Toronto Metropolitan University
BooksOnScreenPresentation.mp4 (52.78 MB)

Tantalizingly Unreadable: Books in Gone Home, Tacoma, and Firewatch

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posted on 2022-12-06, 15:49 authored by Jason BoydJason Boyd

So-called “walking simulator” computer games typically involve the exploration of 3D environments rendered with a high degree of verisimilitude. Typically, these environments contain embedded narratives (to use Henry Jenkins’ term) where the story is constructed as the player moves through the environment and examines objects that communicate a component of the story or provide background detail about the time and place in which the game is set. Many of these objects are not just examinable in terms of their material features, but, because they feature text, are readable. Yet some of these games, in which examining realistically rendered objects is primary to the gameplay, strangely feature codex books which undermine their environment’s verisimilitude and provoke the player by being incapable of being opened and read. In the case of Gone Home (2013), Tacoma (2017) and Firewatch (2016), some or all of the books that can be manipulated are original to the gameworld with authors, titles, and descriptions (as presented on front and back covers) that are highly intriguing to a bibliophilic gamer and have relevance to the story and/or world of the game. This presentation will discuss these books, how they relate to the story/worlds of the games, and how they, despite being unreadable, are potential paratexts that can function as tantalizing sites for player interpretation and speculation or for teaching about key concepts such as authorship and trade publishing.  




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