Domesticating the First-Person Shooter

The Emergent Challenge of Gone Home’s Homely Chronotope

  • Dean Bowman University of East Anglia


This article argues that—due to their lack of conformity to key characteristics of dominant videogame paradigms, particularly the violent competitiveness of “agonistic” play—the walking simulator is at the heart of a struggle over changing definitions and material realities of videogame consumption and production, linked to the emergence of disruptive female and queer player and creator identities (Anthropy, 2012; Chess, 2017; Juul, 2012; Shaw, 2015). The genre thus provides a valuable alternative space within what has been referred to as the “hegemonic” limits of the game industry, which privileges—through various historically embedded mechanisms—a white, male, cis-gendered, and heteronormative audience (Fron,Fullerton, Morie, & Pearce, 2007). Such progressive gains have been hotly contested by so-called hardcore gamers (Dymek, 2012; Gursoy, 2013; Kagen, 2017), who view them as a threat to the prevailing orthodoxy of game production that has historically served their interests.

Furthermore, by uncritically adopting the dominant and normative industry-oriented paradigm, game studies has served to further reify this hegemonic player through the replication of its values in rigidly formalist definitions of play constructed around agonistic values (Aarseth, 1997; Juul, 2003). I call this tendency “orthodox game studies,” a position that has bled into wider discourses wherein walking simulators are constructed as “not real games.” I argue that Gone Home (Fullbright, 2013), a prominent example of the genre, challenges industry hegemony and orthodox game studies by enacting a subversive appropriation of first-person shooter (FPS) mechanicsand a radical decentring of the hegemonic gamer—constructing a domestic space as the ground for the development of new subjectivities of play (Fullerton, Morie, & Pearce, 2007). To articulate this, I draw on Bakhtin’s (1981b) notion of the chronotope, demonstrating the critical relevance of this theoretical tool to game studies.

August 26, 2019