Being virtual: embodiment and experience in interactive computer game play
Sommerseth, Hanna Mathilde
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This thesis argues that the notion of player experience in relation to computer games is intrinsically linked to the body. Taking the idea of aesthetic experience, or sensuous experience, in computer game play as its starting point, my thesis considers computer games from within an interdisciplinary cross section of phenomenology, cultural studies and visual culture. Computer games have in a reasonably short amount of time reached a stage where they are an integral part of contemporary society: historically, economically and culturally. The current field of computer games comprises a vast array of genres, styles, stories, experiments and media. Because computer games are interactive objects, I argue that an analysis should begin with a discussion of player experience, and that this experience is inherently embodied. The embodied and temporal nature of game play means it is problematic to simply transfer established frameworks of meaning making in other audiovisual media onto computer games. The thesis attempts to understand the notion of player experience through a phenomenological reading of the interactive experience, and as such I argue that the individual, temporal and iterative aspect of this experience means computer games should not necessarily be squeezed into already established categories of earlier forms of entertainment media. Through three main chapters I explore the role of the body and embodied experience from three different points of view, roughly divided into the three aspects that make up the feedback loop of game play; hardware, software and interface. Each chapter considers the unique role and importance of the body at each point in the game play process.