Finding Hidden Treasures at Work: Simulator Games and Easter Eggs

  Adventure  (1979)

Adventure (1979)

Easter Eggs: What They Boil Down to

Specific gaming developers, franchises, and companies of simulator games, and games in general, are known for their use of Easter Eggs for players to find. An Easter Egg, to clarify, is something unexpected or undocumented in a piece of computer software meant for humor , a message, image, bonus material, etc.. This can be done in a variety of games, not necessarily just simulator games, but adventure, action, RPG, MMOs, puzzles, and more. Games have been doing this since the beginning: Adventure (1979) on the Atari 2600 is given the title of the first game to have an Easter Egg for the player to discover. Today, Easter Games are common within gaming culture and often searched for in order to learn more about lore, narrative, or to gain a further understanding of the game story. Some of the more notorious ones in more recent years are big name game franchises such as Doom, Assassin's Creed, Fallout, Bioshock, GTA, Call of DutyPortal, Zelda, and many more. Easter Eggs in these larger franchise games often appear as jokes, messages, images, references, interesting finds, and will sometimes offer more for the player in terms of lore or narrative. Other notorious games known in the indie gaming community for their Easter Eggs include Five Nights at Freddy's, One Shot, and Undertale

Indie Gaming Easter Egg

Looking at Simulator games as more indie in gaming culture than not, the concept of working a mediocre job or performing a task replicated from the real world leads the player to want more, to have context and narrative for the purpose of the game often times. Instead of simply doing the assigned "job" (i.e. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore), there is a tendency to search for clues, extra content, and simply MORE. Five Nights at Freddy's games do this exceptionally. 

Each game is littered with Easter eggs. Typically the games exhibit the need for the player to find the Easter eggs to learn more about the lore and context of the story. Such as Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, the game has a need for the player to find the hidden content to learn more and proceed in the game. More often than not, the game falls to the player to get the Easter eggs to get the "good" ending where the "souls of the children" are then released or redeemed (if you haven't played the game, spoilers). 

 

(unfinished)

 

 

Cities in Gaming: Smart Cities for Dumb Reasons

Introducing Dumb Cities

Bruce Sterling's article "Stop Saying 'Smart Cities'" in the Atlantic touches on the idea of what constitutes a "smart" city and how that does not contend to these cities being any more affordable or resilient. Urban cities such as London and Rome are mentioned as being considered "smart" cities, but at the same time are common and still remain as "sluggish beasts" with city elements such as horrid lights, sewers, empty buildings, etc. Sterling argues that the future of smart cities won't be cities at all, but the cloud, the internet, and other technological "paste-on gadgetry." 

Cities and Technology Union in Gaming Narratives

  Bioshock Infinite  (2013) the city of Columbia

Bioshock Infinite (2013) the city of Columbia

When looking at how cities and technology are depicted together within video games, the contrasting elements are telling to the context of the story. As place is pertinent, understanding the location, landscape, history, purpose, visual aesthetic, and how technology is interwoven with the environment and cities are important to the narrative. A few brief examples are the post-nuclear cities of Fallout, the aftermath of The Last of Us, the technological space hub city of Mass Effect, the underwater city of Bioshock, and the religiously "pure" city in the sky of Bioshock Infinite

Broken Cities

When broken cities are depicted, and by broken I mean destroyed physically by war, outbreak, or some other force, there is typically some sort of technological innovation or application that almost substitutes itself for the lack of a standing city. Specifically looking at Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Fallout 4, we see this happen and are able to explore decrepit cities, broken buildings, but with technological advancement of our own. In communities being rebuilt, technology is being implemented, energy weapons are being used, and innovation is large. Whereas the actual urban city is gone and replaced with ruins, trash, and the aftermath of a bomb, the large hub cities of the games especially display common elements of what we would consider "smart" cities. More importantly is it to realize that Fallout games base their environment off real towns, cities, and locations. Although they are not "smart" they do depict cities and even copy them such as Las Vegas, Washington DC, theme parks, and create new ones such as cities in skies (blimps), cities out of a baseball field (Fallout 4), cities out of rafts and boats, and cities underground (specifically looking at the Institute in Fallout 4 for this one).

 The Institute main area via  Escapist Magazine

The Institute main area via Escapist Magazine

In the wake of nothing, synthetic technology becomes a large component of cities. In Fallout 4, synths are human robots that can be made to copy a real human, can have feelings and emotions, experiences, and imitate a real human existence and life. Often in the game there are disputes over if someone is a synth or not, as it is difficult to discern newer models from humans. Whereas older models are apparently different from humans, new models are created in near pure resemblance to humans and cause fear, paranoia, and uncertainty among individuals of the commonwealth. 

 Anti-Synth Propaganda via @hiphopmummy Society6

Anti-Synth Propaganda via @hiphopmummy Society6

However, interestingly synths would ideally be perceived within the idea of a Utopian society, many groups of people that you meet are against the idea. Thus, the Institute would be the ideal "smart" city, and yet the very chance of a "smart" city where synths are created can be chosen to be destroyed by the player in the game because of the question of whether or not synths are or are not people. 

