Video Game Studies in Brazil

The idea of learning from video games could take us to some unexpected places. It’s not too much of a stretch for me to say (with Toby Fox, so I feel like I’m in pretty good company) that playing old RPGs taught me to read. Even a fighting game like Street Fighter II, besides the hand-eye coordination it builds up and the discipline it instills, has an element of geography to it.

STREET FIGHTER 2 || RULES

And spending enough time reading online, in turn, leads back to video games. For whatever reason, lately academia.edu has been recommending papers to me via email, like this one on teaching Final Fantasy X. (Be careful about clicking any of these links if you have an account on academia, because their overeager algorithm will probably start sending you a bunch of emails, too.) I don’t mind so much, but it’s a little stressful to realize just how much is out there. And I worry that the more I read, the more rabbit holes I’ll fall down.

Oddly enough, the majority of the papers on video game studies turning up in my inbox have been from outside the US, hailing above all from Brazil. My reading knowledge of Portuguese is very limited, but the convention of including an abstract in English provides a glimpse of the content at least. And there’s always google translate.

If nothing else, skimming through them and browsing their references turns up other material undergirding the arguments, suggesting authorities in the field and unexpected connections.

There’s a “Conversation on Archaeogaming”, whatever that is. I’m sure I’ll contact a few of the authors to see if they’re willing to set up some further conversations about these papers and their current research. A piece on “Video Game Music on the Internet: Nostalgia and Esthetics on YouTube” sounds right up my alley, as does another on literature and video games.

Reading just the epigraph to that one sent me to find the lyrics to this variation on Terra’s Theme, and then to the Pray vocal compilation. Uematsu’s message there is reminiscent of Itoi’s beautiful “What EarthBound Means to Me,” and both of these seem to recall the function of prayer in EarthBound, so crucial to the message of that game as a whole.

Which brings us back to Undertale… so more on that next week.

One last essay in this connection, “The music is the only thing you don’t have to mod” takes its title from the ROM-hacking and modding community. Music and modding, of course, are key for the development of Undertale, and both are high on my personal list of things I wish I knew more about.

I can’t think of a better way to keep on learning than by playing the Zelda theme on the piano and reading everything about game design that comes my way.

A Pandemic Playlist

It can be a scary time, but there’s plenty of reading to catch up on these days. Consider spending some time with the likes of Boccaccio, Defoe, Poe, or Camus wherever it is you’re hunkered down. The classics make good company if you’re lonely, and the virality in their pages is not the kind that gets you sick–though no doubt the pandemic is helping to spread word of them at present.

The dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet - Harry Clarke (BL 12703.i.43).tif
Harry Clarke’s illustration for Poe’s immortal Masque.

For those who’d prefer a more interactive visitation during the quarantine, we at the humble pages of Video Game Academia have a few suggestions.

  • Of the many other games with a thematic relevance, from Parasite Eve, with its chilling opening sequence, to Plague Inc., recently banned in China, perhaps one of the best to turn to now would be That Dragon, Cancer.
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That other dragon, The Jabberwock, illustrated by John Tenniel

As always, you can check out our other courses and resources and head down the rabbit holes awaiting you there. Drop us a line if you find something you like, and “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!”

On the Ground

Imagine my delight, hearing over the morning announcements–on the intercom, no less, anachronism that it is in this age of video!–that the student-run Video Games and Literature Club would be meeting at lunch to discuss The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

With some self-consciousness, I’d asked the teacher whose room the club uses for their meetings, would it be OK for me to sit in? He said why not, it should be fine; but just to make sure I talked to the kid who ran the club, who even looks kind of like me, gawky and smiling, and he all but pulled up a chair for me. He’d had an article about The Witness published on a website whose name was something too long for me to recall, and he was riding high. Still, I felt somehow uncomfortable being the oldest person there, and a teacher, albeit just a sub, so I let the kids discuss amongst themselves without speaking up again.

On other days they’d met to talk about the connections established between players of NieR: Automata and, in a different way, of Death Stranding. For their Majora’s Mask discussion, the focus was on the Song of Healing and its effects, both within the game and upon the player. A brilliant discussion it was! The organizer framed the question: How does the song help convey the theme of the game? And briefly summed up the relevant story, playing videos of the song and its various transformations and eliciting ideas from the other members of the group. All in all, it restored my faith in the youth. And it made me wish, more than ever, that this could be the way that games were taught, right alongside the great books cramming the shelves and the art decorating the walls.

With that, let’s invite any readers out there to share your own local clubs and organizations discussing video games in an academic setting. If there’s a course on games in their literary, cultural, or historical context you know of, please bring it to our attention. Whether you’re an organizer or participant, a teacher or student, we’d like to put you all in touch with one another and pool resources. We might even want to interview you about your experience!

This concludes the announcements. Have a great weekend!