The Gamification of Gothic Coordinates in Videogames

Videogames may rely on the highly logical nature of computing technology, but that does not mean they are immune to the dark touch of Gothic; far from it. Gothic themes, characters, stories, and environments can be found across a wide range of videogames, from puzzle games to multiplayer online games and from shoot ‘em ups to strategy games. More wide-ranging and focused work is certainly required as there is a major lack of sustained scholarly engagement with Gothic in videogames.[1] In an effort to begin the task of remedying this and as part of a more extensive project (a book entitled 'Gothic Games' [forthcoming]), this paper plots some initial coordinates of the domain, locating some of its major features, and provides a framework for evaluating the uses of Gothic in games. The foundation on which this analysis rests is an amalgam of two materials. The first is comprised of concepts, models and ideas that have been developed specifically for the analysis of videogames within what has become known as Game Studies. The second is drawn from concepts, models and ideas developed for the analysis of Gothic within what has become known as Gothic Studies. Game and Gothic Studies are both based in the Humanities and share through the lens of Cultural Studies a common attentiveness to the formation and reception of certain types of texts and their “meaning potential”; laden with signification and organized around patterns, texts both carry and are constitutive of culture. As Mikko Lehtonen puts it, “texts are not stuck on top of the rest of the world, as messages detachable from it, but participate in a central way in the making of reality as well as forming our image of it”(2000, 11). Gothic Studies evaluates texts, the way they are used and engaged with across a range of media and cultural practices. Game Studies focuses specifically on the formal specificities of games and the way they are played and engaged with. This paper calls on material from both provinces to fulfil its primary aim of understanding the effect that videogame media have on the appearance of Gothic in games and to stage its argument that videogame media has the capability to produce a powerful and compelling addition to Gothic fiction’s arsenal of affect. [1] While there is work focused specifically on horror games, such as Perron's collection Horror Video Games (2009), there is no book or edited collection on the topic of Gothic in games. The author has however written several articles on the Gothic in games including entries in Blackwell Guides to the Gothic.

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