SYstematic oppression

 No Gods or Kings. Only Man.  Bioshock  (2007)

No Gods or Kings. Only Man. Bioshock (2007)

Creating a "smart" city allows for government and officials to gather data and have further control in systematic oppression. Everything is connected to everything else. Everyone's information is available for anything. Free for all. In the Bioshock games, specifically looking at Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite, the idea of controlled technologies, controlled substance abuse that gave powers to individuals, was regulated to regulate the individuals. In Bioshock, it became a drug substance commodity that could be controlled by higher powers. In Bioshock Infinite, it was regulated as per the religious quota and military. 

Another implementation of surveillance is in the Big Daddy and Songbird characters. Both serve the purpose of watching and protecting the one(s) they are drugged/programmed to protect. But in protecting them, they are secluding them as well. For example, Songbird is made to protect Elizabeth, who is cut off from the rest of the world and isolated. Her movements, choices, and behavior are watched, collected, studied. The only way she can escape is via her ability to rip open dimensions, essentially creating her own immersive VR. 

Furthermore, the creation of the cities around these ideas and concepts are controlled. The environment is literally enclosed, either in the air or underwater, and controlled via a specific religion, substance, or other ideology. Lives are controlled in these "smart" cities through systematic oppression on a gaming level. 

Perception of narrative: cities and stories

How cities within games, specifically narrative based games, are constructed tells the player a lot about the background, context, history, and placement of the game itself. We are made aware of how technologically advanced, any level of corruption, religious context, political implications, wealth, power structure, discrimination, etc. We are confined or liberated by environments; the way we view characters is changed by environment; how cities are run make us consider how to interact within the gaming narrative. We can learn what happened within that city, why it is the way it is, why the people that live there or don't live there are the way they are. It gives important context, smart or dumb, to the gaming narrative. 

It displays culture. 

 Diamond city  Fallout 4  (2015)

Diamond city Fallout 4 (2015)

Super Gaming and Comic Worlds: Looking at Comic and Gaming Crossovers

 A day in the life of Samus by Zac Gorman in his webcomic  Magical Game Time.

A day in the life of Samus by Zac Gorman in his webcomic Magical Game Time.

The crossover between comics and gaming falls both ways in contextualizing narratives, creating parodies, while also demonstrating various ways of displaying artistic forms of story telling. 

As both in their own context have entered scholarship, looking at this relationship between the two deserves a function of scholarship as they do in separation, isolation from one another. Literature in gaming functions as giving narrative to the artistic art form of gaming culture, and is not done solely through application of comic intervention, but also in terms of providing story context and narrative-based gaming with literary analytics and theory. 

However, comics in gaming culture are also used to provide parody work, specifically on more narrative based games on topics highly considered heavy in content, meaning, and subject matter. The alleviation of emotionally deep content by way of parody or comedic work, and through another artistic platform, works to further the understanding of the narrative within the gaming context. It also provides more to the relationships within the game as they are stressed within the comic sphere in different elements and contexts than the gamer may perceive within the narrative of the game. 

Looking at Parody comics in gaming culture: emotions on blast

A few parody artists such as Tom Gould work with more narrative-deep games and suggest alternative ways of thinking in a more comedic sense on topics that have emotional significance such as death, marginalization, and relationships. While he covers multiple games, one I have spoken about before in this blog in terms of gender fluidity, homosexuality, and integration of these into gaming culture is Life is Strange (check out that blog post with the link to the right).

 "Life is Deranged" parody comic by Tom Gould based off the game  Life is Strange.

"Life is Deranged" parody comic by Tom Gould based off the game Life is Strange.

Tom Gould's parody comic for Life is Strange is called "Life is Deranged" and uses the heavy topics of the game to construct comedic content with spoilers and in-game references that work to both promote artistic license and also provide more narrative-context for the game itself. The audience and gamer, used to the story-based gaming arc, would find Gould's comic rich with insight to the relationships and psyche of our beloved characters. 

Scholarship in Graphic Novels, Comics, and Gaming Culture 

   Become Time  Parody comic based off  Life is Strange  by Tom Gould.

 Become Time Parody comic based off Life is Strange by Tom Gould.

In relationship with graphic novels, the literary content of the work provides an experience to the reader in at once experiencing two art forms in correlation with one another, each feeding and expanding off the other. 

According to the Oxford dictionary, scholarship is defined as "academic study or achievement; learning at a high level." The perception of scholarship often misconstrues how graphic novels are accepted into the academy. However, the lack of scholarship in these areas of both literary and artistic expression does not preserve any level of academic "integrity" but departs from literary freedom and the application of literary theory in terms of analytical inquiry. 

According to the Oxford dictionary, literary criticism is defined as "the art or practice of judging and commenting on the qualities and character of literary works." Defining scholarship in relation to graphic novels and comics allows one to see how scholarship encompasses levels of high academic thinking, and does not negate graphic novels and comics. By defining literary criticism, I hardly need to argue that if literary criticism as defined is applicable to graphic novels and comics (which it is), then the question of scholarly research in these specific genres as being "legitimate" or "valid" is only circumstantial to the individual asking that question. As in - go back to studying Fitzgerald for the umpteenth time. 

