Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Myth in translation: The ludic imagination in contemporary video games
by Guyker, Robert William, Jr., Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2016, 467; 10101054
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation treats the reception, performance, and mediation of myth in video games. Myths are included in video games as variants in relation to other myth-variants. This study does not focus on contemporary myths per se, but rather modernized forms of myths modified for a contemporary audience of players, users, and consumers who participate in video game culture. Different video games involve and invoke different mythologies. Thus, different theories about myths are drawn on to extrapolate meaningful applications in the world of each video game. Some case studies involve the creative uses of depth psychology, the hero pattern, otherworldly journeys, mythic-epic story structures, and/or explorations in specific mythological themes and motifs. Pluralistic, folkloristic, and close cross-cultural comparison is exercised on a case-by-case basis— pace universal and wide-range comparativism—to effectively account for comparison and context. Case studies include single-player video games involving different sub-genres, online multiplayer video games, and a massively multiplayer online game that includes field work reports and analysis.

The descriptive process and meta-theory that I propose stem from the playfulness that myths presented in video games afford: first, interpretatio ludi is the general process of transposing mythological traditions and systems into dynamic and playable models, or the invention anew of mythological systems tailored to a particular video game world and genre. Players virtually participate in myths as voyeurs, voyagers and (sometimes) builders. This raises important questions regarding artificial and emergent mythmaking occurring on the side of either player response, from the developers, or from instances of co-creation between both. I also present the “agonistic theory of myth” to account for the inherent and pervasive tendency of contestation between myth-variants, myths of divine conflict, and theories about myth(s).

A critical review of scholarship on myths and games is also included. This dissertation proposes that mythological studies and game studies can pursue significant collaborative research trajectories. The overall aim of this study is to develop a critical media-conscious approach to myths, and a myth-conscious approach to media.

Keywords: myth, video games, mythmaking, mythology, game studies, play, lore, virtual worlds, world-building.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Grillo, Laura
Commitee: Howard, Jeffrey, Smith, Evans Lansing
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Folklore, Mass communications
Keywords: Game studies, Mythmaking, Mythology, Video games, Virtual worlds, World-building
Publication Number: 10101054
ISBN: 978-1-339-64904-7
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