A new name of the game

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Schreyer Scholar Nicole Antkiewicz loved to sing, to write and to read as a child. She also loved games.

“I think a lot of my love of English did come from playing games, because a lot of the games I played required a basic reading ability,” said the Penn State senior. “I feel like that helped me to read and write and foster my creativity. I wanted to give back to something that gave me educational value.”

Antkiewicz, who is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in English and psychology this weekend, used her education to take a deeper look at gaming; she wrote her thesis on how video-game narratives relate to narratives in film or traditional novels.

“Video games, in a lot of ways, can be considered artifacts of our culture,” she said. “And in a lot of ways, they express our attitudes and opinions about a lot of things that are going on in our lives. They have such a unique way in expressing that.”

Antkiewicz used three popular adventure games — "Life is Strange," "To the Moon," and "The Last of Us" — as case studies. During her research, Antkiewicz studied the two different schools of thought in video game criticism and the processes by which games were judged. On one side were the ludologists, who evaluated games based on game play. The other side put more stock into the story; what morals or values did the games address or promote?

“Most people were polarized about it for years,” said Antkiewicz, who was a member of the Penn State Video Game Club. “Now the consensus is that it’s a combination of the two.”

As technology has changed, so have the influences video games and culture have had on one another.

“With the rise of VR (virtual reality) technology, video games are definitely going in a very different place than they used to,” Antkiewicz said. “From the supercomputers that used to run war-based programs, to arcades and consoles, and the VR that’s sort of on the horizon. I think it has a lot to do with how our generation especially wants to express themselves.”

Antkiewicz may also learn how another culture views and perceives video games this summer. In July, she will travel to Japan to begin what will be at least one year of participation in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program.

“I’m really excited to work with the kids there,” she said. “I know they’re going to be my pride and joy. If I get really attached to them, I don’t know if I’ll want to leave.”

A graduate of John P. Stevens High School in Edison, New Jersey, Antkiewicz grew up a fan of Margaret Atwood's work and wrote her own fiction and poetry. 

“It seemed natural for me to go into English,” she said.

At Penn State, she was a writing tutor in the Learning Center and contributed to a newsletter for other writing centers called "The Dangling Modifier."

“I’ve done all kinds of writing and I’ve always enjoyed it,” she said. “I found myself really connecting with it. I find that it’s the best way to communicate my thoughts with other people.”

During her sophomore year, Antkiewicz, who had a great experience in her PSYCH 100 class, decided to add a psychology major. She is considering graduate school in social psychology or clinical work and is interested in researching mental disorders.

She is also pondering law school, but her immediate sights are on graduation and then, Japan, where Antkiewicz will put to use the passions and skills she developed and nurtured at Penn State — of writing, learning about how people act and helping them — and, quite possibly, look to discover a new passion or two.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to explore things you might not have explored before,” she said.

Last Updated May 05, 2017