Volume 1

Volume 1, Issue 1:

Full Issue Permalink (January 2014)

Editorial: Standing on the Horizon of the Second Generation by N. A. Hanford

Welcome to the inaugural issue of our open access, peer reviewed journal. Drawing out the assumptions and ideals of the journal, this text serves as an introduction for the current and future issues of the Journal of Games Criticism.

The Other Side of the Valley; Or, Between Freud and Videogames by K. Aardse

This paper explores the root of the uncanny valley as based in Freud’s uncanny and posits that the uncanny valley allows us to engage in acts of violence and enjoy a masochistic relationship with the videogame; this relationship would break down if the uncanny valley is conquered.

"You're Just Gonna Be Nice": How Players Engage with Moral Choice Systems by A. Lange

Are you a Paragon, or a Renegade? Light Side, or Dark Side? I surveyed over 1000 gamers to see how they engaged with moral choice systems in video games. The results are sadly predictable: You're all too nice.

Public Memory and Gamer Identity: Retrogaming as Nostalgia by D. S. Heineman

This essay adopts a critical perspective to analyze the rise of retrogaming culture and its related practices. Specifically, it considers the role of nostalgia in both constructing a retrogamer identity and in contesting histories of the medium.

Across Worlds and Bodies: Criticism in the Age of Video Games by B. Keogh

This article highlights the values inherited by game studies that have resisted the creation of a toolkit for close, descriptive analysis of individual texts. It suggests one path forward grounded in the phenomenological pleasures of videogame play across worlds and bodies.

Visualizing Game Studies: Materiality and Sociality from Chessboard to Circuit Board by A. Trammell & A. Sinnreich

In this essay, we describe a paradigm shift in the social function and reception of games, from metaphors to social instruments. We also offer a taxonomic visualization of the Game Studies field in order to show the history of this paradigm shift.

Gaming for Better Life: A Review of Jane McGonigal's Reality Is Broken by Q. Ji

Jane McGonigal’s groundbreaking work Reality Is Broken challenged the negative-effects-oriented rhetoric of game criticism by reconciling the contradictory relationship among games, individual well-being, and social change from a game designer’s perspective.


Volume 1, Issue 2:

Full Issue Permalink (June 2014)

The Brechtian, Absurdist, and Poor Video Game: Alternative Theatrical Models of Software-based Experience by C. Evans

This essay proposes a set of avant-garde models for video game illusions prioritizing artistic goals that do not necessarily function in terms of the market. The author both challenges and builds upon Brenda Laurel’s “Computers as Theatre” analogy by incorporating approaches from 20th Century theatre into video game creation.

Beyond Identification: Defining the Relationships between Player and Avatar by L. Papale

Do we really identify with our avatar, no matter what? This article deconstructs the notion of identification and tries to determine how and why different kind of characters, points of view, and video game genres convey and allow different relationships between player and avatar.

Do You Feel Like a Hero Yet? Externalised Morality in Video Games by M. J. Heron & P. H. Belford

Game morality systems are, by and large, incapable of confronting players with meaningful issues of ethical complexity. In this paper, we discuss two titles that present real moral issues while avoiding the classical tropes of in-game karma meters.

Why Failing in Games is a Positive Aspect of Play: A Review of Jesper Juul’s The Art of Failure by P. Lorentz

Jesper Juul’s latest book The Art of Failure interrogates the role of failure in video gaming by questioning the paradox between the pain felt when failing and the eagerness to reiterate the experience. Juul displays his thoughts and observations harvested along his experience.

Cyborgs and Academia by J. Köller

If player and game are joined together as one, then the activity of playing the game becomes playing with oneself. … The majority of academic work still exists behind such firewalls or paywalls, and you are speaking the same language, which is a barrier of its own.

Reply to J. Köller by G. S. Hubbell & N. A. Hanford

Academia has valuable informal institutions. … We want and value your language—we see your craft of writing as a craft of knowledge.

Volume 2

Volume 2, Issue 1:

Full Issue Permalink (January 2015)

Hermeneutics and Ludocriticism by V.-M. Karhulahti

This article introduces the concept of ludocriticism as a practice for evaluating videogame artifacts. It is not so much concerned with understanding the product, but rather with whether the product is worth understanding. The primary method of this practice is hermeneutics.

All of Your Co-Workers are Gone: Story, Substance, and the Empathic Puzzler by M. J. Heron & P. H. Belford

This paper discusses the nature of structured and non-structured exploration and the pivotal role it plays in the experience we have of branching narratives. We then discuss how free-from story structures create a new kind of game genre—the "empathic puzzler."

Passion as Method: Subjectivity in Video Games Criticism by S. C. Jennings

This article posits an approach to games criticism in which the subjectivity of the critic is accepted as central and necessary. It provides a method by which the critic and the critic’s experiences become a part of the game text under analysis.

What Makes Gêmu Different? A Look at the Distinctive Design Traits of Japanese Video Games and Their Place in the Japanese Media Mix by V. Navarro-Remesal & A. Loriguillo-López

This article defends gêmu (or Japanese games) as a separate category for the critique of games, based on their relation to Cool Japan, the Japanese media mix, and their specific aesthetic and creative features, including design strategies, animation techniques, genres, and tropes.

