Virtual Vision: Applying Cultural and Critical Theory to Video Game Aesthetics in Lollipop Chainsaw


  • Bryan Carr University of Oklahoma



This essay contends that video games are multifaceted in nature and can be understood and analyzed from various critical and cultural approaches. Most video game studies are focused on effects and do not take into account the aesthetic and interactive appeals of games. The increased multimedia capabilities of contemporary games provide new opportunities for interactivity, audiovisual fidelity and creativity, and auteurs that can establish distinctive creative signatures. Through analysis of critical and cultural literature, three main areas of critical and cultural inquiry are identified - perspective and the degree to which players can control the visual aspects of a game, the nature of player characters and how players can identify with and interact with them, and the ways in which the game appropriates and reflects creative culture and social issues. The common thread of player interactivity and control is identified in all three perspectives and noted as a vital component of game analysis. This approach is illustrated through critical and cultural analysis of the game Lollipop Chainsaw, a recent action game from a noted video game creator that utilizes repurposed cultural content and has been the center of debate and discussion due to the sexualized portrayal of its lead character. The paper offers implications for applying critical and cultural studies and theory to interactive media and gaming. The study of games must take into account the degree of control and interactivity the player has and how that control manifests within the game, as this is a unique element of games that is intertwined with the aforementioned critical approaches. In doing so, the paper attempts to reconcile the ongoing discussion between pure ludologists and pure narratologists in the study of games.


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