Controlling Fathers and Devoted Daughters

Paternal Authority in BioShock 2 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

As game critics and scholars have noted, the past decade has seen a remarkable number of critically acclaimed big-budget video games featuring paternal protagonists (Brice, 2013; Joho, 2014; Voorhees, 2016). Games journalist Stephen Totilo (2010) has celebrated what he calls the “daddening” of video games as a maturation of the industry. On the other hand, some game critics have critiqued what they label as the “dadification” of video games as simply another means for developers to valorize violent male agency (Brice, 2013; Joho, 2014). This trend has been noted in titles such as BioShock 2 (2K Marin 2010), Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream 2010), Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar San Diego 2010), The Walking Dead: Season One (Telltale Games 2012), Dishonored (Arkane Studios 2012), BioShock Infinite (Irrational Games 2013), The Last of Us (Naughty Dog 2013), and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (CD Projekt Red 2015), among others. Continue Reading

Beyond Elliot Page

The Limits of Agency in the Interactive Storytelling

But ultimately, the interactive elements of Beyond: Two Souls prove to be of inadequate meaningfulness. Your participation as a player has minimal importance on how events unfold throughout the game. While players are given the opportunity to react to events and interact with the world, there is no real in-game penalty for failure, often including failure to act. The game creates numerous Deus ex machina situations to bail players out and reveals the general lack of agency the player has in influencing the game world. In Beyond: Two Souls, telling the story is more important than playing it. Continue Reading

Dungeons, Dragons, & Digital Denizens

If you’re immersed in game studies long enough—or just interested in videogames in general—you’re bound to pick up certain acronyms. FPS. RTS. MMO (or, if you’ve really been around long enough, MOO or MUD). And RPG, the abbreviation for role-playing game. In consideration of the quotation above, just what does the RPG have to offer us in terms of thinking about contemporary living? The answer may be a negative one; on the one side, the RPG has its roots in Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy stories, and those roots in turn lead to J. R. R. Tolkien, who famously declared that the use of fantasy was escapism. And on the other side of the Dungeons and Dragons relation, you have statistics and numbers, which lead to horror stories of obsessive grinding and wasteful time commitments. In their anthology on RPGs, Dungeons, Dragons, and Digital Denizens: The Digital Role-Playing Game, editors Gerald A. Voorhees, Joshua Call, and Katie Whitlock provide no definitive answers, and, indeed, any definitive answers for such a complex question should be suspect. What the book offers instead is three sections, sixteen chapters, some four hundred pages on how games commonly labeled as RPG are “designed, played, and made relevant to contemporary society and culture” (18). And while the book tends to dwell on particular areas of the RPG catalog more than others, the quality of the essays make it worth reading for anyone working on a game that fits under the RPG umbrella—and their variety offer several very interesting yet very different potential answers to our question. Continue Reading