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Gaming the Gothic - 'Quoth the Ravenhearst never more'

Nia Wearn
Nia Wearn

Gothic Tropes in Hidden Objects Games Presented by Nia Wearn at Gaming the Gothic, April 13th 2018, Sheffield University

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Gaming the Gothic
Quoth the Ravenhearst:
“Nevermore”
NIA WEARN & DR. ESTHER MACCALLUM-STEWART
STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY
Hidden Object Games
 Hidden Objects – Hidden Genre
 Complexities in an emerging Genre
 Gothic aspects
 Narrative (Chess)
 Aesthetics
 Hidden creators
 Games produced, not designed
 A Hidden Audience
Hidden Object Game 101
 Easily dismissed as games other
people play
 “Games you mum playes and your
misses enjoys”
 Nominally liner narratives – with
interactive scenes in specific
locations
 Puzzles to solve and objects to find
 Romance, Crime, Supernatural,
fantasy and narratives drawn from
literature are common themes
 Long standing, vaguely
interconnected series but not
episodic or cohesive.
 The more we played, and the more we looked into what research there was the more we
realised this was a massively misunderstood, and under researched genre. What are often
dismissed as ‘casual adventure games’ are a little bit more complex then that:
Case by Case HOGS
Room by Room HOGS
First Person Point and Clicks
Gateway HOGS
• Interconnected stories
• Tasks to complete around each case
• Overall mission to solve ‘something’
• Collectable object based progression
• Liner games with a series of scenes to
interact with
• Detective games
• Casual games where you find things
• Use of Timers, no narrative or missions
Complexities in an emerging Genre
Platform is key – walled
garden and kindles
 2017 Ofcom report on Adult’s media use and
attitudes documented the following trends
 Adults aged 65-74 are more likely in 2016 than
in 2015 to have a tablet (51% vs. 39%)
 those aged 75+ are also more likely to have a
tablet (30% vs. 19% in 2015)
 Robust, hand me down technology culture
 Many tablets are passed around in families as
others family members upgrade
 Costs of tablets have fallen dramatically
 Amazon Kindle, especially, use this captive
market to advertise hidden object games
A Hidden Genre
These are not your typical gamers
– despite the devotion to the
games that they show.
Consalvo, Mia. (2009). Talks more
about this in her paper about the
community that surrounds
Ravenhearst games
It’s worth noting this is upfront paid content – or heavily
microtransactional freemium content.
Much of the actual content is reused, or repackaged –
budget PC games, repacked for the tablet and mobile
market
Players of Hogs talk about settling down for an Sunday
afternoon to play through a game
Walkthroughs and skipping puzzles is common

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Gaming the Gothic - 'Quoth the Ravenhearst never more'

