Mytholudics: understanding games as/through myth

Dom Ford

Publikation: Bog / Antologi / Rapport / Ph.D.-afhandlingPh.d.-afhandling


This dissertation outlines a mythological framework for understanding how games produce meaning. I first theorise mythology as it applies to games and play. This is expressed through a cycle showing how mythology is embedded in the production of games and how it impacts the interpretation of games. This is then operationalised as a method for the analysis of games. I call my theorisation and analytical approach mytholudics. I then apply mytholudics in ten analyses of individual games or game series, split into two lenses: heroism and monstrosity. Finally, I reflect on these analyses and on mytholudics as an approach.
Mythology here is understood through two perspectives: Roland Barthes’ theory outlined in Mythologies (1972/2009) and Frog’s (2015, 2021a) understanding of mythology in cultural practice and discourse from a folklore studies perspective. The Barthesian approach establishes myth as a mode of expression rather than as an object. This has naturalisation as a key feature. Otherwise-arbitrary relations between things are made to seem natural. Frog’s mythic discourse approach understands mythology as “constituted of signs that are emotionally invested by people within a society as models for knowing the world” (2021a, p. 161). Mythic discourse analysis focuses on the comparison of mythic discourses over time and across cultures.
Barthes and Frog broadly share an understanding of mythology as a particular way of communicating an understanding of the world through discourse. Mythology is then not limited to any genre, medium or cultural context. It can include phenomena as diverse as systems, rules, customs, rituals, stories, characters, events, social roles and so on. What is important is how these elements relate to one another. Games consist of the same diverse elements arranged in comparable configurations, and so this perspective highlights the otherwise hidden parallels between mythology and games.
I argue for analysing games as and through myth. Games as myth means viewing the game as an organising structure that works analogously to mythology. Elements are constructed and put into relation with one another within a gameworld, which the player then plays in and interprets. Games through myth means seeing games as embedded within cultural contexts. The cultural context of development affects the mythologies that can be seen to influence the construction of the game, while the cultural context of the player affects how they relate to the game and the mythologies channelled through it.
A mytholudic approach helps us to understand how games make meaning because it focuses on the naturalised and hidden premises that go into the construction of games as organising structures. By analysing the underpinnings of those organising structures, we can outline the model for understanding the world that is virtually instantiated and how they are influenced by, influence and relate to models for understanding the world—mythologies—in the real world.
ForlagIT-Universitetet i København
Antal sider367
ISBN (Trykt)978-87-7949-398-8
StatusUdgivet - 2022


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