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“Should My Best Prove Insufficient, We Will Find Another Way”: Time Loop Mechanics as Expressions of Hope in Digital Games

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HCI in Games (HCII 2023)

Part of the book series: Lecture Notes in Computer Science ((LNCS,volume 14047))

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Abstract

Many digital games use mechanics, user interface design, and interaction design to explore themes of science fiction and technology, including the ramifications of time travel and time manipulation. Time loop games, in which a character repeats the same time period or sequence of experiences indefinitely, are surprisingly optimistic, even when the game world, content, or scenario is emotionally challenging. While all digital games allow players to manipulate time at a basic level, time loop games emphasize mastery-through-repetition in both gameplay and narrative. Unlike time travel narratives in other media, time loop games cannot help but express optimism, as the game’s mechanics and interface encourage players to continually manipulate the game world until the best of all possible outcomes is achieved. It follows that time loop games are a clear example of narrative expressed through mechanics and interface, as well as a way to express hope in difficult times. This paper uses a humanities-based critical methodology to explore how the structure of time loop games reinforces feelings of optimism and hope through iterative improvement and eventual mastery of game systems, and examines both seminal and recent time loop games including The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Returnal, Deathloop, and Outer Wilds.

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Correspondence to Monica Evans .

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Evans, M. (2023). “Should My Best Prove Insufficient, We Will Find Another Way”: Time Loop Mechanics as Expressions of Hope in Digital Games. In: Fang, X. (eds) HCI in Games. HCII 2023. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 14047. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-35979-8_16

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-35979-8_16

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-35978-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-031-35979-8

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