Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Just because I’m a geek–no geekery is complete without The Doctor.

Nelson Mandela

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

New Project

Posted: October 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

So I’m working on something really big right now. It’s Skyrim again. Sorry guys. So what happened was that I was supposed to be writing a paper about the game, but ended up having to trash it. Twice. And I hated seeing all that work go to nothing. So that led to the three installments in earlier posts. Now, I finally have a cohesive idea and am working on completing the project. There are admittedly some kinks I need to work out in the argument, but it will get me good and graduated. I’ll share when it’s finished–a celebratory post, if you will, of the success of the seven years I have spent in college.

Emergent Narratives in Untitled

Here’s a brief summary of the article:

In this Elder-Scrolls-esque game that is currently gathering funding, player reactions to the environment will be chronicled in a journal and will operate more like more text-based forms of ergodic literature, namely, the “choose your own adventure.”

I think this will inspire some interesting discussion about how narrative operates in games, particularly because they focus on emergent narratives. Plus, as the player engages with their environment and situates themselves within the discourses of the game,  certain paths will be open to the player when they make a choice, while others will be closed off as a result of that choice, presumably making the game extremely replayable. This seems to be one of the major marketing points for Untitled. Needless to say, I hope this game is able to be released. They’ve got me hooked because a) it’s open world and b) I am curious to see how the atmosphere of the game is affected by player choice.

I’m such a sucker. 

Let the Good Times Roll

Posted: October 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

I remember when I was younger, I would play video games all the time. It was an emotional experience–sometimes one of joy because I got to be a different person in a different world doing amazing things, which was a direct contrast to my everyday, monotonous daily routine: Wake up, go to school, come home, go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. But other times, the joy exploded in a great fireball of rage inciting me to throw the controller at the TV and inspiring creative expletive strings. Thank God for Nerf controllers.

Lately, though, I’ve been writing and analyzing and obsessing over Skyrim because that’s the game I’ve played the most since it came out in 2011 and it’s the one freshest in my memory. I’ve started, at the very least, three (maybe four?) different games and haven’t even managed to get through the exposition, which is really sad because each of them promises such a good story. So far, my list includes Parasite Eve, Chrono-Trigger, Persona 4, Fallout, and a DS game with a film noir theme. During that time, I’ve watched my husband play Nier; FF VI; Catherine; Persona 3 (twice); Persona 4 (twice); Resonance of Fate; Zone of the Enders; Fable; Shadow of the Colossus; Uncharted: Among Theives and Drake’s Fortune; Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Brotherhood, III; and various romps through Flower, Flow, and Journey He uses games as an escape, too. Escape is a fundamental reason people play video games.

Despite my lack of zeal lately, I’ve discovered some important things about my experience as a player. The funny thing is that it’s easy to tell when someone who writes about games has played them versus someone who writes about games they haven’t played. Each game is a unique experience for each player that plays. It can be true that studying games ruins the joy of playing, but that’s not always the case. Playing them through completely (when there’s an end at all) and then pausing for personal reflection has been the best way for me to be able to analyze and enjoy games at the same time. Another thing I’ve noticed is that studying games tends to be a little like studying books and film and that you can find commonalities between different mediums.

Personally, I see games as a gesamtkunstwerk–this total work of art that synthesizes everything we’ve already created–visuals, music, story. I’m sure I’ve probably already expressed my awe on this before (I wait so long between posts that I forget what I write!). But it really is awe-inspiring that we have been able to create these works of art–total art–and that we can interact with them in a way we’ve never been able to interact with any other type of medium. They are the literature of our generation that represent the times in which we live. It’s a cycle:  toying with various current social discourses in the virtual world helps us situate ourselves in our own world, which in turn affects how and what we play–there’s a much bigger picture at work here than what many negative critics don’t seem to realize.

So WTF, Me? Time to get rollin’. But first, beer and ice cream.

Article by Edge: “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and the Evolution of Story”

This is a really neat article about a new game by The Astronauts called The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. According to the article, the game is more story-centric in its approach to gameplay and is all about exploration. The Astronauts say their game is all about immersion, but it will be interesting to see what level they are aiming for. According to Richard Bartle, there are four levels of immersion. Each level depends on the thing the player is controlling and how the player relates to that thing. The first level is object, which is considered un-immersed because the player does not at all relate to the thing they are controlling. The second is avatar, where the player is controlling something that carries out their will, but that is all the thing is good for. The third is character, which the player acts out. The fourth is persona. This is considered full immersion, where the player IS the thing they are controlling; they consider themselves to be IN the virtual world.

