(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

Dreaming of Zion

The American West as Place or Process in Fallout: New Vegas’s Honest Hearts DLC

As a Western set in a post-apocalyptic Mohave, Fallout: New Vegas demonstrates that the big questions that drive Western history are durable and malleable enough to survive even the (fictional) nuclear demise of the United States itself. The fourth iteration of the Fallout franchise is set approximately 200 years after a civilization-ending nuclear war but is valuable for teachers of American history because several major themes of real-life Western historiography are embedded in it. In fact, as I will demonstrate in this essay, the game, and particularly the Honest Hearts DLC, can be used to not just demonstrate, but to allow students to feel why the questions that underlay the study of Western history have real resonance. Continue Reading

Game art, art game, indie game

Sketching the relation between the worlds of contemporary art and video games

The interaction between art and video games might seem obvious since popular video games now have dedicated exhibitions in museums, as in the case of “Game Story” displayed at the Grand Palais in 2011 or “Design / Play / Disrupt” showcased at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2019. However, before this wave of institutional recognition during the 2010s (Colville, 2016; Ter Minassian, 2012), there were already connections between artistic practices and popular entertainment. Even if contemporary art is a multifaceted movement and difficult to define, the concept of experimentation, the aestheticization of everyday life, and the use of new materials are prevalent components (Millet, 2009). Continue Reading

Remonetizing Nostalgia

eShops and the virtual battle against piracy

Despite the availability of some older games within eShops and virtual marketplaces to curb illegal video game piracy, mitigate losses, and offer products to users, limitations placed on the user may be a motivating factor for downloading games illegally. While many scholars of digital piracy take an economic approach by underlining the value of missed sales (Brown, 2014; Downing, 2011), it is important to also analyze how players are affected as well as their reasons for piracy by utilizing more qualitative analysis from authors like Caraway (2012), Downing (2011), and Vida et al. (2012). It is important to consider not only the larger entities like developers and publishers, but also bring the consuming individual back into frame, as this allows for a more nuanced understanding of the issue. Continue Reading

Burn the Glitch?

An archaeology of digital queers

Glitches can be characterised as digital pests. Like their analogue equivalents, they can range from mildly inconvenient to unavoidable. Examples include loading errors, clipping through walls, and game-breaking glitches which result in a complete cessation of play. Despite this, glitches are highly valued by certain play communities. Speedrunners exploit glitches in order to complete games as fast as possible, and record their occurrences for other members of their community. Archaeogamers, who study the intersection between archaeology and video games, may also record glitches in order to better understand the development and experience of playing a particular game. Continue Reading