Game Log 3 – 3: Moral Sensitivity and The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is always praised for its immersive storytelling.  For me, part of what makes the game feel so compelling is that the narrative is dynamic.  In a dynamic narrative game, the story responds to the player’s actions. I have always loved games like this as they require you to really consider the choices before you and how they may impact the narrative as you play.  Some of my favorite examples of these types of games are Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the Fable series, and Jade Empire, just to name a few.

RPG Classic, KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic)

Despite playing numerous titles like these throughout the years, I never considered how a lot of times these games were, in a way, evaluating my morals.  In a journal article in Games & Culture titled ‘Training Moral Sensitivity Through Video Games’, the authors engage in a study of 20 different games and how well they encourage ‘Moral Sensitivity’ on the part of the player.  Basically, the authors see a game as excelling at employing MS when it successfully pushes the player to make decisions with regard for the moral implications of their character’s actions and how they align with their own values.  In the study, the authors point to a specific quest in The Witcher 3 where the player catches an arsonist who attempted to burn down a blacksmith’s forge in retaliation for his working with the invading army. The player is presented with the choice of turning him in, resulting in his execution, or letting him walk free.  The authors see this as a fine example of MS because the player is able to immediately see the results of their actions and the moral ambiguity of the arsonist’s motives encourage the player to evaluate the situation. An additional important thing that the authors failed to mention is that this quest takes place relatively early in the game, so in my mind it kind of the sets the stage for the rest of the game.

The arsonist, after being turned in

It’s interesting to think about how games can be bad at compelling moral sensitivity.  For me, a game like Grand Theft Auto doesn’t have great MS. When I play that game I act like a madman and absolutely do not consider the moral or ethical implications of my actions.  My goal is to just have fun. However, I think it’s important to recognize that Rockstar, the studio behind the GTA series, doesn’t seem too concerned with encouraging MS. Their games are filled with camp, such as cartoon characters and over the top storylines.   In my mind, this is all an effort to disconnect the player from reality so they can act uninhibited by their morals or values. This reveals a key distinction in the goals of TW3 and GTA. A game like the Witcher 3 wants to you to get into the mind of the character Geralt and make the character your own by making him act as you would.  A game like GTA wants to provide you with a total escape from reality and your own responsibilities.

A player escapes from reality by beating someone up as Princess Peach in GTA


Playing Around With Morality: Introducing the Special Issue on “Morality Play”

Malcolm Ryan, Paul Formosa, Rowan Tulloch

Games and Culture  

First Published October 31, 2017

Source: Game Log 3 – 3: Moral Sensitivity and The Witcher 3

Postal Redux: Another Perspective

While Postal Redux is played in the third person perspective, I never have felt that the game lacks a sense of immersion. Some may argue that the sequel, Postal 2, is much more immersive because it is played in the first person perspective. In general, many gamers would argue that first person perspective games are more immersive than third person perspective games because you can play from “inside” the in game character. In his article “Why Can I See My Avatar? Embodied Visual Engagement in the Third-Person Video Game”, Daniel Black states that it is not the so much the perspective that creates immersion but how effectively the game can bridge the gap from physical reality to digital fantasy.

Black examines James Newman’s “The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame” in order to make a case for his claim. Newman is arguing against the immersiveness of third person perspectives and how it creates a division between the player and the in game character. Newman states that “the primary-player–character relationship is one of vehicular embodiment” (Newman). Black argues back that this vehicular metaphor acts as Cartesian dualism, “with the player taking the role of disembodied cogito using the game character to act upon the digital res extensa of the game world” (Black). To explain, Black is saying that players use in game characters in order to perform tasks that they would otherwise not perform, kind of like a puppet. He continues saying that if this were truly the case, games would not be as engaging as they are made out to be. I agree with this statement because I believe in game characters are more than just a tool to be used, they are a digital representation of one’s identity and behaviors. They encapsulate a secondary form of consciousness like no other medium can because they allow the player to perform whatever task said player wants to act upon.

