The Last of Us & the State of Games Criticism

[The following article contains spoilers regarding The Last of Us involving a conversation between the two main characters. It is unrelated to the main plot but may be considered a crucial moment of character building.] This is the moment I’ve been waiting for in videogames, for so many reasons. This subtle withdrawal of the dialogue is a tasteful moment of maturation for the format. Films such as Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt feature similar moments and, while not suggesting that games need emulate film, the inclusion of this moment in The Last of Us effectively raises the bar for storytelling techniques in game production. (And we’re all waiting for that landmark game to come about. Where is our Citizen Kane? Continue Reading

Sustainable Fiction

Between Interactive Drama and Videogames

Heavy Rain exists in the amorphous folds of generic labeling brought about by the blurred boundaries of digital media. What do I mean by this? Simply, that with increasing frequency artifacts are being created which do not fit neatly into already established categories. Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream, 2010) is one such artifact. In one sense, it’s clearly a videogame, right? It’s played on the Playstation 3 system, I hold a controller in my hand, and my input controls the action on the screen. Upon completing the game, however, Heavy Rain presents the user with a trophy that contains the text, “Thank you for supporting interactive drama.” This small addition speaks volumes to the developers’ desire to change the perceptions of what videogames can accomplish… Continue Reading

Horrific Controls

Resident Evil 2 & the Mechanics of Fear

Resident Evil 2 provides us with an illuminating take on how the controls of a game can play into its immersion. At the time of release, and still to this day, the control scheme of Resident Evil 2 has been the one aspect of the game constantly criticized. The controls are sluggish, requiring the player to constantly press up on the directional pad in order to run forward, regardless of the direction the on-screen character is facing. This is in stark contrast to the majority of other games in which a direction is pressed on the gamepad to correlate with the direction the character is moving on the screen. In retrospect, though, this might just be one of the hidden strengths of the early Resident Evil games, and one of the very reasons for viewing Resident Evil 2 as being a truly definitive survival horror game… Continue Reading

Morality After the Apocalypse

DayZ and Kenneth Burke

The online zombie survival shooter DayZ provides an intriguing example of morality and ethics in videogames, and as it is relatively new, has not received much (if any) academic attention. The game is an expansion mod created by Dean Hall, for the realistic military shooter game ARMA II: Advanced Operations, developed by Bohemia Interactive Studio. DayZ takes place in a massive, always-online game-space, in which the player begins a game session on a beach, in the midst of a zombie outbreak. Celebrated for its realism, the player begins with no items or weapons, no map, and no discernible goal. In fact, DayZ is effectively devoid of any narrative whatsoever. The morality and ethics then, by extension, are not forced scales included by the developers to make the world seem more interactive and malleable; rather, the morality comes from the players’ interactions with one another in the game world… Continue Reading