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.
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 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.
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.