Symposium: Darkest Dungeon, March 2


We didn’t manage to have our February Symposium on Darkest Dungeon as scheduled, so we postponed it until March: we’ll instead meet again this week (March 2nd), at the new time of 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST.  See Steve’s earlier post for some potential points of discussion.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, February 16, 2017


We’re doing Minecraft a week early this month.  And we’re moving up our start time by an hour (and this is an ongoing change going forward): 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST.

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Symposium, February 5th: Darkest Dungeon


Our past explorations of procedural generation have confronted the tensions between design of the unknown and its representation. For Spelunky to live, death had to lose its way in the winding tunnels, while the more procedural whims of King of Dragon Pass could only be left as whispers of barbarian gods.

In Darkest Dungeon, the unknowable becomes the unthinkable, an ostinato of Lovecraftian terror that taxes the player as much as the characters that they lead into the darkness. Much of the conversation surrounding this game has centered on the human cost, the stresses and quirks that the characters accumulate as they try to survive their adventures as well as the quiet respite that follows them. But is it possible that the dungeon itself is a better metaphor for the unthinkable than the scars that it leaves upon its travelers?

We’ll meet to explore the horrors of the unknown on Thursday, February 5th at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT on voice chat over our venerable Skype chat, opulent and imperial.

Supplemental material:

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, January 22, 2017


Minecraft this Thursday! 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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Symposium: ‘Remastered,’ January 5, 2017


The concept of remastering is thought to be borrowed from the music industry. When a song is ‘remastered,’ its components are updated from the original source, the master tracks. When it comes to videogames, however, this takes on a different turn: when a game is released as a part of a collection for a newer system than its original release or as part of a ‘remastered’ label, the game is not a return to original material but an updating and upgrading of its content. A remastered game is never the same experience but is frequently sold as such. Appealing to both nostalgia and the collectible nature of gaining access to an older game, then, remastered games can be interpreted as a ploy to repackage existing material without the overhead of production: with seemingly minor work, a game can be resold to the same audience again for more money.

However, in light of the increasing use of standardized platforms like GoG (and to a lesser degree Steam), remastering can be seen in two different, unexpected ways: an invitation toward a renewal of ‘mastery’ and a reflection of the overly ephemeral nature of the industry. While often presented as a restoring of sorts, ‘remastered’ games also present an opportunity to return with new eyes to an older place, a chance for re-exploration and returning. At the same time, the role of remastering and re-releasing of games shows an underlining anxiety about the cost of development and aging demographics of some of the the consumer base: games are being ‘forgotten,’ remembered, and re-sold to an audience eager to buy them.

On the topic of remastering, let’s consider the following question groupings:

  • What is the history of remastering videogames? Can it be considered alongside works like early serialized fiction ‘remastered’ into novels? Does it compare to remastered albums and other audio?
  • Linking to one of the first uses of the word, is a re-released game an invitation to ‘remaster’: to master it again? In what ways does a remastering also entail, for the new or returning developers, its own form of understanding of the game’s original structure and flow? Is there a double-mastery at work here?
  • What of the market anxiety this shows? Has the cost of development for a new intellectual property risen so high that re-packaging older games is more affordable?
  • Finally, what of the archive? Derrida, Foucault and many others would have us examine the power relations behind these actions and how it affects our perception of our own history. Does a re-mastered game conflict with its original? How? Why?


We’ll meet on Skype this Thursday at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30 pm PDT.


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Gaming Session: Minecraft, December 29, 2016


A holiday edition of Minecraft this Thursday: 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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Symposium: Persona 4, December 1, 2016


For the December Symposium, we’re talking about Persona 4. I’d like to understand how it uses a “less is more” (at least compared to traditional video game values) approach to become a game that I found remarkably moving: in particular, how the local scope of the plot gives it strength, and how the story cutscenes somehow work well despite their abbreviated nature.  And, perhaps, also about the effects, pros, and cons of how story choices play out in the game, of the different glimpses they give you into life in Inaba.

Discussion over Skype this Thursday: 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.

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