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

The Tyranny of Realism

Historical Accuracy in Assassins's Creed III

I confess to having a love-hate relationship with Assassin’s Creed. Every game in the series is beautiful. The stunning landscapes, architectural and historical detail, acrobatic player-character and smooth (for the most part) gameplay are incredibly satisfying. Certainly there were many critiques of the repetitiveness of the first game. The modern-day component of the story and Matrix-esque Animus which acts as the deus ex machina to help explain why, as Desmond’s ancestor, the player can access databases full of historical information is arguably a bit cheesy (though no more so than most game narratives). Continue Reading

Where’s the Sex?

The Walking Dead, Sex, & Parenting in the Zombie Apocalypse

Just over a month ago, Robert Kirkman sat down for an interview on BBC America to discuss what makes his series The Walking Dead a transmedia success. Amid groans and jokes from other men on set, Kirkman spoke about his series for what it is: a soap opera. He explained that “Twilight is to Dracula as The Walking Dead is to Romero movies. I’m the Stephanie Meyer of Zombies. I watched Romero movies and I was like, yeah, but what if they had more kissing?” (BBC). Kirkman agued that it isn’t the zombies that make his comics and show so popular, but rather the traditional soap opera elements such as romance, betrayal, and sex. The zombies are merely the backdrop, the fictional conditions which make the show and the comic socially acceptable to like. Continue Reading