Conclusion
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. 173 CONCLUSION ThePlayfulIsPolitical “THIS WAS THE VALLEY OF MEN.” In the sublime mobile game Monument Valley, the player guides Princess Ida, a tiny, voiceless, faceless princess, through decaying monuments , solving a series of Escher-­ esque, mazelike puzzles. At the fourth level of the game she is stopped by a strange, patriarchal, ghostly figure who proclaims to Ida (and the player, in kind), “This was the valley of men. Now all that remains are our monuments, stripped of their glories. Thieving princess, why have you returned?” (Figure 27). The game, which won the Apple iPad Game of the Year for 2014, seems to be almost speaking metaphorically of the larger predicament of the video game industry that was, indeed, once a “valley of men.” To this end, one might continue to consider that, much like Ida’s alien world, all that is left in the valley of men are now monuments: the shell of old games that serve as ghostly reminders of the virtual world Player One built. But the most jarring line is the question that follows: “Thieving princess, why have you returned?” The first time I played Monument Valley, this accusation felt directed at me personally. In a post-­ GamerGate world it seems as though much of the video game community was, indeed, full of indictments regarding the destruction of their well-­intentioned monuments. However, while Ida may be a thieving princess, she is also our protagonist. When Ida meets troll-­ like crows that badger her and push back against her progress in the game, the player is always able to unfold her triumphant path if she plays long enough. If I, the player, am a thieving princess, then I have returned for what is rightfully mine: a strange and tangled path back to play. Upon further reflection, what once sounded like an accusation begins to sound more like an invitation. This is particularly the case because Monument 174 . CONCLUSION Valley, a mobile game with a female protagonist, has met high industry praise and enjoyed great financial success. Monument Valley seems to be a forward-­ looking game, but one that rests on the memorials of the past. The video game industry is changing rapidly—­ so rapidly that the discourse surrounding this change is full of accusations and misgivings. GamerGate was one thread of this, wherein there was a perception of how new and different kinds of games were somehow going to usurp the established industry landscape. And, to some extent, perhaps they have. A recent Pew study on American gaming and gamers reported that while 49 percent of all adults play video games, only 10 percent consider themselves “gamers.”1 This statistic was not surprising to those of us who have been studying the video game landscape for some time now, and it helps to reinforce arguments made by Adrienne Shaw which illustrate that the term“gamer” itself is packed with politics, wherein many people who play games have chosen to distance themselves from the label.2 But there is another potential reason for the results of this study. As different kinds of video games come on the market, and an increasing number of people play those games, terminology and identities (in relation to that terminology) are bound to shift. A person who plays Candy Crush Saga for three hours a day is not likely to label herself as a “gamer”: not because she doesn’t play video games but because those video games are Figure 27. These three images show a series of statements made in a cut scene of the mobile game Monument Valley, developed and published by Ustwo Studios in 2014. CONCLUSION . 175 not the ones commonly associated with that label. The rising popularity of casuals helps those audiences dominate a portion of the market. This shift means that we will increasingly need to find new labels to capture levels of enthusiasm toward the medium. Or perhaps we don’t. As video games continue to reach broader and more diverse audiences, the format itself will become formalized in such a way that this kind of polling will become increasingly irrelevant. After all, we don’t see Pew polling Americans on the number of people that go to see films, and how many of those filmgoers consider themselves “film buffs.” It is taken as an obvious point that many Americans go to see films at varying levels of frequency, and that the term “film buff” is meant to apply only to the very furthest of this extreme...