Content warning for illness, anxiety, and surgery.
It’s hard to know what exactly you should do the hour after you’ve been diagnosed with kidney cancer. I was in that awkward time between the shock and terror of receiving the initial diagnosis and reaching out to my friends and family for support; it was still too soon for me to tell anyone about it. Once my dad and I got into the car and started the long journey back to his house through the city, I stared outside at all the people going about their lives, perhaps walking from one class to another or running a little late to lunch, and craved that sort of normalcy. For me, that meant gaming. So I asked my dad to take me to Gamestop. Continue Reading
It occurs to me that some video games might have a “soul” or a thesis kept out of sight, locked away from interactive or procedural elements. And to access this soul one might have to look at these story elements not as a whole but working in their constituent parts.
Think about the painting, Conscience, Judas by Nikolai Ge, that depicts Judas in a moment swiftly following Christ’s arrest. Continue Reading
Content/Trigger Warning: Discussion of trauma and sexual assault.
Darkness is often synonymous with fear; where things go bump in the night, where monsters live. But what could make someone fear the light?
For Renée T., the protagonist of the LKA’s The Town of Light, the light bathed her with hellish attention, turning her inside-out. The game’s title, which initially strikes one as pious and placid, is actually a description of terror. The town is a mental asylum where young Renée is confined, in an Italian village at the height of the Second World War. Women couldn’t vote in Italy; lobotomies were all the rage; ‘hysteria’ was a diagnosis. Continue Reading
Last year, my friend convinced me to play Nier for the first time. Upon initially booting up the title, it seemed like a typical grimdark male power fantasy with severely floaty controls and a muted, masculine aesthetic. Today, I consider it the only mainstream video game I have played that embodies the trans experience. Over the course of my time with Nier, what at first seemed to be a weak narrative scaffolding attempting to justify fetishized violence transformed into a subversive work of empathic queerness. The game has a series of endings, each building upon the last, culminating in a nuanced network of meaning-making. Through these multiple playthroughs and endings, a cohesive queering of the text emerged in my player experience, with the intersection of my own lived-in qualia of being a trans person and the game’s transgressive body politics acting as the thematic core. What follows is the result of this—a deeply personal close reading of Nier as a triumph of trans narratives. Continue Reading
Game scholarship tends to require researchers to assume a detached perspective on their materials of choice. While our first Nintendo console may have wowed us as children, and while modern games like Fallout 4 may continue to draw us into hours-long play sessions, we have to set aside our emotional relationships with such titles when it is time to get to work. No academic journal is going to publish an article on how sad The Last of Us made us, or how excited we were to finally vanquish those pesky Aztecs in Civilization. We might record such responses from others if, for example, we take an ethnographic approach in our research. But it is our own feelings, and our own affective responses to the games we play, that are often silenced. But what are we losing by adopting such a perspective? Continue Reading