Rethinking Agency and Immersion: videogames as a means of consciousness-raising

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Rethinking Agency and Immersion: videogames as a means of consciousness-raising

Gonzalo Frasca

Georgia Institute of Technology


Until recently, most videogames characters did not reflect our everyday life for the simple reason that most of them were trolls, aliens and monsters. However, this has changed since the introduction of The Sims, the people simulator. Nevertheless, characters in this game are still flat since The Sims simulates life in a Disneyland-like way, avoiding ideological conflicts.

Encouraged by authors like Brenda Laurel and Janet Murray, videogame designers have been taking for granted that a high level of agency and immersion are desirable effects. However, I will show that alternative, non-Aristotelian techniques could be used to develop character-driven videogames that enhance critical thinking about ideological issues and social conflicts while keeping the experience enjoyable. I will do this by borrowing some concepts from Bertolt Brecht’s and Augusto Boal’s ideas on non-Aristotelian theater and applying them on videogame design.
In this paper, I propose a modified version of The Sims would allow players to create behavioral rules for their characters that reflect their personal opinions. Like in Boal’s Forum Theater, this game would foster critical discussion about social and personal problems.

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