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Latest Topics

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"This is The Police" and the Banality of Evil

"This is the Police" was a top down simulation game, in the vein of Sim City where, you play as a police chief. It happened to be released during the rise of Black Lives Matter and Gamergate, but went out of its way to say it was "not a political game but a human one", or at least that is what the developers claimed.

This is the Police, as game has a fail state, you have to make certain decisions or the game will end. In the case of your player character you are fired or killed for making decisions that could or would be read as moral, for example, not firing certain officers for their race or investigating crimes that mafia members don’t want you to.

Hannah Arendt, wrote of Eichmann, how he wasn’t amoral, wasn’t a monster, and instead of how ordinary he was. How his motivation to send millions to their death wasn’t motivated by sadism but shallowness and carelessness. He didn’t think of the consequences of those actions.

Within the narrative of This is the Police, the player is faced with various situations were their own morality may come into conflict with the story. And that should be examined as even if the game is "not political" it does reflect a volatile political situation.

Why are you as a player character rewarded for being corrupt? Examinations of police corruption merit discussion but the game seems more than comfortable in presenting the idea of corruption without inspecting it. It’s the nature of the system and as such is immutable.

This gives room for analysis of the actions the game forces you to take, why are those the only possible actions, why were some scenarios added and why not others? Moreover, what does it say about this "human game" as per the developers and its commentary on the nature of humans?

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    Fire Emblem and the "Justifiable Conquest"

    Fire Emblem, a pre-eminent franchise in the strategy RPG genre, has long worn its tropes. The rightful ruler in exile, fighting an evil empire with a color cast of allies and in the end bringing justice, order, and balance back to the world.

    Within the franchise however there have been times, were the player, knowingly or not has played less of a liberator, and more as conqueror in their own right. Notable examples of this are in Fire Emblem Gaiden and it’s remake Shadows of Valencia where the male protagonist Alm, settles the entire continent as its Emperor.
    Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest also sees the player character, Corrin, take the role of conqueror, at the behest of the Evil King/Slime Demon Garon. Throughout the story the player is constantly exposed to the truly villainous nature of the Nohrian conquest but at no point is their an option to rebel and the ending resolves with Hoshido, a now conquered land acquiescent to the new high king on the promise that relations will now be warmer.

    A key flaw in the narratives is the player’s agency is completely absent. To win you must conquer and while some justification are offered, it could be argued that they’re insufficient compared to the players actions. You conquer because that is the objective of the game, the impact of that on the people is immaterial, inconsequential and that’s an extremely interesting writing decision.

    Is there a such thing as a justifiable conquest?

    • Agree with first person; interesting topic; the only thing I would do is keep all wording in 3rd person. Take out you so the writer can remain objective in their writing. – Montayj79 6 months ago
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    • I would love to see someone discuss Fire Emblem: Three Houses as well. – Sean Gadus 5 months ago
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    How Arcane Changed the Game

    Video game adaptations have been in a slow but steady trend. It’s produced under a variety of important factors such as storyline and fanbase that can make or break the adaptation. League of Legends’ Arcane, produced by Netflix, not only succeeds the expectations of longtime LoL and Runeterra fans but also captivates the interests of the non-gaming audience. Its release reignited both adaptations and animated media into what video game lore can achieve.

    Analyze the thematic aspects of Arcane that contributed to its engagement and how it relates to the lore of Runeterra, especially since LoL is not an action-adventure game. Take into consideration that Riot Games also has a history of well-made cinematics for promotion of game updates, events, etc.

    You can also explore the relevance (and perhaps, risk) of the fanbase in adapting Arcane. Riot Games is known for its heavy fanservice and focus on its community. Is Arcane a gift to the LoL fans? And of course, how has Arcane effectively introduced LoL to a new market? Has it affected the toxic reputation of the game, or has it enticed new players to join?

    • Castlevania is the other great video game adaption, but both Arcane and Castlevania debuted on Netflix. – Sean Gadus 11 months ago
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    Is Depression An Over-Explored Concept In Indie Games?