Full circle

Comics in gaming and gaming in comics. The interrelationship these two achieve amplifies the narrative impact on the reader/gamer/player by implicating deeper importance on character development. Not only are we given comedic relief from heavy and emotional narrative topics, but the parodies often created also fall into the categorization of "meme." Memes are within scholarship, and often regarded in esteem with a form of communication, expression, and artistic license. Not only is there literary criticism within memes, but in terms with graphic novel and comics and gaming narrative. 

Creatively, the interrelationship of artistic art forms that work to play off one another both complicate and contextualize how the reader/player/gamer perceives the story and gleans more from character development, relationships, and impact. However, this is the beauty of applying other artistic art forms to preexisting art forms, such as comic and gaming crossovers. There is beauty in the deeper implications of reading a parody comic of a heavily emotional game, and how that impacts the reader/player/gamer in terms of becoming part of the narrative, inflicted by the story, and at once part of the game.

 

This One is Angry, but Not Explicitly About Gaming: How Language is Not Solely Perpetuated To Condemn Women in Specific Fields of Study.

This isn't because I am woman. This is because I am human.

This may not specifically be about gaming, but should be applied in everyone's story.


 via De Anza College

via De Anza College

As I have positioned this blog to be around the contextualization of stories in gaming, or the perpetuation of the player as an integral part of the story element in gaming culture, or what have you to interpret the piece of words that I have woven together here to convey an aspect of criticism and insight, this post does not fit. That is not to say that this post is not just as important or conceptual to apply in all areas of our lives, including the gaming sphere and cultural implications of gender/race/class diversity within gaming, but that it is written out of anger at the execution of what language is perceived in producing within spheres of gender orientation.

To contextualize and, rather, clarifying what the hell I am even talking about, there is a misconception about specific language as being feminine or masculine. However, I do not want to imply that languages that connote a specific gender to a word are wrong in any sense; rather, I am addressing words that connote either gendered topics or career paths, sexuality, and other areas of conveyance, as the root of a gendered society. Words are not necessarily the culprit here, but how the words have come to connote anything in particular rather than simply denoting. 

Point?: Looking at "What do Girls Dig?"

Bethany Nowviskie's "What do Girls Dig?" approaches data mining and the gendered field prescribed to that area of expertise. She provides background context as to why she was motivated to consult this topic by the lack thereof women found within the data mining field, specifically in conferences regarding the area. She perpetuates this lack of women in the field to the language of "data" and "mining" being used, as a "brogramming" way of speaking. But what does this mean? She is flippant in her writing and makes fun of the categorized "feminine" activities that would encourage women to take part in DH and data mining, but all the same I have an issue with the end-all of her message: language being used is deterring women.

Well what language, then, would be better? How is "data" and "mining" as less feminine than it is more masculine? I do not understand how women could perceive something such as terminology of "data mining" to be perceived in such a negative way to connote some hardcore statistical area of technological innovation blah. Why is such terminology perpetuated in such a way?

As a woman, though white and privileged in this way, I do not perceive any specific word to condemn my ability or inability to do something because of my gender. Rather, I am able to use any terminology, word, connotation, denotation, I want regardless of how it may be "gendered" within culture. Why are women so ready to perceive specific terms as masculine when they do not connote anything masculine within their terminology or definition?

Rather, I feel that by perpetuating there is a difference in how words are perceived, words that are not specifically sexual, is furthering this misconception of womanhood and women in specific fields of study and intensifying this idea that women have of themselves of not being "good enough" or "qualified" for certain fields.

Do not change the language of a field for me, a woman, just because someone feels this will solve the issue. No. Do not feel inclined to readily adapt more acceptable or widely understood terminology because someone out there thinks that I feel ousted. No. Do not make a special accommodation for me. No. Women of all sexuality, race, class have a right to associate themselves with words of their choosing, and should not be perceived as not relating to terminology simply because of the "difficult" connotations and implications of words like "data" and "mining" are thought to have. No.

Why Am I Angry?

This is why I am angry. By abusing certain words, they begin to associate with certain genders, classes, races, and distinguish those outside specific spheres where the terminology is used. By perpetuating that scientific jargon is specifically masculine oriented is only stigmatizing this already perceived notion explaining that the lack of women in STEM fields is because of the competitive nature of women v. women, or that masculine dominated fields are so dominated because women are not fit. Why feed into this negativity that is only working to hamper women upward and progressive mobility?

Do not perceive that I need any other language used to describe a specific field of study for my benefit. "Data mining" or "text analysis" or "digital humanities" is not sexually provocative, not insulting or demeaning. Why is this being perceived as primarily masculine or difficult? Is it because women are wont to pit themselves against each other, to convey a specific type of competition? Do we impede our own upward mobility? What is it? No man is going to use scientific jargon against me because I will throw my literary criticism and analytical and theoretical jargon right back at him, or her, or them, because that is my area of expertise.

Not because I am a woman.

 
 

Text-Mining in Games: Looking at the Script of Undertale

 
 Visual of ending characters in  Undertale  (2015).

Visual of ending characters in Undertale (2015).

 

Textual Analysis

Understanding the context of Undertale (2015) through text-mining and textual analysis can help us see how certain concepts, themes, and ideas are displayed in correlation with each other and in relation to the story itself. With an understanding of the story, and the interrelation of characters, you can begin to mine for specific words that have deep connotations between one another. 