Continuing on the vehicular metaphor, Newman describes a typical CoinOp racing game and how it is possible to be sitting in a physical representation of the in game car you are driving, yet view yourself driving from a third perspective (he suggests from a helicopter). He states that these type of games create “multiple and apparently contradictory presentations of the self”(Newman). Arguing against this claim, Black turns to how we view Hollywood car chase scenes:

“While we do not control the car in the Hollywood film, we identify with the driver, and perhaps flinch at a near collision as if we were physically located inside the car, even as we watch the chase largely from a viewpoint outside the car.” (Black)

These car chase scenes often have multiple perspectives of the singular main driver- a first person perspective of the driver, a perspective of the passenger, an outside of the car third person perspective, and sometimes even a perspective from another driver. And while the film creates multiple perspectives and angles that we view ourselves in, we often can still maintain singularity with the main driver in order to create consistency inside our heads. Black states that if we are able to create consistency with films, we should be able to create consistency in videogames, which have much less switching of perspectives. I agree with this statement because even if there is a visual “division” between me and the in game character,  be it the perspective or even the screen itself, I can still feel like I am inside the game. I am creating a mental connection to the character in order to create consistency for myself. Perspectives do not have to be one to one with the in game character, but they at least need to allow me to be able to create a simulated singularity.

Black finds problems Newman’s argument against the immersiveness of multiple perspectives/representations of the self in order to strengthen his own argument for the immersiveness of third person perspectives. Even if a game is in a third person view, it can still be immersive and can allow players to feel like they are truly inside the game. Postal is a perfect example of this claim, as its third person view does not hinder its immersiveness or its ability to envelope the player’s identity into a digital character.


Newman James (2002). The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame. Game Studies, 2.

Black, Daniel. “Why Can I See My Avatar? Embodied Visual Engagement in the Third-Person Video Game.” Games and Culture, 13 June 2015,


Source: Postal Redux: Another Perspective


In an article about the problem gamic narratives face in representation of death, Jason Tocci writes:

“Here, the object of analysis is not the characters the player kills, but the death of the player’s own character. Death is considered here not as morally problematic or dangerous to audiences, but as an unnecessary narrative disruption due to the typical game structure of trial-and-error, die-and-retry. Video games may be the only narrative medium in which the death of the protagonist isn’t just devoid of drama, but is entirely routine. If players have any emotional reaction, it is usually frustration rather than reflection”

Tocci, I think, raises the issue of playability and narrative thrust/effectiveness. The question becomes: how can I make a playable/entertaining game that, in the case its developers craft it to have a compelling narrative, still renders the player-character’s deaths into meaningful, authentic moments?

Experiments with bombs take place in the background. The force of the explosion causes the boy’s body to be flung like a ragdoll. It’s gruesome, to say the least.

There is this simple fact: death loses its gravitas, its solemnity, when it comes packaged with a quick restart. Even when the punishment for dying is severe (a loss of all of your accumulated gear a la Runescape, or a loss of all of your souls a la Dark Souls), the emotions felt by the player often amount to frustration. It does not feel like a death; it is seemingly impossible to generate the affect of filmic or novelistic narratives. Tocci does allude to the famous Final Fantasy VII death scene. While this sequence proverbially tugs at the player’s heartstrings, the problem remains that, assuming the player has failed previously, those deaths still has not meant much to player other than as a source of frustration. Certain deaths are given more weight than others, but the ones that matter appear to be those the developer has control over. But if you make the game too easy so that the player does not experience an ‘unemotional’ or trivialized death, would the game be any fun?

While I did not find this article prior to writing my close play of Inside, I believe my paper provides an example of a game that works to infuse death with player pain. Inside, despite its trial-and-error mechanic, subverts the trivialization of death, countering the problem Tocci finds in many games. I won’t go into detail explaining how Playdead imbues affect and genuine suffering in their player-character’s deaths as I have already done that in my close play. But even in the case of Inside, if the player dies enough, he/she–I imagine–beings to be desensitized with the protagonist’s deaths. I end my post here still pondering what the best balance is.

