I am interested in exploring the philosophic assumptions present in a video game I am currently enjoying, but I am struggling to find methodologies or works that could assist me in this endeavor.

I am not necessarily looking at aesthetics, but rather deeper topics such as the in-universe stance on the mind-body problem, preferred modes of epistemology, and influence from periods or regions of philosophy such as Chinese, Japanese, Western, etc.

I am wondering if anyone is aware of any existing works or methodologies that could help me in this endeavor, or if they have any advice on how to go about exploring these themes.

I don't want to risk reinventing the wheel, so any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!


2 Answers 2


Exploring the philosophical assumptions in media can be a complex process, but there are several methodologies that can be useful in this endeavor. Here are a few:

Hermeneutics: This methodology involves analyzing the meaning and interpretation of texts, and can be applied to media content. Through hermeneutic analysis, one can uncover the underlying assumptions, values, and worldviews that are embedded in media.

Critical Theory: This methodology involves analyzing power relations and societal structures that shape media content. Critical theory can help uncover the political, economic, and social factors that influence the production and consumption of media.

Cultural Studies: This methodology involves analyzing media as a cultural artifact that reflects and reinforces cultural values, norms, and identities. Cultural studies can help reveal the ways in which media contributes to the construction of cultural meanings and identities.

Phenomenology: This methodology involves analyzing the subjective experience of media consumption. Phenomenological analysis can help uncover the ways in which media shapes our perceptions, beliefs, and experiences.

Postmodernism: This methodology involves analyzing the ways in which media reflects and contributes to the fragmentation and deconstruction of traditional worldviews and identities. Postmodern analysis can help reveal the ways in which media challenges and subverts dominant philosophical assumptions.

Overall, exploring the philosophical assumptions in media requires a multi-faceted approach that draws on a variety of methodologies and perspectives.


Interesting question!

I was just discussing issues that are going to arise as the games we play blur into our reality, and whether that will undermine our ability to make sense of what is real. My case is that money is 'not real', but it shows how a shared virtuality can contribute to rather than undermine our shared reality.

This answer is relevant, discussing Baudrillard, and philosophy of play like Huizinga, and some considerations about the nature and purpose of art: Video games as new art

I am kind of fascinated by how computer games and open-world ones especially, are interactive media. It shifts considerations. But as a basis, it's important to consider the history of media philosophically

Debord's The Society of the Spectacle is an interesting lense. I am a big fan of Durkheim and his ideas about anomie and social cohesion, through collective enactment of shared attitudes towards values.

This answer talks about epistemic contention: Need help with this paper on epistemic justice

This answer discussions cultural variance in interpreting the self: How do Chinese and Japanese Buddhists perceive people? And the enduring significance of Confucianism: Why is Confucianism considered a brilliant philosophical school of thought?

Monster Theory is a pretty interesting lense, "viewing the monstrous body as a metaphor for the cultural body, ... consider beasts, demons, freaks, and fiends as symbolic expressions of cultural unease", discussed here: What did Nietzsche mean by monsters and the abyss? I'd look to this to understand why we find some monster-archetypes far more persistent, and unsettling, than others. The nature of villains, baddies, and their evil or madness, is very interesting. The great ones, we find disturbingly sympathetic. So considerations of evil, discussed here: Does philosophy have a dark side?

There's a thing about the origins of the Superhero genre, and Jewish philosophy, dilemmas, and the golem. See eg The Golem and the Jewish Superhero. In this age of instant access to limitless information, it's interesting to note how we are being thrown back to the idea our key skill as humans is good decision making and dilemma solving, from a scientific picture where that is left aside in favour of gathering information. Discussed here: Wisdom and John Vervaeke's awakening from the meaning crises?

I was looking at philosophically intriguing computer games to brighten your day, which mentions in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey there's an extensive storyline with Socrates, where you face philosophical dilemmas.. Superhero stories tend to focus on dilemmas, which we can understand as exercising that faculty in ourselves, and in games that can be far more participatory. In-game Trolley Problems and so on, can make us investigate our impulses and moral reasoning and their consequences - and there is a game 'Trolley Problem, Inc.'; see Guardian review. There's great potential for looking at Game Theory interactions too, like iterations of equivalents to the Prisoners Dilemma.

It's interesting to reflect on Mark Fisher's point, "it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism", in relation to the many dystopian and very very few utopian visions of the future in computer games.

There is research on the impacts of first- to third- person perspectives, eg First Person vs. Third Person Perspective in Digital Games: Do Player Preferences Affect Immersion?, The impact of video game character viewpoints and task on perceptions of cognitive and similarity identification.

I suspect the philosophical work specifically on what you ask, is quite niche and very modern. I searched for 'Philosophy + Now + computer + games' and that brought up lots of things, you can only view 4 a month without a subscription though. I am very interested in this area, and I hope you will report back on what you discover as you go into researching it.

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    @CraiglCragl Thanks for these. I read through some Wikipedia entries and commentary on Huizingas and Baudrillard's works. The former seems foundational but far more abstract than the latter. The more empirical insight into first vs third-person perspectives will be especially interesting since the Metroid Prime trilogy has the only first-person games in the franchise.
    – cricket900
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 8:52

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