Dear Boss

Evie Frye and the narrative style of Assassin’s Creed Jack the Ripper DLC

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Following the release of their 2016 title, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Ubisoft released a downloadable companion game in which players are given the opportunity to once again walk the streets of Victorian London with assassin twin siblings, Jacob and Evie Frye, to investigate the unsolved crimes of the famed murderer known as Jack the Ripper. Yet rather than retelling the story about two twins who use cunning and skill to save London, the DLC sets its sights on Evie as the hero of the game. Cool and uncompromising, Evie sets herself apart as a playable protagonist proving that female video game characters do not need to be young, inexperienced, or rely on others in order to succeed and win. Continue Reading

The Blame Game

How Video Game Workers Frame Barriers to Diversity

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The lack of gendered diversity within the video game industry is well documented. Research suggests that only 22% of the video game workforce identifies as female, a figure that declines further to 11% when we look only at core technical positions (Weststar et al., 2016). The issue of women’s underrepresentation, as well as sexism across the industry and culture, has become the subject of heated debate in recent years. The events of GamerGate in 2014, where female games journalists, developers, and critics became the targets of misogynistic abuse, stand out as a poignant example of the polemic nature of this topic. Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 9

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This month on the First Person Podcast four editors fan out in our ALL ZELDA ALL THE TIME episode. We play Zelda trivia, we wax nostalgic about our favorite Zelda games, we hard-core rag on our least favorite Zelda games, we talk timelines and aesthetics, and speculate on what’s to come. Continue Reading

“Bullet Feels”

First Person Podcast Episode 6

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Episode 6 of the First Person Podcast will discuss the critical darling Undertale. We cover the attempts at gender neutrality, the ups and downs of pacifism, the anxiety produced when mixing bullet hell and RPG elements and the barriers to entry when playing such a meta game. This podcast is full of spoilers so we recommend you play Undertale first if you were planning on it. Continue Reading

Thedap

The Dragon Age Podcast

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This month we are having a very general discussion of Dragon Age as a series with two of our FPS editors Betsy Brey and Elise Vist. We discuss a whole variety of stuff in this hour including what it is about Dragon Age that makes people obsessively play these games over and over, the differences between Dragon Age and Mass Effect, the in-game politics, histories and philosophies of the games, and the focus on romance and sexuality within the universe. This podcast does contain spoilers, especially for Dragon Age 2, but is mostly general discussion about the series. Continue Reading

Can Computers Be Feminists?

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When building systems that share or even entirely adopt the role of a designer for a game, however, the capability to reason about cultural context is entirely lost. At best, it sits implicitly in the code and the data; at worst, it goes entirely ignored and communicates an idea at odds with the maker’s intent. Though the human designer may have their own intent for the kinds of content or games their system should generate, it is challenging to fully express the constraints, rules, and context needed for generating content that is sufficiently varied for the overall game, valid such that it is even playable, and also consistent with the messaging desired by its creator. Designing generative systems can require human designers to deeply confront their own implicit biases and understand how to formally express, in code, the full generative space of acceptable content that the system should create. For example, consider a character generator with names generated from a gender-partitioned list of constituent name parts. This simple act–born from the common method in PCG of specifying the valid subcomponents of what should be built, partitioning them such that their recombination will always be valid, and then randomly piecing those parts together at runtime—communicates the implicit biases of the maker (including a declaration of the gender binary, a statement that names should conform to those genders) and is then cashed out in every character that is generated by the system. Continue Reading

On Beauty

Gamers, Gender, & Turing

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Games are beautiful, because in the case of games, someone or something gave rise to the creation, and someone or something must play. If it appears I am inadequately utilizing the language typically reserved for passion, desire, love, and flowers, it may be because gaming–it’s interaction and play–is being underestimated. For those working in the field of new media studies and art, most of us do this work because we believe that technology can provide radical possibilities of community and creativity. I believe digital games can provide these radical possibilities. I believe this about gaming, even though I am not a gamer. Continue Reading