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by Mattie Brice

13 Dec 2011


When a game has many players who ignore the main quests and journey off to create their own stories, one should question the value of embedded narrative. Does a game like Skyrim need a main storyline? The writing and character voice acting were okay and forgettable, just there for when I was in the area rather than being something of interest. I venture to say that the presence of a main story that you would find in other RPGs that don’t have such an open world is dissonant with how The Elder Scrolls series tells stories best.

There are actually multiple narrative structures in conflict with one another in Skyrim—and arguably in Morrowind and Oblivion as well. The presence of fate as a central concern grows stronger in each installment, with Skyrim sometimes going as far as to control your character’s movement for you. The concept of fate is antithetical to the type of play that The Elder Scrolls promotes, which is player-focused and controlled. However, we’re so used to convention that we expect cutscenes and epic storylines to unfold before us. We’re not used to the idea of “This is my story” unless it’s a Minecraft or Dwarf Fortress that we are experiencing. Skyrim doesn’t need a storyline for the player to experience their own.

by G. Christopher Williams

12 Dec 2011


Battlefield 3, Gears of War 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Saints Row: The Third, Uncharted 3.  That’s a whole lot of 3s.

While focused especially on the “trilogies” being concluded in 2011, this episode Rick, Nick, and I discuss the year in gaming on the whole, while considering whether or not the glut of sequels at year’s end is a blessing or a curse.

by Nick Dinicola

9 Dec 2011


There are about a dozen named characters in Need for Speed: The Run, but aside from some incidental cops and gangsters, only two characters are actually voiced: Jack and Sam, the protagonist and his sidekick. Despite the marketing for the game, it’s clear that The Run doesn’t really care about the story of The Run, yet it still manages to hit one right chord. The characters that don’t have a voice still have a name and a back story, and those simple bits of story make it more fun to race against them than against the other nameless drivers.

by Mark Filipowich

8 Dec 2011


Being a woman in a video game would not be easy. There’s not a single decent, complete set of armor in the world that fits properly.  Your mammary glands swell until you’re so top heavy that your skeleton may well warp. There’s plenty that’s already been said about how women are outwardly portrayed in games—as pornographic caricatures of an adolescent boy’s masturbatory fantasy—but what about female characters’ behaviors and mentalities? Women in games are useless as NPCs and passive, powerless agents when they’re controlled.

It’s nothing new to notice the sexualization of women in media, especially games. Neither the men or women of games are meant to look like people, they’re molded to fulfill a function—for men their function is violence, for women sex. The difference is that men are given justification. They are given motivations. They think and are driven by purpose. Women have no power outside of their ability to be consumed by men. They have some influence on when and which man they will be consumed by but otherwise they lack agency.

The easy fix seems to be to make more competent female characters. Characters that can be strong without defying their identity as women. They need not be warriors or even wholly suited to their circumstance nor do they have to defy every feminine stereotype (indeed, building a character opposite to a set of stereotypes is still acknowledging and yielding to them). What seems to elude developers so frequently is a female character that is able to make her own decisions and manage the consequences. She doesn’t have to have full control. She doesn’t even have to be the lead. She just has to have her own identity that doesn’t depend on a man.

by Jorge Albor

8 Dec 2011


While strolling along the vast expanse of wilderness between Skyrim’s major settlements, I chanced upon two mages dueling each other to the death. One was a fire mage, the other a frost mage. After killing them both (they were hostile, I promise), I took a moment to marvel at the consistency of it all. Here, in the middle of nowhere, I encountered something that I might have easily missed: a continuation, perhaps, of an eternal feud between fire and ice. While this duel might otherwise appear as a scripted event for my benefit, the fire/ice battle in a frozen landscape instead enriches the world of Skyrim. While the picturesque landscape and Nordic atmosphere constructs the environment, logic lays the foundation for an enveloping, albeit precarious, form of world building.

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