Gameplay Journal Entry #1

The game I have been playing recently is Kenshi, an open world RPG with a fascinating way on how it handles progression and world building. It is an incredibly brutal game that has many details and systems, some of them are really indictive of a certain playstyle. Kenshi has a lot of dark themes, slavery being most notable, and in the games context it almost encourages you to have some part in it. One of the most challenging yet rewarding game starts is being born into slavery, you can escape again and again and suffer starvation and beatings, but these mechanics are actively increasing stats such as toughness, lockpicking skills, sneaking around as you try and escape. It creates an environment where you can attack guards, run around and cause chaos, and the AI will simply heal your wounds, place you back in a cage and you can do it all over again until you escape.

It is strange that such a horrible thing in any context somehow makes your chances of survival in this game increase. It is a game that you must seek out awful circumstances to get stronger, even if it does not represent the kind of character you want to be. Kenshi has a hit point system for each limb, reaching certain numbers of damage can cripple or even remove those body parts. You can replace them with robotic limbs that offer increased stats, its not a bad idea to purposely remove all your characters limbs so they can get better ones. It is a game that is heavily weighted in favor of more nefarious things, while you can play as a simple, good natured trader and avoid combat, you suffer much more if you are unlucky enough to get caught in trouble. I do not believe this game is attempting to normalize such behavior in a cultural sense, but for gameplay purposes and world building it does discipline you to be of an evil nature.

With technicities, I would say I am drawn towards games that have high stakes and steep learning curves, yet as an actual person I do not seek adversity or hardships for the sake of a challenge. Dovey and Kennedy state that “Because computer games are explicitly about play, we have to be even more wary than usual about the assumptions we make regarding power, ideology and dominance. Using Turner’s interpretation of liminoid culture we can begin to see that play in the context of ideology is also always play with ideology.” (65) The behaviors displayed in Kenshi do not represent my ideology, but it facilitates the challenge I enjoy but in a grim outlook.

In this Let’s Play example, the playthrough starts without any limbs in a desert, which is quite a challenge yet surprisingly effective in mechanics like stealth and athletics.