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Latest Topics

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Casual Violence in the Borderlands Franchise

I, for one, love the irreverent humor of the Borderlands Franchise. But part of that humor comes from revelry in casual violence. While violence is common in many other videogames and other media, it is commonly only funny when that violence is non-lethal. Nevertheless, in Borderlands 2, for example, we might laugh at Brick praising you for killing all his men, and at Tiny Tina torturing and murdering the psycho while having a pretend tea party with him and her stuffed animals. The game attempts to justify and authorize laughing at murder: bandits infinitely spawn and the villains’ cruelty makes us feel better for killing them. The Borderland’s Presequel seemed to introduce nuance to humor in murder by showing the descent of Handsome Jack into evil even as he (mostly) tries to do the right thing, but the story, as many critics have said, was weak by comparison to the others.

I’m wondering if there is more nuance to humorous murder in this game, or if part of the fun of it is that there is no nuance to it. How might the series make us think it’s okay to laugh at murder in other ways? Does the franchise succeed in justifying this laughter in violence? Does it deliberately cause laughter at murder only to show us our own guilty pleasure at laughing at the worst humanity is capable of? What are your thoughts on the franchise’s take on violence?

  • This would be an interesting topic to analyze especially when attempting to understand the use of violence in the Borderlands universe. It seems that violence in borderlands is just a part of everyday life and therefore isn't really thought of as anything out of the ordinary. It will be interesting to see if this normalization of violence adds or detracts from the nuance, if there is any at all. – JakeGreenwood 4 months ago
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Female Streamers in the Gaming Industry

Sexism in the gaming industry is a huge topic that not many people acknowledge. Most people think that female streamers make it big because of their looks, and not actually their skill in the game. I think it’s important to realize that there is a variety of different streamers on platforms like Twitch, and each individual has their own charm. Some could be more entertaining than others, and some could have more in-game knowledge. But I don’t think it’s fair to disregard respect for big female streamers or content creators in this industry.

  • Great and timely topic. I would also hone in on the idea of "fake gamer girls" and the use of the word "thots" to describe women on Twitch who are framed as only using their attractiveness to get attention and revenue, and therefore they are accused of not being "real" fans. Here is a recent article I read on the topic: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/twitch-women-who-stream-say-their-biggest-obstacle-harassment-n1060016 – Emily Deibler 4 months ago
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  • Until I read your topic suggestion, I had no idea what a 'female streamer' was. Not being a gamer, this is a new world to me. So, I entered the term 'female streamers' into my search engine and the second highest result was titled 'The Hottest Female Streamers on Twitch.' It's from a website titled The Gamer. Here's the first line from the article: 'Not all Twitch streamers are created [e]qual: some are also insanely hot.' I think that proves your opening point very well. – Amyus 4 months ago
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  • Would definitely encourage at least a mention of Gamer Gate and the associated fallout. Women in any male-dominated industry experience a certain kind of social pushback, and using concrete examples will help illustrate the point. I would be very excited to read this! – Eden 4 months ago
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  • Very excited to read an article that explores this. – lilliankasulis 4 months ago
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  • I think it's fair to say that sexism against women in the gaming industries and fandoms are persistent issues, but I feel like the criticisms levelled at women streamers have little to do with "skill at the game." Indeed, the question is whether "skill at the game," has any bearing on the streamer's popularity to begin with. This makes sense for competitive gamers or speedrunners, but in the instance of the large market share of streamers who do "Let's play," style streams and so on and so forth, ultimately their skill level is irrelevant. PewDiePie is perhaps the most successful streamer on the planet, and their "Let's Play" of the Amnesia series that initially elevated them to prominence showed very little skill at all, and a lot of the streamer screaming and swearing in a comedic fashion to emphasise the horror of the game as well as provide a source of comedy. Therefore, the criticisms levelled at women streamers on such grounds can be assumed to be disingenuous. In the instances of streamers who for instance, emphasise cosplay, their aesthetic can indeed be part of their success but this does not make their success any less valid. – benjamindmuir 4 months ago
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What can Undertale teach about pacifism in the real world?

