Quantified Soldiery

Halo 5: Guardians and Statistical Coaxing

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Halo 5: Guardians (H5) is a first-person shooter in two parts: multiplayer combat and a series of story missions. In multiplayer, the player’s avatar is made distinct from other players’ with cosmetic modification (colour choices and armour options), giving them a range of options for self-expression that are unavailable in single player. Through this and other methods, Halo 5 affords certain possibilities for self-representation or expression, encourages a limited range of actions, and ignores other possibilities. Affordance, in this case, refers to everything that Halo 5 online multiplayer allows the player to do, what it encourages the player to do through its various systems (coaxed affordance), and what the player cannot do or is discouraged from doing by the platform or discursive environment (constraint). Continue Reading

The Other Difficulty Mode

What Halo Can Tell Us About Identity & Oppression

Essay - The Other Difficulty Mode

If being a “straight white male” is, as John Scalzi argues, like playing a game on the easiest difficulty, then those of us who are less privileged are playing on a harder difficulty. While I think that this metaphor is a sound tool for initial conversations about privilege, its underlying theory of power is too simplistic. This metaphor splits the world into straight white men and everyone else, leaving the reader with no way to account for the many different kinds of oppression that affect us (racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, etc.) and the specific ways in which these oppressions interact. Difficulty settings in games also tend to be arranged on a bipolar line with predictable, quantifiable changes being made to the gameplay as the difficulty increases. Our social identities, by contrast, are multidimensional and we cannot simply arrange them on a line from “most oppressed” to “least oppressed.” Continue Reading