Controlling Fathers and Devoted Daughters

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

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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

Design and the Broken Game:

Wayfinding and Affordance in Shelter

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Shelter is a game about figuring out what the hell to do next. You play as a mother badger trying to guide her children to a new den. Gameplay consists of roving across predatory landscapes, securing food in the process, and feeding this food to your kids. This sounds fun. For me, it was not. Continue Reading

Drawing the Line

Year Two - Word Cloud - 500 words

Being a contemporary artist comes with the knowledge that a significant portion of society is hostile to what you are creating. When people outside of the insular art world view your work, there is a good chance that they think “that is not art,” even if they are polite enough not to utter it. Lately, I have been hearing similar statements in the game world; that a given interactive fiction, or a role-playing game, or a massively multiplayer game is “not a game.” Sometimes the dismissal seems motivated by a desire to protect some cherished form of game, other times it comes from a more dryly academic desire to define and categorize. Continue Reading

THE IMPORTANCE OF ABSTRACTION

difga2

This essay builds on this particular area of development in video games and addresses the importance of abstraction in this medium by drawing on the work of Jesper Juul, Alexander Galloway, and others, and thus on the relevance of video games from a game theory perspective. A short qualitative analysis of two video games, Jeppe Carlsen’s 140 (2013) and Starbreeze Studio’s Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013), is included to demonstrate how abstraction can be used in unique and interesting ways and can increase player agency, engagement, and authorship in ways that have not yet been fully tested. The former visually alludes to early video game aesthetics, but also amplifies updated mechanics that allow for more highly developed movement, transformation, and player outcomes specifically through sound. The latter, though more linear in terms of narrative and gameplay, utilizes a key feature of abstraction to heighten a player’s sense of loss and difficulty by disabling a portion of the player’s game control after a major narrative event unfolds. Continue Reading

Subversive humor & games

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Subversive humor can fulfill several different unique purposes. Firstly, humor is approachable; it can disarm critics by cutting through the clutter or noise around issues that make people feel uncomfortable. Humor is often used as a way to ridicule the oppressor by creating a dilemma they can’t win. Creating a situation in which any options (such as responding or ignoring) could lead to ridicule by the masses. This leads to another important element: humor melts fear – when you ridicule someone or something, you no longer fear them or it. It also acts as a healer of sorts, serving as a coping mechanism or as stress relief by highlighting and expressing frustration with problems out of direct control. Lastly, humor gives you power when you don’t have it. It has the ability (even if temporary) to take away the power of the “oppressor,” making it a powerful tool that should be considered in any creative critical process (Sorensen, 2008). Continue Reading

What We’re Playing Vol II

Constraints & Explorations

Commentary - What Were Playing Vol2

There is rarely a time when I’m not playing Dragon Age 2. I know that it’s the lesser of the Dragon Age games, but I’ve still finished it twice, gotten to the end of Act 2 three times, and created a dozen characters that never got past level 15. It is partly due to the fact that I love each and every character (especially Aveline) in my party, but that’s not the whole story. If all I wanted from the game was interesting characters and fun relationship dynamics then Dragon Age: Origins would be a better game to play. DA:O, at least, lets me talk to my party whenever I feel like it. Continue Reading

The Art of Papers, Please

Juul's The Art of Failure Meets Lucas Pope's Papers, Please

Commentary - Papers Please

There’s a certain dehumanizing impulse that comes with mastering game systems. It is articulated through the dissonance between Nathan Drake as-he-appears-in-cutscenes and the Nathan Drake whose actions correspond to a controller’s thumbsticks. It is the reason why genetic algorithms have been used to plan the “perfect” build order in Starcraft 2. Processes are fertile ground for privileging economy of action and thought. This is so ingrained in contemporary game design that player progress is often measured by the increasing complexity of game mechanics: by adding new abilities, introducing more difficult foes, more challenging environments, etc. Continue Reading