Story Mode: Video Games and the Interplay Between Consoles and Culture

Trevor Strunk. Prometheus, $26.95 (228p) ISBN 978-1-63388-680-3
In this perhaps too thorough debut, video game critic Strunk, host of the No Cartridge podcast, plumbs the world of gaming “to think about... culture in more expansive ways.” While “a game’s story may be trivial,” he argues, “it is almost certainly transformatively important to someone, not in spite of but because of that triviality.” He considers several series and genres—including survival horror (best exemplified by Resident Evil and Outlast), first-person shooters, and Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid series—to unpack how video games have become “catalysts for blame” (namely in promoting violence), but also how they’ve pushed back against certain narratives and have engaged with contemporary politics. For example, when discussing the Call of Duty franchise, he illuminates how the game “pair[ed] fairly rote jingoism with a sly sense of self-critique.” This “complex dance of propaganda-cum-consent” serves as a central premise: Are the Fallout games, he wonders, a sly allegory about how not even apocalypse can stop capitalism? And are franchises such as Final Fantasy destined to “abandon their more radically interesting ideas in favor of conservative ideas that please their audiences”? While the theories are thought-provoking, the mixture of history, social commentary, and philosophical analysis can sometimes make for a rather bloated work. This one’s for serious gamers only. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/09/2021
Release date: 11/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-63388-681-0
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