Here be dragons : imaginative geographies of online video games

Date
2013-05
Authors
Schwartz, Leigh
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Abstract

As articulated by J. K. Wright (1947), "terrae incognitae," or unknown lands, capture the imagination and inspire an excitement to explore and learn, but with a reduction in travel times and subsequent expansions of potential travel range, along with growth in media and the development of the video game industry, for many, terrae incognitae has shifted from places on Earth to the intangible environments of interactive media. While the virtual environments of video games can be fantastic, they are also designed and created by human beings to exist entirely in relation to the game player, who is an adventurer, explorer, settler, civilizer, or conqueror. Using qualitative research methods, this dissertation analyzes the geographies online video gaming in relation to an original framework based on the mutually constitutive concepts of representation, exploration, and geographic narrative, as well as the intersecting roles of myth, fantasy, and the virtual in shaping narratively structured imaginative environments. With specific chapters examining themes of interaction between human and software, gender and sexuality, exploration, narrative, cooperation, and creativity, this dissertation proposes that video games can be best understood as both collaborative representations and virtual environments.

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