Planning the Archive of Player Experience

For this week’s blog, I’d like to lay out my plans for my project this semester. My plans to start archiving player experiences and measuring narrative variance in games extend far beyond one semester’s project, but, as with so many large DH projects, that demands breaking the project up into manageable pieces.

For this semester, I’d like to start the project by plotting the playthroughs of first-person, narrative, indie, and queer games that I’m using for my dissertation. These include Gone Home, a game about exploring an empty house and piecing together the narratives of people who live there; The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, a game about a missing boy who loves to tell stories and is rejected by his family; SOMA, a game about encountering the last of humanity and post-human futures in virtual reality; and The Talos Principle, a game that draws attention to artificial intelligence, consciousness, and the construction of reality. Not all of these games are explicitly queer, or have LGBTQ characters or representations. Yet all of them draw attention in different ways to the queer ways we experience play and construct narratives of our experiences.

Plotting these games will help me assess how players have engaged with these games in different ways, and how their experiences and narratives of the games are different. Even though every player played the same game, their different experiences mean their perceptions of the game are likely quite different (though this study will help assess *how* different). One might even argue that they cognitively constructed different versions of the virtual play spaces they explored.

This project is in many ways complementary to the work I do with the LGBTQ Video Game Archive. Whereas the Archive collects records of LGBTQ representation in games in different decades and game series, my work with ImagePlot will seek to explore how players are engaging with queer games, and perhaps how queer games are or are not different from other games in their genres. Do games with LGBTQ content also tend to have different and queer forms? Or do they borrow the forms and conventions from their genres, and replace heteronormative content with LGBTQ content?

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