University of Hamburg, 5-6 July 2013
Andreas Gregersen, University of Copenhagen
Video Games, Canonical Agency and Embodiment
Video games are generally accepted as interactive media. There are several ways to conceptualise interactivity, but instead of attempting a full definition, I will focus on laying out a conceptualization of the embodied intentional agency of the player, since this is a plausible necessary if not sufficient component in any conceptualization of interactivity. A rudimentary sketch of interactivity, mostly relevant for digital games employing avatars in virtual environments, would go as follows: Embodied players are coupled to body representations through mapping of actions. Drawing on philosophy of action and cognitive linguistics I will sketch a canonical agent role for embodied agents such as players and their avatars: An intentional agent acting upon a patient by way of an instrument. This canonical agent role is then used as a stepstone to develop a formalist/functionalist framework for analyzing video games. I will show how canonical agency plays a major role in the formal structures of several video game genres and, in addition, I will analyze the phenomenology of this canonical agent role as it might be experienced from the viewpoint of embodied players. For the second part of the framework, the concepts of ownership of actions and body representations will be employed and contextualized with reference to particular genres.
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Andreas Gregersen is Assistant Professor at the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication at the University of Copenhagen. Current research interests include cognitive theory, narratology, genre theory, film structure, digital media and computer game structure and representations of violence across media; he is currently working on some of the theoretical-methodological problems related to researching interactive media and to researching sequential data such as film. He teaches communication theory and digital media at the Cognition & Communication programme, and from 2009-2012 he coordinated the programme.