A particularly frustrating sequence where a devilish aquatic gremlin killed me numerous times. Frustration definitely trumped any connection I had to the character.

Work Cited:

Tocci, Jason. “You Are Dead. Continue?”: Conflicts and Complements in Game Rules and Fiction.” Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture, 2008,



4 Fallout Myths

Lawrence King

Digital Narratives


April 6, 2018

After doing some research I learned some weird things about Fallout 4. I discovered myths that surround the game. There are multiple mythical locations, creatures, and people in the game. I’m going to talk about four of the myths. Two locations and two creatures.

The first location is Fairline Hill Estates. Fairline consists of six buildings in a cul-de-sac. If you bring someone with you, they will usually mention that they feel uncomfortable and want to leave. If you bring a man named, Preston Garvey to the estate, he mentions that it used to be a Minuteman settlement. There are also a couple of clues that help you to figure out what happened to the settlement.

The second location is Red Death Island. It is located in the south-west sea of the Far Harbor add-on map. When you travel to the island, however, no map marker will appear, even if you go during the quest, ”The Great Hunt”.  Apparently, the island is the location of the ominous Red Death. The island is quite small and is usually quite well hidden by Far Harbor’s fog.

The first creature is The Red Death. It’s a creature said to haunt the fog of Far Harbor. It is located on Red Death Island. The Red Death was feared for many years by the fisherman of The Island, many claiming that the red light frequently spotted during long periods of fog were from the creature as it killed many people. Once the fog rolled into the harbor, all fisherman would stop what they were doing and get away from the sea. However, despite all the rumors and “sightings”, it was discovered that the Red Death is actually a very small, completely docile creature with glowing red eyes whose shine pierces the fog and lures curious captains to their doom.

The second creature and final myth is the Mother of the Fog. The Mother is a sacred spirit worshiped by members of the Children of Atom, as they believe her to be a saint of their god, Atom. She is a dark, ghostly figured shrouded in black smoke. Many players claim to have seen her appear then disappear in various locations in the fog of Far Harbor. Fallout 4 is such a large and expansive game that it’s not surprising if you see some weird things. They make the game more interesting in my opinion.


Work Cited

Fallout Myths Wiki. Myths and Legends in Fallout 4.





Source: 4 Fallout Myths

One With Nature: The Witness as an Environmental Text

Besides its mind bending puzzles, most players praise The Witness for its vivid, beautiful open world. With expansive bodies of water, lush greenery, and colorful flowers, the graphics of the game are breathtaking However, I argue that this world does more than simply look pretty; rather, it encourages players to contemplate the beauty, importance, and enormity of the natural world. I read the game as what scholar Alenda Y. Chang calls an “environmental text,” encouraging the player to work with the environment, appreciating its beauty and value without plundering it for resources.

In many video games, such as Minecraft, players are encouraged to treat the game’s environment as an infinite provider of usable resources. The actionable parts of the environment, Chang writes “are most often things a player can use immediately… acquire for later use… or destroy,” such as power-ups or supplies (60). Chang then proposes that “games are opportunities to create entirely new sets of relations outside of those based on dominance or manipulation” (60). This relation to the environment, one of collaboration and respect, is present in The Witness. In my last play session, the solutions to the puzzles were imbedded in the natural environment, the trees in front of the puzzle boxes serving as clues to the puzzles’ answers. Hiding the solution to the puzzle in the environment serves two important functions. First, it requires the player truly to examine and appreciate the natural world. If the player is focused myopically on solving the puzzle without considering her environment, she will undoubtedly be stumped. Paradoxically, to solve the puzzle, the player must look at the world beyond the puzzle. Second, hiding the solution to the puzzle in the game’s environment models a way of working with nature that is not predicated on directly taking or using natural resources. Instead of taking from nature, the game encourages the player to learn from it, which is a pretty significant environmental message.

