Jason Lajoie’s abstract for the panel “Generativity and Creative Agency in Post-Cinematic Media” at SLSA 2016 in Atlanta:
Playing the Photographer: Creative Self-Expression through In-Game Photography
Jason Lajoie, University of Waterloo
The photo editor mode offered in The Last of Us Remastered (TLOUR), Naughty Dog’s 2014 Playstation 4 port of their 2013 Playstation 3 game, offers players the means to take a photo at any point in the game. This option alters and can also elevate user engagement within the game. It can also make statements about self-expression through gameplay, as notably illustrated by conflict photographer Ashley Gilbertson, who applied the same techniques he acquired in real-world conflict zones to the fictitious battlegrounds in the game, achieving his photographs by considering his situatedness as real spectator in virtual environments. From a game studies perspective, the photo editor mode enables new ways for players and designers to think about game design, and offers innovative means of expression for players to interact in a creative game space. My investigation draws on Roland Barthes’s exploration into the affective capacity of photographs, and Jose Van Dijck’s claim that the malleability and manipulability of digital photography affects the formation of identity by repurposing our memories and means of communication. What are the affective resonances of photographs on real spectators when the spectrum itself is virtual? By exploring the use of photo editor modes in TLOUR, and in other Playstation 4 titles like The Order: 1886, I consider the ways this program expands the affordances of gameplay and narrativity by providing players interactive means for creative expression in otherwise restrictive and linear game modes.