Game Criticism as Tangential Learning Facilitator: The Case of Critical Intel by R. Rath

Video games have great potential to encourage tangential learning, but obstacles still exist. Enter explanatory game criticism, a critical structure that generates a springboard for tangential learners and offers them routes to continue their exploration using vetted sources.

A Counterrevolution in the Hands: The Console Controller as an Ergonomic Branding Mechanism by D. Parisi

New consoles are lauded for their capacity to revolutionize the relationship between players and games. By looking at formal and commercial logics of console controller design, this article shows why stability, not revolution, has defined the controller's material configuration.

Volume 2, Issue 2:

Full Issue Permalink (August 2015)

Read Dead Masculinity: Constructing a Conceptual Framework for Analyzing the Narrative and Message Found in Video Games by B. J. Triana

This article examines the process by which players may take away persuasive messages found in narrative video games. The article uses Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption as a case study to examine how the internalization of a game’s message can be theoretically explained.

Understanding Games and the Industry that Produces Them: A Review of the Edited Volume The Video Game Industry by C. J. Young

The Video Game Industry, edited by Peter Zackariasson and Timothy L. Wilson, provides a predominantly technological and economic perspective on the history of the video game industry in North America and Europe.

Volume 3

Volume 3, Issue 1:

Full Issue Permalink (January 2016)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Games Coverage and its Network of Ambivalences by M. Foxman & D. B. Nieborg

This article is an exploratory study of critics’ role in developing the conception of gamer culture and the effect of that culture on their work and identity. Through historical research and textual analysis it claims that critics are ambivalent about their occupation and its place within the culture they helped shape.

Tutored Together Around More than Dialogue: A Review of Evan Skolnick’s Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know about Narrative Techniques by J. F. Wood

Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know about Narrative Techniques, written by Evan Skolnick, provides narrative design guidelines for the purpose of achieving narrative excellence.

Volume 3, Bonus Issue A:
Considering the Sequel to Game Studies...
Papers from Extending Play conference, Rutgers University, NJ

Full Issue Permalink (July 2016)

Guest Editorial: Considering the Sequel to Game Studies… by A. Trammell & Z. Lischer-Katz

The Extending Play conference at Rutgers University in 2015 underlined the importance of sequels and repetition to games and their study. Here the editors discuss these themes and introduce the interviews and articles that were adapted from the conference for this bonus issue.

Hanging in the Video Arcade by S. Tobin

This paper decenters play and the player in the arcade by exploring another subject I call hangers. It explores the genealogies of player control, engagement and the policing of play practices in the American video arcade in the 1980s.

Assessing Mass Effect 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Using Collaborative Criteria for Player Agency in Interactive Narratives by L. Joyce

This paper first establishes the criteria necessary to construct a digital interactive narrative game that contains both narrative agency and ludic agency before considering those criteria against two interactive narrative games: Mass Effect 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Imperialism in the Worlds and Mechanics of First-Person Shooters by A. Patel

This paper focuses on two highly popular first-person shooter games, Far Cry 2 and Far Cry 3, and examines how elements of their game worlds and mechanics reinforce (and disrupt) imperialist narratives.

Ludic Spolia in Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth by E. McNeil

Using the art historical term spolia as a launching point, McNeil explores the reuse of gaming mechanics and visuals from Sid Meier’s Civilization V in Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth. She argues that this reuse was both practical and perhaps unintentionally subversive.

A Proceduralist View on Diversity in Games by G. Smith

Looking at diversity and inclusion through a proceduralist lens allows us to more deeply analyze current games, as well as prompt new questions and avenues for technical and design research.

The Replication of Ideology: An Interview with Adrienne Shaw and Marcus Boon by Melissa Aronczyk

Shaw and Boon examine the iterative and repeating forces of ideology that work within games as a culture industry and play as a cultural practice. They discuss the importance for scholars to take these visible and invisible forces of power into account within the study of games.

Liberating Play: An Interview with Anna Anthropy and Miguel Sicart by A. Gilbert

Anthropy and Sicart discuss the centrality of games within the discipline of game studies and consider how lessons learned from play studies might curb stagnation in the field.

Volume 3, Issue 2:

Full Issue Permalink (November 2016)

Swipe Left to Detain: A Procedural Comparison between Tinder and Papers, Please by I. K. Derk

This article compares the similar rhetorics of Papers, Please and Tinder. The article finds mechanical similarities and explores how games and game-like applications change and alter our perspectives on human relationships.

Turning Pixels into People: Procedural Embodiedness and the Aesthetics of Third-Person Character by S. L. Anderson

This article approaches video games through the lens of corporeality, or bodies. It examines the digital aesthetics of video game character bodies in action-adventure games in order to discover those design elements that make digital bodies feel embodied.

Taking Play Seriously, but not too Seriously: A Review of Ian Bogost's How to Talk about Videogames by J. S. Euteneuer

Ian Bogost tackles a wide breadth of subjects in How to Talk About Videogames with the goal of moving games into serious discourses while never alienating and negating the multifarious experiences only games can offer.