The solution to this puzzle is hidden in the tree pictured

Additionally, The Witness encourages players to contemplate the vastness, power, and beauty of the natural world. In discussing the parser-based interactive fiction Adventure, Chang writes that the game encourages the player to consider “the sheer scale and complexity of its natural environment” (66). The Witness is much the same. Isolated on the island with no NPCs to distract her, the player’s focus is solely on the world around her. Even while sitting inside and looking at a screen, the enormous, beautiful world of The Witness encourages players to consider the vastness and splendor of nature.

While a video game is no substitute for time spent outside, environmental texts such as The Witness nevertheless instruct players on the value of nature. Interacting with the environment without plundering it and considering the beauty of the open world, players of The Witness are met with timely themes of environmental respect and appreciation.

Works Cited

Alenda Y. Chang. “Games as Environmental Texts.” Qui Parle, vol. 19, no. 2, 2011, pp. 56–84.

Source: One With Nature: The Witness as an Environmental Text

Animal Crossing and Mobile Gaming as Anti-Escapist

Gordon Calleja’s article, Digital Games and Escapism, which challenges the validity of the suggestion that video games are a mostly negative form of escapism, caused me to further question the distinction between mobile and console games. Much of the article emphasizes the idea of the “magic circle” as a problematic binary that defines the “spatial, temporal, and psychological boundary” (340) separating games from reality. This is a concept that is used regularly when defining both physical and virtual games. However, in his video-game specific argument, he primarily situates these three worlds as being dependant on the physical placement of a human playing the game. His use of language asserts judgment over computer games or console games, which generally require a person to sit down for a distinct amount of time and focus their vision onto the screen until they’ve decided to stop. This physical necessity to play in a specific spot more clearly sets up a claim for his argument, which problematizes the suggestion that focusing attention onto a game is inherently “escapist”, but does not exactly explain what happens when playing a virtual game on one’s cell phone or otherwise portable device.

For example, when playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my iPhone, I can pretty much pull up the app whenever or wherever I choose, assuming I have sufficient wifi connection. What does this lack of real-life physical boundary add or take away to the game experience—or even to the way I experience life? In questioning the application of the magic circle concept to video games as opposed to socially-upheld boundaries of games requiring human interaction, Calleja quotes Juul as saying: “… in video games, the magic circle is quite well defined since a video game only takes place on the screen and using the input devices (mouse, keyboard, controllers) rather than in the rest of the world; hence there is no ‘‘ball’’ that can be out of bounds” (341). This quotation doesn’t quite suit the description of a mobile game, as I can carry my game with me when I go to get a snack, or talk to a friend, and continue playing. To test this theory I spent my 30 minutes of play for this round of logs playing Pocket Camp in the living room of my apartment while my housemates were around. In this “study”, for lack of a better word, I found that instead of Pocket Camp serving as an escape from reality, I was simply less invested in both my real and virtual surroundings. Some of this came with the fact that I could still receive text message and email notifications at the top of my screen: a constant reminder that life is going on around me and I am expected to interact with it. There is something I find inherently less escapist in the model of phone gaming because of this. Though cell phones get a lot of flack these days for supposedly distracting millennials from their real-world surroundings, unless you silence your phone and remove all notification systems from it and sit alone in a dark room (which, admittedly, as kind of nice to do sometimes), the purpose of a phone is often to remind someone of external obligations and interactions.

In Pocket Camp, specifically, there is also an element of real time that contributes to my assumption that the game makers purposely do not want their game serving as escapism. As I’ve mentioned in previous logs, there are 3-hour rotations in which animals come and go and give the player requests. The background animation in the game changes in these three-hour time slots as well (primarily daylight, to sunset, to night time), serving as a reminder of the time of day in the real world. The time that has passed while playing, and the time a player must wait for certain things to occur, is consistently in the forefront of the game’s design, as is visible in the screenshot below.

 At the bottom of the screen, you can see how much time is left until certain events happen.