    It’s literally become a meme at this point; top text saying "oh this indie RPG uses pixel art and is really an allegory for depression-", accompanied with a gif or short video of somebody leaving a room or closing a door. It’s certainly not an idea that spawned from nowhere; LISA The Painful, OMORI, Yume Nikki, Celeste, just to name a few, all have strong themes of depression or mental anguish of some sort as their main focus. And there seems to be a consensus amongst some gamers that it’s beginning to become unoriginal. Just two days ago my recommendation of LISA was shot down by a close gaming buddy, on the grounds that it’s "just another indie game about depression". But is this negative reputation deserved? Are these games just treading old ground, or do they still have more to say about mental health, a topic that is becoming all the more relevant in an age dedicated to squashing the stigma? And even if they don’t, do they still have value in our modern gaming landscape?

    • I would argue that there are so many indie games, with such diverse such matter, that the amount of games listed above would not rise to the level of "over-explored". – Sean Gadus 9 months ago
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    • I've seen memes about 'indie pixel rpgs about depression/mental illness' myself, and personally I think it's an overstated connection. Yes, there are a number of indie games about mental illness, but I've seen a few comments making this statement about games that don't really fit these categories. After all, even the meme you mentioned doesn't apply to all your examples (Celeste is pixel art, but not an rpg). Also, while there are a number of games about depression and mental illness, they are not the only well-tread topic in indie games. – AnnieEM 9 months ago
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    • In an interesting parallel, I find that many Twitch streamers are tagging their streams with "anxiety", "depression" and other words associated with mental health. While this *could* be seen as trying to capitalize on the stigma, or to be "edgy", I feel that this possibly means that consumers are looking to have honest conversations surrounding these topics and are seeking safe spaces. I think that the past few years have really pushed the need for this initiative. In response to this, I feel that indie game developers want to produce and share their own versions of lived experiences with these conditions, in order to further encourage the dialogue. This is most likely much easier to accomplish in the indie scene, for sure. That could be wishful thinking, but regardless, I feel that indie games with these themes haven't unbearably oversaturated the market yet. – MadamNarwhal 7 months ago
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    The Love of Farming Games

    With most games filled with action and strong storylines, popular video games such as Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley have created a large fanbase for games highlighting slow living and farm life. What is the appeal to these types of games compared to action-packed games such as Grand Theft Auto? Is the audience different?

    • I think the audience is very markedly different but at the same time, that extends itself to a critique of the term gamer. Isn't someone who plays AC for 500 hours a hardcore gamer? In the popular conscious games like AC and Stardew, can be massive time sinks but are rarely viewed in the same ways as games like Doom, COD, and other games that are more readily seen as hardcore gamer games. Look at the motivations and understanding of the audiences of the genres could be interesting. – SunnyAgo 6 months ago
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    Do Gamers Today Complain Too Much?

    Analyze how gamers today condemn and criticize games solely based on limited information and trailers. Specifically prior to the launch of some of the most critically acclaimed games of this year Horizon: Forbidden West and Elden Ring gamers criticized reused animations and lackluster gameplay elements before getting their hands on them. This trend has been increasing over the years with developers being bombarded by complaints and criticism for rather minor transgressions in otherwise fantastic games.

