Leadership, Rhetoric, and Videogames

I find myself thinking about leadership often. Perhaps I think about leadership because we rhetoricians get press (for good or ill) for a few months every four years when our nation chooses a leader based on “mere rhetoric.” But, I hope I think of it because it’s a process similar to rhetoric. Rhetoric, as a discipline for Academics, has long been interested in processes, so much so that, without citation, the “procedural” part of Bogost’s (2007) “procedural rhetoric” can be an empty signifier to rhetoricians.

How do videogames conceptualize leadership? Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Gaines Hubbell | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Leadership, Rhetoric, and Videogames

Framing Meaning through Play – or – Everybody’s Gone to Film School


*Minor spoilers for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture to follow, I think.*

The perfect shot is a powerful thing ­– not only in communicating pleasure and meaning to a viewer, but also in the feelings it can engender within its composer. I’ve never gotten along well with cameras, whether I was behind or in front of them. My hands are too shaky to get smooth shots, not quick enough to move a frame with grace nor deft enough to hold my object in the center of a screen.

Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Nick Hanford | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Framing Meaning through Play – or – Everybody’s Gone to Film School

Fun Possibilities

When I sit down to produce a singular piece of writing, I generally do a few things to spark creativity and get the ball rolling. I generally search Google Scholar, Critical Distance and my own library for things that might be related to what I’m writing and skim through whatever turns up. However, when I sat down to write this (actually more like the three or four times I tried to write this), I couldn’t find too much on the subject. I posed questions about fun and its meanings on Twitter in hopes that someone would get me an easy citation, something I could look at and move on from, but there isn’t much out there discussing the explicit definitions of fun. And I’m not going to offer much here as a clear direction either.

Continue reading

Posted in Nick Hanford | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hype and Nostalgia: Gaming’s Memory Flows

It took me about four hours to find out that double-clicking made Manny Calavera move faster, running instead of the slow walk I had gotten used to. The game had changed there, in an instant, to something much different. The ambience had left, the music didn’t match up with my movement as well, and I didn’t linger in specific areas to pick up on the various scenes in which objects were carefully placed. I was working through Grim Fandango Remastered (GFR) with a walkthrough anyway, already largely ignoring the details of its careful puzzles. This turned my play away from the Tarkovsky-like experience of setting and detail, instead crafting a blockbuster with continuous, driving narrative action. The settings weren’t alive as this FPS-playing monster of a player denied any pause that it might have desired. Yes, I denied the game certain things that I had been promised, but the excitement and memories that I had been promised also let me down.

Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Nick Hanford | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hype and Nostalgia: Gaming’s Memory Flows

Elite: Dangerous Update 1.3

Yesterday I received an email telling me that update 1.3 for Elite: Dangerous would be out in May. I haven’t played the game in a little while, but the new update might very well bring me back into the game.

To me, Elite: Dangerous feels rather like a anti-desolation game. Though the gameworld is vast and empty, traveling the vast expanses of space evoke in me feelings of calm and serenity. Where games like Kenshi and DayZ thrives of despair and abandonment, Elite: Dangerous produces a quasi-zen effect.

I’ve been more than happy just trucking from station to station, selling my cargo and evading the system authorities when I’m carrying illegal goods. The fact that turning my character’s head left or right activates control panels is a nice touch that reinforces your role as a “real” pilot. Sure, I could use hotkeys, but there’s just something about looking around that cockpit.

Update 1.3, however, is aimed at PVP, something from which I usually stay away. However, the update will introduce a revamped faction system where players will be able to directly influence a faction’s goals and objectives. This is something that’s been missing from a game like Elite: Dangerous, and something that I’ve been eagerly awaiting. I’ll probably continue playing the role of a smuggler, but this time I’ll be doing it for the good of my faction, and run missions that directly influence my faction’s growth.

I’ve always love this kind of political aspect often found in space sims and 4X games, and though the update doesn’t really change the how of the game (ie, the way you play), it goes have a subtle influence on the why. Normally, I wouldn’t get myself involved in PVP, however, because it’ll be in the interest of a greater polity, it makes it worthwhile for my character’s story to become entangled with this particular thread.

It’ll be interesting to see how it actually all plays out.


