Games and Metaphor - A critical analysis of the metaphor discourse in game studies

Sebastian Martin Möring

    Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


    This doctoral dissertation critically investigates how the concept of metaphor is used with regard to games in game studies. The goal is to provide the field with a self-understanding of its metaphor discourse which has not been researched so far. The thesis departs from the observation that the notion of metaphor has been present in the discourse of game studies since it emerged as an academic field and focuses on questions such as: What are the motivations and effects of calling games metaphors in the game studies discourse? Which problems arise from that with regard to other established concepts in game studies such as simulation and procedural rhetoric? How do concepts and insights of contemporary metaphor theory affect the applicability of the notion of metaphor with regard to games?

    Drawing on concepts from metaphor theory (in particular the cognitive linguistic view on metaphor), play and game theory, cultural theory, semiotics, linguistics, philosophy, and game studies it investigates the metaphor discourse of game studies in the fashion of a meta-study. The main part of this thesis is devoted to three particular problems which have been derived from observations in the overview of the current use of the notion of metaphor in game studies.

    Firstly, this thesis investigates is the conceptual relationship between the notions of metaphor, representation, and play. It therefore accounts for observations such that all three notions are present in non-computer game and play theory, theory of representation and art which all influenced game studies and argues for an equiprimordial relation between these three concepts.

    Secondly, this thesis deals with what is termed the metaphor-simulation dilemma which accounts for the observation that in game studies the notion of metaphor is very often used in close conceptual proximity with the concept of simulation to the extent that they become conceptually indistinguishable. The two notions are reconciled through the notion of the model and a case study will demonstrate that it is possible to think of simulations as based on metaphorically structured models.

    Thirdly, thesis deals with the observation that the concept of metaphor is referred to in game studies in particular when games are interpreted in terms of some existential topic. Usually addressed from the perspective of (procedural) game rhetoric games are called metaphors for struggle, life, death, love. On the basis of a criticism of procedural rhetoric this thesis will suggest a distinction between a textual hermeneutic and an existential hermeneutic of games in which the latter is primary. It suggests furthermore that metaphoric interpretation of games is usually a sort of text interpretation. This supports the argument of a general de-metaphorization of alleged metaphoric computer games.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
    Number of pages343
    ISBN (Print)978-87-7949-298-1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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