Towards a Language for Artistic Realism

Weichelt Sebastian
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

Realism has been a very vague and broad concept and term regarding videogames. While many related concepts are often subject of study, like representation, presence, historical accuracy, or immersion, there still is no language that can be used to talk about realism in a productive and precise manner. However, the term and concept have been discussed and analyzed in art theory and some language exists in that field. This paper reviews perspectives on realism in art theory and analyzes their applicability to videogames. The result is a concept of counterfeit realism, the quality of how well an artwork resists inquiry of its properties. The artwork can be said to be realistic to the degree to which the inquiry is unable to detect the artwork as a representation.


“Who thinks beating a child is entertainment?”: Ideological Constructions of the Figure of ‘The Child’ in Detroit: Become Human

Reay Emma
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

This article draws on sociological and anthropological theories relating to cultural constructions of the figure of ‘the child’ to determine whether Detroit: Become Human by Quantic Dream affirms or subverts ideological beliefs about children. It argues that much of the backlash Quantic Dream experienced following the premiere of the game’s trailer, which featured a scene of child abuse, can be understood part of a broader moral performance that relies on the sanctity of ‘the child’ to function as a touchstone for the modern Western society. It concludes that far from challenging dominant narratives about the moral value of ‘the child’, Detroit: Become Human replicates a conservative, reactionary, paternalistic view of children’s position within society.


Flow It, Show It, Play It: Hair in Digital Games

Ivănescu Andra
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

This paper proposes digital hair as a lens through which to explore a number of issues surrounding culture and representation in videogames. While the difficulty of creating hair which looks and moves in a photorealistic manner is notorious in both animation and digital games, the effortless ability to create hair which carries with it social and cultural meaning has not been examined with the same fine-tooth comb. Sociologists and anthropologists from Sir Edmund Leach to Emma Dabiri emphasise how hair can carry a multitude of social, cultural and political meanings, and this paper argues that many of these are carried over into digital worlds. These meanings are examined here in terms of the colour, length, and texture of digital game characters’ hair in relation to culture, gender, and race, providing further avenues for the exploration of representation in digital games.


Polygonal Modeling: The Aestheticization of Identity

Kerich Chris
2019 DiGRA '19 - Proceedings of the 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo-Mix

Starting from the assumption that the skin is a complex organ that carries with it a depth and cultural history that cannot be easily understood, it follows that one must also come to reckon with the technologies that are used to represent skin in digital formats. By far, the dominant computational paradigm for representing 3D objects of any kind is “polygonal modeling”, a system which represents 3D objects as the combination of two things: a mesh and a texture, also known as a “skin”. This seemingly innocuous technological paradigm carries with it important ideological, political messages about identity and visual representation. I approach the analysis of these messages in three ways. First, I briefly examine the history of computer graphics, and polygonal modeling in particular, to show how the engineering values of efficiency and functionality ultimately drove and determined the development of polygonal modeling, and emphasize the cultural and critical reflection absent from that development. Next, I examine cultural practices surrounding 3D models in video games, specifically players skinning characters and the economy of skins, to show how the affordances of polygonal modeling as a paradigm lend themselves to the aestheticization and commodification of identity in digital spheres, advancing a neoliberal ideology that holds identity as an aesthetic commodity to be bought and sold. While it’s unlikely that this technology will radically transform in the near future, it’s important to identify, and reflect on, the assumptions that underlie it and the ideological effects it has. In doing so one can start to imagine new ways of interacting with it, or even start to imagine new technologies with new paradigms that govern them.


Romance Never Changes…Or Does It?: Fallout, Queerness, and Mods

Howard Kenton Taylor
2019 DiGRA '19 - Proceedings of the 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo-Mix

Romance options are common in mainstream games, but since games have been criticized for their heteronormativity, such options are worth examining for their contribution to problematic elements within gaming culture. The Fallout series suffers from many of these issues; however, recent games in the can be modded, offering fans a way to address these problems. In this paper, I examine heteronormative elements of the Fallout series’ portrayal of queerness to demonstrate how these issues impacted the series over time. I also look more specifically at heteronormative mechanics and visuals from Fallout 4, the most recent single-player game in the series. Finally, I discuss three fan-created mods for Fallout 4 that represent diverse approaches to adding queer elements to the game. I argue that one effective response to problematic portrayals of queerness in games is providing modding tools to the fans so that they can address issues in the games directly.


War Ethics: A Framework for Analyzing Videogames

Zagal José P.
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

While much has been done exploring how ethics and videogames can overlap in interesting ways, there is little work examining the philosophy of war and its relation to videogames. This seems unusual since videogames have a long tradition of engaging with war as its subject matter. We provide a framework for analyzing and articulating ethical issues and concerns in videogames that feature representations of war. This framework is based in traditional war ethics, more specifically the notion of the “just war” and considers the ethical concerns that include when engaging in a war is morally justified (jus ad bellum), how to wage a war ethically (jus in bello) and the ethical responsibilities of the aftermath of a war (jus post bellum). Our framework consists of five lenses consisting of the perspective offered to players, the scale and scope of war represented, the centrality of war to the game experience, the type of military that appear in the game, and the authenticity of a game’s representation. For each lens we also provide a list of questions that can be used to examine the subtleties and nuances of how war is represented in the game that hopefully lead to deeper and more insightful analyses. We conclude with thoughts on how this approach could be productive as well as outline some additional areas worth considering for future work.