Even though we were free to write about any theme about any videogame, I found 5 themes that submerge that interested me the most.
Representation of Gender and Identity
Returning to the blog posts about Portal, I was surprised that not more classmates wrote about Chell as a woman and how that influenced game play. During one of the game labs, Jasmine and I both expressed our satisfaction and increased motivation for playing Portal upon discovering Chell’s gender. Emi wrote about how the FPS prevented Chell from being viewed as a sexual object. After having a conversation in-class with another classmate who is male, he expressed how it didn’t matter to him that Chell was female; it didn’t change his game play. I think that feminist arguments have to solid and not victimizing, especially when it relates to gender respresentation in videogames.
Matt didn’t focus on the visual representation of gender, but instead talks about how “the design of GLaDOS’s voice allows her to emulate a human expressing emotion, and works to convince the player that non-biotic beings have feelings and should be regarded as humans.” It’s possible that the game communicates that a woman’s voice is better at expressing emotions than a male voice.
In FMS321, we discussed the relationship between story, narrative, and architecture in videogames. In my blog post about Final Fantasy X, I discussed my frustration with the linearity of the game plot, and the desire for more game mechanics and use of the controller. Miso proposed an interesting way to analyze the role of Chell’s portal gun, pointing out that it’s linear fashion is dictated not only by GLaDOS, but by the game designers. When skimming over the blog posts over the past semester, there was no doubt that the narrative of video games resurfaced as a popular theme. Some ludologists wouldn’t be so happy with our online class discussions.
Video games and the Cinema
There’s no doubt that Alexander Galloway considers cinema the birthing grounds for video games. That tension still exists today. In my second blog post about Final Fantasy X, I discussed the difference between “playing” and “watching” the game. Most of my game play comprised of embedded videos to advance the storyline. During these videos, there was no way to skip them nor control the character. The passitivity of these videos made me feel like I was watching the “game” but not playing it. On the other hand, I found Desmond’s experience in The Last of Us not much different, but he considered not clicking buttons during shots still a part of playing the game because the player gains information about the characters.
I think the difference lies in what a game is: a set of rules. To play the game, one must understand the rules. Understanding the story, in most cases, is not necessary. I didn’t need to learn about my character’s story in FFX to play. I’m sure that although the information that Desmond got from the shots was important, it wasn’t necessary to continue playing The Last of Us. The video game as a medium, although mature, still needs a clearer definition. I’m not sure what it will take for this medium to be truly divorced from cinema (if that’s even the goal). Maybe it will never fully mature, in the same way that art has an ever-changing meaning.
The relationship between Hardware and Software
Many people noted the difference between playing Portal on a laptop versus the console game. Each medium has its own set of affordances that affect game play. I was interested at comparing Aaron’s and Alec’s interpretation of video games on different hardwares because Aaron mentioned the role of pricing of games and consoles, while Alec focused more on digital authorship and the threat it had on identifying the “original” Portal.
I was a bit surprised to not see more people talk about other games and their relationship with the medium. The only person I saw talking about the medium explicitly was Patrick, who argued against the misconception that all mobile games are casual. “Mobile” refers specifically to the medium a game is being played on, while “casual” is the genre.
Our relationship as players with game designers
The title of this blog post was inspired by seeing how each person wrote blog posts about a variety of topics. Although we still face a a lack of knowledge about many games’ algorithmic allegory, there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with writing these blog posts. I not only felt like I better understood the game, but felt like I was uncovering an aspect of the videogame that I hoped the game designers hadn’t thought of before.
It’d be naive to continue thinking that way. After reading other classmates’ blog posts and designing a quick video game for the final project, I firmly believe that there’s no way that videogame designers haven’t thought about what we’re writing about before. Videogames are one of the purest forms of procedural rhetoric, meaning that they have thought about almost everything. The game has been coded for everything, from the way a light reflects upon a character’s face to the way the virtual environment responds to the ‘x’ button being pushed.
That’s what makes “pranks” so satisfying: it’s a moment in which the game designer feels a bit more human to the player. In his blog post, Alec shared his reaction to an intentional glitch in Dragon Quest V:
…while I couldn’t spin around to find the game’s developers giggling at my struggle (or just grinning vindictively, more likely), I’d like to imagine they had a similar, preemptive satisfaction when they added the glitch to the game’s code.”
This class was a great way to study video games using a variety of labs, readings, and class discussion. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone of us was able to write a post that could make its designer say “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of my game that way before.”