Reification and Narcissism in the Game-World: A Critical Perspective of Digital Games

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While video and computer games are praised as a chance for emancipation from current, mass-mediated, “passive” forms of entertainment, the author hopes to offer a more critical perspective of the fledgling medium. He will attempt to illuminate the issue more fully, drawing on philosophical strains of thought and examples from current games. The author will discuss the existing problems of the new interactive medium, some of which may be inherent to the medium itself, in an effort to diagnose some of the more serious issues in digital gaming. Among other pressing problems, the author will address the reification that takes place on two definite levels during the play of digital games. On the most direct level the player themselves become reified due to the "interactive" nature of digital play and the dominant, narcissistic framework of most games. The term "interactive” is quoted because games aren't really interactive, in the meaningful sense, so much as they are spaces where players can make predefined decisions in a predefined environment in a way that has been anticipated by the game's designers. Players are not free to do what they want, they are "free" to choose which predefined decision they favor most. Reification of the self is inevitable when the player controls an often generic, lifeless "set of hands" or some other intermediate version of themselves, in a world that only allows for options that developers have anticipated. Further exacerbating the issues, the player is encouraged to view the world through the lens of pure self-interest, leading to the reification of the game-world’s beings and their reduction to "standing reserve", to be harvested in what ever way the player sees fit. The author will discuss reification, narcissism, among other issues, through the use of video clips from contemporary games such as “Bioshock” and “Cloud”.


Keywords: Video Games, Computer Games, Games, Reification, Interactivity
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Aaron Bell

Student, Interactive Media and Game Design
Philosophy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester, MA, USA

I am a senior Interactive Media and Game Design major and Philosophy minor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I am preparing to go to graduate school in the field of Continental Philosophy. My only "work" would be a similar lecture that I was asked to make for a professor's class on philosophical issues concerning interactive media, specifically digital games and various papers that I have written about the subject for classes. I am interested in establishing a critical discourse on interactive media, drawing on existing schools of thought such as continental philosophy, namely phenomenology, and media studies, specifically the vibrant Canadian community of media studies.

Ref: T08P0320