Understanding Meaningfulness in Video Games

Matthew Weise

Matthew Weise

This thesis explores “meaningfulness” in videogames. Academics, journalists, and others who write about games often discuss the concept of meaning yet seldom define it clearly. I am focusing on a variation of this topic: what it means for a gaming experience to be meaningful–literally: full of meaning. Meaningfulness, as I define it, refers to the quality a videogame has when one considers it socially, culturally, or personally important. I attempt to answer the question: How do games become meaningful for players. I begin by stripping it down to the core ideas that interest me the most: narrative and emotion. Representing the debate over these terms helps illuminate the larger debate over meaningfulness. To accomplish this I examine different communities and their rhetoric. There are several major interpretive communities of games: academics, practitioners, journalists and consumers. The different ways these communities define narrative and emotion can be understood by examining their rhetoric. This reveals patterns that show the diversity of how meaningfulness is defined. The different ways players construct meaningfulness through rhetoric can be mapped. Doing so illustrates patterns and trends in logic that may not be apparent on the surface, and reveals certain clusters of people who are united by shared rhetoric. This methodology provides a framework to understand the forces shaping opinions over what meaningfulness is and is not in videogames. Identifying this framework and exploring its usefulness is the major project of this thesis.

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Matthew Weise

About Matthew Weise

Matthew Weise is a game designer and writer whose work spans industry and academia. He has been a Narrative Designer at Harmonix Music Systems on Fantasia: Music Evolved, the Game Design Director of the GAMBIT Game Lab at MIT, and a consultant for Microsoft, PBS, and others on transmedia storytelling and game design. His work, both creatively and critically, focuses on transmedia adaptation with an emphasis on the challenges of adapting cinema into video games. Matt has given lectures and workshops on film-to-game adaptation all over the world, and his published work on Aliens, James Bond, and zombie and horror cinema can be found along with the rest of his writing on his blog at http://outsideyourheaven.blogspot.com/. His development work, including IGF finalist The Snowfield, is available at http://gambit.mit.edu/. Thesis: Understanding Meaningfulness in Video Games

 
 

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