I will definitely be checking this game out.

Last post, I wrote about how beautiful Skyrim’s digital landscape is and how it is one of the reasons the game is so immersive. Music is another factor that aids in immersion. It works with the digital environment to create a specific tone for the game. 

Jeremy Soule composed the soundtracks for the Elder Scrolls games Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. In each OST, there are instrumental motifs that provide a certain tone, and this differs from game to game. For Skyrim, Soule created pieces that audibly describe and enhance the Nordic culture, cold climate, and sublimity of Skyrim’s landscape. It is very ambient, instrumental music that can describe a place or, when that ambience changes to more sinister and higher tempo pieces, cue the player to encounters with dragons, Forsworn (think fur-and-bone-clad  berserkers), marauders, thieves, and other hostile NPCs.

Here’s a question for you: If the tone of the game is partially defined by the music, what happens when you replace the original music with something else? What would happen, say, if we replaced the Skyrim OST with…Metallica. That is a whole new game, my friend. To me, instead of the medieval Nordic vibes I get from the original OST and graphics, I would probably think post-apocalyptic if we were to replace the OST with Metallica. Why? Because Metallica uses modern, electric instruments. When you couple that with the medieval-ness of Skyrim, it signals a regression to and reliance on more primitive ways of life, particularly when the game juxtaposes the “current” medieval lifestyle of the Nords to the technologically advanced, abandoned dwarven ruins that dot the landscape. Of course, the quests would still be the same. The overall narrative would still be the same. But with the change of music, the tone changes and implies something different about the history of Skyrim that might affect how players play the game.

If all that game music mumbo jumbo doesn’t make sense, think about it in terms of reality: If you walk into Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma, you are not going to hear Van Halen or Journey blasting loudly on the radio. Instead, you will probably hear something more instrumental to convey that “well-cultured people with a fine palate and taste for gourmet foods shop here.” When you walk into a sit-down restaurant, places like Chili’s and Eskimo Joe’s (if you don’t know what Joe’s is, you should Google it–friggin’ best cheese fries EVER) will probably play classic rock to encourage faster eating and table rotation, while a fine dining restaurant will probably play something more classical or ambient to encourage patrons to take their time and enjoy their expensive meal. Same kind of thing goes for games. The music creates an atmosphere.

So, moral of the story: Jeremy Soule is awesome, and so is Skyrim. Like I said, it’s a small obsession.   


Fo’ rlz. I am obsessed with this game. I have a bajillion hours on it, but I’m only level 31. That’s because I like exploring the digital world Bethesda created. As Cartman states continuously on South Park, “I DO WHAT I WANT!” And that’s true of games Bethesda creates. I think that freedom is what makes the game so interesting.

I recently wrote a paper on Skyrim in which I discussed (more briefly than I would have liked) the digital landscape of the game. What I mean by digital landscape isn’t just “Ohhh, look at how gorgeous the mountains are, they’re so… OMGDRAGONSRUNRUNRUNRUN.” Of course, landscape in the sense of painting is indeed a part of the digital landscape, but it also includes characters, too (and yes, dragons are characters, too). Among other elements, NPCs (non-player characters) and the landscape create a believable environment for the open world adventure RPG that makes immersion possible for this particular genre. What’s really interesting is that it’s not necessarily realism in terms of the art that makes it believable. An 8 bit game can be immersive, too. Tetris, for heaven’s sake, can be immersive. So what is it that makes games immersive? I don’t think there’s a definitive answer because people’s enjoyment of games is subjective, but it does have to do with forgetting the world around you and being a character in the game, not just playing one.

But what makes Skyrim so great is that the landscape is gorgeous to look at.  I mean seriously, that aurora at night? Where spriggans hang out? That is art right there. The visual beauty is part of the reason I love that game. Also Jeremy Soule, who composed the sountrack, is a BOSS. Can we all agree on that? I think so. But that’s for another post. For now, I’ll leave  you with this screen shot from IGN:

Damn, is all I have to say.

Academic Humor

Posted: July 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

Academic Humor

I’m just going to leave this awesome here.