Video Games: A Critical Approach

One of my theses at WPI was entitled Video Games: A Critical Approach. The 61 page paper was an overview of video games, applying the lens of continental critical theory to subject. I drew heavily on the work of Marcuse, Feenberg, and Gadamer, among others. From the introduction:

Developers of video games, time and time again, find themselves coming up against seemingly unanswerable questions. Certainly some these questions concern violence in video games and what it does or does not do to children, but there are other, more abstract questions that game developers face that they have not answered satisfactorily. Is a game only a game? When is it not a game? Is the individual the sole interpreter of a game’s reality? How does a game affect the player, in a general sense?

These questions appear daunting and unanswerable to game developers, largely because game developers are rooted in the scientific culture that requires quantitative answers to problems, answers attained through formal logic. Indeed, “the philosophical center of [the game developer's] world is the Von Neumann stored-program digital computer” (Adams). By applying different philosophical methods, such as critical theory and negative dialectic, to video games, we can attain an understanding of games that we did not previously have. The unanswerable is only unanswerable as such in the framework of instrumental reason. These new answers can give game developers insight as to how one might go about designing a game to promote positive social change, how to design a game that questions the status quo rather than promotes it.

The full paper is available in MS Word format and as a PDF.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Sanbonmatsu November 22, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Awesome site, Darius! And I’m DELIGHTED to see that you’ve posted your IQP online. I hope lots of folks read it. See you in the morning!



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