Video Games as Literature 101: MomoCon 2024 Panel

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Last month was MomoCon 2024 in Atlanta, GA, and for the first time I presented two panels in one day! This was exhausting, so I must apologize because it took me about a month to get videos of my panels uploaded. My first panel was Video Games as Literature 101, and the video for that panel can be viewed below. I received many thoughtful questions at this panel, and due to my fatigue I may not have given the most thorough answers in the moment, so I wanted to add some extended answers to the Q & A here in this blog post. I hope this helps!

Note: The links on each question will lead you to the specific part of the video where the question is asked.

A: Yes, and here is the post about Shadow of the Colossus that I referenced in my answer to this question during the panel: Shadow of the Colossus. And here is a link to some more information on the Hideo Kojima documentary I referenced: Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds.

A: Absolutely, though I would advise everyone to keep in mind that most western fantasy stories -- and even non-fantasy stories -- have some aspect of Arthurian influence in them as the Arthurian legends are considered the most influential literature of Great Britain (in fact, the entire Arthurian canon is often referred to as "The Matter of Britain.") This influence has spread to much of the world through Great Britain's colonization. I do see a lot of influence specifically from the British Isles in the Dragon Age series, however, and not only is King Arthur a strong influence, but Celtic mythology is specifically noticeable in Dragon Age. If you want to read more scholarly literature on the Dragon Age series, here is a link to a WorldCat search on the subject. The books I recommend to start learning about Arthurian Literature include The Once and Future King and The Crystal Cave

A: These games are historical fiction as they are fictionalized versions of real time periods, and occasionally real events. Call of Duty is a tricky game to discuss in terms of historical depictions, as the series has been called out for revising history in its depictions of war -- especially when it comes to depictions of The United States and their actions in certain conflicts. The Assassin's Creed series is known (especially in more recent games in the series) for its extreme accuracy in terms of historical and architectural depictions. The Assassin's Creed games, ultimately, are still fiction, especially as they usually feature made-up characters and mythological encounters. Sid Meier's Civilization games can also teach you a lot about history, but they tend to crunch a lot of historical events together in the timeline for gameplay value, so take anything you learn from those games with a grain of salt.

I also mentioned "archaeogaming" in the panel, and the archeological study of Assassin's Creed and Tomb Raider games, specifically. You can learn more about archaeogaming here

A: There are so many cultures in the world with so much diverse folklore that in my short life I haven't had a chance to study them all. I am so happy to hear people interested in folklore that isn't the usual English, French, or German fare that we usually read about in the west, though! In my panel I recommended the Persona series, and by extension the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, as those games incorporate folklore and myths from a large variety of sources. Wikipedia says that, "the series has incorporated elements of Gnosticism, various world mythologies and religions including Christianity and Buddhism, early science fiction, Jungian psychology and archetypes, occultism, punk, and cyberpunk." (Source) Welsh folklore, specifically, has trickled down over the centuries into the general folklore of Great Britain, and thus much British folklore is derived from Welsh folklore, especially Arthurian tales as previously mentioned.

I also tried to reference a recent indie game I had played, though in my exhaustion I couldn't remember the title. The game is called Unsighted, and the creators are from Brazil, though I don't know how much folklore is incorporated into the game.

Two indie games that I am excited to play are coming out soon and they both incorporate folklore from less represented regions. One of the games is called Scarlet Deer Inn and it is based on Slavic folklore. Another game coming out soon is called Near-Mage and it is not only based on Transylvanian folklore, but it is made by developers from Transylvania (the region, specifically -- they're not from elsewhere in Romania). 

Upon searching I also found a yet-to-be released game based on Vietnamese folklore called Divine Guardian | Vệ Thần, which I promptly added to my Steam wishlist. As I said in my panel, I expect that indie game developers will take the lead when it comes to introducing various folk tales to modern gamers, and I'm excited for this future of indie gaming!

A: Apparently I have some self-educating to do, as I seem to be lacking knowledge on a major story called "Journey to the West" that apparently everyone else knows about? I established during the panel that this story is the main influence for the Dragon Ball franchise, which I (surprisingly) watched very little of. Of course after I got home from MomoCon, I immediately did some research and realized a few things. First, I had heard of this story under the title, "The Monkey King," which is one of various translated titles. Second, there seem to be a limited number of English translations to choose from, and I will need to do some more research to find out which translation is most accurate and culturally sensitive. One of the panel's attendees mentioned the game "Enslaved: Odyssey to the West" which I have yet to play but will definitely get to soon.

A: In the panel I referenced the blog post I had written on H.P. Lovecraft: The Cthulhu Mythos in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Video Games. I can't really answer this question from my personal knowledge base, which I explained a bit in the panel, but this would definitely be an interesting topic for future research!

A: Of course I love these small pieces of literature found in many games, especially in the RPG genre. I have been working on a video about Skyrim's collection of books, which I may one day finish, and I have started, but not finished, several different blog posts on this topic. Ultimately these pieces of lore and literature found within games are part of what makes excellent storytelling in a game, though it is a known problem that many players just don't bother to read these parts of games. I would especially recommend spending time reading the lore in the Elder Scrolls series, the Fallout series, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and of course the Soulsborne games. 