Posted in Announcements | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Elite: Dangerous Update 1.3

Criticism and Habits: My Fear of Never Alone

Every Wednesday in high school I went out to do community service that the campus ministry of my Catholic high school facilitated. We would go to nursing homes, care facilities, and homeless shelters, work for a few hours, and return to the comforts of our middle class homes. Every year there would be service trips to different parts of the US, Mexico, and some other places. I went on a few of them: one to West Virginia, the other to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Nick Hanford | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Criticism and Habits: My Fear of Never Alone

What I’m Playing Now: Combat Mission Red Thunder

In my ongoing effort to find a hybrid game uniting the best principles of table-top RPGs, wargames, and video games, I’ve been exploring the world of wargames a lot. Specifically, I’ve been following two table-top wargames: Bolt Action and Infinity.

Exploring these games led me back to an old video game genre: the Real-Time Tactical game, or RTT for short. Perhaps the best known representative of this genre is the venerable Close Combat series.

Historically, I’ve preferred turn-based combat over real-time. I like having some time to think over my actions. However, I also like some chaos to influence the choices I can make.

However, the game I’m currently enjoying, Combat Mission: Red Thunder, offers a nice compromise: the “Wego” system that incorporates two of the mechanics that I particular enjoy from Bolt Action and Infinity.

Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Erik Bigras | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What I’m Playing Now: Combat Mission Red Thunder

“We Just Want to Make Good Games.”

I’ve been writing a lot for I Search for Traps lately, but through my discussions of table-top RPGs I’ve come across an old question that I’ve encountered when I was studying the world of video games: What is a good game?

On the surface, it’s a simple question, but if you dig a bit deeper, you realize that it isn’t one with a simple answer.

When talking to game developers, “making a good game” is a goal that I often heard. However, difficulties appear when comes time to define, exactly, what a good game is. Part of the answers that I’ve gotten over the years involve terms like “fun,” “innovative,” “unique,” “trend-setting,” etc, which leads me to wonder what is the relationship between a “good game” and innovation.

Part of the problem in answering this simple question is that answers will be intensely personalized. One person’s criteria can be diametrically opposed to another’s, which makes any kind of metric difficult to pin down. If that’s the case, however, why do we keep talking about making or wanting good games, and using that concept as a classificatory category?

To be honest, I’m not really interested in defining a good game. Rather, I’m much more interested in why the discourse of “good games” keeps popping up over and over again in the strangest of places, each time with fairly similar characteristics, which indicates to me that the discourse of good games isn’t really about games at all. Rather, talking about good games appears to be a discussion of boundaries.

Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Erik Bigras | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “We Just Want to Make Good Games.”

Navy Field 2 and Heroes & Generals: Challenging the Sacred in Table-Top RPGs

I Search for Traps

I’ve been playing a lot of Navy Field 2 lately, and it got me thinking. It’s a fun, light naval simulation game that focuses on short battles. The game itself pits two teams one against the other, and the goal is to sink all the enemy ships. The controls are easy to learn and very arcade-style, meaning that faithful recreation is trumped by speed and ease of play.

Playing the game means controlling a single ship during a battle. You begin play with a small destroyer, but as you progress, you can unlock other ships, such as cruisers, battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines. So far, I’ve been mostly concentrating on destroyers, and I’ve been having quite a bit of success. Once you figure out how to play a particular ship, it can stand up against just about any other. In fact, many a powerful dreadnought has met its end thanks…

View original post 1,288 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Navy Field 2 and Heroes & Generals: Challenging the Sacred in Table-Top RPGs

Why We Need More Subjective Games Criticism


I recently saw a comment about an article on academic games criticism. The comment was an approving one: the commenter believed that the article was a fine example of an approach to games criticism that was not “weakened” by a method that focused on the player as a site of meaning-making.

I was furious. What made me so livid about the comment wasn’t that it was some lone graduate student tossing out an opinion that I happened to find objectionable. Quite the contrary: it was that this opinion is a widespread, domineering one. At its base is a fiercely-defended value: objectivity. According to this assumption, methods of criticism that focus on players and their subjective experiences are weak. That, in turn, must mean that strong methods locate meaning elsewhere—somewhere outside the dark subjective cave of player experience and in the bright objective world of game forms.

View original post 1,908 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Why We Need More Subjective Games Criticism