Honours Application

Bachelor of Arts (Media, Culture and Creative Arts)(Honours)

Against the Odds: Why players persevere through a hostile game experience.

In this study, I intend to investigate the methods that can be employed by a game designer/writer to motivate a player to feel engaged in, and play through an intense game. To do this, I want to explore theatrical, literary, and filmic narrative and directorial techniques of manipulating an actor/audience member/reader. Very important to my topic is any writing on the links between video games and theatre, such as the writing of Lee Sheldon (references both Shakespeare and the well-made play), Gonzalo Frasca (Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed), and Brenda Laurel (Aristotle and Brecht). I want this information, as well as the recent research into links between violent video games and violent behaviour, to springboard my research to answer the question: what techniques are reliably found in computer games where players choose to continue playing in an otherwise hostile environment?

By the end of my research, I plan to have identified key devices or “tools,” used in the narratives of successful computer games, previously identified in other disciplines, as validated by my research. For this project, I intend to have both an exegesis and a creative component. The exegesis will refer to successful games, as well as analysing and summarising the potential for games as theatre. This will lead into the creative component, wherein I will write a script to a short hypothetical game, spanning from the first time a player loads the game, through the first playing, to the end of the final sequence. I will annotate this script, to explain the reasoning behind my choices, linking them to the theories mentioned in the exegesis.

The most important and time-consuming task during this project will be playing through and analysing single-player games which are regarded as being immersive and engaging. I am particularly interested in games that are high-stress and/or high-violence, which would appear likely to discourage the player from playing; games that have very carefully provided the right level of motivation for the player to continue. It is also important to read texts and studies regarding motivation and enjoyment in games, in addition to the writers mentioned above, whose main concern has been the link between video games and theatre. I will also read on additional topics which may clarify some of the devices subconsciously utilised by the writers/designers of the games I am examining. Antonin Artaud’s “Theatre of Cruelty,” Joseph Campbell’s “Monomyth,” an implicit history/backstory, blurring of reality and simulation, and motivational psychology can all be accessed to position the Player-Character, and thus should be looked at.

I aim to, by completing this project, link together knowledge and techniques from various fields and present them in a concise, illustrative, and workable manner. I intend this to illuminate ways in which the game developers can lead players into and through a computer game, without trying to blindly mimic what another, successful game has done. This project is not so much for the Theatre community’s advancement, although some of the same theories could potentially be applied back, so as to create a seemingly “interactive” theatre.

References

• Artaud, Antonin. The Theatre and its Double.
London : Calder, 1790.
• Campbell, Joseph. The hero with a thousand faces. 2nd ed.
Princeton : Princeton Univ. Pr., 1968.
• Frasca, Gonzalo. 3 Feb, 2009. Ludology.org.
November 10, 2008.
• Laurel, Brenda. Computers as Theatre.
Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley Pub., 1991.
• Sheldon, Lee. Character Development and Storytelling in Games.
Boston, MA : Thomson Course Technology, 2004.

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