Games, Cognition, and Emotion

University of Hamburg, 5-6 July 2013

Panel II.3: Games and Emotion I

Sebastian Möring, IT University of Copenhagen

The Marriage – Love at sight, fear at play

In this paper I intend to demonstrate how the emotions of love and fear are being represented and/or are present in the semiotically abstract game The Marriage (Humble 2006) in order to contribute to questions of presentation and representation of emotions in games. The thesis to be argued is that the representation of love in the game is only possible through its phenomenological absence (Sartre 2003) and the presence of its emotional opposite, fear, on the level of the gameplay experience. I suggest taking two perspectives on the game which have methodological implications for the argument to be made. The first perspective requires seeing the game as representing something else, the implicit seeing-as of a simulation. The second perspective requires to see the game as such, as an autonomous game object (Aarseth 2011). Following the first perspective I will show that a metaphorically structured concept of love (Möring forthcoming) is represented on the game’s semiotic layer as well as the game’s structural layer since the player’s essential task in the game is to create situations of closeness between the game tokens against and simultaneously through the structure of the game in order to ensure the game’s continuation. Following the second perspective I will argue that the necessity of the game’s continuation is manifest in the game’s agonistic structure which on an experiential level is present as fear in terms of the fear of failing (Möring forthcoming). From this perspective the player has to avoid situations of distance in the game. I will thus argue that love is being represented by the game according to the first perspective but fear is present in the game and more essential to the game object following the second perspective. Consequently, the presence of fear becomes a requirement for the representation of love.

– Aarseth, Espen. 2011. “Define Real, Moron! Some Remarks on Game Ontologies.” In DIGAREC Keynote-Lectures 2009/10, edited by Stephan Günzel, Michael Liebe, and Dieter Mersch, 50–69. Digarec Series 6. Potsdam: Potsdam University Press.
– Humble, Rod. 2006. The Marriage.
– Möring, Sebastian. forthcoming. “Simulated Metaphors of Love. How the Game The Marriage Applies Metaphors to Simulate a Love Relationship.” In The Game Love Reader. Playing with Affection (working Title), edited by Jessica Enevold and Esther MacCullum-Stewart. Publisher pending.
———. forthcoming. “Distance and Fear: Defining the Play Space.” In Ludotopia (working Title), edited by Espen Aarseth and Stephan Günzel, in revision process for a book under negotiation for a book proposal on space and computer games.
– Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2003. Being and nothingness: an essay on phenomenological ontology. London: Routledge.

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Sebastian Möring has been a Ph.D. student at the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen since October 2010. His research interests include the logic and structure of computer games. For his Ph.D. project he currently works on computer games as metaphors. Sebastian holds a Master of Arts in media studies from the University of Potsdam and the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, Germany, where he attended the master program of European Media Studies. His master thesis investigated the Heideggerian fear structure as a fundamental characteristic of competitive games. Prior to being a Ph.D. fellow he was a Research Assistant at the Digital Games Research Center (DIGAREC) at the University of Potsdam.

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