Gameplay Phenomenologies: Hermeneutics and the Exploration of Player Experiences

Sarah Christina Ganzon


This paper considers the work of Barthes and Gadamer in the analysis of player practices. Much of the study of player agency has been relegated to the subcategory of player studies, with very little conversation between this area of study and the areas of rhetoric and philosophy. Moreover, apart from Bogost’s Procedural Rhetoric, the various ways that games can function rhetorically is still under-theorized within game studies. This work attempts to create a dialogue between player studies and hermeneutic philosophy, focusing on how games can engage players hermeneutically and provide spaces to generate various narratives. Taking a cue from Barthes, I consider how games can function as writerly texts, generating emotion through ambience. Using Gadamer’s work, I illustrate how games create experiences, and how some players utilize hermeneutics in the ways by which they critically engage with the virtual worlds they occupy. Games can create aesthetic experiences, and players can be transformed in the act of play.

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