Arguing for the Adoption of Persistent Time in Video Games: Part 2 Building a House, Making a Home

In the first  of this two-part article, I outlined my thoughts on how persistent time can provide a new paradigm for permadeath in video games.  In games like DayZ Standalone (Bohemia Interactive, 2013) and Rust  (Facepunch Studios, 2013), hazardous environments combined with permadeath create conditions in which players construct fortifications to avoid having to respawn with empty-handed characters—and safeguard precious resources like food and ammunition from other players.  Adding persistent time to this design formula can significantly change players’ conceptualization of permanency in these games.  Persistent time gives all things a lifespan:  Buildings ultimately fall to ruin, food has expiration dates, and—most importantly—characters grow old and die.  Under these circumstances, progeny can become a significant resource.

This half of the article illustrates how persistent time can be incorporated into game design, along with permadeath and hazardous environments, to deepen the roleplaying experience through (1.) the creation of apprenticeships to pass skills and perks among characters, (2.) the development of complex kinship systems, and (3.) the establishment of outposts in the game world for future colonies. Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Jason Coley | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Severed Prosthetic Memory by NBA 2K14

The discourse of representation, stereotypes, and racism surrounding video games is fraught, and quite frankly not at all progressive. During “black history month,” I took notice to the number of my Facebook feeds that posted the obligatory Black History Month topics, memes, and other throwback media. While I felt a temporal nostalgia for many of the mostly prematurely dead celebrities, activists, and prolific writers, my prosthetic memorial experiences of others like MLK, W.E.B Du Bois, and Ossie Davis was shoddy. Prosthetic memory is an expression coined by Alison Landsberg that describes how people experience a memory (one in which they were spatiotemporally absent from) through commodified mass cultural media (i.e., film and TV). So in my case, this prosthetic memory through Facebook was an impalpable one because the truncated biographical sketches of the late-great individuals were subsumed by the Facebook poster’s social networking energy and wall activity. Rather than feeling a communal celebratory vibe, Facebook in February leaves me feeling like I am consumed by a void—a huge gap—not by time, but by connectedness. To be honest, I am often confronted with this as an African-American (AA) gamer and researcher. While my Facebook experience is unparalleled to my critical-gaming experiences, it scraped at the wounds of my disdain and disappointment of black representations in video games, and specifically, my impalpable prosthetic memorial experiences in games that predominantly represent AAs. These are the types of games that not only touch on black history, but are also instrumental in the (re)making of black history. For these reasons, I will turn to one of the most culturally significant games of African-American History—basketball, and specifically NBA 2K14. Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Laquana Cooke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Clone Wars: Wow. Much Numbers. Very puzzle. So fun.


This week several writers from Higher Level Gamer are out conferencing! They are currently in Chicago at the Popular Culture Association’s annual meeting. That doesn’t explain my delay in posting, but I wish them good luck and safe travels and hope they don’t notice my late time stamp…

Now on to the topic at hand: What is a clone?

I think answering that question is actually a lot harder than it first appears. We could defer to some sort of science or formalism which defaults to a similarity of code, whether genetic or logical, yet either of those aren’t particularly useful for most games. While some game developers do post their code, allowing the average (programming literate) Joe to peel back that “black box”, most games remain hidden behind their cases. That means that this past month when the label “clone” was tossed out, usually in a derogatory fashion, it was based on something else.
Continue reading

Posted in Announcements, Candice Lanius, Criticism | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Clone Wars: Wow. Much Numbers. Very puzzle. So fun.

A Vulnerable Retrospective: Desolation 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 second retrospective will focus on games that I’ve played in a genre that I call desolation games. Part post-apocalyptic, part resource management, part survival, desolation games span many recognized genre, but nonetheless share some common traits: loneliness, emptiness, vulnerability and despair.

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

Continue reading

Posted in Critical Retrospectives, Erik Bigras | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Happens When BioShock Infinite Responds to Criticism: Commentary on Burial At Sea Episode 2


Fair warning: this will contain major spoilers for Burial At Sea: Episode 2.

