Esoteric Gaming

Extraordinary Feats of Player Practice (in Pursuit of the Perfect Game)

Introduction to the First Issue

We are extremely pleased to announce the first batch of stories for Esoteric Gaming!

In this “first issue” you’ll find the common theme of deep meaning-making in and with games, ranging from personal accounts that have had lasting impacts on the authors’ current identities and gaming habits to the moves players make as they forge and maintain relationships in and out of games.

You’ll read a confession from Andy Keenan who plays with cheat codes, but that’s okay because it means he gets to enjoy games the way he wants, and, in fact, cheating in early games like Doom fostered his love for games. You’ll also read about Bjorn Schrijen’s attempt to play Tomb Raider without saving, an opposite account to Andy’s of sorts, in an effort to understand and be closer to his father.

Dr. Shannon Mortimore-Smith details guildmates’ marriage in Final Fantasy XIV and uses it as a way to unpack online relationships, how (and whether) they relate to offscreen identities, and the ephemeral-permanence nature of them in MMORPGs’ rigidly-coded social structures. Relationship issues also surface in Osvaldo Jimenez’s account of attempting to get into the raiding game of Destiny while fathering a newborn, illuminating inherent conflict born from the intersection of responsibilities to different social bonds, alleviated by joining a clan of dads.

The sense of belonging to a larger community also existed for Lina`Chan, famous creator of ROM hacks around the turn of the century that translated Japanese console games to English. Johansen Quijano details Lina’Chan’s practice and motivations of ROM hacking, sharing with us her accounts during a personal interview that includes how she was able to learn Japanese, coding in Assembly language, C, and C++, and hexadecimal notation in two months!

Finally, Matt Bouchard details his years-long journey to curate the perfect gaming experience and how it’s a bricolage of multiple games that fulfills his exacting demands. This constant refinement of games along with his refinement of tastes over the years leads us to one working definition of esoterica: a narrowing of preferred experience and thus of practice and play towards an increasingly niche subset of gaming.

We hope you enjoy these accounts, leave comments and questions, and continue to marvel at how nuanced diverse play can be. And don’t forget, you can submit your story too!