Much has been made of how innovative Undertale is for providing players with the opportunity to resolve fights peacefully, without killing any opponents–and, in fact, even seems to punish players for being too eager to kill. However, winning fights without killing is not necessarily easy, and frequently requires players to take a large amount of damage. Indeed, message boards and blogs are full of stories about how virtually nobody can avoid killing all the characters on the first go. What, if anything, could a game like this teach about how to resolve problems in real life? Can you think of any situations where you might be putting yourself in harm’s way by being peaceful?

  • I wrote an essay on Undertale in my first year of uni, particularly on player agency, and I find that it's a really compelling game to write about.I'd suggest thinking not only about the game's unique take on pacifism over violence, but how it gives you that choice again and again and what this means for real-life interactions with people. Additionally, in terms of how Undertale might teach us how to resolve problems, there is always more to someone than initially meets the eye. Every character in Undertale has a story and has their own background and motivations. There might be an interesting parallel to be made with how we treat others in this day and age. – sofiarbarr 4 months ago
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What is the connection between Horizon Zero Dawn and Indigenous Culture

Analyze the connection between the game Horizon Zero Dawn and what it takes form Indigenous Cultures to create its world. Does it portray tribes in a respectful light? Do you consider any parts of the game or the game its self as appropriative or appropriation of these cultures?

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    The Mercer Effect and How it Affects Expectations for DMs

    The Mercer Effect is known as players and DMs having extremely high expectations for what to expect from a D&D game. Do you think the Mercer Effect has become prevalent in the last 12 months, increasing with Critical Role’s popularity? Or do you think that it has grown with the knowledge of more D&D shows and an expectation that all DMs should be up to this level. Or – does it not exist at all?

    • Maybe it's because I'm not super familiar with Critical Role, but is the name "Mercer Effect" based on the DM? To pursue this topic, I think it might help to explain the cultural significance of Critical Role and its players/DM, and how D&D in Critical Role is played differently than the average game. I really like the idea of analyzing the rise of D&D shows and how that might impact expectations for new players! – Eden 5 months ago
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    • Sounds like a great topic, I would include how to set expectations for your players and foster a fun environment without expecting the polish of an expert I will say that Critical Role and D&D media are increasingly becoming peoples first contact with RPG's rather than playing them witch does change the expectations of a new player. – cjpetersen123 5 months ago
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    • As a long time DM who does not listen to Critical Role, this topic seems worth pursuing. However, you would need to describe (as another poster mentioned) why Critical Role is so popular.My question is: is the Mercer Effect a product of those who get into D&D because of Critical Role, or has it "spread" to longtime players who are beginning to expect something different from standard play? – Derek 5 months ago
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    Published

    Yearly-Release Games: How Much Do We Still Care?

    Gaming companies like Ubisoft and EA have essentially built their reputations upon their franchises that promise annual releases. Ubisoft took an unexpected break between Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (2015) and Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017) to reexamine the franchise, to "evolve the game mechanics," and to ensure that they were delivering the promised "gameplay experiences that make history everyone’s playground."

    In other rumored news, EA may forego the annual releases of their sports games, like FIFA and Madden NFL, in exchange for an online "subscription" service that requires an annual fee to update rosters and stats ((link)

    The writer should examine if Ubisoft delivered on its promise with AC: Origins by investigating Ubisoft’s reported sales in comparison to its other AC games, critic reviews, and notable bugs or technical issues. Did Ubisoft indeed improve the newest game by taking a short break, or has anything really changed?

    The writer should also assess how, or if, EA’s rumored subscription service will benefit players. Contingent upon price, how would a subscription service be better (or possibly worse) than re-purchasing a slightly updated version of the same game year after year?

    Lastly, the writer should examine the bigger issue at hand: Do we still care about annual release games? What do they offer that non-annual release games do not, and vice-versa? Can the methods employed above by EA and Ubisoft work in their favor and possibly revive their franchises, or are the franchises past the point of revival?

