Looking Back & Looking Ahead

An Editorial from the Essays Editor

I have no idea where the field is going, but I can say where I’d like it to go in general terms. I hope to see a further focus on two concepts in particular, subjectivity and complexity. Subjectivity is important for the obvious reason that videogames are played by humans. A critical methodology that ignores subjectivity is, in my view, missing an important piece of the puzzle. As Stephanie Jennings puts it, “the critic’s subjectivity, experiences of playing a game, and even personal identity are… part of the game text under analysis.” The idea that objectivity is desirable or even remotely possible in criticism is, in my view, absurd. Sure, we can discuss the formal characteristics of a thing, but the characteristics we choose to examine and how we interpret them is going to depend on the person. Luckily, I think we’re at the point where the push for objectivity is disappearing and more or less confined to the comments sections for AAA game reviews. Still, the examination of subjectivities is something I’d like to keep seeing. Continue Reading

In the Shadow of Tomorrow

Huizinga on play before Homo Ludens

Although many play scholars are familiar with Homo Ludens, it is not the first time Huizinga explicitly takes on the subject of play. As a prolific historian Huizinga wrote a significant number of books before Homo Ludens and play pops up in many of them. But nowhere is play examined more closely in these pre Homo Ludens works than the little read talk-turned-book, In the Shadow of Tomorrow (1936). Although play only really appears in one odd little chapter, “Puerility,” this short chapter provides a revealing glimpse into Huizinga’s pre­-Homo Ludens thinking on play. Continue Reading

Dark Souls Roundtable

Design, Difficulty, & Death w Prof. Jonathan Boulter

In this FPS podcast we’re talking about the game everyone hates to love, Dark Souls. FPS’ Jason Hawreliak, Michael Hancock and Rob Parker were joined by UWO professor Jonathan Boulter via Skype. They discuss difficulty, Heidegger, spatiality, narrative and aesthetics. SPOILERS AHEAD. Continue Reading

Modal Rhetoric

Multimodal Metonymy in Videogames

Before our August hiatus, I wrote that game critics and theorists need to be timely and accessible if we’re going to influence the games industry and gaming culture in general. I believe in that approach very much, but our persuasive goals needn’t always be so pragmatic. It’s nice to exercise different intellectual muscles from time to time, and that’s what I’m doing here. In this essay, I’m interested in a very basic but difficult question: How do we extract meaning from a videogame? How does it signify to us, the players? Continue Reading

Playing with Identity

Otherness & Sexuality in The Witcher 2

One of the ironies of writing a Game Studies dissertation is that after a while, there isn’t really time to play any games. At some point I had to focus all my attention on writing and just get it over with. So once I finished writing, my “to-play” list had grown quite large. As a fan of “open-world” games, I was looking for a game that I could lose myself in for dozens of hours. I asked around, and a friend recommended CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. I picked it up and overall, I’m glad I did. Although it didn’t really satisfy my open-world itch, I found it to be a robust and rich experience. It’s also one of the few games where I was more compelled by the narrative than the “gameplay,” if the two can be separated. For this commentary, I’d like to give my thoughts on its narrative, and then more specifically, on its representations of otherness and sexuality. Continue Reading