Heavy subjects, and video games

If all media are somewhat autobiographical, then all games express something about the society the designer lives in.
The moment this becomes interesting, is when games dare to ask some of the hardest questions imaginable.

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Essay: Can Independent Games be Authentic?

The word authenticity, has become so integrated into the language of our everyday lives, that there is a preconceived understanding of the word, despite the concept itself being abstract and without a clear-cut definition.
A rock band can be authentic. So can an expensive wine from a specific region. And so can the jeans we wear or the yogurt we eat for breakfast. These things are all wildly different in nature, and yet they all claim to be the same exact thing: Authentic.

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When are Animated Characters Uncanny?

Psychologist Sigmund Freud came up with the idea of the “uncanny” in 1919.
The uncanny is a specific emotion of fear that is experienced when something isn’t quite as it should be. Like a taxidermied animal, or an antique doll.
In 1970, roboticist Masahiro Mori warned that robots could indeed also provoke these negative feelings of unease, if they appeared too human. Based on these findings, Mori introduced the theory of the uncanny valley, depicting a drop of attraction towards the animate object, after it achieved human features. This unsettling feeling will – according to Mori – only disappear when the robot is completely indistinguishable to an actual living human being.

But is the uncanny valley theory likewise applicable to animated digital characters, like the ones found in animation movies and video games? Continue reading “When are Animated Characters Uncanny?”

Essay: What defines a video game genre?

Genre is something that is already well known and established in other humanistic fields such as literature and film studies. But with games only recently entering the academic scene as a valid area of study, the specifics of what defines a genre is once again opened up for questioning.
As consumers, we generally think of a genre as being a combination of the many individual components of the game production pipeline: Art, sound, setting, story, player goals and challenges. They all have an impact on which category the game eventually fits into, and this makes it easy for consumers to pick up something they know they will like.
But with recent academics debates raging – narratology versus ludology, and the difference between interactive games and other media – it might not be that simple.
This essay sets out to understand what defines a game genre, both from an academic standpoint, and in terms of how they are produced. Do the same rules that apply to film and literature apply to games? Or are games a completely separate entity, when it comes to genre?

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Narratives in Games (Tetris vs. Firewatch)

Do games tell stories? It depends on who you ask.
One side of the academic curve claims that, games are simply a slightly different medium meant for telling stories, exactly like movies and books, while the other side claims that games are completely separate from storytelling. This discussion is what is known as the narratology versus ludology debate.
But, is it really possible to take such an aggressive standpoint when the presence of story in games varies so incredibly much?

Continue reading “Narratives in Games (Tetris vs. Firewatch)”