Christine Hartzler is the wife of a physicist and mother of a chaos engine nearing his third birthday. She has an MFA from the University of Michigan. The advent of parenthood put some of her ambitions on hold–she still hasn’t finished Final Fantasy XIII-2–but due to the miracle of occasional daycare, she continues to freelance for Oxford University Press, write essays and poems, blog her photographs, and garden every inch of her land in West Seattle. Her first essay for FWR, “Games Are Not About Monsters,” was selected for inclusion in Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2010 and has been most recently collected in Creative Composition, edited by Eileen Pollack, Jeremiah Chamberlin, and Natalie Bakopoulos.
We live on the edge of a continent. Our world teeters between land and sea, washed in whimsical coastal weather. Here, cusp is truth. Liminal is how things are, and the World is a story we make up. And tear down. And make up again.
Monster-killing does not have to be a hypersigil; it’s more basic than that. The organizing moral principles of a game world often boil down to something desperately obvious: black-and-white, good and evil. This isn’t bad in itself because a good game, like a good book, then takes the player into a more familiar ambiguity. Good and bad become less easily separated and less relevant the longer you travel. The trick is to create, in the gamer, a commitment to a point of view, whatever its morality…
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