Being (in)Between: Space and Subjectivity in Video Game Worlds

Miller, Leigh, Constructed Environment - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Wilson, Richard, School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Last, Nana, School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Ali, Christopher, AS-Media Studies, University of Virginia

Video games are an object of study at the crossroads of disciplines that shape the constructed environment, and yet they remain largely unstudied as architectural spaces. Like architecture, video games speak to ontological questions of how the player or observer conceives of themselves as being in a space. At the same time, they are a unique medium, in that they are highly immersive, interactive, technological undertakings that present the user with their own attributes of space. The video game is suggesting new ways of approaching the study of space and our way of being in two places at once: when engaged with the game space, the player or observer is neither fully within the digital world of the video game, nor are they fully present in the physical world of their living rooms. Space in video games is configured such that the player or observer occupies an inbetween ontological state when they play or observe. This study uses video games with immersive ecologies, or those in which the world constructed that the player or observer sees and interacts with, is a critical part of the experience of the game, to explore the way the experience of video games is reconfiguring the playing or observing subject. It understands the video game space as generative of temporal and material conditions that together form a unique type of place. Each chapter of the dissertation identifies performative components of space, time, materiality, and place, and explores them as a series of equations. These modalities are some of the aspects of video games that critically link the concerns of video game space and the physical space of buildings and landscapes. Instead of seeing the video game world and physical worlds as discrete entities, this study suggests that the veil separating them is quite thin. It disrupts the notion that there is a singular experience of either world, and that by engaging with this medium, the very nature of space itself, how we define it, understand it, and live within it, is radically shifting from a set of lived, singular experiences, to a multitude of possibilities that constitute a form of architecture.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
video games, architecture, immersive, subjectivity, phenomenology
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