Ultimately, I came to wonder what it does to a player’s investment in a game to know that they are ultimately reliant on real-world time to reach certain accomplishments. This is a model I’ve now realized occurs in most of the phone games typically in the Apple store top 20: games that are often dependant on limited stamina systems and real-time refresh loops of said stamina. It is almost as though mobile game designers have purposely inverted the assumption of the “magic circle”, by creating a game that constantly reminds you that you are choosing to play instead of tending to real world responsibilities by having an in-game clock as a central mechanic. Often, this system serves as a method of frustrating the player enough to make them want to spend real-world money on stamina so they can continue playing as much as they want, and is therefore takes on a transparent capitalist agenda, but it also makes the game—and others like it—less escapist.


Works Cited: 

Calleja, Gordon. “Digital Games and Escapism.” Games and Culture , vol. 5, no. 4, 7 May 2010, pp. 335–353., doi:

Source: Animal Crossing and Mobile Gaming as Anti-Escapist

Casual Games: Shaping What a Gamer Looks Like

There is no questioning that the modern “gamer” is often misrepresented and misunderstood.  The gaming industry has dramatically changed in the last 20 years and with the rise of console games and the increasingly large number of “free to play” games that are available in app stores, the “casual” gaming experience is on the rise too: reflecting an entirely new demographic of players. In Shira Chess and Nathaniel Evans’ paper “What Does a Gamer Look Like,” they emphasize a shift away from the stereotypical image of a heterosexual male that many people imagine when they think gamer, citing statistical evidence that almost half of individuals playing video games today are women.  Is this shift a result of changing perceptions of the video game industry or are there other factors at play, such as the type of games that are being made?

While hardcore games such as first person shooters may be still dominated by men, games like Words with Friends 2 attract an entirely different audience- outside of the image of a gamer that we traditionally subscribe to.  This isn’t to say that females don’t play MMO’s and first person shooters but, as Chess points out, that the number of females playing these games are far fewer than their male counterparts.  Even more surprisingly, Chess and Evans suggest that the females that do play these games, are less likely to use voice chat and similar features, possibly pointing out that the misperception of what a “gamer” looks like, puts pressure on females, forcing them to play other, “more casual” games.

As an experiment, I queued up 20 random matches in Words With Friends 2 in order to get a sense of the demographic that’s playing the game.  Of the 20 matches that I started, 14 of them were women and I assume that this trend would continue even if I had a larger sample size.  As Chess and Evans posit in their paper, it is clear that there are plenty of women playing video games, but I would suggest that this statistic  has more to do with a change in the gaming industry than it has to do with the actual “gamer.”

 Endless Number of Casual Games Available in the App Store

With the increasingly large number of casual games on the market that you can play at the click of a button, such as Words with Friends or Candy Crush, video games are reaching larger and larger numbers of people, with only a small percentage of games falling under the “hardcore” category that is largely dominated by males.  As a result the demographic of people that play video games is becoming more and more balanced among all types of people, regardless of gender, race, or sexuality.  In the end, it isn’t exactly clear what accounts for this shift in “what a gamer looks like”, but with the increasing number of games on the market that are being marketed to individuals outside of the “traditional” straight white male version of a gamer,  it is no surprise that more people want to play.

Source: Casual Games: Shaping What a Gamer Looks Like

The Rewarding Nature of Super Monkey Ball 2

Super Monkey Ball 2 is an example of a platform game, where the player is tasked with navigating each individual stage (platform) in order to reach the goal and complete the level. In her paper, “Unlocking the Gameworld: The Rewards of Space and Time in Videogames,” Alison Gazzard illustrates four central reward categories that are prevalent in games like Super Monkey Ball 2, Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and many other classic platform games. These four types of rewards are “‘rewards of glory, rewards of sustenance, rewards of access, and rewards of facility’” (Gazzard 2). For the rest of the blog post, I will explain how each of these rewards relates to the game play of Super Monkey Ball 2.