Below are different data views of the complete dialogue of Undertale and how text-mining can give us insight to analytical application for connoting how certain themes are regarded in relation to other themes, ideas, and concepts.

The Cirrus of the complete script of the game is arranged to display the words most used as larger in text than those used less. Here, it is important to note that while words like it's, like, I'm, just, and you're are prominently displayed, these words are typical in dialogue as conjunctions and prefaces to speaking, while words such as human, time, and love are still prominently displayed but have context within the story as symbolic and important to mention. This is also apparent in relation to specific characters mentioned more than others in dialogue such as Undyne, Alphys, and Papyrus. The prevalence of certain characters over others can be related to what characters are speaking, such as characters other than Undyne, Alphys, and Papyrus are speaking more frequently and story-specific by focusing on other characters in their dialogue than the ones mentioned most often.

 Cirrus of complete dialogue script from the indie game  Undertale  (2015).

Cirrus of complete dialogue script from the indie game Undertale (2015).

Looking at Trends

Above is a trend that displays the word human* in relation to friend* that is significant to what human designates in the game. To give context, seven human children souls were killed and kept to provide power to break the barrier between the Underground and the surface. The player character falls into the Underground, and must navigate to reach the surface once more in a world full of non-human characters. The term human gives context to the player character and the history of human children who have also fallen and died in the Underground. Humans are characterized via their usefulness in death; however, the player character persists and cannot die. By showcasing a different human than those that have come before, the player character becomes symbolic of friendship and hope. Therefore, and as shown above, the correlation between human* and friend* have similar slopes to showcase similar instances of their relation within one another. 

Contextualizing Text

Word Trees and Interconnections

The aspect of human* as a term used, as explained in relation to the trend graph to the left, is shown in depth here as in connection to other terms throughout the script. This word tree connects to specific terms and the sentence to which it is connected, but allows the user to see what themes are associated with human* such as surface, souls, and determination, while also becoming associated with other characters and in sentences referring to me as in the character speaking. Through analyzing the connection of human* to other terms, the player can perceive how that term is used, the purpose of it, how the characters reply or act towards the term, and the context behind the connotations implied. Such as, the purpose of referring to oneself when talking about human* would be a relation-based conversation, where character A is talking about character B in relation to character A. 

Furthermore, as I mention in relation to the above textual mining tools, the context of human* would be best conveyed in terms of the sentence it falls within. Below is a compilation of the term human* within the context of the sentence it is used. The tool below provides what falls to the left of the term and what falls to the left, to see what precedes and proceeds the use of human*. 

 

By understanding how words play as a part of a narrative story within the context of a game leads to further comprehension of the impact it has on both the player and the insinuations of the game. Undertale specifically has a story that involves the player by becoming influenced through the choices made, and becomes specific to the actions on behalf of player interaction. In this way, the player becomes an integral aspect of the game. Script of the game narrative and analyzing the terms within the game can give another element to the core understanding of what the game is trying to tell us about the world it portrays.

Markdown VS. Text: Using a Post on Firewatch to Showcase Markdown Syntax

_table_ _tr_ _td_Foo_%2Ftd_ _%2Ftr__%2Ftable_.png

Below I have included two components of a single post. The first is the markdown syntax of the text, followed by the output text. I use the indie game Firewatch as a platform to showcase both the impact of story telling on players, and the visual difference and clarity between markdown syntax and output text.

Markdown Text

#<center>Story Telling in Indie Games: Using Firewatch to Experience Mutuality with the Player Character</b></center>#

<center>![Firewatch Cover] (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a5/Firewatch_cover.jpg)
                                                                   
 <sub>Firewatch Cover</sub></center>

###<b><big>Context</b></big>

>Set in 1989, the player assumes the role of Henry, a fire watcher, who uncovers a monumental story on his expeditions throughout the forest. The player becomes ultimately aware of Henry's singularity, as you are the only person you see, but do have contact with one other individual: Delilah. Peers within the context of fire watching the same national forest, Delilah becomes the primary point of conversation and contact within the context of the story. Not only are we made aware of Henry's loneliness, but we become prone to his contribution to a relationship forming within the context of the story. This relationship, though only for the purpose of propelling the story and contributing to the growing tension between the purpose of the game and the forefront fear of finding something eerily disturbing, forefronts the reality of Henry's summer job: he is alone. So very alone, in fact, that he never sees Delilah, despite their constant contact with one another over the course of the game.

###<b><big>Story Prevalence</b></big>

>The story contributes to the very purpose of this game. Without the story, the game would be another free roam exploration without purpose and rely primarily on player expedition. The player also becomes aware of this feeling of dread that permeates the story line. We, as individuals outside the reality of the game, start to feel alone and begin relating to Henry as a fictional character. We feel his singularity as a component of the game, and feel pressured into enduring the story while we watch idly as our main character succumbs to a singular relationship with a nonphysical conception of a human named Delilah. Yes, Delilah is a real person in terms of the game-verse, but Henry, nor the player, is shown her physicality. This only promotes the encroachment of Henry's singularity and loneliness as we proceed with the plot.

