Dragon Quest XI: Tradition, Mythology, and JRPG Worldbuilding

Herein lies the game’s philosophical resolve: to use the morally focused, mythical presentation of its world and the immovably righteous, impersonal depiction of its Hero to cultivate the moral character of its player. As an interactive myth steeped in the simple metaphorical conflict between the light and darkness that underlies humanity, Dragon Quest XI’s worldbuilding has its players directly experience the interdependence of humankind and the world we inhabit.

A Shout Out to Tim Rogers and the Action Button Method

In the interest of paying respects to an important inspiration for my founding of LudoCrit (and of finally making a casual post to fit into the website’s Other Stuff category) I’d like to show some love to “professional videogame expert” and underappreciated madman Tim Rogers. Tim’s been publishing criticism on videogames since the early 2000s … Read more

Philosophies of Progress in AAA vs Indie Gaming

With the continuously rising prominence of successful indie games and the dawn of perhaps the final console generation upon us, it seems inevitable that the evolution of videogames will no longer be conceived in terms of distinct technological leaps. While the current generation’s (PS4, Xbox One) processing power has allowed for much greater nuance in … Read more

What Remains of Edith Finch: Representing Death and Mortality in a Videogame

Through allowing its players to enact only the single, unchangeable demise of all its characters, the gameplay of Edith Finch serves as a constant reminder of the fleeting nature of life, the fixed yet elusive truths of history, and the often incomprehensible “curse” of spontaneous death. The game’s thematic engagement with the importance of discovering one’s genealogical history, together with its disregard of player agency in favor of telling the fixed stories of its deceased characters, breaks new ground for how a videogame can honestly represent ‘real’ human experience. Furthermore, it’s worth acknowledging that the authentic resonance of the gameplay is indebted to the dynamic simplicity of the walking simulator genre, which trades in entertainment value for a more reflective pacing.

Katamari Damacy: Playing Through an Object-Oriented Ontology of Universal Emptiness

Katamari Damacy is a tightly crafted proof of concept that continues to serve as an exemplar of how an unconventional but easily grasped gameplay hook, paired with a simple but thoughtful thematic premise, come together to form (at the risk of sounding cliché) an undeniably fresh gaming experience. There is nothing derivative about the game’s design. Katamari Damacy is content to use its limited resources and features to ride both its gameplay and themes to a concise and natural conclusion. By the end of the game, our progression through the katamari-rolling gameplay loop will have had us roll up every miscellaneous object, plant, animal, person, building, etc. we can reach in a holistic vision of indiscriminate cosmic unity.

Reflection and Ludocriticism

For all the entertainment that virtual being in a videogame can provide, it can also be a particularly alluring and even potentially dangerous form of fictive immersion. Now that we’ve already touched on the formal operation of videogame immersion elsewhere (which I’d recommend having read first) it seems like a logical next step to discuss the phenomenon’s ethical implications. With reference to Marcel O’Gorman’s book, Necromedia, this post will explore the videogame industry’s culpability in a technoculture that idealizes gaming as an infinite cycle of immersive consumption. In response to this problem, I will consider how reflection on one’s gameplay experiences can disturb this cycle and thus work gameplay productively back to its origin in the finite self – that is, the player as human.

Bioshock Infinite: The Internal Conflict of its Generic Violence

The notion that a game’s story and its gameplay can ever cohere perfectly throughout the entire experience is virtually impossible to uphold in a medium where authorial control is divided between developer and user. However, the prominence of this dissonance does not mean that a game’s ludic and narrative components should not be interpreted as a whole – for it is only through consideration of this unity that a game can be contemplated philosophically as such. In this study I will consider how Infinite’s violence-centric gameplay loop works to inform our understanding of its main narrative themes surrounding American exceptionalism and the nature of choice, whether positively or negatively, intentionally or unintentionally.

On Immersion: The Ludo/Narrative Dichotomy

Immersion has long been conceived as the principal aesthetic of the videogame medium. Although a rather vague term philosophically, gamers usually figure immersion as a powerful mental investment, a psychic transition, into a game’s virtual world. To be immersed in a work of fiction is to be deeply involved, whether spatially, epistemically, and/or emotionally. Yet, … Read more

The LudoCrit Manifesto

LudoCrit’s bottom line is to analyze the formal elements of a game’s design, and particularly its narrative design (i.e. elements of the game design that support its narrative themes), to better understand how they inform our interpretation of a game’s meaning as we interact with its interface, systems, and mechanics during gameplay.

While it’s crucial to remain cognisant of how our selected games are always still games at their core, and to acknowledge the imperfections in their design, our particular focus is to come to understand how these games can potentially transcend mere pleasure and become contemplative experiences.