    • Something worth noting about modern criticism is that outlets like Facebook and Twitter make it easier to track public opinion. Similarly before YouTube decided to hide the down vote button it was also a good source of public opinion. I think what is more likely going on is getting peoples opinions is easier, then say twenty years ago. Not only that but game reviewers often have to/will put out day one reviews with out properly analyzing the game, and may overly focus on one negative aspect of a game. Or they may intentionally misrepresent some aspects to try and make their review more entertaining. Tim Rogers in his review of Kingdom Hearts 3 admitted to being intentionally negative about some aspects when he reviewed Kingdom hearts 2 many years ago. And he simply did it to just to get more clicks on his review. (This led to fan backlash towards him and calling him out for his poorly constructed review of Kingdom hearts 2.) I would like to point out games like Cyber Punk 2077, Skyrim, and Battle Field 2042 also launched in unplayable states with frequent crashes. So, are gamer's complaints completely unwarranted or justified. ( I know you were focusing on Elden Ring and Horizon, but I think this is an interesting topic and can lead to many interesting discussions about the discourse surrounding video game critics.) – Blackcat130 8 months ago
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    • I think an interesting avenue to explore in this topic would be the nature of fandoms, the ever-increasing expectations for the next blockbuster game to blow people away (resulting in gamers critiquing and nitpicking small details such as reused animations). Fandoms have a tendency to breed extremely passionate people who will both go at ends to protect their respective franchise, or criticize aspects and expect to be completely shocked by the next entry of an artist's work, as they have been before. When gamers criticized Elden Ring for example, their judgment could have stemmed from their initial experience of game creator Miyazaki's games such as Dark Souls 1 to 3, where the same animations are used, but are part of that game and therefore part of that gamer's experience. When they notice these returning aspects, they automatically assume laziness and cop-out to try and 'impress' the player with things they have already seen and done, when those are but small features. A negative comment will always seem louder and leave a bigger impression than a positive one. – AlGrater 8 months ago
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    Assassin’s Creed and Feminine Freedom

    As the Assassin’s Creed franchise continues to grow and explore more of the world, so too has its options for players expanded… Sort of.
    More recent assassin’s creed games have allowed players to choose which gender they want their player character to be; such as choosing between Kassandra and Alexios in Odyssey, or choosing how they want Eivor to present in Valhalla. These characters’ stories, however, are frequently defined by their womanhood and their importance severely limited by production decisions.

    For example, Kassandra has a male lover and a child in the ‘canon’ of Odyssey (Legacy of the First Blade), no matter if the player turns down male lovers and plays her as a solely sapphic character. In Valhalla, there are certain times during the game where a female Eivor will be presented as male. In earlier games, the female playable characters received even less recognition; Evie is only playable for ~30% of Syndicate, and Elise was initially designed to be a playable character in Unity, but that was scrapped by Paris Editorial.

    Why do the Assassins Creed games have such a hard time allowing the player to play as females, and to then not have their gender be a limitation or a core aspect of their narrative? The company needs to have a linear narrative, thus the character has to do certain things so the desired story can exist. However, particularly when it comes to female characters, this often contradicts the player’s desired narrative choices for their character.
    This topic would examine the roles of RPG companies vs players in determining the female characters’ narratives and ‘playability’ in Assassin’s Creed. Should players just accept that their character’s decisions are always limited by the company’s desired storylines, or should companies be working harder to have inclusive storylines that honour the players and their choices?

    • I've never played Assassin's Creed myself, but I think this is an interesting topic, and one I've seen discussed in regards to different games. There are a number that have male and female character options, but the game assumes the player will be male (sometimes leading to dialogue or scenes having funny implications). I do think that a player's character decisions will always be limited to some extent by the framework of the story and gameplay mechanics around them, since you can't have everything. But that doesn't mean that companies shouldn't have more inclusive storylines, especially if you're trying to give players options that are ultimately unsatisfying. – AnnieEM 9 months ago
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    Horizon Zero Dawn and the End of the/our World

    The narrative of Horizon Zero Dawn is fascinating, and while there are many potential themes to be examined, I keep coming back to how it handles apocalypse and the end of the/our world. In the game’s past, the Earth faces annellation. When all seems lost, the solution is not to cling to some far-fetch hope for salvation, but instead to for pave the way for something new. Obviously, the crises facing Elisabet Sobeck, Aloy, and today’s humans are all very different. Nonetheless, I think this game offers some food for thought as we face our own climate crises: do we accept coming devastation and focus our energies on creating the conditions for a new, better world to emerge? Or do we cling to what we have and try to save the world we know? Where do we locate hope for the future? Do we have to chose between what we have and what might be? Is it possible to have hope for the emergence of something new without total destruction (as happens in the game)?

    • This could be a great topic, though I think HZD is a bit too rosy in terms of imagining alternatives for humans. I think a post-human or even anti-humanistic reading on HZD might provide nuance. – ProfRichards 1 year ago
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    • This could a great topic to explore especially with the optimistic way HZD looks at the future. – SunnyAgo 6 months ago
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