Procedural identification : algorithmic role-playing in video games




Alexander, Benjamin Keith

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Video games and role-playing games both possess the ability to structure the player’s experience of themselves around their underlying and internal structures. Tabletop role-playing games do so through complex rules involving random dice rolls whereas video games do so through their basic algorithmic and software structure. This thesis investigates how the combination of properties from both media in the form of video role-playing games, or vRPGs, can impact and structure the player’s sense of identification with the player character. This thesis draws heavily on Wendy Chun, Alexander Galloway and Ian Bogost’s theories of procedurality in games as well as both modern and post-modern theories of identity and identification in order to argue that vRPGs have the ability to actively guide and construct the player’s identification. When looked at as procedural media, one quickly discovers that games are capable of interacting and responding to the player. I chose to call this quality of games “procedural identification”. This thesis also foregrounds the importance of the played aspect of games in order to highlight the fact that the sense of identification that comes from playing a game is both active and the result of the player’s interactions with the game’s programmatic interface. In essence, the meaning of a game emerges only during and after play. By structuring this play according to underlying algorithmic processes, games are capable of structure the player’s interaction and experience in unique and incredibly rich ways.


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