Game Cultures: Agency and Non-space in Videogames

Date & Time:

16th February, 16:00


Online event; the link will be sent to those who register.


The seminar will explore agency and non-spaces in videogames.

Dr Bettina Bódi (De Montfort University) Playing the Game: Agency in and Around Videogames

This talk will outline my current monograph project on agency and videogames, offering a new multidimensional conceptual framework that helps us understand how freedom to act is discussed by designers, and how that in turn reflects in their design principles. The book asks questions such as: What can we learn from existing theories around agency? How do paratextual materials reflect design intention with regards to what the player can and cannot do in a videogame? How does game design shape the possibility space for player action? Through three case study chapters that include AAA and independent games alike, the book presents a unique approach to studying agency that combines game design, game studies, and game developer discourse. By doing so, the book examines what discourses around player action, as well as a game’s design can reveal about the nature of agency and videogame aesthetics.

Dr Felix Schniz (University of Klagenfurt) Death, Interrupted: Meaningful Non-Spaces in Cyclic Videogame Geographies

To experience a videogame means to experience a virtual world forged of fictional and ludic properties. With the industry trends since the 2010s, this often means being part of a seamless ergodic system in which players may explore game content without any imposed interruptions. Nevertheless, loading screens or similar instances of non-spaces that shape our understanding of a videogame world without being an extant part of it persist.

In this presentation, I discuss non-spaces in contemporary game design between technical necessity and experiential purpose beyond the singular world of the videogame. I specifically shed light on two case studies that follow polar strategies in their aesthetic integration of in-between spaces: The Dark Souls series (FromSoftware since 2011), which relies on ludic non-spaces, and Returnal (Housemarque 2021), which provides cinematographic intermissions.

In both cases, these non-spaces prove to be central to the games’ metaphoric experience of death and rebirth. They possess meaningful dramaturgic functions in which players may break a seemingly endless circle of suffering via agency. Thereby, they showcase the ludo-narrative quality of disruption in game design.

About the speakers:

Dr Bettina Bódi is a lecturer in Media and Communication at De Montfort University, Leicester. Her research considers agency in and around videogames, as afforded by game design, and as discussed in paratexts and promotional surrounds. In the past, she worked on research projects on television audiences, videogames and heritage, and she published on agency and narrativity, as well as designing playfulness. Dr Bódi is also member of the production team of Keywords in Play, a podcast series bringing critical thinking about games to a wider audience. Her monograph titled Videogames and Agency is forthcoming as part of the Routledge Advances in Game Studies series in 2023.

Dr Felix Schniz is the co-founder and programme director of the master’s programme Game Studies and Engineering at the University of Klagenfurt, Austria. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and American studies from the University of Mannheim, where he subsequently joined the master’s programme Cultural Transformations of the Modern Age: Literature and Media. Today, his research focuses on experiences in virtual worlds, peripatetic traditions, genre theory, and the subjective quality of the medium videogame.