When we experience narratives in games, we tend to experience them alone. We can share that solitary experience with others, but the original process of engaging with the story is something we do on our own. But what happens to the narrative as a concept when a game requires us to collaborate with others to construct the story?
Stories have a wonderful ability to allow us to explore complex moral topics without needing to engage in the direct harms that happen in those stories. Using the game Blasphemous, I wanted to explore the concept of guilt and how guilt figures into being a moral person according to the game’s themes.
Video games demand that we keep going and continually work to overcome the hurdles that confront us…but is that always a good thing? Using the game Undertale, I look at the theme of determination, and how the game portrays determination as a way of exploring the value of sticking to your goals and seeing them through.
What does it mean to look at someone else as an enemy, and to kill them in a game? It’s an action that we undertake all the time, and yet to what extent is our character “in the right”? In looking at the themes of the video game NieR, we can see how a problem of perspective in everyday life gets explored through video games.
What does it mean for a theme to be “played out”? When is a game’s story boring because it’s just rehashing a theme we’re all familiar with? In this essay I explore two radically different stories – Aeschylus’s Oresteia and The Last of Us Part II – to talk about the theme of revenge, and some problems of media criticism.
You are fated to play a game called Pathologic 2, and then to come back and read this essay. You cannot escape this fate.
A final essay on the themes of the Dark Souls games. In this one I look at Dark Souls III, and the problem of stagnation. What does the ending of the series mean not just for us as players, but for the developers themselves?
When games give us various objectives, how does that impact our relationship to the game? I explore the theming of Dark Souls II to examine how it raises an important set of questions about us as the player when we play: what are we doing, and why are we doing it?
This essay will look at the thematic structure of Dark Souls through the lens of “perseverance.” What does it mean to persevere, and should we do it? I will be looking at the various components of the game to illustrate how they all work together to pose a serious question to the player: is it worth it to keep going?
Themes in video games are something we tend to talk less about, although almost all games explore some theme in one way or another. As a way of encouraging more direct investigation, I focus on a particular game – Outer Wilds – and explore the theme of loneliness as presented through its various elements.