Critical Analysis: Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone Home

SLOAN, R.J. (2015) Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone HomeGames and Culture10(6), pp.527-528.

After seven generations of videogames, companies have started to detect and satisfy a growing consumer desire for nostalgic references in their products. Robin J. S.Sloan, who is a lecturer in Game Art and Design at Albertay University in Dundee, United Kingdom, makes an insightful analysis over the commercialisation of the player’s needs for retrospection and the consequences that this simulation may bring to the historical perception of the periods they try to emulate. Furthermore, a case study research was conducted where Baudrillard’s theories of consumer objects and simulation were used to analyse two highly representative of commodified nostalgia videogames: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (BD) and Gone Home (GH). This article was published in the 6th issue of 2015 on Games and Culture, an international journal that supports innovative theoretical and empirical research about games and culture within interactive media.

I have chosen this article because it reveals the importance of using commodified cross-media references in videogames design to make them more appealing to consumers, helping me to be aware of the inclusion of such material on my own work. Furthermore, this article is a valuable and trustworthy resource due to the author’s background as an experienced worker on videogame industry and having a PhD in animation, with a specific focus on videogame critique. Also, he has participated in several International conferences, publishing his articles in media research and study related journals like Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds (2010), Participations (2013) or Computer in Human Behavior (2014) among others.

In the two selected pages (p.527-528), after pointing out several examples of commodified games and marketing designs of videogames the author asserts that the strong necessity of consumer nostalgia for videogames could have been predicted due to the quick evolution of videogame technology and design in a very short period of time (40 years), changing the product design very fast and creating the game consumers’ need for fulfilling a nostalgic yearn for old videogames. Nevertheless, the author forgets to explain why it was not predicted ahead of time or if it was a premeditated game industry’s strategy. He continues his argument pointing out that not only old popular videogames references are being used to satisfy this nostalgic need but also cross-media referencing like music, TV or films. To support his argument he uses Jenkins’ (2006) theory of convergence to link users between different media periods and Bolter and Grusin’s (1999) theory of remediation to explain the industry strategies to appropriate older media to create the new one.  The author claims that using the techniques and rules of other media that were typical of a period, especially the late 20th and early 21th century, which are the most valuable for gamers, is a usual practice in the videogames industry to recall that time. The author proposes Bioshock Infinite (Irrational Games, 2013) as an example, where the music of the 80’s has been taken and adapted to suit early 20th-century music style. The author does not delve into if with the passing of the time, this period will change to fit new generations due to the lack of interest and knowledge and newer periods will take their place. According to the author, “historicity is replaced by an ambiguous image of the past” where this appropriation and modification of old media creates a distorted perception of history by the player that later on the article the author will coin with the term hyperreality.

The author takes BD and GH as reference videogames due to its wide use of cross-media nostalgic references in their narrative, world and promotional materials, are representatives of different scale production (AAA and Indie) and the remarkable success and acceptance they had. Both games have a very deep nostalgic background, nevertheless, BD cannot be considered a good AAA game representative as it is almost an official mod, a skin of Far Cry 3 as the author admits “…was a modification of the recently released AAA title Far Cry 3”(p.528) more than the actual AAA game. There are better options as AAA games with regards of acceptance and sales, like some of the other examples that the author already use in their article, like Bioshock Infinite which was more successful than BD but, for the needs of the author’s thesis it was easier to use a videogame intentionally packed with 80’s action film references and premeditated design as a “nostalgia game”(p.528) not a regular one.

In the case of GH the author established the videogame success and acceptance after only a month after the release which may not be sufficient to get a conclusion, as we can see in the Metacritic game’s website where the user score barely obtains an approval with a 5.4 out of 10 and have more negative users reviews than positive which contradicts the argument that was well received by consumers and critics alike.

The fact that the selection of the two videogames was made by the author decision instead of a more empiric system like analyse the games with the best critic and user score or a more random method, may be perceive as the author’s self-convenience strategy to support his thesis. Furthermore, the scarce variety of analysed examples may create doubts about if this thesis is applicable to most videogames or only are isolated cases.

In conclusion, Sloan has made a very persuasive argument giving factual examples and research in two representing videogames that support his thesis. The use of commodified nostalgia through cross-media referencing in videogames is becoming a more interesting area of development in game industry due to the attractive implications that these additions bring to the commercialisation of a product. The author statement is valid with regard to the appropriation and transformation of the representation of period consumer culture, but I think that the design of a videogame is not bound by history and its aim is to entertain the consumers through a compelling background, plot and playability and benefit from the provided entertainment. Finally, the analysis of other videogames without such an evident period media reference as BD and GH, so convenient for the author thesis, would be of interest.

 

Word count: 1018

 

Bibliography

BAUDRILLARD, J. (1994) Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

BAUDRILLARD, J. (2005) The system of objects. London, England: VersoBooks.

BOLTER, J. D., & GRUSIN, R. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

JENKINS, H. (2006) Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York, NY: New York University Press.

MARVRIDOU, O. and Sloan, R.J., (2013) Playing outside the box: Transformative works and computer games as participatory culture. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies 10 (2): 246-259

SLOAN, R.J., (2015) Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone Home. Games and Culture, 10(6), pp.525-550.

ROBINSON, Brian, Ken Scott‐Brown, Fhionna Moore, Malcolm Cook, and Robin JS Sloan. “Choreographing emotional facial expressions.” Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds 21, no. 3-4 (2010): 203-213.

TINWELL, A. and Sloan, R.J., (2014) Children’s perception of uncanny human-like virtual characters. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, pp.286-296.

Metacritic (n.d.) Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon [Online]. Metacritic. Available from:<http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/far-cry-3-blood-dragon > [Accessed 18/11/2016].

Metacritic (n.d.) Gone Home [Online]. Metacritic. Available from:<http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/gone-home > [Accessed 18/11/2016].

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