  • 1. Gaming the Gothic Quoth the Ravenhearst: “Nevermore” NIA WEARN & DR. ESTHER MACCALLUM-STEWART STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY
  • 2. Hidden Object Games  Hidden Objects – Hidden Genre  Complexities in an emerging Genre  Gothic aspects  Narrative (Chess)  Aesthetics  Hidden creators  Games produced, not designed  A Hidden Audience
  • 3. Hidden Object Game 101  Easily dismissed as games other people play  “Games you mum playes and your misses enjoys”  Nominally liner narratives – with interactive scenes in specific locations  Puzzles to solve and objects to find  Romance, Crime, Supernatural, fantasy and narratives drawn from literature are common themes  Long standing, vaguely interconnected series but not episodic or cohesive.
  • 4.  The more we played, and the more we looked into what research there was the more we realised this was a massively misunderstood, and under researched genre. What are often dismissed as ‘casual adventure games’ are a little bit more complex then that: Case by Case HOGS Room by Room HOGS First Person Point and Clicks Gateway HOGS • Interconnected stories • Tasks to complete around each case • Overall mission to solve ‘something’ • Collectable object based progression • Liner games with a series of scenes to interact with • Detective games • Casual games where you find things • Use of Timers, no narrative or missions Complexities in an emerging Genre
  • 5. Platform is key – walled garden and kindles  2017 Ofcom report on Adult’s media use and attitudes documented the following trends  Adults aged 65-74 are more likely in 2016 than in 2015 to have a tablet (51% vs. 39%)  those aged 75+ are also more likely to have a tablet (30% vs. 19% in 2015)  Robust, hand me down technology culture  Many tablets are passed around in families as others family members upgrade  Costs of tablets have fallen dramatically  Amazon Kindle, especially, use this captive market to advertise hidden object games
  • 6. A Hidden Genre These are not your typical gamers – despite the devotion to the games that they show. Consalvo, Mia. (2009). Talks more about this in her paper about the community that surrounds Ravenhearst games It’s worth noting this is upfront paid content – or heavily microtransactional freemium content. Much of the actual content is reused, or repackaged – budget PC games, repacked for the tablet and mobile market Players of Hogs talk about settling down for an Sunday afternoon to play through a game Walkthroughs and skipping puzzles is common
  • 8. Bad Times in Ravenhurt Mansion, Blackpool, England – Setting the Scene Originally released 2006 on PC Repackaged 2013/4 Nintendo DS Current available on Mobiles Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst Rumors surrounding the Ravenhearst manor in Blackpool have circulated for decades. The Queen of England has enlisted the character's help to solve the mystery behind the ghostly apparitions in and around Ravenhearst manor. The player character is provided the recently acquired diary belonging to Emma Ravenhearst which holds the key to unraveling the history of this unsettling place, yet it only has one page and that the other 19 pages are missing. The player must venture into Ravenhearst, find the missing pages, and solve the mystery. Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst After the events in Madame Fate, the player soon discovers that the spirit of Charles Dalimar, Emma Ravenhearst's murderer, is on the loose and desperate because Emma is now free of the Manor's curse. He is actually the one responsible for Madame Fate's death stating that the rescue of Emma was pointless, for Rose Somerset, Emma's nursemaid in the first game, was his "true love". The player returns to the manor, but soon discovers that there is more to the mansion than meets the eye: there is still a section of the manor unexplored, and some parts that have already been explored have been refurbished by Charles' tormented spirit. The player has to uncover the secret of what happened to Charles after he murdered Emma, and put a stop to his psychotic obsession. Mystery Case Files: Escape From Ravenhearst Some residents in Blackpool, England have gone missing around Ravenhearst Manor and the player, the Master Detective, must return to the shattered manor and search for the missing residents. Merely moments after your arrival you become trappped in an underground city, which mimics key moments in your nemisis Charles' life. You must re-enact Charles' life in order to finally free Emma, and Rose, as well as her children, from Charles' rein. Mystery Case Files: Key to Ravenhearst Mystery Case Files: Key to Ravenhearst is the twelfth installment in the series. The player, as the detective, must return to the resurrected manor in order to solve a new mystery. Charles' children, Gwendolyn and Charlotte Delimar, cast a young wealthy man under their spell in order to force him to do difficult tasks including rebuilding the destroyed Ravenhearst Manor, and converting it into a historical museum complete with photos and trinkets dating back to 1895. The player must attempt to solve the mystery of the new manor in order to stop the twin sisters' plans before it is too late. Chess, Shira. (2014a). ‘Uncanny Gaming: The Ravenhearst video games and gothic appropriation’. Feminist Media Studies. Vol 15. No. 3. 382-96. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2014.930062 Chess, Shira. (2014b). ‘Strange Bedfellows: Subjectivity, Romance, and Hidden Object Video Games’. Games and Culture. Vol. 9, no. 6. 417-428.
  • 9. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Mansions What we realised, as we researched, and played is similarities in the language of HOGS design – and common tropes that appeared in games set in all eras
  • 10. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Gardens
  • 11. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Mansions with interesting decor
  • 12. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Interesting decor cont.
  • 13. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Ghost Brides
  • 14. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Cloaked figures (creepy men)
  • 15. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Cursed Children & family members
  • 16. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Creepy Dolls & Puppets
  • 17. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Plague Doctors
  • 18. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Menfolk
  • 19. Gothic Tropes in Hidden Object Games Cloaked figures (ladies in red)
  • 20. HOGS - pulp paperbacks for a new generation? Images taken from @PulpLibrarian’s thread - "Women with great hair fleeing gothic houses!"
  • 22. Games constructed, not designed? Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum - ERS Game Studios Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven - ERS Game Studios Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's Lenore - ERS Game Studios Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek - Arteflex Mundi Fairy Tale Mysteries: The Puppet Thief Collector's Edition - The House of Fables Gothic Fiction: Dark Saga - ERS Game Studios Grim Facade - Deadly Dowry - Amax Interactive Grim Facade: The Message - AMAX Interactive Grim Tales: Crimson Hollow - Elephant Games Grim Tales: The Bride - Elephant Games Grim Tales: The White Lady Collector's Edition - Elephant Games Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence - Big Fish Games Haunted Legends: Faulty Creatures - ERS Game Studio Letters From Nowhere: A Hidden Object Mystery - G5 Games Mystery Case Files: Escape From Ravenhearst Mystery Case Files: Key to Ravenhearst Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst Mystery Case Files: The Black Veil Collector's Edition - Eipix Entertainment Mystery Collection - Hidden Object Game by SecretBuilders Phantasmat: Reign of Shadows - Big Fish Games PuppetShow - Her Cruel collection - ERS Game Studio PuppetShow: The Curse of Ophelia - AMAX Interactive PuppetShow: The Curse of Ophelia - AMAX Interactive Redemption Cemetery 2: Childrens Plight Scarlett Mysteries Cursed Child - Arteflex Mundi Surface: Alone in the Mist - Big Fish Games The Cursed Ship - G5 Entertainment The Lake House. Hidden Object Game - Alawar Entertainment, Inc The Sever Chambers - Three Headed Eagle / Cateia Games The Stroke of Midnight - Namco Vermillion Watch: In Blood - Eipix Entertainment Our other strand of research is who makes these games? – do native cultures have an impact? What’s with Eastern Europe and HOG development studios?
  • 23. Dr. Esther MacCallum- Stewart @neveahfs Nia Wearn @wormella Thank you, Any question or Get in touch  We’re both lecturers at Staffordshire University  This is all research in flux, and ongoing  We started this as a way of showing our students ‘ho to research’ and it snowballed  You can follow the research here - https://hiddenobjectfiles.tumblr.com/  Get in touch if you research / play / just want to get in touch with someone else about HOGS, or anything else about Game Studies,

Editor's Notes

  1. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigfishgames.enigmatisgooglefull&hl=en