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

Guiding the Immigrant God

Helper Characters in God of War

Kratos does not speak the languages of Midgard, nor can he read the runes that are found throughout different locations, but Atreus does. Atreus’s role in the game is more than a bow-and-arrow wielding sidekick. His affinity for the languages of his mother and his ability to understand runes allows him to help the player solve puzzles while also providing context and background information on the game’s lore. Cory Barlog, Creative Director at Santa Monica Studio, mentions in a Game Developers Conference talk that teaching is a key element in the narrative pillar. Just as Superman had friends and family to help educate him about Earthly ways—such as his adoptive parents, Lois Lane, and his recently introduced son Jonathan—Kratos teaches Atreus to be a god, and Atreus, in turn, teaches Kratos to be mortal. Continue Reading

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