Announcing MomoCon 2024 Panels by Video Games as Literature

 It is almost time once again for MomoCon 2024, which will be taking place Memorial Day Weekend in Atlanta, GA! This year Video Games as Literature will be presenting two panels at MomoCon, both on Sunday. As in previous years, the panels will be streaming live on Instagram at the @VideoGamesAsLit Instagram account, and videos of each panel will be uploaded to YouTube after the convention so everyone will be able to access them. If you want to watch the live stream, don't forget to follow the Instagram account and click the reminder bell! If you missed MomoCon panels from previous years, here is a handy playlist where you can watch all of them. Keep reading for specific details on when and where the Video Games as Literature panels will take place, and for more information about MomoCon in general. 

MomoCon: Video Games as Literature 101; Sunday May 26th at 10:00 a.m. (EDT)MomoCon: Disability Represented in Video Games; Sunday May 26th at 7:00 p.m. (EDT)

Video Games as Literature 101
Sunday May 26th
10:00 a.m. (EDT)
Panel Room 406

Disability Represented in Video Games
Sunday May 26th
7:00 p.m. (EDT)
Panel Room 207

Click here to see the full MomoCon schedule. All sources I cite in the panels will be listed in the descriptions of each YouTube video after they are uploaded so you can quickly and easily check them out. For more information about disability representation, feel free to read some of the blog articles I have already published, like this one about Mass Effect. If you want to see last year's MomoCon presentation, click here

Critical Hits: Writers Playing Video Games edited by J. Robert Lennon and Carmen Maria Machado (Review)

 Thank you to the editors at Graywolf Press for gifting me an advance review copy of this book. Links to books or other products may contain affiliate links whereby I may earn a small commission.

Critical Hits is a thoroughly new take on the growing video game writing genre in that a variety of authors have come together to write individual personal essays where they relate their gaming lives with other aspects of life, literature, and individual topics of interest. When I first heard about this book I was thrilled to be able to read and review it, as the premise sounded perfect for me, but now that I have the book in my hands I must say it has far exceeded my expectations and will be added to my list of all-time favorites.

 Since Critical Hits is a collection of essays and stories, I feel that it can't necessarily be reviewed as a whole body and I will instead review a few of the stories that stood out to me individually. I do want to note on the book as a whole, however, that one thing I noticed which could be a problem for some readers is that the stories have no qualms about sharing spoilers for the video games they are discussing. To read this book the audience must either not be bothered by major spoilers, or they must have already played every game mentioned in the book. I am personally somewhere in between. Thankfully I have already played many older AAA titles that are mentioned, such as The Last of Us and Dragon Age: Inquisition. But newer games, like Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, are still on my (enormous and ever growing) backlog. As a person who does not like to have stories spoiled, this did cause some difficulty for me while reading the book. 

The first section of the book I'd like to discuss in detail is the Introduction by Carmen Maria Machado and the first story, "I Struggled a Long Time with Surviving" by Elissa Washuta. Both of these works felt intimately relatable to me. Machado's description of her family's feelings about video games -- her mother's disdain and eventual relaxation of the "no video games" policy for the little brother was directly parallel to my own experience growing up. Like Machado I was a late bloomer when it came to experiencing games, though certainly not by choice. I felt seen not only by this description of her life experience, but also by the specific experiences that Machado describes with various games -- experiences that again almost directly mirrored my own. Washuta's "I Struggled a Long Time with Surviving" was similarly relatable for me. The story begins with the statement: 

Summer is here again and I miss my friends. I don't mean the real ones I've forgotten to talk to because I have no news to share but symptoms. I do miss them. But I'm referring to my imaginary video game friends, my good influences who never produce anything but spiked bats and health kits and other things they carry to keep them alive. (3)

 In these four brief sentences Washuta has summed up the reason that I spend the vast majority of my time playing video games AND the reason I see my "real life" friends only once a year, at most: I am sick. I can't go out, and people are too bummed to come visit me. But my video game friends (like Joel and Ellie, friends I share with Washuta) are always here when I need them. Upon further reading, I discovered that Washuta actually has exactly the same condition I have, with many of the same symptoms, including a mysterious heart condition. For me, personally, it is comforting to know that another writer is out there sitting in front of the TV, suffering with the same debilitating symptoms that I have, and possibly playing the same game I'm playing (it is probably time for me to play The Last of Us Remake). Others with chronic illnesses may also find comfort in this story, and in those first few words. It feels like community, and somehow our video game friends are a part of that community. 

In the story "Mule Milk," author Keith S. Wilson links an eclectic variety of topics to Final Fantasy VI. I was completely wrapped up in Wilson's story, connecting race and nature and otherness to protagonist Terra's struggles in Final Fantasy VI. Wilson asks, "What is nature? I've been wondering, because Black poets, even those who write explicitly about nature using the word nature, are seldom considered nature poets" (38). I consider myself to be a nature writer, and I think a lot about who is considered a "Nature Writer" and who is simply a person who mentions nature in their writings and studies. Therefore I really vibed with Wilson's essay. I also appreciate that he mentions a love of pigeons, an animal that I, too, could wax poetic about to a complete stranger on the street. 

