Existential Ludology and Peter Wessel Zapffe

In Victor Navarro-Remesal & Oliver Perez-Latorre (eds.), Perspectives on the European Videogame. Amsterdam (The Netherlands): Amsterdam University Press. pp. 175-192 (2021)
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A relatively common approach in game studies understands gameworlds as constituting an existential situation for the player. Taking that stance, which is rooted in the European philosophical tradition of Existentialism, in this chapter we investigate the relationships and similarities between our existence within and without gameworlds. To do so, we first provide a review of existing literature in ‘existential ludology’ - work in game studies which considers our engagement with gameworlds from an existential perspective. In the second part of the chapter, we then engage with some of the most notable ideas of the Norwegian philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe. Zapffe understood human life as inherently meaningless and identified four ways in which human beings typically protect themselves from the existential panic that accompanies the awareness of that meaninglessness: isolation, anchoring, distraction, and sublimation. These four categories are used as the foundation for an examination of gameworlds as technologies for repressing existential panic.

Author Profiles

Stefano Gualeni
University of Malta
Daniel Vella
University of Malta


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