Date of Award

8-9-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Moving Image Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Greg Smith

Second Advisor

Dr. Ethan Tussey

Third Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Barker

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Daniel Reynolds

Abstract

This dissertation project presents a novel approach to videogame narrative studies through the lens of the active opposition of enemies, from boss monsters and villains down to the lowliest encounters with irritating “trash” enemies. Using transactionism—a theory of existence and aesthetics that claims all experience moves across a single physical plane—this dissertation coins and defines the concept of cooposition, a phenomenon in videogames that allows for narrative activity as co-constituted by the player and the game through active, productive antagonism. After identifying and exploring the lingering difficulties in accounting for videogame narrative in a complete and satisfying theory, this project establishes cooposition as an essential and powerful force of videogame experience before breaking down four permeable categories of videogame enemies. Through extensive examples, key texts, and gameplay experience, this project explores ideas related to how videogame narratives construct player identity, set aesthetic rhythms, and establish and manipulate narrative space and time. At issue is how games use enemies as narrative technique, how narrative in videogames emerge through cooposition, and how players co-create narrative phenomenon by “defeating” the game, productively. This is a first step towards a new theory of game narrative that emerges from gameplay experience, rejecting cognitive theories of literary narratology and suggesting new design strategies for game narrative that fully capitalize on coopositional dynamics.

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