PRES Lecture: The Virtual Self, Gameplay, and Becoming: Immersive Roleplaying as Self-Reflective Experience

Friday, April 29, 2022 3:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Speaker: Aleksander Franiczek

Respondent: Alex Fleck

Abstract: This talk will investigate how a videogame player’s immersion when roleplaying as a virtual avatar can open up a space for self-reflection. By influencing the player to step outside of the enclosure of their own subjectivity and interact through a narratively contextualized role, the playful mindset of the immersed player allows them to act freely outside of the limiting mental confines of social pressure and self-consciousness. The talk will synthesize conceptions of player immersion established by game studies scholars such as Janet Murray and Marie-Laure Ryan with philosophical conceptions of self and play from writers such as Roger Caillois, and Keiji Nishitani to address the questions: What does it mean to be immersed in a virtual world and character role? What happens to the player’s sense of self during gameplay? Can this sense of immersion in another identity invite a new perspective for thinking? Does the procedural and rhetorical nature of digital roleplaying games allow them to function as effective experiences for self-learning? After establishing this theoretical framework, I will apply it to a brief comparative study of the games, The Outer Worlds, a Western role-playing game (WRPG), and Final Fantasy XV, a Japanese role-playing game (JRPG). Because the influence of both genres’ approach to narrative design can now be widely observed in games that are not necessarily classified as RPGs, this study may help us more generally understand the intermingling of player and avatar subjectivities that makes immersion a gateway to impactful storytelling, fictive engagement, and self-learning.

Speaker Bio: Aleksander Franiczek (he/him) is currently in the second year of his English PhD at the University of Waterloo. His doctoral research combines perspectives from game studies, media theory, and phenomenology to study the interplay of immersion, roleplaying, and narrative design in the player experience. In particular, his dissertation aims to understand a player’s immersion in a videogame as a combination of their imaginative engagement in a virtual world and character role with the rhetorical nature of the game as a digital object that communicates with the player, which together constitutes an experience that enables them to act freely from self-consciousness and thereby opens up a space for self-reflection. Through this understanding, his project will consider how players can reflect on and internalize personal meaning from gameplay experiences through creative interventions that can provide insight into oneself.


Meeting number: 2308 353 3000
Password: preslecture
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