As I was browsing through social media this morning, I stumbled into a series of “Disney-Inspired” mock posters, no doubt designed to make fun of, or criticize, Disney’s casting choice for The Little Mermaid. While in the first Disney film Ariel was drawn as a white, blue-eyed redhead, the casting for the live-action adaptation that we have all been expected since Disney began dabbling in the creation of a “Disney Cinematic Universe” was Halle Bailey, a young R&B singer and one half of the Chloe X Halle duo. She also happens to have black skin.
Predictably, this set the Internet ablaze, with many saying that they would boycott the film and others calling Disney racist while others still praised the company for its forward-thinking casting and sense of inclusiveness. These mock posters I stumbled into were part of this reactionary movement, and while they might *seem* at first as a “funny” jab from the anti-Halle camp towards Disney, these posters actually say a lot more about the mindset of those who created them and how they see media and media representation than they say about Disney. These posters fail to take into consideration everything that makes the characters who and what they are, and everything that makes Ariel who and what she is. In his/her haste to hunt for lulz, the creators of the posters show a deep misunderstanding of identity, character design, storytelling, and narrative development.
Videogames are an interesting medium with a contentious name. Some videogames provide players with open spaces for them to navigate and explore. Other videogames let players create their own rules. Others still are virtual representations of board games or real life games, while a large number of videogames are stories that players navigate through. Some videogames even have little, if any, components that anyone could recognize as a game. Indeed, videogames can sometimes be games and other times they can be gameless stories, but they are always something that the player (another contentious term as sometimes the player is more of a reader) experiences. For the past few years, I have dedicated my time researching the rhetoric and composition of games. I have presented and published on games as rhetorical texts, and my focus has always been, to borrow a trope from literary studies, “the game itself.” Indeed, I have a book coming out later this year on the composition of games – one of a three part series, and what Reviewer 4 said was “a magnificent text that brings closure to the Bogost / Ensslin era of game studies.” So, having done everything I set out to do with regards to what videogames are, I turned my gaze inwards to engage in a bit of much needed introspection and asked myself: how do videogames make me feel? This question can be interpreted in two ways. First, it can be taken as “what are the processes by which videogames make players feel?” I’m not too concerned with that question (yet). Instead, I asked it in its second sense: what are the feelings that videogames elicit from me when I play?
I’ve been hitting Dauntless hard during last few days. I think I put in about 10 hours (2 per day), and I enjoyed most of them. I even purchased an Intro Bundle with a cool Ninja transmog (it makes any armor look like a badass ninja). For a while, I enjoyed the mindlessness of popping into an island, hunting down a monster with three other players (ok, more like wondering around until I found the monster), and then battling it to victory and then upgrade my weapons and armor.
Recently, however, I noticed something that made me enjoy the game far less.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the All-Digital future that gaming publishers are pushing us into. It’s not just a question of having a display case or the feeling of having something physical, but rather one of ownership. When someone buys a game they might not own the Intellectual Property of the game, but they own that specific copy of the game. If laws regarding other media are anything to go by, just as a person is able to pick up a book and read it and write on it whenever they feel like it, people should be able to play (or mod) a game whenever they feel like it. And yet, it seems that now game publishers are eager to (once again) take away that freedom.
Kotaku recently reported that “in a few weeks, Minecraft: Story Mode will be impossible to download.” In our All Digital Present, this means that if someone paid for a STEAM copy of the game, they will no longer have access to that game. The publisher is essentially breaking into your home and stealing your copy of the book; except that because it’s just your STEAM account and it’s just a game it’s somehow ok.