###<b><big>Experiencing Emotion with the Player Character</b></big>

<center>![Brian Goodwin] (https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/fire-watch/images/b/b5/450px-BrianGoodwin.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/220?cb=20160314010458)</center><center> <sub>Brian Goodwin</sub></center>

>The player is acutely aware of the uneasiness within the game, as I touch briefly on prior. But we are not sure <i>why</i> we feel this way. What is uneasy within the context of the game to promote uninterpreted fear? As story-based games are not commonly played or widely spread within popular gaming culture, versus AAA games and MMO, action misadventures, the perception that a game is completely safe for the player character comes across as uneasy. We are aware of this as the player, and feel that a component of our experience is missing. This is the nature of story-based and narrative games. However, this feeling also contributes to the necessity to play the game, and reach a conclusive ending. We become obsessive with the game's message.

>Within <i>Firewatch</i>, the player experiences this feeling of uneasiness that seems to permeate the purpose of our interaction with the game. As the story unfolds, we are informed of an incident involving a young boy, Brian, who was the lookout for his father, Ned, a classified alcoholic. As the player, up to this point, has been made routinely aware of missing persons (such as the teenage girls gone missing prior to the boy Brian), we become uncertain of the circumstances we are walking into. The player becomes a component of the game, feeling the anxiety Henry is supposed to feel, becoming the physical for the digital world. We are instructed by Delilah to search for Brian, and upon entering the cave are suddenly locked in by an individual never showed or named. The conception of fear played within this part of the story stifles the beauty of the game for a moment and, instead, stirs up perceptions of reality that consummate this climatic moment. We are responsive to the context of the story, and have become impacted by the game. Understanding the severity of the situation, anxiety swells within the player as the story unfolds to Henry discovering the mummified body of Brian in the location he once used to hide from his father. 

###<b><big>Why are We Impacted?</b></big>

>We are not directly impacted by this image and message of the game, but begin to realize that the aspect of loneliness that once permeated our interpretation of <i>Firewatch</i> was now replaced with the body of a dead boy. Not only this, but the end of the story is left with the need to escape a forest fire and saying goodbye to Delilah over the radio rather than in person. However, the credit do provide insight to the life of Brian before his death, and Henry, the player character. Now only does this provide more context to the story, but embeds emotional impact into the experience of the player.

>From being alone and accepting this with persistent conversation between Delilah and Henry, the player succumbs to the impact of the story. Yes, we are meant to experience the beauty of the scenery, and the expedition of being a fire watcher, but are ultimately saddened at the disheartening <i>goodbye</i> between Delilah and Henry as the final tick in separation anxiety and cabin fever. The realization that the only only figure we see within the story is the body of Brian gives context to the purpose of the game: the story exists for us to <i>live</i> it rather than <i>play</i> it.

<center>![Typewriter] (https://d1u5p3l4wpay3k.cloudfront.net/firewatch_gamepedia/thumb/5/53/Typewriter.jpg/534px-Typewriter.jpg?version=4067b4d1d4425e830d6e7d064369ee5e)<sub>  
 Henry's Typewriter</sub></center>
 

Output Text

Story Telling in Indie Games: Using Firewatch to Experience Mutuality with the Player Character

Firewatch Cover
Firewatch Cover

Context

Set in 1989, the player assumes the role of Henry, a fire watcher, who uncovers a monumental story on his expeditions throughout the forest. The player becomes ultimately aware of Henry's singularity, as you are the only person you see, but do have contact with one other individual: Delilah. Peers within the context of fire watching the same national forest, Delilah becomes the primary point of conversation and contact within the context of the story. Not only are we made aware of Henry's loneliness, but we become prone to his contribution to a relationship forming within the context of the story. This relationship, though only for the purpose of propelling the story and contributing to the growing tension between the purpose of the game and the forefront fear of finding something eerily disturbing, forefronts the reality of Henry's summer job: he is alone. So very alone, in fact, that he never sees Delilah, despite their constant contact with one another over the course of the game.

Story Prevalence

The story contributes to the very purpose of this game. Without the story, the game would be another free roam exploration without purpose and rely primarily on player expedition. The player also becomes aware of this feeling of dread that permeates the story line. We, as individuals outside the reality of the game, start to feel alone and begin relating to Henry as a fictional character. We feel his singularity as a component of the game, and feel pressured into enduring the story while we watch idly as our main character succumbs to a singular relationship with a nonphysical conception of a human named Delilah. Yes, Delilah is a real person in terms of the game-verse, but Henry, nor the player, is shown her physicality. This only promotes the encroachment of Henry's singularity and loneliness as we proceed with the plot.

Experiencing Emotion with the Player Character

Brian Goodwin
Brian Goodwin

The player is acutely aware of the uneasiness within the game, as I touch briefly on prior. But we are not sure why we feel this way. What is uneasy within the context of the game to promote uninterpreted fear? As story-based games are not commonly played or widely spread within popular gaming culture, versus AAA games and MMO, action misadventures, the perception that a game is completely safe for the player character comes across as uneasy. We are aware of this as the player, and feel that a component of our experience is missing. This is the nature of story-based and narrative games. However, this feeling also contributes to the necessity to play the game, and reach a conclusive ending. We become obsessive with the game's message.