Rewards of glory are “‘[. . .] all the things you’re going to give the player that have absolutely no impact on the game play itself but will be things they end up taking away from the experience’” (Gazzard 2). In Super Monkey Ball 2 rewards of glory would be bananas, which are comparable to the coins and rings that Gazzard mentions when discussing Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the HedgehogIn the game play of Super Monkey Ball 2 the bananas, individually, serve no purpose, they can increase a player’s score slightly, but in challenge mode each individual banana serves no real purpose. In challenge mode, and even in story mode the bananas seem to be elements of juiciness that serve as a social reward, giving “[. . .] the player an opportunity to discuss rewards amongst friends ” (Gazzard 2).

This picture shows a level rich with bananas (reward of glory). When the banana counter in the top right reaches 100 the player will be granted an extra life. (Courtesy of Google images).


Rewards of glory can be linked to rewards of sustenance, as rewards of sustenance are “‘given so the player can maintain their avatar’s status quo and keep all the things they’ve gained in the game so far’” (Gazzard 2). In terms of Super Monkey Ball 2, the bananas, which individually serve no purpose, eventually allow the player to gain a life. This feature is only available in challenge mode, but it allows “[. . .] players to keep their characters within the gameworld longer” (Gazzard 2). In doing this, rewards of sustenance allow the player to increase the amount of time he or she is able to play one continuous game.

The third type of reward is rewards of access, which “[. . .] allow for a direct impact on the spatial opportunities within the game” (Gazzard 2). In Super Monkey Ball 2 these rewards manifest themselves as switches that move certain elements of the platform, such as a bridge. Without activating these switches the player will not be able to successfully complete the level. Gazzard claims that “these rewards are spatial, as they allow for game progression through unlocking new areas for players to explore” (2). While these buttons might not always be seen as rewards due to their necessity, it is their ability to help the player progress through the level that makes them a reward.

This picture shows many switches, only a few will cause the goal to pop up, allowing the player to successfully complete the level (Courtesy of Google images). 

The final category of rewards is rewards of facility. They are defined as things that ‘”[. . .] enable a player’s avatar to to do things they couldn’t do before or enhance abilities they already possess’” (Gazzard 2). In Super Monkey Ball 2 these can be considered the switches similarly to the rewards of access; however, I believe that knowledge of the game mechanics is the games true reward of facility. As a player improves he or she will inevitably gain a better understanding of the patterns within the game, and the proper techniques for navigating difficult obstacles. This, while not a physical reward, will allow the player to enhance their existing abilities and will expand the existing spatial world for the player. These four types of rewards make a significant contribution to the incredibly rewarding nature of platform games like Super Monkey Ball 2


Works Cited:

“Game Studies.” Game Studies – Unlocking the Gameworld: The Rewards of Space and Time in Videogames,

Source Website:


Source: The Rewarding Nature of Super Monkey Ball 2

The Art of Murder III: Exclusivity in Gaming

In our class discussions, we briefly examined the characteristics of a game and its promotional advertisements in relation to its implied audience. After a session of Blood Money, I wondered about its marketing campaigns and whether or not it achieved its target audience. And if it did, how?

In Debugging Game History, Carly Kocurek states that the earlier advertisement for games catered towards male audiences, however, in recent years, the identity of the gamer has broadened towards females as well. The chapter mentions Ubisoft wanting to promote the idea of a “female gamer”, yet will not add female main characters to their games. The Hitman franchise’s IO entertainment is no different. While the content of their games may not explicitly reveal misogyny, their advertisements have always garnered controversy for their depictions of violence and women. In the advertisement for 2012’s Hitman Absolution, Agent 47 is seen slaughtering several scantily dressed nuns. While the video places women in an empowering state, they are still served as eye-candy for the male players and ultimately die beautifully against the signature hitman. A few years prior, during the release of Blood Money, the company went through the same kind of controversy as they released ads of murdered people. One of the ads portrayed another woman in lingerie with a bullet in her head. While the release of Hitman (2016) seemingly learned from its previous mistakes and chose to promote a more cinematic gameplay, it is clear that certain masculine-dominated elements are still needed to sell contemporary games.