Many other stories in this anthology moved me, including an essay in comic format by MariNaomi, but as this review is already quite long I think I need to wrap it up. TLDR: I would say that from cover to cover this book is worth reading in full and I would recommend it to anyone I know personally, including my closest and dearest relatives, friends I haven't seen in decades, and even my racist uncle, who could learn a few things but may also find that he secretly enjoys some of the stories.

This review can also be read in full on Goodreads, linked here.

Southern-Fried Gaming Expo 2023: Exploring "Georgia's Largest Arcade"

Photo of two adults in colorful, 80s themed clothing playing vintage and retro arcade games.
Photo ©2022 Juan Jusino

I spent this past weekend, July 28th-30th, at Southern-Fried Gaming Expo, Atlanta's most underrated gaming convention, and wow, it did not disappoint. SFGE is:

Atlanta's homegrown fan convention focused entirely on gaming, Southern-Fried Gaming Expo (SFGE) is a family-friendly event celebrating the history and modern-day cultural impact of arcade games, pinball machines, tabletop & RPG gaming, and video games. With over 150,000 square feet of exhibit space, Attendees can enjoy over 500 arcade, pinball machines, and video game consoles on free play, which for one weekend creates "Georgia's Largest Arcade." SFGE is pleased to host additional areas of interest including celebrity guests, vendors and exhibitors, and to foster a spirit of friendly competition with a new focus on tournaments and esports. (


 This year (actually, this week!) I'm turning 36, and the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo couldn't have revealed itself to me at a more perfect time. I went to MomoCon earlier this year and while I had a lot of fun, I also felt like I was a lot older than most of the other people there. Admittedly, I don't watch anime very much anymore and my main focus when attending conventions is gaming-related activities. Enter Southern-Fried Gaming Expo, a convention that has already been running for a decade but that I have only just discovered. This is a convention made specifically for people like me -- older and younger gamers alike who are into gaming more than anything else. At SFGE I was surrounded by thousands of games and thousands of gamers. I finally felt like I was home. 

There were so many things to do at SFGE that it was impossible for me to experience everything, but I feel like I got to do a good variety of activities. Here's a rundown of all the things I got to do while I was at Southern-Fried Gaming Expo.

The very first thing I did when I arrived, before I even picked up my badge and became an official attendee of the con, was to pass the table of Samantha Kelly, current voice actor of Princess Peach and Toad in the Super Mario franchise. When I realized that she was alone and there was no line to talk to her I did a huge double take and went back to say hi! I then proceeded to bombard her with pictures of my dog, whose name is Princess Peach, and she graciously looked at them and made the appropriate "aww" sounds. 

After picking up my badge and gaining my bearings in the tabletop gaming area, I headed over to the Cosplay Contest. I wasn't an entrant this year (click here if you do want to see one time I entered a costume contest) so it was fun to sit back and see all the incredible gaming-themed costumes. The awards were given to the following cosplayers:

  • Best Kids Costume: Benjamin as Pyro from Team Fortress
  • Judge's Choice #1: Snapdragon as Manny Calavera from Grim Fandango
  • Judge's Choice #2: Emily as Zelda from Tears of the Kingdom
  • Best Group: Kay and Bill as characters from Arcane: League of Legends
  • Best in Show: group from the Ragnarök franchise

Photo of group of cosplay contest winners onstage, with the judges on either side of the winners.
Photo ©2023 Kirsten Rodning

After the cosplay contest was over, I finally had some time to check out the vast, seemingly limitless space that held the arcade games, pinball machines, and exhibitors. I rushed straight to the Project Pinball Charity booth because I had heard that they were demoing a new disability accessible controller for pinball machines, created by Inclusive GameWerks. I got to play a Jurassic Park pinball machine without having to stand up from my wheelchair, which was really impressive! Most of the other pinball and arcade games I played required me to be standing, which of course took a toll on my chronically ill body. It was really refreshing to be able to sit down and still successfully play some pinball. Check out my Instagram posts for more on this experience.

After this point, I finally was able to just pick a few pinball and arcade games and play. Some of my favorites that I checked out included a Spaceballs homebrew machine made by John Marsh, some seriously old pinball machines from the 1930s that were provided by the people at History of Pinball (who knew such cool games existed when my grandparents were kids?!), and a Mandalorian pinball machine! I also checked out some booths that were selling games and found a few that I needed for my collection: Clue and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? on Sega Genesis. 

If you're interested in attending Southern-Fried Gaming Expo in future years, you can follow them on Facebook or Instagram to stay up-to-date on announcements. 

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MomoCon 2023: Video Games as Literature 102

If you were unable to make it to MomoCon in Atlanta, GA over Memorial Day Weekend, the video of our Video Games as Literature 102 panel is now available on YouTube! You can watch it below or follow this link to get to the original YouTube page. Enjoy!

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