Within Firewatch, the player experiences this feeling of uneasiness that seems to permeate the purpose of our interaction with the game. As the story unfolds, we are informed of an incident involving a young boy, Brian, who was the lookout for his father, Ned, a classified alcoholic. As the player, up to this point, has been made routinely aware of missing persons (such as the teenage girls gone missing prior to the boy Brian), we become uncertain of the circumstances we are walking into. The player becomes a component of the game, feeling the anxiety Henry is supposed to feel, becoming the physical for the digital world. We are instructed by Delilah to search for Brian, and upon entering the cave are suddenly locked in by an individual never showed or named. The conception of fear played within this part of the story stifles the beauty of the game for a moment and, instead, stirs up perceptions of reality that consummate this climatic moment. We are responsive to the context of the story, and have become impacted by the game. Understanding the severity of the situation, anxiety swells within the player as the story unfolds to Henry discovering the mummified body of Brian in the location he once used to hide from his father.

Why are We Impacted?

We are not directly impacted by this image and message of the game, but begin to realize that the aspect of loneliness that once permeated our interpretation of Firewatch was now replaced with the body of a dead boy. Not only this, but the end of the story is left with the need to escape a forest fire and saying goodbye to Delilah over the radio rather than in person. However, the credit do provide insight to the life of Brian before his death, and Henry, the player character. Now only does this provide more context to the story, but embeds emotional impact into the experience of the player.

From being alone and accepting this with persistent conversation between Delilah and Henry, the player succumbs to the impact of the story. Yes, we are meant to experience the beauty of the scenery, and the expedition of being a fire watcher, but are ultimately saddened at the disheartening goodbye between Delilah and Henry as the final tick in separation anxiety and cabin fever. The realization that the only only figure we see within the story is the body of Brian gives context to the purpose of the game: the story exists for us to live it rather than play it.

Typewriter
Henry's Typewriter

Sci-Fi, Socio-Political, Gaming Culture, and Radicalism: Zines as Self-Publications

 
 via Disney Wiki.   Zenon and Nebula

via Disney Wiki.

Zenon and Nebula

 

Zines: Topics of Sci-Fi and Punk Rock

The integration of zines into popular culture can be dated back to the 1930's when The Comet first debuted. Early on, the zine was common to sci-fi topics and fanfic, especially into the 40's and in the wake of WWII. However, as the popular publications grew into the 70's and 80's, punk rock discourse became a prevalent publisher of zines. It was a means to self-publish and circulate information, ideas, taboo topics, and reform. Zines on punk culture, music, and focusing on punk masculinity were prevalent within the early stages of punk rock culture, but were then combated with zines like Riot Grrrl  in the 90's that specialized in addressing ideals of femininity and responding to the prior male dominated punk world of the 80's. Riot Grrrl became a stable of feminist zines, and attributed raw and taboo materials as their content. 

Digitization of zines and going backwards

In the 70's, new technological innovations were contributing to the digitization of many industries, including mass producing zines. The move was mimeographs, as was used prior, to printers with the ability to print large quantities of product at a lower cost were beneficial for the low cost of zines, both in circulation and being made. The ability to print more zines than before aided in the distribution of zines, where culture statements, movements, fanzines, and radical ideas were more readily available. 

As the integration of the internet became a prevalent contributor to culture at large, so did the ability to create zines digitally and sell them online, self-publish online, and create to print out physical copies. Many zines are still made on digital platforms, but fewer and fewer are using digital means to create their publications. While many zines use their own webpage or shop to promote and/or sell their zines, there is a revert back to physical publications over digitized ones. Why?

Zines and gaming culture

Gaming culture has been an influence on zine creation as a topic of interest for publication. As a community, gaming contributes to both fan specific publications as well as technical or more socio-political zines. The Indie G Zine is a zine focused on, specifically, indie gaming, while other zines focus on other genres, specific games, topics in games, and conversations within the community, such as dungeon crawlers in the zine Crawljammer. Game specific zines focus on, typically, cult-status or story-based games, such as Earthbound in the zine Psychokinetic.

Topics surrounding gaming culture and the community within are also addressed in zine publications. Rise of the Videogame Zinesters focuses on a collection of essays-made-zines on gaming, while zines that focus on a specific group of gaming individuals such as Letters from Incarcerated Gamers and Why FIGHT! (women in games and comics) are widely circulated. 

While specifics of gaming culture are often rooted within zine publications on the topic, fanzines do not stop at Doctor Who and sci-fi fantasies. Rather, video game spoofs, fanfiction, and interpretations of games are also covered and published as zines. Due to the self-publishing context of the zine, individuals can create and publish on topics of their interest without condemning constrictions and feedback that may impede on other modes of publication.

The importance of zines within gaming culture does not stop at the contribution to the community and the continuity of representation of gaming culture as a whole, but promotes and fuels the attribution of stories to the gaming sphere. Zines create a platform where individuals can create and circulate not only topics of academic or socio-political platforms and discussion, but also interpreting stories, creating spoofs and fanfiction (as I mention prior), and contributing to the storytelling element of gaming culture. As the story is a major component of gaming genres such as RPGs and indie games, the ability to add to this community and base line of stories creates a larger conversation of what is being told in gaming culture, what are the games doing in terms of interaction with the player, and the implications of using story as the primary driving component in gaming.

