Bioshock to the System:

How Gaming Reconnected Me With Childhood Trauma

Game scholarship tends to require researchers to assume a detached perspective on their materials of choice. While our first Nintendo console may have wowed us as children, and while modern games like Fallout 4 may continue to draw us into hours-long play sessions, we have to set aside our emotional relationships with such titles when it is time to get to work. No academic journal is going to publish an article on how sad The Last of Us made us, or how excited we were to finally vanquish those pesky Aztecs in Civilization. We might record such responses from others if, for example, we take an ethnographic approach in our research. But it is our own feelings, and our own affective responses to the games we play, that are often silenced. But what are we losing by adopting such a perspective? Continue Reading

Infinite Typewriters

Canon, Criticism, and Bioshock

“Prestige games” are a special class of AAA blockbuster, fully integrated into the commercial game industry and developed with huge production and marketing budgets, but understood to transcend mere entertainment. Although these games are expected to do business like other AAA titles, they are additionally ascribed a comparatively high degree of cultural prestige and aesthetic value, thus performing a legitimating function for the industry and mainstream gaming culture. BioShock (2007) is the archetypal prestige game, widely praised for its weaving together of dynamic first-person shooter gameplay distilled from its predecessor System Shock 2 (1999), a stylish Art Deco-inspired underwater setting, and “mature” commentary on Ayn Randian libertarianism, agency, and the forms and conventions of digital gaming (Sicart, 152). Continue Reading

Villainy in the 21st Century

How Games Need to Re-Think Good and Evil

Kurtz (Heart of Darkness), the surveillance state (1984), Mr. Hyde (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), and the monster (Dr. Frakenstein): all are nuanced antagonistic forces that propel their respective narratives in order to address social and ethical issues. Compare that with an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, a planet approaching ecological disaster, an economy ever-reliant on dangerous loans and non-renewable resources, and you have to wonder: where are the quintessentially 21st century villains? Continue Reading