Constructions of Self and Agency in Heavy Rain


heavy rain pic

I’ve recently been doing some reading on symbolic interactionism for one of my courses. To make sure it all gelled and stuck, I thought it might be fun to try to apply it to an analysis of a video game. It may be a stretch. Or it may just flat-out not work. But bear with me—I’m doing this for practice and to develop some ideas that I might flesh out later.

What exactly am I up to here? A critique of Heavy Rain through the lens of symbolic interactionism.

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First anniversary: What we’ve learned

For Higher Level Gamer’s one year anniversary, I thought we’d share what we learned while writing for HLG this past year. So, what follows is the result of us sharing what we’ve learned in a google document dialogue for the past month.

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On the meaning of a name: Higher Level Gamer

Next week is the first anniversary for Higher Level Gamer, and next week we’ll have a post about what we learned in the past year while blogging here. But, since almost a year has gone by, I figure it’s time to explain the name, Higher Level Gamer.

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A Decked Out Retrospective: Cyberpunk Games

Welcome to a Higher Level Gamer Critical Retrospective! Retrospectives can take many forms: some focus on a single franchise while others are more expansive. For these retrospectives, I’ll be taking the latter approach.

These retrospectives aren’t meant to be best-of lists. Rather, I’ll examine some of the tropes of particular game genres, their historical contexts, provide some examples, as well as explore why I think these genres are fun.

This third retrospective will focus on games in the cyberpunk genre. Though the influences of cyberpunk date back several decades to the film noir genre and even further back to the gothic style of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, cyberpunk as a genre exploded into the popular imaginary in the 1980s with William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. These two works set the tone for what would become the main tropes of the genre: a dystopian future, a complex  often tortured – relationship between humanity and technology, and a rabid fascination for the underdog.

So let’s begin with this week’s critical retrospective!

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Coopted Access: The Rise of the Shooter in Video Game Design

This post revolves around a series of paradoxes. Within the realm of information technology, access often is understood as something that should be promoted. However, within the realms of information technologies, increased access often has led to increased centralization. For example, the shooter, a minor video game genre prior to the early 1990s, is now being incorporated into an increasing number of other game genres. How was this rise to dominance1 accomplished, to the point where shooters are held up as the definitive example of video games in popular news media, considering that other designs were firmly established by the time shooters made their appearance?

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Understanding Humanity Through Doki-Doki Universe


afri doki doki

I really wanted to be able to report that HumaNature Studios’s Doki-Doki Universe is a thoughtful, cheerful, charming—if a bit weird—reflection on the concept of humanity. I wanted to be able to say that it offered nuanced explorations on themes such as bullying, insecurity, friendship, prejudice, and love all packaged in a cute, colorful, innocent, yet profound experience. I wanted to see the human condition in a new way with a refreshing new game.

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A Hook to Grapple With: Transcending Environments with Vertical Accessibility

This E3 is the first time that I’ve paid close attention to the whole spectacle. I’ve only been playing games on a console for a few years now and didn’t really understand how watching game trailers could be exciting. I still don’t really comprehend all of it, but I have come to understand that trailers and early gameplay footage don’t necessarily mean that anything put forth will come to fruition. Cynicism seems to be the name of the game at E3.

I say this to start because I’m declaring something stupid that I nonetheless believe to be true: 2014 is the year of the grappling hook. Grappling hooks were featured in three games shown off at E3 – Battlefield: Hardline, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Far Cry 4. When we put these together with games like Assassin’s Creed, Titanfall, and Infamous: Second Son, which offer (super)natural or biomechanical grappling hooks on the player-character, it seems somewhat obvious that there is a distinct move towards increasing the vertical openness of games. This is not necessarily a new thrust but simply what I think is an increase in the frequency of AAA games attempting to use verticality as a means to create ‘depth’ or be ‘innovative’ or whatever buzzword works.

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A Week with Watch Dogs

As I’ve spent more time with them, the cities that I have lived in or frequented have often slowly shrunk as I got to understand them better. As I knew where I was based on a landmark or could quickly figure out which direction was north based on a few buildings, these cities became smaller and easier to traverse. Yet they also became deeper. Buildings, streets, corners, businesses became embedded with meaning from my memories.

This obviously isn’t uncommon, but when a city shrinks for different reasons, those memories and that sense of depth don’t evolve quite as easily. I bring this up because I have been playing Watch Dogs for slightly over a week and have finally figured out why I think there are so many problems with the game. Yes, it was a rushed title that seems to have acquiesced to a marketing departments’ slow bloodletting. Yes, it was a Christmas tree that toppled over when too many ornaments were attached to it along with a heavy, poorly-written star at its head.

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Child of Light, Children, and Authorship

I bought Watch_Dogs this week. I played it. It’s a game. I have to admit that while I was playing Watch_Dogs this week, I was thinking about a different Ubisoft game. I wanted to finish my new game+ on Child of Light.

Writing criticism about Child of Light is tough. I like it. If this were a review of it, I’d tell you something about how it’s an excellent piece of fantasy genre fiction for children; that it has rhyming dialogue, gorgeous water color and pen art, and a new battle mechanic; that its rhyme scheme and meter are forced at times and its genre fiction is sometimes stuck in a children’s fable rut; and, that these things don’t detract from what is a refreshing take on tired material that shows games can be what I’ve always expected—better.

Instead, I want to talk about Child of Light as an example that challenges our typical critical methods in reviews. Specifically, it shows how we struggle to understand authorship and audience in game reviews.

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Dark Souls 2 is Kind of Disappointing


dark souls 2 Look at the awesome picture of my character that I took with my phone. She got that scythe for beating the final boss. It’s badass.


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