University of Hamburg, 5-6 July 2013
Christoph Klimmt, Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media
The Video Game Player’s Self on a Fantastic Ride. Social Cognition as Subjective Process and Objective Variable
The diverse perspectives of media studies and social (cognitive) psychology on the experience of video game play root, of course, in their divergent methodological histories. Media and film studies adhere to strong backgrounds in understanding and elaboration of detailed, rich individual reflections, for instance, of single game episodes or personal-subjective memories of one given player confronted with one given game. Social psychology (and, in its tradition, media psychology and communication science alike), in contrast, refer to objective, measurable phenomena and try to reduce the information processing that occurs in players to relatively few variables that can be measured, explained statistically, and demonstrated as cause or effect of other gaming-related variables.
Attempts to bridge these entirely different perspectives on the same research object have been made outside of game studies. The case of understanding cognition and emotion in gamers offers a new opportunity to practice such trans-disciplinary harmonization. The keynote will reflect on the journey that a player’s self-perception or subjective identity goes through when s/he becomes involved in a great video game. From literature studies, the concept of identification has been taken to explicate this journey. Shifts in self-perception are both highly subjective (as they are bound to personal knowledge and biography) and can be measured objectively. What happens to a player’s sense of self can thus be taken as a useful topic for harmonizing diverse disciplinary perspectives in game studies and explicate a theoretical ‘truth’ in the midst between what is a generalizable principle of psychological game effects and what is a unique, personal, entirely subjective play experience.
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Christoph Klimmt is Professor for Mass Communication at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media. His works include Playing Computer Games as Action: Dimensions and Determinants of the Experience of Interactive Entertainment (2006) as well as research on use and effects of video games and other media.