View original post 3,596 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on What Happens When BioShock Infinite Responds to Criticism: Commentary on Burial At Sea Episode 2

Ideologies of Failure and Production in Action Painting Pro

Action Painting Pro (APP) is a small, free game that turns MS Paint into a platformer. Players jump around the screen collecting the different tools which the player then becomes, covering the screen in a mess of colors. Failure here is the inability to contribute further to the painting your character has been farting from their avatar. Falling off the screen presents the player with the finished painting and two options: “New Painting” and “Quit.” There is no game over, so saying that the end of painting is failure might be extreme, but I will get to that in a second. Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Nick Hanford | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Always in Alpha Podcast, Ep. 2: Titanfall and Hype

We’re back for another Always in Alpha Podcast to talk about Titanfall and its hype–just in time for you to listen before Titanfall comes out on Xbox 360.


Continue reading

Posted in Candice Lanius, Criticism, Gaines Hubbell, Laquana Cooke, Nick Hanford, Podcasts, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Always in Alpha Podcast, Ep. 1: Twitch Plays Pokemon and Genre

We’ve recorded a podcast! Laquana Cooke, Nick Hanford, Candice Lanius, and myself sat down at Finnbar’s, our local pub last week. This is the first of two or three podcasts that came out of that conversation. Laquana had to leave early during this podcast, so she missed the second half of this episode (but she’s back for next week’s episode).

Listen (streaming): 

Listen (alternate):

Edited by Gaines Hubbell, who’s not sorry about the background noise.

Relevant links and references:

Continue reading

Posted in Candice Lanius, Criticism, Gaines Hubbell, Laquana Cooke, Nick Hanford, Podcasts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Always in Alpha Podcast, Ep. 1: Twitch Plays Pokemon and Genre

Extremism as a Narrative Device

Playing DayZ has allowed me to reflect on extremism a little bit. DayZ appears to be a game that fosters a plethora of extremes: one is either an extremist bad guy (I’ll kill everyone!), an extremist good guy (I’ll kill all the bad guys!), or an extremist indifferent (I’ll just care about myself!).

DayZ isn’t unique in deploying extremism as a narrative device. I mean, extremism has been a staple of video game narratives for a long time. For example, the original Bioshock threw players in an extremist underwater utopia that collapsed on itself, while Bioshock: Infinite deployed an extremist racist utopia as the world that the protagonist must escape.

Another example is the Call of Duty franchise that has traditionally used extremism, often unproblematically, as the motif for its bad guys. Traditionally, the Call of Duty enemy is an uncomplicated (and often boring) representation of the extremist found in the time period in which the game is set: Nazis, Cold War Russians, or extremist Islamists.

Even some of my favourite games appear to espouse extremism as a narrative device. Franchises like Metal Gear Solid and Mass Effect heavily rely on extremist tropes to justify the protagonist’s actions.

Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Erik Bigras | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

On Gaming Audiences: Players, Personas, and Perceptions

With “Twitch Plays Pokemoncoming to a close (or at least it’s first playthrough), I think it’s a good time to talk about the audiences of games. There is something interesting happening on Twitch with this and its counterparts – collective play. While games have never been completely solitary actions, they are largely experiences of individuals. These individual experiences, those of the player, are abstracted to create discourses around various games/genres/mediums. These collective experiences range from seeking advice on how to beat a particular level to the meaning of a given game to how institutional forces affect the production of games.

If we want game criticism (and, by extension, games) to be better, we cannot stay solely within the paradigm of the player. While readings of games are important, understanding why they are made and how they work requires a more collective analysis. The idea of the player is comfortable in that it is what we know; it is what we directly experienced, read, and made meaning of. It is important for games creation in that it aids in the understanding of how the individual, the recipient of the medium, creates meaning from the game. However, it is also important to look at the audiences of games, the collective, generalized, and unknown group of people that experience a game.  Continue reading

Posted in Criticism, Nick Hanford | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on On Gaming Audiences: Players, Personas, and Perceptions