Haunted Spaces, Lived-In Places

A Narrative Archaeology of Gone Home

As you explore this deceptively massive house, going from room to room and unlocking secret passageways that lead to even more rooms (a gatekeeping mechanism used to establish some sense of narrative linearity), you discover the personal domains of each of the family members and get to know their secrets, worries, pleasures, and vices. You stumble upon Dad’s stash of porno magazines, liquor bottles, and rejection letters from book publishers. You find out about Mom’s budding flirtation with a park ranger. You uncover a history of abuse perpetrated by your Great Uncle Oscar who died in this very house, leading Sam’s classmates to call it “the psycho house on Arbor Hill” and convincing her that the house is haunted. Continue Reading

The Mobile Story

Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies

Jason Farman’s 2014 edited collection The Mobile Story: Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies follows closely on the heels of his critically acclaimed Mobile Interface Theory (2011). This new book features twenty articles from a diverse range of voices working in the field of locative media theory and design, each bringing his or her own background to bear on the topic of mobile narratives. Many of the challenges, considerations, and theoretical perspectives addressed in this volume serve to complement what has thus far remained a gap in game studies: the growing popularity of mobile games. While there have been several articles and books on the rise of mobile, social, and other “casual” games, most notably Jesper Juul’s A Casual Revolution (2012), there has been very little written on narrative in mobile games. Farman’s collection doesn’t fall back on the emergence of locative media as a field in the early 2000s, but rather propels both design and scholarship forward by acknowledging what I would call a second generation of mobile narratives and games, linked with the convergence of GPS and high-speed wireless Internet in smartphones since the iPhone 3G. Continue Reading

Allegorithmic Art

The Art of Making Games and the Game of Making Art

Are videogames art? The question has sparked heated debate in recent years, perhaps most notoriously in 2010, when film critic Roger Ebert published a piece in the Chicago Sun-Times stating quite brashly that “Video games can never be art.” Although Ebert later issued an apology, it seems that the gaming community has been fighting to prove him wrong ever since. Continue Reading

The Talking Dead

Dialogue Trees & Player Agency in The Walking Dead

Greg Miller at IGN boldly stated that “people will reference the series over and over as the benchmark for story-telling in games. And historically, it will stand as the game that reinvented or at least repopularized adventure games.” And he’s not the only critic expressing such high opinions. Most recently, The Walking Dead took home the “game of the year” award at the 2012 VGAs. So why such great disparity? And what does it mean when a mechanically simple point-and-click adventure game–which gives a player almost no room for exploration or alternate gameplay–purports to “tailor” a “story” to each individual player’s choices? Continue Reading