Living-into, living-with: A Schutzian account of the player/character relationship

Glimpse 17:27-34 (2016)
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Abstract

Games Studies reveals the performative nature of playing a character in a virtual-game-world (Nitsche 2008, p.205; Pearce 2006, p.1; Taylor 2002, p.48). Tbe Player/Character relationship is typically understood in terms of the player’s in-game “presence” (Boellstorff 2008, p.89; Schroeder 2002, p.6). This gives the appearance that living-into a game-world is an all-or- nothing affair: either the player is “present” in the game-world, or they are not. I argue that, in fact, a constitutive phenomenology reveals the Player/Character relationship to be a multi-dimensional matter of empathy. I advance a broadly Schutzian framework, drawing on his 1932 discussions of “face-to-face encounters” and ”historical predecessors,” showing how at- tention to empathy reveals a variety of “presences” that different kinds of Player/Character relationships afford. The central determinants of empathetic affordances which I focus on here are (i) how much players know about a character (especially the character’s past) and (ii) how players learn this information.The purpose of this discussion will be to show that a phenomenological analysis reveals that the relationship between a player and their character is complex, highly variable, and inherently social. Furthermore, it will add to the growing body of scholarship that demonstrates that video games are rich social objects deserving of study.

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