Roguelites, Neoliberalism, and Social Media

In this essay I argue that roguelites are popular because 1) they reflect the kind of neoliberal values embedded within CYOA books, but also that 2) their fundamental design principles simulate and exaggerate the systems that fuel addictions to social media. To put it another way, I contend that the recent popularity of roguelites is no accident; rather, that it coexists alongside both the powerful neoliberal imperatives to risk it all, work hard, and adapt, but also the more immediate excitements, disappointments, and worries of a media landscape within which many people constantly define and value themselves. Continue Reading

Queer Modding

Revealing a Place for Queerness in Games Through Alternate Reading, Play, and Remixing

This paper will explore some key examples of players subverting the intended and heteronormative game meanings through queer modding. For the purposes of this paper, queer modding will be considered any modification made to a game’s intended meaning, including queer play, queer reading, or the direct altering or remixing of a game—usually done through modifying the game’s code. While the term ‘modding’ typically only refers to the altering of code, queer play and reading will be considered here as additional methods, as they achieve similar goals as code modifications and are more approachable to a wider range of people. Continue Reading

Kakwitene VR

Virtual Reality Endangered Language Revival and Retention with Onkwehonwehneha A.I. (Ancient Intelligence)

This paper tracks the effectiveness of Endangered Language Learning through VR, observing how participants learn new Kanien’kéha words. To us, “effective” aims to increase memory retention, the speed of learning, and each learners’ confidence to speak Kanien’kéha outside of the VR experience in the physical world. But Kakwitene VR has no intention of assimilating Indigenous dialects into non-Indigenous definitions and languages. It will not translate over to world-views and experiences that are foreign to the specific Indigenous dialect presented. The base communications in Kakwitene VR includes audio and visuals that are experienced without providing non-Indigenous cultural interpretations and literal translations. Continue Reading

The Burden on Our Back

Conveying Nahua Survivance through Games

Even now, it seems a novel idea that the game would feature a drastically different approach to gameplay than other games of the time. Even other Disney tie-ins of the same generation featured hordes of enemies requiring defeat; though the film Aladdin (1992) featured a protagonist who relied on wits to solve problems, the game adaptation (Disney Interactive, 1993) gave Aladdin a sword for most of its levels. Scratching beneath the surface of Pocahontas’s mechanics, however, reveals not a nuanced look at game design based on indigenous ways of knowing but rather an essentialized representation based on the related film’s already troubled representation of a generic, somewhat stereotypical version of Native American ways of being. Continue Reading

(Re)coding Survivance and the Regenerative Narrative

The theme of this special issue is “(Re)coding Survivance” and is, as I understand it, supposed to be about how we might envision Indigenous futurisms via video game worlds. One of my Indigenous nations, the Washazhe or “Osage,” call ourselves “Children of the Middle Waters” and have special relationships with rivers. Thus, I turn to the source of much of our story to think about how to envision futures in a decolonial, “(re)coded,” or regenerative way. Continue Reading

Life Will Change

Ludonarrative Dissonance and Procedural Revolution in Persona 5

Despite the revolutionary and rebellious tone of the narrative, many of the game mechanics deliberately deny player agency. While in some cases this can detract from the game argument, it has been suggested that game developers may consciously subvert the narrative with contrasting mechanics to create what is known as “ludonarrative dissonance” (Seraphine, 2016, p. 3) in order “to create complex narratives of trauma and suffering” (Kuznetsova, 2017, p. iii). It has been noted that complicity is a significant part of how a videogame enacts its argument on the player, and that because the player is directly responsible for the events in the game world, “games are well equipped to draw the player in” to the extent that they can even “make [players] feel for characters who may be traumatized” (Smethurst & Craps, 2014, p. 278). In what ways, then, does the dissonance between narrative and ludic elements impact P5’s overall argument? Continue Reading

A Failed and Unintelligible Analogy

The Phenomenology of Virtual Space in Kitty Horrorshow’s ANATOMY

The virtual space of ANATOMY withdraws from players behind a barrier of static and screen glare where it becomes, in a Lacanian psychoanalytic sense, inaccessible to the process of narcissistic incorporation. In a subversive twist of convention, players are marginalized in order to hold space for the expression of digital-material agency, affecting a critical blow to the psychological processes, as digital media scholar Laurie Taylor theorizes, by which “the connection between the player and the player’s position in game space implies a type of identification.” Overtures of analog noise and VHS scan lines that scroll across the player’s first-person perspective articulate an aesthetic commitment to the affirmation of otherness. An unbridgeable distance stretches between us and ANATOMY, and into this distance tumbles that narcissistic fantasy of a video game designed to transport players inside immersive virtual worlds, where alien subjectivities are embodied firsthand and become sympathetically understood. Continue Reading