Strategic Ambiguity

Papers Please and The Virtues of Silence

A principle of game design theory is that constant feedback from the game-system is critical for a particular design to be ‘good’ (Salen & Zimmerman, 2005). From a usability standpoint, I agree, but problems arise when narrative information is conveyed with the same rigidity and specificity as an ammo count. This is one of the reasons that ludonarrative dissonance occurs in modern video games, which is broadly defined as the phenomenon in videogames where narrative elements stand in contrast to the interactive elements (Hocking, 2007; Yap, 2014:13). As a result, the story presented can become incoherent. Continue Reading

Games & Embodied Cognition

What is it Like to be a Cat-Person?

I’ve played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda 2011) now for 81 hours, with three different characters. I’ve been an elf, an orc and a Khajiit. In Skyrim, I can occupy the body of a magical creature from a fantastic race with a different gender than mine. Yet it seems that no matter the differences between the fantastic races, the basic experience of what is it like to be each is essentially similar. A Khajiit might see in the dark, an Argonian may breathe water, and a Breton might resist magic, but they are all still humans wrapped in a layer of fantastic and endowed with supernatural power. The basic experience of being them is still the same. Continue Reading