Existential Hermeneutics for Playable Media: Understanding the Relationship between Freedom, Responsibility and Interpretation in Solitary Computer Game Play

Project: Research

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Computer games have entered the mainstream of contemporary mediaculture, questioning the assumptions about a pastime of adolescent males only. Last decade has seen for example yoga-games and cooking simulations alongside adaptations of film noir aesthetics. In 2010 the global revenue generated by computer game sales surpassed that of cinema box offices. As media audiences accustomed to playability mature, we begin to find game-like interactivity in a variety of ‘serious’ fields of new media and digital technology, such as training, education and journalism. Computer games are an expressive medium and an artform. They can offer experiences as profound as those offered by film, theatre and literature. This calls for establishing an aesthetics specific to computer games and seeing value in informed readings and critiques of them.The ways in which narrative media like cinema are experienced as significant are already well-theorised. In last decades, focus of many media and culture scholars shifted to “interactive” media, which due to its seemingly empowering user position was hailed as a cause for paradigm shift. Due to fundamental differences between the ways in which narrative, interactive, and playable media engage their audiences, the theories and methodologies which apply on narrative or interactive media cannot simply be transferred to understand signification in playable media.Underlying the attempts of analysing and critiquing computer games, designing attractive computer games, using them for education, or creating artistic computer games, is a fundamental question that has not been fully answered yet: how interpretation of single-player computer games can be possible in the first place?The goal of this project is to answer this question by theorising the interpretation of single-player computer games based on a synthesis of current game analysis practices, comparative close-playing analyses of computer game artefacts, and typology creation. This project will break new ground in game studies and philosophy of computer games by using insights from existential philosophy and post-phenomenological philosophy of technology to address the relationship between, freedom, responsibility, technological materiality, and interpretation.The project will shed light on the ways single player computer games appear as meaningful to their players. It describes how the experience of meaningful play consists of individual elements present in solitary game-playing experience, including narrative structures, game-play incentives, audiovisual elements like graphics and sounds, and external rewards such as the “achievement badges”, and, how these elements relate to the core dynamic of playability.


Project number9042112
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/09/1429/08/18

    Research areas

  • philosophy of computer games,computer game interpretation,computer game analysis,computer game critique,