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.

Video Games and the Poverty of Poverty

Money is pretty much universal in video games. You need money to buy various things, like swords and armor and potions. But the existence of money – and how it is acquired – reinforces social concepts about what it means to have money, and those concepts stand in need of closer examination.

The Balancing Act

The task of balancing a game is something that can feel easy in the abstract. Just make sure that there’s nothing that’s “too strong” or “too weak.” But in this essay I will explore how the abstractness of balancing hides an incredible number of smaller factors that make the process of balancing quite difficult, which means we should expect failure more often than success.

Moral Choices: On Forgiveness

If a character in a game was evil, but then joins the good guys, when do you forgive them? This question may seem difficult, but it’s a question that is rarely – if ever – posed through a game’s narrative. But by stepping back and thinking more carefully about what it means to “forgive” we can see how these narratives ignore the problem and how we might better incorporate these questions into video games.

Oops, You Missed Something!

It can feel aggravating to go through a game and find out that there’s something you missed, and that you can’t go back and get it. And yet, it can also feel aggravating to spend hours searching and re-searching areas just to make sure you haven’t missed anything. So how might we reach some kind of middle ground that can protect our sense of exploration while preventing us from missing content we want to find?