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

Let’s Roleplay

Reading Roleplay in Skyrim 'Let's Play' Videos

Essay - Let's Roleplay

While game studies has had plenty to say about roleplaying games (RPGs), and particularly about Massively Multiplayer RPGs, less attention has been paid to roleplay as a play style, whereby winning the game becomes secondary to fleshing out and performing as a coherent character. When the practice has been discussed scholars have tended to focus on roleplay as a communal activity undertaken within MMORPGs, many of which have dedicated ‘roleplay servers’ (e.g. Paul and Pitmann). As more and more gamers begin recording and streaming gameplay via sites like YouTube and Twitch.tv, however, other forms of roleplay and modes of engaging with roleplay culture are emerging. In this essay I want to look at Youtube videos made by roleplayers of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011). An offline singleplayer RPG, Skyrim has nevertheless attracted a sizeable roleplaying community on YouTube, from comparative veterans like the UK-based SorcererDave – whose hundreds of videos have attracted over 25,000 subscribers – to newcomers whose output might garner no more than a handful of views. From a scholarly perspective their recordings represent a fascinating, ever-expanding corpus that, beyond its virtue as an archive of gameplay, serves to document the emergence of new, hybrid forms of expression, entertainment and play. In this case a single-player game is repurposed as a platform for self-representation, debate and emergent storytelling as roleplay shifts from an evanescent activity undertaken by particular (groups of) players to a mode of individual improvisational performance recorded and offered to a non-playing audience. Continue Reading

Games & Embodied Cognition

What is it Like to be a Cat-Person?

Essay - Embodied Cognition

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