However, this exclusivity does not solely exist in a binary male vs. female structure, but across several axises. In the article “The Structure of Video Game Preference”, studies reveal two dominant associations: inclusive (family oriented games) vs. exclusive (dark-themed/mature games) and niche vs. mainstream games. Both of these axises correlates with a demographic divide between infrequent, female gamers and frequent, male gamers.

Figure 1. “The Structure of Videogame Preference”

The graph above divides the two axises with Hitman falling near the Exclusive-Niche quadrant. This would provide evidence that the franchise caters towards dedicated, male gamers that avoid larger, exclusive games. Divided into seven broad categories of gamers, Hitman seems to be dominated by the “Lads”, a group that is overwhelmingly male with only a 4% female demographic and plays more than any other group (47% play more than five days a week).

Table 2a. “The Structure of Videogame Preference”

Table 2b. “The Structure of Videogame Preference”

So while certain game companies, like IO, may cater to certain demographics, it is not necessarily just male gamers that are being targeted. It is catered toward male gamers who dedicate a lot of time to gaming, prefer darker themes, and want difficult gameplay. Despite this particular market’s display of potential violence and sexism, it would be wrong to say that the entire gaming industry is not progressing in its mission to include others.




Lowood, Henry, et al. Debugging Game History: a Critical Lexicon. The MIT Press, 2016.

Munro, Shaun. “10 Outrageous Video Game Adverts That Caused Major Controversy.”,, 23 July 2013,

Klevjer, Rune. “Game Studies.” Game Studies – The Structure of Videogame Preference,

Schreier, Jason. “Hitman Director Says Controversial Trailer ‘Wasn’t Supposed To Be’ Sexist.” Kotaku,, 13 June 2012,

Source: The Art of Murder III: Exclusivity in Gaming

Every Corner Means Death

When I played Dark Souls for the very first time I felt a sense of anxiety that I hadn’t previously experienced in any other game. I had felt anxious while playing horror games such as Outlast or any of the Resident Evil games, but this was different. I had never played a game that made me work so hard for few (and far between) signs of progression. The smallest misstep or poorly timed attack would almost certainly lead to a black screen with the blood-red words “You Died” being thrown in my face. When entering new areas I would always feel a slight sense of dread because the game itself had instilled within me the understanding that I was entirely at its mercy. Letting my guard down at any moment greatly increased my chances of death.

The simple statement implies that the death was entirely the player’s fault for making a mistake.

As Tom van Nuenen argues in his article, “Dark Souls features post-Panoptical gameplay mechanics of both continuous surveillance and playful exhibitionism and hybrid gameplay experience of both subjectivation and empowerment” (1). As with any video game, the system itself has to keep track of the player to ensure the proper mechanics are triggered at the correct intervals, whether that be enemies being spawned, items being acquired, or boss fights occurring in the proper locations. In this sense, the player understands and accepts that the world they are inhabiting adopts certain roles ascribed to the Panopticon.

They are not, however, prisoners within Lordran. It is true that Dark Souls refuses to help the player learn the rules of the world and punishes them indiscriminately for their lack of understanding, but this is not intended to discourage the player from attempting to empower themselves. This is instead meant to encourage the player to quickly learn the limits of their abilities and methodically plan out their next move. For example, there are two forms that a player can take on, a hollowed and human form. When in the human form, the player can summon NPCs and other online players to help them defeat a particularly challenging boss. This is, however, a double-edged sword because it will also leave the player open to invasions from the online community. When this occurs, the player cannot move on until they either kill the invader or are killed by the invader. The player will once again become the subject of a form of punishment within the game except for this time the punishment is not coming from the game, but other individuals who were once subjected themselves.


Nuenen, Tom van. “Playing the Panopticon: Procedural Surveillance in Dark Souls.” Games and Culture, Sage, 2016,

Source: Every Corner Means Death