is the connective thread. If roguelikes are designed around the experience of dying and restarting, then permadeath is a mechanic that makes players think about the decisions taken, what has led them to death, or consequence persistence. Procedurally generated content ensures that no two runs are exactly alike, making the weight of our decisions ever more impactful. Continue Reading

Cinders and Fantasies of Womanhood

The figure of Cinderella has been divisive; its reception highlights oppositions present in feminist thought: namely the conflict between second-wave and postfeminism. Fien Adriaens (2009) describes second-wave feminism’s stance as “the idea that femininity and feminism are oppositional, mutually exclusive and that the adoption of one of these identities (feminine or feminist) can only be achieved at the expense of the other.” This positions second-wave feminism in critical opposition to “Cendrillon” as well as conservative retellings such as Disney’s 1950 film Cinderella. Indeed, critics have argued that fairy tales portray women as “weak, submissive, dependent and self-sacrificing” and that by example this encourages young girls to “adopt these desires, which are deemed appropriate within patriarchy” (Parsons, 2004, p. 137). Continue Reading

Avatar Crossing: Self Representation in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

While it’s fun for players to dress their villagers up in different outfits alone, exploring avatar customization can also lead to reflexive experimentation and opens up a deeper understanding of the player’s sense of self. The extensive customization found in New Horizons provides a place for its players to experiment with their online identities. By creating and developing their villager, it will be argued that users are also able to play with their own personal identities outside of the game, showing how one’s avatar can be used as a point of introspection. Continue Reading

‘This is the Fate I Choose’: How a Shakespeare-Hating Game Developer Made the Best Shakespeare Adaptation I’ve Seen All Year

I argue in this essay, Elsinore’s use of branching and discoverable dialogue, multiple story paths as well as choices and consequences, construct a narrative mode that reveals the themes of racism and sexism and the ways in which systems of oppression reinforce each other in the narrative. Elsinore uses the video game medium to reorient Hamlet around the intersecting vectors of gender and race, and in doing so it offers an intersectional feminist reinterpretation of Hamlet. This essay will look at how Elsinore adapts Hamlet by focusing on the treatment of Ophelia’s sexuality, showing how narrative agency and discoverable dialogue can reinforce the intersectional commitment of the game. Continue Reading

Playing Politics During COVID-19: A Scenario for Matt Leacock’s Pandemic

In this essay, I argue that Pandemic is also useful to convey technical information to its players about the epidemiological principles that are governing our response to the virus. In particular, the game does an excellent job of allowing players to experience the importance of “flattening the curve” of virus cases. However, in its current form, the game lacks a mechanism to model another key factor in the spread of the coronavirus in the United States: the political decisions made by various government institutions in response to its arrival. Continue Reading

The Scholar Class in the Tabletop Role-play Party

Scholars resemble bards in keeping records and providing commentary. But they also resemble clerics, in their beholdenness to another power. What do scholars of tabletop role-play bring back to the altar of the academy that scholars in other fields do not? Do they offer up only the knowledge of another topic, another land journeyed to? Not merely; an adventuring bard acquires a roguish dimension that a court minstrel does not, and a friar traverses territory that a monk could never read of. At the tabletop role-play party, a scholar is neither a preacher, spreading their news throughout the land, nor an inquisitor, assailing informants for data, but rather a bridge between two communities. Continue Reading

Skyrim as a Settler-Colonial Text

Skyrim is portrayed as the homeland of the Nords, the “master race” of the Third Empire, the ruling imperial power throughout the series. The entire historical framework of The Elder Scrolls games exists within the aftermath of a settler-colonial occupation of the continent of Tamriel: the Third Empire not only controlled all of Tamriel at its height, but occupied colonial territories on multiple continents, following a pattern of empires in the gameworld’s history that celebrated violent conquest, subjugation, and even genocide in their race for power. . The Third Empire, under the Septim Dynasty, most aggressively embodied this identity—pushing an idea of Skyrim as the Nordic fatherland of the human race, celebrating the legendary Atmorans as the progenitors of all humanity, and reveling in their identity as conquerors and occupiers of the mer, the most numerous native inhabitants of Tamriel. Continue Reading