Content warning for discussions of sexualized violence.
Outside a small handful of reviews with each new release, little attention has been paid to the Deception (Tecmo, 1996-2015) series. This is in spite of the critical depth a close reading of these games can afford. In an industry that has consistently struggled with representing women, all but the first Deception game see female protagonists driving the narrative (Zorrilla 2011, Van Name 2013, Statt 2016). And during a time when commercial games like Resident Evil (Capcom 1996), Alone in the Dark (Infogrames 1992), and Clock Tower (Human Entertainment 1995) looked to film for their exploration of horror (Edge 2010, par. 5; Rasa, 2017), the Deception games looked to slasher films and offered players a world in which they both actively perpetrate violence and avoid such threats themselves. Continue Reading
As cliché as it may sound, the first moments of a video game tend to be among the most important. They’re when the game foreshadows the journey to come, or when they give you a small taste of the ideas that later parts of the story are going to develop. System Shock 2 stands apart from this: while its early moments achieve their goal of setting up the themes the game is going to explore, they also fully develop their own ideas within that brief span of time. More specifically, the opening to System Shock 2 engages with and deflates the sort of fantasies we expect from first person shooters. Where its peers use military themes to make the player feel powerful and reinforce ideas of self-betterment, System Shock 2 denies both by remaining true to the mundane realities of military life. Continue Reading
Before Sega retooled the series for MMORPG audiences, Phantasy Star was one of the most prominent JRPG franchises of its time. It had always remained ahead of the pack by experimenting with themes and narrative models years before its rivals could catch up. The first Phantasy Star game featured a slight political dimension to JRPGs seven years before Final Fantasy would do the same. And its sequel only continued that trend. One of the first RPGs for the Genesis, Phantasy Star II strengthened the political themes with a grim narrative and Daedalian dungeon design. Continue Reading