Worlds To Win
Worlds To Win

Title: Worlds To Win: The Politics of Transnational Audiences in The Witcher 3, Fallout 4 and Freeman's Mind by Dennis Redmond (2018)

Downloads: The complete text is available here. Individual chapters can be downloaded below:

Introduction First draft
Chapter 1 The Witcher 3 and Transnational Open Worlds
Chapter 2 The Witcher 3 and the Digital Bloodlands
Chapter 3 Fallout 4: Digital Playground in the Ruins of Empire
Chapter 4 Freeman's Mind and Transnational Fan Media
Chapter 5 Freeman's Mind: Transnational Workers of the World, Unite!

Summary: Since the turn of the 21st century, transnational audiences -- defined as the total number of people with access to the internet, or approximately 3 billion human beings by 2015 -- have increasingly co-determined the evolution of contemporary digital media, everywhere from the largest of videogame franchises to the most obscure of Youtube artists. This text analyzes three works of contemporary digital media, namely CD Projekt's Witcher 3 (2015), Bethesda's Fallout 4 (2015), and Ross Scott's machinima series Freeman's Mind (2007-2014), and shows how each was created by interactive media artists working in close cooperation with digital fan communities. By applying the principles of collective peer production or co-production, these three works significantly transformed the genres of the open world fantasy role-playing videogame, the open world science fiction roleplaying videogame, and the machinima series, respectively.

Chapter 1 recounts the history of CD Projekt as a videogame studio in the context of middle-income Eastern European nation of Poland, and how and why its designers integrated transnational audiences into every aspect of the production of Witcher 3, from initial planning to post-release support. It also examines many of the aesthetic innovations of Witcher 3's open world, including superb open world and environmental design, world-class music and sound design, and inventive strategies of game balance.

Chapter 2 focuses on how CD Projekt invented a new form of interactive story-telling which balances unprecedented game-play freedom and player choice with the equally unprecedented interactive experience of historical choicelessness or geopolitical closure, derived from the colonial and neocolonial history of Eastern Europe. The theme of geopolitical closure is handled with extraordinary narrative skill and historical impartiality, i.e. it is used to critique all forms of imperialism, chauvinism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, sectarianism, casteism and other systems of oppression prevalent in the region, no matter their ethnicity or nationality. This critique is combined with powerful lessons about the importance of social justice, personal solidarity, and historical responsibility in Witcher 3's quest stories and character development.

Chapter 3 examines how Bethesda integrated fan media into the Fallout science fiction roleplaying franchise, by means of Fallout 4's crafting system and character-based open world design. The chapter also focuses on Fallout 4's other contributions to open world story-telling, e.g. its superb voice-acting and ambient sound track. Finally, the chapter highlights some of the key weaknesses of Fallout 4, namely its inability to move beyond the imperial provincialism of the Cold War consumer culture the Fallout series has always satirized.

Chapter 4 describes the creation of Ross Scott's machinima series Freeman's Mind in late 2007 in conjunction with the early Youtube, machinima and Half Life fan communities. It describes how Scott employed scriptwriting, voice-acting, and the open source animation and editing tools released by Valve and other firms to transform the raw materials of the videogame walk-through into a transnational art-form.

Chapter 5 charts the evolution of Freeman's Mind between 2011 and 2014, and illustrates how the specific contradictions of Google's Youtube advertising-per-view payment system and Scott's own personal experience of the disintegration of the US middle class radicalized the series, transforming the journey of its protagonist into an allegory of the 2011-2014 wave of anti-neoliberal uprisings.