How Zelda keeps us young

On traveling through changing media

It was the late 1950s when a young Shigeru Miyamoto started discovering the bamboo forests and caves outside his home in the Kyoto countryside. Harnessing the sense of awe and excitement he felt on these trips, he produced the 1986 NES classic The Legend of Zelda, which would become one of the most popular video game franchises in history. The series’ origin story has become somewhat of a legend in itself, retold by fans and journalists alike (cf. Sheff, 1993). Continue Reading

Environment as Narratives

Firewatch Analysis

Firewatch is a narrative first-person game released in 2016 by indie studio Campo Santo. In this game, the player embodies Henry, a middle-aged man spending the summer of 1989 working as a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming. Studying Firewatch provides insight into the relationship between environment design and narrative experiences, since the latter is supported or emphasized by the former. Gameplay restricts players’ movement to a mountaintop, where they walk between trees and on top of rocky formations. I will unpack my shifting emotional response to the environment as I explored it. I felt the initial novelty and the awe induced by its technical prowess quickly subsided, creating in me a spectrum of affects. As the overarching narratives imposed themselves and interfaced with my reception of the game, they colored my reading, shining a new light on my surroundings. Continue Reading

Mapping Gotham

Layering and Transmedia in Batman’s Fictional City

The Arkham games reveal the most palimpsestual qualities of Origins’ Gotham are tied up with the Gotham of Arkham City. While the concept of the palimpsest derived from textual analysis places importance on that which has been erased from a manuscript document to make space for new writing, in critiquing contemporary cultural objects we can think in terms of layering as well as erasure to focus on the theoretical implications of adding new tiers of meaning to form novel products over on top of relevant qualities that pre-exist in the transmedia assemblage. Asylum’s world was largely limited and matched the player’s linear progression through the game’s narrative. Players are allowed to visit one part of the game map at a time, and a heavy emphasis is placed upon indoor environments. Open movement through the exterior areas of Arkham Island is mainly used to go from building to building, with only sidelining points of interest. In Arkham City, however, the focus shifts from the inside to the outside, as the game is filled with side missions and enemies to face all over the map, as well as some missions involving trails of clues from point to point in the city, or chases that ask the player to traverse great distances over a limited period of time. Continue Reading

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