“You Have to Play to Understand”

Does it matter if you play a game for yourself, versus watching someone else play it? The question lies at the heart of a lot of disagreements about video games, and is an important topic to tackle. In this essay I will provide some insights into how we can distinguish when the idea that you have to play a game to understand it does – and does not – hold true.

Games and Manipulation: Monetization and Ethics

Final Part of a three part essay. What does it mean to “manipulate” someone, and why is it wrong? How does that manipulation show up in video games and monetization practices? In this essay I’ll explore the ethics of manipulation and how certain forms of monetization veer into this manipulation by trying to trick players into paying.

Games and Manipulation: The Economics of Games

Part Two of a three part essay. How much do games cost to make? What are the basic economic pressures of game development? In this essay I examine the basic role of money in game development, and how that money impacts the games that get made and the ways that various people attempt to make money from those games.

Games and Manipulation: The Problem of “Value”

Part One of a three part essay. When we think about how much we pay for a game or a piece of content, what is the “value” of that content? Is it ultimately worth it? I use this essay to dive into some psychological research on how we spend money and value things to suggest we aren’t as good at determining whether something is “worth it” as we may think we are.

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.