Sex Workers and Video Games

An Exploration of the Relationship Between Sex Work, Gender, and Violence in AAA Game Titles

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Despite being described as the world’s oldest profession, sex work occupies relatively little space in the mainstream media, with the distinct exception of video games. From the 1982 Atari title Gigolo through Leisure Suit Larry and all the Grand Theft Autos, sex worker characters have been present since the popularization of the medium itself. Although countless studies have researched violence in video games and the sexualization of women in video games, there has yet to be academic research on sex workers and video games – a topic that sits at a unique intersection of those two prevalent themes. The inseparability of violence and sex work within sex worker narratives is a relatively newer phenomenon, according to news media research (Hallgrímsdóttir et al., 2008), and researchers have found these gameplay narratives to increase Rape Myth Acceptance by various psychological studies as well (Beck et al., 2012; Gabbiadini et al., 2016; Stermer & Burkley, 2012). Continue Reading

Adult Supervision Encouraged

A review of Rated M for Mature: Sex and Sexuality in Games

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Over the past few years, games have begun to feature sexual content that is increasingly nuanced, and which moves away from the conspicuous treatments that have fueled political outcries in the past. Rated M for Mature seeks to offer a sustained scholarly response to these developments, to foster critical debates of sex in video games, and to push for new considerations and even implementations of sexuality in games. The collection of essays is categorized into three distinct sections: the first, “The (r)evolution of video games and sex”, examines the history of sexual content in video games and the varying political and social responses; the second, “Video games and sexual (dis)embodiment”, explores the use of sex and sexuality in both video game play and practice; the third, “Systems/spaces of sexual (im)possibilities”, considers the interplay between sexual content and game design. Continue Reading

Immersion into LARP

Theories of Embodied Narrative Experience

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Some forms of immersion focus upon the repetitive execution of a particular task or activity involving a certain degree of agency (Adams, 2004; Holopainen & Björk, 2004; Ermi & Mäyrä, 2005; Calleja, 2011). While in video games, immersion into activity often involves manipulating interfaces using a keyboard, mouse, or controller; in larp, kinesthetic involvement is more fully embodied. Some larps still use representational mechanics for combat, e.g. using one’s hands in rock-paper-scissors in a Vampire: the Masquerade larp. Others use a mixture of embodiment and mechanics, such as hitting a combatant with a foam sword and calling out numbers to represent the amount of damage incurred. Continue Reading

“You are not alone”

The unlikely intersection between Dark Souls, Burial, and... writing the dissertation

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During my MA, I grew attached to the music of the UK electronic artist Burial. His music helped me a lot throughout the writing process of my Major Research Project (MRP). His music is ethereal and spectral, simultaneously steeped in the depths of loneliness and pulsating with a comfort that draws listeners out of that loneliness; it is the kind of music that reflects the push and pull of (academic) isolation I experienced at the time and still deal with today. Take this beautiful remix of his, for instance, which is drearily pulled back slow and yet soothingly shimmers. It’s a song I had on nonstop repeat during my MA. Continue Reading

A Different Kind of Game Feel

A Review of How Games Move Us

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We often talk about emotions in terms of a spectrum. Certain films, games, and other cultural texts are said to run the gamut of the emotional spectrum, making us laugh and cry. But very few analyses or explanations actually go beyond the binary oscillation of happy/sad to look at the full range of emotions on display in a particular work of art. Katherine Isbister seeks to identify both the emotions at play in games and how designers can seek to achieve them in her book How Games Moves Us: Emotion by Design. Instead of targeting the commonsensical notions of games making players angry or joyful, she looks at social emotions such as pride, guilt, and complicity to understand the special power of games. Continue Reading

Engineering Evolution

What Self-Determination Theory can tell us about Magic: The Gathering’s Metagame

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In the world of collectable card games, something curious is happening. Over the course of the last two-and-a-half years, three of the largest and best-respected card game developers—Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight Games, and Blizzard Entertainment—have been scrambling to adjust the release cycles for each of their wildly popular (and staggeringly lucrative) card games. In the case of the latter two companies, these adjustments might be dismissed as the developers ironing out wrinkles in the new, untested systems that undergird their products’ popularity; doing so cannot, however, account for the fact that Wizards of the Coast’s previous model was employed to great success for over two decades, and that both Fantasy Flight Games and Blizzard Entertainment based their business models on adaptations of Wizards’ original system. So, then, why the change? Why now? Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 16

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This month, for a special Valentine’s day episode of the First Person Podcast, we discuss the hit mobile dating sim, Mystic Messenger! We discuss some of our experiences playing the game and have some general discussion about dating sims. How do you choose routes in dating sims? Who does the genre appeal to and what are its audience limitations? What kind of relationships are portrayed in dating sims? Continue Reading