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Speculating on Player-Character Decline

It is a foundational assumption in countless—if not most—video games: over the course of the game, the player-character will improve.

Of course, the same assumption exists for players as well. By engaging with a game, responding to its demands, practicing, and rising to its challenges, players will come to gain and hone specific skillsets that the game encourages and necessitates. However, players’ increasing capabilities aren’t what I intend to (briefly) examine here (although that is a consideration that merits more attention on its own).

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Video Games Exceptionalism vs. Media Specificity

Yesterday, I watched Heather Alexandra’s video “Video Games are Not Special.” In it, she argues against proclamations that video games as an artistic medium are special, unique, or better than any other artistic medium. To declare as much, she says, would be to overlook the histories and qualities of other artistic media. For instance, to insist that video games are defined by their interactivity would be to ignore the ways that all other art forms are also, in fact, interactive. Thus, video games are neither special nor unique, and we should stop saying that they are.

Her sentiment is one with which I’m familiar. Earlier this year, Brendan Keogh arrived at a similar conclusion in his blog post “Video games aren’t special. Video games aren’t unique.” Both authors share concerns with the lack of critical thought behind these gushing exclamations of “Video games are special! They do things that only video games do. These things better than other media. They make us better prepared to live in a world increasingly dominated by procedures and computation.”

But both of these pieces—and other claims similar to them—have left me feeling dissatisfied, unsettled by their conclusions. I think there is more to be said on the matter. So I want to talk a little bit about the difference between video games exceptionalism and media specificity.

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Recapturing the First Playthrough

I remember the very first time I played Resident Evil 4. I was in a GameStop, waiting on my mom to finish running errands in a neighboring store. For weeks, I’d been hearing glowing reviews for the game. I wanted RE4 badly. But I was fifteen, too young to purchase the game on my own. Tentatively—fearful I might be observed—I took the controller in my hands and started the demo. (more…)

Constructions of Self and Agency in Heavy Rain

heavy rain pic

I’ve recently been doing some reading on symbolic interactionism for one of my courses. To make sure it all gelled and stuck, I thought it might be fun to try to apply it to an analysis of a video game. It may be a stretch. Or it may just flat-out not work. But bear with me—I’m doing this for practice and to develop some ideas that I might flesh out later.

What exactly am I up to here? A critique of Heavy Rain through the lens of symbolic interactionism.

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Understanding Humanity Through Doki-Doki Universe

afri doki doki

 

I really wanted to be able to report that HumaNature Studios’s Doki-Doki Universe is a thoughtful, cheerful, charming—if a bit weird—reflection on the concept of humanity. I wanted to be able to say that it offered nuanced explorations on themes such as bullying, insecurity, friendship, prejudice, and love all packaged in a cute, colorful, innocent, yet profound experience. I wanted to see the human condition in a new way with a refreshing new game.

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Nineteen Years of Failure

descent

When I was a kid—probably about six or seven years old, but I can’t be sure—my parents brought home a new PC. With the new PC came some new PC games. One of these games was Descent, a 3D first-person-shooter-meets-flight-simulator in which players explore intricate, maze-like mines to destroy mining robots infected with an alien virus—and then the mines themselves. I can’t remember what it was that seized me with a desire to play it, but at some point the desire struck me and wouldn’t let me go.

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Industry Logic: Some Thoughts on Game Dev Story

game dev story

With some prompting from a friend, I recently downloaded and started Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story. It’s a cute little game. You manage an up-and-coming video game studio—hiring employees, picking combinations of types and genres to create games you hope will sell, advertising your upcoming titles, purchasing licenses for development kits, choosing a presentation for your booth at the game’s equivalent of PAX, so on.

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