Dissertation

ABSTRACT : BETWEEN PLAY AND DESIGN: EMERGENT IDENTITIES IN SINGLE-PLAYER VIDEOGAMES (FULL DISSERTATION HERE: BETWEEN PLAY AND DESIGN BOUDREAU 2012)

This dissertation examines the complex nature of identity in single-player videogames. It introduces the concept of hybrid-identity, and proposes an analytical framework to deconstruct gameplay across genres to distinguish moments of identity emergence.

While identity research commonly focuses on the player or the player-character (or both), the concept of hybrid-identity is a fluid, at times fleeting form of identity that exists between the player and the player-character. Hybrid-identity develops during the process of videogame play and necessarily includes the player (experience, play-context, etc.), the game environment (design, mechanics, etc.), and the mediating technology (computer, console, etc.) that facilitates gameplay.

In order to delineate the different aspects of gameplay that influence the emergence of different types of identity, a multifaceted framework was devised to isolate specific interactions between the player/player-characterplayer-character/non-playing characterplayer/game environmentplayer-character/game environment, and player/player. This framework was coupled with a secondary frame which includes examining the specificities of the individual player and the mediating technologies that facilitate gameplay. A systematic analysis of gameplay and design elements of three different games; Mirror’s Edge (DICE, 2008), Alone in the Dark (Eden Games, 2008), and Fable 2 (Lionhead Studios, 2008) was performed to illustrate the varying degrees of identity emergence in different game structures.

The utility of the framework is demonstrated by comparing the three gameplay analyses and highlighting the elements that contribute to (and possibly hinder) identity development and more specifically, the emergence of hybrid-identity. These three examples lay the foundation for a broader discussion on the definition, context, and process of hybrid-identity in videogame play.

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