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?

Continue reading “Essay: What defines a video game genre?”

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)”

Video Games versus Feedback: Perceivable consequence

When we press a light switch, we expect a light to turn on somewhere. If a light doesn’t turn on, then we get confused, or frustrated, or decide that the damned thing is broken and walk away. This comes down to the fact that a common light switch is a well designed product with good user feedback.
But is this universal design rule also always the case in video game design, or can we simply ignore reliable response on purpose?
Continue reading “Video Games versus Feedback: Perceivable consequence”

Is the Magic Circle real?

In 1938, long before the rise of digital games, Johan Huizinga wrote the theory of the magic circle. His rule implies that, when playing games, participants will physically sit in the same room around a table, or compete on the same sports field. But, with recent games like Pokémon Go breaking traditional boundaries for where the magic circle takes place, is his theory invalid and outdated? Does new technology make the theory obsolete?

Continue reading “Is the Magic Circle real?”