Being Underpowered

Being underpowered in a video game is a strange problem. On the one hand, it provides an extra challenge for those who want it. On the other hand, it can be annoying if you don’t know you’re underpowered. In this essay I explore how games both can and need to carefully communicate these concepts to players so that they can better choose how they play.

On Storytelling: Conspiracies

Conspiracies are a fairly common tool to come across in stories. They help build a sense of intrigue and drama in otherwise cut and dry narratives. But conspiracies as a tool for writing are subject to a lot of problems that we normally don’t think about. In this essay I explore how conspiracies work as a way to examine good and bad practices for using conspiracies in storytelling.

Rose-Tinted Glasses

We all have games that are old favorites. The games we grew up with. But how do we look back on those games? How are we supposed to engage in criticism of those games, given both the age of the game and what the game itself means to us? This essay explores some concepts of criticism as they relate specifically to older games, and how problems of nostalgia can impact our ability to discuss these games.

Video Games, Marketing, and Manipulation

This past week Ubisoft announced that it was going to leap into the NFT craze with its new “Quartz” program. In this essay I explore what this announcement means, why Ubisoft is doing this, and how the program fits into some broader tactics of manipulation in marketing targeted to separate players from their money.

Villainy and the System

In video games, evil is generally represented by a specific villain. We focus what is wrong with the world on a “final boss” that simply needs to be defeated by the hero. But this focus on villains means we miss the impact of systems on our lives. What would it mean, then, for evil to be represented through systems in video games, rather than through a mere villain?

Difficulty and Legitimate Play

In talking about games, especially difficult games, we can run into the concept of “legitimate play.” This is the idea that only specific types of interactions with games are valid, and any experience that does not fit within those interactions can be disregarded or ridiculed. But in this essay I want to examine in more detail why this concept is wrong, and how we should be more careful in distinguishing what we mean by “the right way” to play games.