Symposium: Life is Strange, February 4, 2016

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Building on our conversations over the last few symposium around content development and delivery in computer games, let’s consider the rise of the episodic video game genre in recent years. Is it purely a result of the economic demands of the form? Are games becoming so expensive to produce that companies must turn to DLC for both mechanical and narrative expansions? Could the cause be rooted in the explosion of mobile gaming and the expectations of shorter games and sessions by consumers? Or is it is some conglomeration of price, platform, attention spans, and something else?

As an example of the form that calls for the player to consider the way in which their decisions seemingly matter while, paradoxically, asking for an “undoing” of those same actions, Life is Strange exists as one of a growing number episodic video games while also subverting many of the characteristics that have come to settle within the genre such as narrative linearity and a greater emphasis on the finality of choices. As part of our conversation on the game, let’s examine the following questions:

  • Is the rise of episodic video games a result of the nexus of forces present in the current computer games market, or is it a revisiting of past development practices in new form?
  • Does Life is Strange subvert any expectations of what an episodic video game should be? Or does it conform to the Telltale style of “remembrance?”
  • How does the mechanical actions of “taking pictures” in Life is Strange match with the themes of memory and eraser? Does this speak to underlining nature of computer games as a “series of interesting choices” later reviewed as snapshots in time?

We’ll talk this Thursday, February 4, 2016 over Skype, at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, January 28, 2016

lighthouse-at-dusk

Minecraft this week! Usual time and place: January 28, at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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Symposium: Dragon Age Inquisition

dragon age inquisition

We love BioWare games, or at least we love talking about them, so for our first Symposium of 2016 we’re taking on Dragon Age Inquisition.  I’d like to tie in differences between Dragon Age Inquisition and Dragon Age 2 into some of our 2015 discussions, specifically the more expansive Fallout versus the more focused Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

We’ll talk this Thursday, January 7th, over Skype, at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, December 17, 2015

view-from-higher-alcove

To avoid Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, we’re doing Minecraft two weeks early this month: it will be on Thursday, December 17th, at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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Symposium: Super Meat Boy, December 3, 2015

super-meat-boy

This month’s Symposium, on Super Meat Boy, will be hosted by Pat Holleman.  Quoting Pat:

What is a hardcore game?  For a while, the definition had political meanings that, thankfully, aren’t terribly relevant anymore.  But in terms of game design—in terms of player experience, what does it mean for a game to be hardcore?  Although there is no single, widely-accepted definition, there are games which are clear examples of the type.  Super Meat Boy is one such game, and is often held up as the ideal of the hardcore game.  This week we’re going to look at Super Meat Boy and what it can teach us about the meaning of the hardcore designation.

We’ll meet this Thursday at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, November 19, 2015

view-of-pond-and-viewing-passage

We’re doing Minecraft a week early this month, because of Thanksgiving.  It’ll be Thursday, November 19th at the usual time: 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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Symposium: Fallout Matters, 5 November 2015

What’s so playful about the post-apocalypse? (Or, let’s get ready for Fallout 4!)

I’m happy to say I found an article that’s really helped me shape my recent thinking on why Fallout presents such immersive enchantment: Watts, Evan. 2011. “Ruin, Gender, and Digital Games.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 39: 247-65. Here’s a JSTOR link. If you have difficulty accessing it, but want to, let me know.

Also, here’s a post from Play the Past that I think complements Watts’ article very well indeed.

Come ready to discuss the affinity of games and ruins, and to relate it to our ongoing study of immersion!

We’ll meet to discuss these questions and more on Thursday, 5 November, at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT; voice chat over Skype.

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