Against the norm

Zines have always been used either to promote ideas shared by a small group, to contribute a sense of community, or relate radical and taboo ideas. Zines were made as a way to self-publish, either cheaply or completely free, and without the constraints of typical publications such as magazines and periodicals. No one was constricting what could be done, created, published on this platform.

However, as the world of digitization has come and, with it, brought new ways to promote and sell zine publications, there is still this animosity towards the digital version over the physical zine. This is telling to the point of the zine, as a means to go against the status quo, and circulate self-published work with information pertaining to any particular topic. Often they were an act of resistance, contributing to a conversation that was not being had or being made aware of, but should be. The physicality of the zines was important to their circulation, and the prospects of drawing on an actual piece of paper to create the zine was, and still is today, used as a common mode of publication.

The aversion to complete digitization of the zine, and the revert back to the physical, speaks on the modes in which, culturally, and as humans, we value things we can touch and feel. Something on a digital platform has no weight to us: we can not feel it, hold it, flip through the pages, smell them, and appreciate the publication in front of us. Instead, zines become flattened to digital realms and lose a bit of their original purpose.

Why are zine publications reverting back to physical copies in other contexts? Why would this be an important attribute of the zine making and reading community? And can we, as humans, value something digital like we do the physical?

Femdie: Women of Diversity as Represented in Gaming Culture

Digital Humanities has the opportunity to propel a diverse conversation in gender, race, and class studies that would include both social and theoretical levels of intersectionality. Digital Humanities as a discourse, itself, is argued by Claire Potter in her article "Putting the Humanities in Action: Why We Are All Digital Humanists, and Why That Needs to Be a Feminist Project" to be synonymous to the histories of media that are "intertwined" with gender, race, class, and therefore require feminism as part of that discourse. The digital sphere is not without sexism, racism, and classism, but we can begin to interpret how integrating women, women of color, women of color from poor backgrounds, can be represented in a digital platform. 

Realistically, gaming culture would replicate that which it attracts - that is, a vast diversity of individuals from all backgrounds of gender, race, and class. However, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, the gaming industry is not representing diversity. When women of color, for example, are characters in a game, they typically fall into the trope of headstrong black-womanhood that was perpetuated as a stigma of black women after slavery was abolished. They often die out, are never seen to complete their mission, and often are portrayed either as complex or negatively. If they are not represented in this light, then they are perpetuated as sexual fantasy. While this is common for women of all colors in video games, black women, or women of color, are further exploited in this area for their "exotic" nature and the institutionalized racial stigma that black women are "Jezebels" to further purify the sanctity of white womanhood. 

 via rockpapershotgun.com  Daisy Fitzroy: Radical activist in  Bioshock Infinite . Her character dies in trying to fight for equality.&nbsp;She is in opposition to the hierarchy scene within the game, and expresses dissatisfaction in the main character until you aid in her cause. However, the perpetuation of her in black womanhood diverts the player away from her character and cause and fixates on her causation of chaos within the game. In her death, she is idolized as a martyr.

via rockpapershotgun.com

Daisy Fitzroy: Radical activist in Bioshock Infinite. Her character dies in trying to fight for equality. She is in opposition to the hierarchy scene within the game, and expresses dissatisfaction in the main character until you aid in her cause. However, the perpetuation of her in black womanhood diverts the player away from her character and cause and fixates on her causation of chaos within the game. In her death, she is idolized as a martyr.

 via wikia.net  Sheva: main character from  Resident Evil V &nbsp;as represented in one of her DLC "costumes." While her main outfit is not as exposing of her body, the adaptation of her "costumes" to develop her character further away from a practical standpoint to one of exploitation. It is important to note that her sexuality is further dependent on the Africana statement of her clothing, to designate her as a black woman.&nbsp;

via wikia.net

Sheva: main character from Resident Evil V as represented in one of her DLC "costumes." While her main outfit is not as exposing of her body, the adaptation of her "costumes" to develop her character further away from a practical standpoint to one of exploitation. It is important to note that her sexuality is further dependent on the Africana statement of her clothing, to designate her as a black woman. 


 via Nintendo   Dandara  is an indie game with a black woman as the main protagonist. The premise of the game is set in an oppressed world by supernatural beings, and Dandara is awoken with mystical empowerment to stop them. Her character is both representative of freedom and power, and creates a creative representation of black womanhood in an oppressed world.

via Nintendo

Dandara is an indie game with a black woman as the main protagonist. The premise of the game is set in an oppressed world by supernatural beings, and Dandara is awoken with mystical empowerment to stop them. Her character is both representative of freedom and power, and creates a creative representation of black womanhood in an oppressed world.

Although the portrayal of black women in video games typically play into perpetuated stereotypes by white supremacy, the indie game industry is an area of game culture that has the opportunity to portray not only appropriate diversity, but convey characters that represent and identify with a wider audience, and take away from perpetuating false pretenses. While indie gaming still has far to go in this manner, few companies are starting to introduce a colorful attribute to their discourse. As indie gaming is typically off-beat, the mode to introduce and means to convey a different representation of gender, race, and class is available through gaming experimentation. Significantly, the importance of story within indie games is a strong platform for diversity to flourish and become widely and accurately represented.

