Videogames, interfaces, and the body: the importance of embodied phenomenon to the experience of videogame play

Bayliss, P 2010, Videogames, interfaces, and the body: the importance of embodied phenomenon to the experience of videogame play, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Videogames, interfaces, and the body: the importance of embodied phenomenon to the experience of videogame play
Author(s) Bayliss, P
Year 2010
Abstract This thesis is concerned with setting out the importance of embodied phenomena to the experience of videogame play, and exploring the implications of those phenomena for how we understand the experience of videogame play. In particular, it argues that if we are to understand the experience of playing videogames as it is experienced by the player, we need to reorientate our approach to foreground the experience of the player. By taking this path it diverges from much, if not most, extant research on the experience of videogame play, which, it is argued, focuses more on theorising the likely effects or outcomes of particular formal qualities or design decisions, rather than how the experience of videogame play in itself emerges from the interaction between the embodied player and the videogame during the course of play. This approach opens up the phenomena of videogame play to more detailed and grounded accounts of the player’s relation to the interface used to play, the nature of the experience of engagement in the course of play, and the deep involvement of the body in the experience of play.

The approach and theoretical framework employed in this thesis is influenced by Dourish’s notion of embodied interaction, which is adapted to the context of videogame play through further consideration and employment of phenomenological concepts, such as Merleau-Ponty’s work on the importance of our embodied being and of habituated bodily experience, and Heidegger’s differentiation between the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand, to the articulation of the experience of videogame play. This leads to the key recurring thematic concern of this thesis, namely the role played by the interface in the experience of videogame play. Over the course of several chapters a more expansive conceptual model of the interface than the more technically based definitions usually employed is developed. This expanded
conceptualisation of the interface is applied to the nature of the interface itself, the role played by its physical aspects, and how it affords the player access to, and a sense of presence within, the game-world.

By understanding the embodied relation between the player and the interface used to play the importance of the phenomena of bodily experience is made visible, and opens up the phenomena of videogame play to more detailed and grounded accounts of the player’s relation to the interface used to play, the nature of the experience of engagement in the course of play, and the deep involvement of the body in the experience of play. What emerges from such an approach is not only an increased understanding of the nature of the experience of videogame play, but also of the centrality of embodiment to that experience. This centrality of embodiment to the experience of videogame play is demonstrated in the final chapter, which employs the work done over the course of the thesis to examine and articulate the phenomenological experience of movement within game-worlds.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Keyword(s) Video games
phenomenology
embodiment
interface
embodied interaction
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Created: Thu, 14 Jul 2011, 14:49:34 EST by Guy Aron
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