    • Annual release games should definitely be broken down into the genres of games they are referring to. For sporting games, like FIFA and Madden, the premise of an annual release is simply to update the rosters for each respective team. The game of football has not fundamentally changed in that one-year time span, and besides any minor control updates, the game-play mechanics are relatively absolute for each edition. More story-driven franchises are a different case however, as many of those releases not only have improved or altered game mechanics and controls, but another installment into the story for the franchise. The standard of quality for those kinds of games should be higher than that of sporting games, which may influence any arguments regarding the relevance of annual releases. – Gliese436B 2 years ago
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    • It might be useful for the writer to consider what triple A companies employ annual releases outside of sports titles, and what those annual releases are. A number of such developers, such as FromSoftware and Sucker Punch, release their flagship series at a much slower rate -- writer should compare these nonannual franchises to annual ones, and compare their respective costs and benefits. – PersistentCrane 2 years ago
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    • Really interesting and relevant topic to gamers today! – Sean Gadus 6 months ago
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    • Annual releases are increasingly a touchy landscape to navigate as developers feel an obligation to produce an experience that is refreshing, but not drastically separate from a previous entry, say, in an established franchise; therefore, developers instigate crunch into the workplace and such is the case that it does not always promote a healthy working environment. – jaredstewart 5 months ago
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    Will Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order be the Star Wars game fans have been waiting for?

    Electronic Arts’ handling of the Star Wars franchise has been notoriously troubled. With controversies ranging from loot boxes for both Star Wars Battlefront games to the closure of Visceral games (working on a first person adventure game with Uncharted writer Amy Hennig), the corporations have been criticized for its mishandling of one of the world’s most prolific brands. The recently revealed Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a first person action adventure game set in the years after Revenge of the Sith, has brought excitement to many Star Wars and video game fans. With this in mind, will this be the Star Wars game fans have been waiting for? The article could analyze gameplay/demos released so far, information discussed by the developer, and the listed influences for the game to help explain why Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has so many fans excited about Star Wars video games once more.

    • Interesting topic. Since footage from trailers and demos rarely reflect actual gameplay seen upon release, I think it might be interesting to see whether the game's hype stems more from the footage we've received or whether it's more rooted in the Star Wars brand and not the specifics of the game itself (i.e., are Star Wars fans just excited for ANY quality Star Wars game at this point that they're willing to overlook possible red flags like early access or special additions that cost more, usually for superfluous content like cosmetics). That being said, it might also be worth noting that while the initial release of EA's biggest Star Wars game to date, "Battlefront II," was dampened by complaints about the game's initial lack of content and its lootbox controversy, "Battlefront II" is now considered a successful game and liked by the majority of the gaming community. This has only come after over a year of updates and patches, so it might also be worthwhile to discuss whether Fallen Order will strive to be ready on launch day (a rarity in contemporary game publishing), and how not being ready at release will affect its reception. – CulturallyOpinionated 7 months ago
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    Indie Games and the Shift Back to 8-Bit

    Why the trend in independent games of 8-bit graphics and music? What started it, and why has it continued for so long? Why would game makers and game players want to regress to a time when video games were stripped down and basic? Is it just pure nostalgia? It is a reflection on the decline of clever game design in AAA video games over time? Look at games such as Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami, Gunpoint.

    • It's a good topic but it would be better to also put focus on some the indie games that popularized the shift back to 8-bit to the mainstream such as Braid. It would also be interesting to consider the financial reasons for using 8-bit and how that limit can force them to be more creative when developing the game mechanics. – Matt Hatjoulis 8 months ago
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    • Though 8-bit games are often easier for low-budget indie projects to animate, narratologically, traditionally 8-bit genres like platformers offer an interesting challenge for game developers. The trick is to make a game that is fun to play (like "Crawl") and/or has an interesting story (like "Gods Will be Watching") without relying on cheesy effects and graphics to wow players. In any case, I expect the nostalgia for 80s graphics will cease once the 30-year cycle shifts to a fascination with the 90s. As far as 80s games go, they tend to be a bit more reliant on gameplay than narrative, at least among American releases. So, I hope we'll see more of a 90s ideological optimism in storytelling as in titles like Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Trigger. – Samir M Soni 4 months ago
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