Rainbow Gaming Culture: Representation of Sexuality in Story Based Games

With the evolution of gaming, the implementation of different stories, cultural adaptations, and respect to a variety of individuals has woven its way into mainstream video game culture. Tara McPherson speaks on an identification of Digital Humanities being so white. In her article "Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation", she points out the split between both fragments of a historical time period where both racial and digital attention were storming:

Not surprisingly, these two fragments typically stand apart in parallel tracks, attracting interest and attention of very different audiences located in the deeply siloed departments that categorize our universities.

But why?
— McPherson

She goes on to suggest that "these two moments are interdependent. In fact, they coconstitue one another, compromising not independent slices of history but instead related lenses into the shifting epistemological registers driving U.S. and global culture in the 1960's and after" (McPherson).

Stemming off of this proposition in retrospect to the racial and digital climate that took place in the 1960's, and beyond, I suggest that the same is happening now in terms of video game culture. However, it is important to note that the way in which she is qualifying her question of why is by looking at the code of operating systems (UNIEX) that were booming alongside multicultural awareness and movements of the 1960's. Reading the code, and looking at its components, as something made by people in a time of socio-political difference, conveys an analogy between two aspects of historical significance. 

As I look at the story elements of indie games, such necessarily the code, I am proposing that a similar interaction is occurring if we were to take the script from these games, of which are heavily laced within story-based, role-playing, and interactive genres, and analyzing what is being said about today's socio-political issues.

 Life is Strange (2015)

Life is Strange (2015)

 Gone Home (2013)

Gone Home (2013)

The above images are from two separate games that touch on the topic of homosexuality and the hardship of specifically hidden homosexuality.

Life is Strange focuses on the special relationship between two individuals, Chloe and Max, and how Max must come to rescue Chloe or destroy her town. The implications of this game demonstrate the trifle of homosexual acceptance in a harsh society, depicted by her hometown, and that one cannot survive with the other. The player must then choose the ending of the game. By putting the player in the position of choosing one over the other, not only are you faced with a one-against-the-many situation of ethics, but put into a situation of not being accepted by society, admitting your friend is not accepted, and was never meant to live to this point in the game. 

Gone Home, while featuring hidden homosexuality, does so in a first-person exploration game that is propelled by notes written by your sister as you transverse your old childhood home. As you wonder the house, you become aware something is bothering your sister, and you are forced to come to understand the situation your sister experienced while you were away: your sister discovering she identified as a homosexual after she, herself, experienced an intimate relationship with a special friend. The game leads you to believe that your sister could not dwell knowing her own sexuality in a world that pushed against that identity, and was afraid of the consideration of others after discovering herself. The end of the game leads you to the attic, where you are expected to find your sister having committed suicide, as the game lends to this idea through depressing notes, story, and the convoluted way you are led, finally, to the attic, the last part of the house you have not explored and could not explore until you discover the key to open the hatch with your sister's help. However, instead of your sister, you find another note. You find where your sister had been sleeping and hiding. You find that your sister got away and was alive and able to identify with herself. 

Although on the topic of sexuality rather than race, the implications of cultural issues mixing with digital worlds and gaming culture speaks to the integration of race in history, culture, and reality into the Black Humanities. What is occurring now, and the implications of both booming (cultural acceptance and indie game integration of social topics pressed through a story lens), although not in terms of analyzing code but in analyzing script and story content (both necessarily a language) and  is in some ways mirroring the 1960's movements and digital integrations. 

The application of this way of thinking, of looking at digital platforms and script to learn more about awareness and putting those on the outside into the shoes of those experiencing these tribulations, gives indie gaming another venue of experience and purpose that integrates the importance of storytelling elements for purposes outside of video game culture.

ARt: The Possibilities of AR in Indie Gaming Storytelling

Influenced by Spook Country by William Gibson and what spook country means: a place we are learning to live.


virtual_reality_irl.jpg

The Story becomes interpersonal.

It comes part of the physicality of the player.

Augmented and Virtual Reality gaming has become a staple for gaming companies to integrate into their distribution of games. That means VR/AR modes, updates that add VR/AR capabilities to already widely distributed games, and the application of mashup gaming categories such as indie (independent) gaming with VR/AR integrations. A major aspect of indie gaming is the storytelling element that propels simplistic gaming activity, used as the hook for gamers, and often implemented in ways that create a connection between player and character. This sense of attachment and contribution to the story creates an engrossed measure of enjoyment and fulfillment from playing the game. What if that feeling often obtained by indie games was pushed through a VR/AR experience? Instead of witnessing the story unfold from a perspective that must transfer through a screen first, the story becomes interpersonal to the very physicality of the player.

This concept of learning in a place where we have found ourselves speaks to the concept of stepping into AR/VR: we must learn again, and that augmented or virtual reality is not what we have been predisposed to learn or experience. It comes and shapes our world differently, or completely lifts and shifts and tosses our conception of the outside as perceived by our sole perception, as ourselves, of the world. 


Below is a Locative Media in Art focused Pecha Kucha. The topics covered range from Locative Media as we know it today to how location based mediums are used to create art, games, and have become implemented in the use of AR. Enjoy.