Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Games as theater for soul: An archetypal psychology perspective of virtual games
by Savett, Susan Mallard, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014, 297; 3686802
Abstract (Summary)

Millions of people are spending billions of hours each week playing digital games. These astonishing numbers point to a vast reservoir of psychic material that has been relatively unexamined by the field of depth psychology. Yet, in a realm of virtual games where image is primary and fantasy is played out, soul (psyche) is clearly present in its various disguises.

Through play and fantasy, unconscious content of the psyche is able to express its deep longings. Hypnogogic landscapes of video games provide immersive realms in which players enact psychological dramas. However, to date most psychological research of game experiences has been primarily empirical analysis within cognitive behavioral psychology and neuroscience. The question of soul-making within games is rarely approached.

In this qualitative interdisciplinary study of game studies and depth psychology, the relationship between digital games and psyche is explored through the lens of archetypal psychology. The overarching goal is to address whether the constructs of archetypal psychology provide an adequate psychological framework for understanding the phenomena of digital game worlds.

This study looks primarily to archetypal psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst James Hillman, to ground the research in depth psychological concepts of archetype, image, and soul. Hillman’s four concepts of personifying, pathologizing, psychologizing, and soul-making, as conveyed in Re-Visioning Psychology (1975/1992), provide the guideposts for the structure of interviews with four prominent game narrative designers, fieldwork discussions, and hermeneutic investigation of the literature.

The results of this dissertation demonstrate games as a virtual theater where psyche can play; the psychological necessity of personification and regression through fantasy; the role of archetypes in the creation process of game experiences; and the importance of archetypal influences within game realms for broader and richer context for soul’s participation. In addition, this study provides initial languaging allowing archetypal psychologists and game designers to enter into both game analysis and exploratory conversations, resulting in deeper meaning-making in gameplay. This work introduces depth psychologists to the important domain of digital games for soul and suggests to game designers a new access path as game designs evolve in new directions.

Keywords: Archetypal psychology, Jung, Hillman, videogames, pathology, soul.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kipnis, Aaron
Commitee: Howard, Jeffrey, Koehn, Allen
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Depth Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Multimedia Communications, Psychology
Keywords: Archetypal psychology, Archetypes, Game studies, Hillman, James, Jung, Carl G., Video games
Publication Number: 3686802
ISBN: 9781321636574
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