• Metaphysics and metaethics in the design of strategy video games

Campagna, Federico, 2021, Thesis, Metaphysics and metaethics in the design of strategy video games PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

Over the past fifty years, the video games industry has grown to become today’s largest cultural industry worldwide. Research on video games has also gained significant academic status, with an ever-increasing number of dedicated studies and university courses. However, despite this rapid expansion, the video game industry appears to be suffering from a decreasing rate of innovation, while academic research on video games continues to present a number of evident gaps. My research addresses a gap in the existing literature on the conjuncture between philosophy and video game design, by analysing the impact that the metaphysical and metaethical decisions taken by designers have on the creation of a video game-world. On the basis of this analysis, I delineate a method that can be used to innovate the design of video game-worlds through the adoption of a philosophical outlook. I also present an example of this method at work, in the form of a prototype for a video game, Lamassu, which I developed in collaboration with designer Jelena Viskovic.

Three main questions establish the starting points for my research:

- Is it possible – and how so – to read the design of a video game-world through the lens of the philosophical discipline?

- Is it possible – and how so – to innovate the design of a video game-world, by manipulating the philosophical parameters of its conceptual structure?

- What method might allow for a fruitful integration of philosophy and video game design?

To address these questions, I select as my field of research the genre of strategy video games, specifically 4x games, due to the complexity and transparency of the conceptual architecture sustaining their game-worlds. Equally, for philosophy, I select the branches of metaphysics and metaethics, which epitomise the entire philosophical discipline due to their conceptual and functional primacy within it.

My interdisciplinarity research adopts a plurality of mixed methods. These are as follows: an analysis of the literature in both philosophy and video game studies; a meta-analysis of the methods adopted in my research; first-hand philosophical analysis of the game-world of my case study, Total War: Rome 2 (The Creative Assembly, 2013); in-depth qualitative interviews with seven professionals in the field of video game design; a reflexive reassessment of my research method; the collaborative creation, with designer Jelena Viskovic, of the prototype Lamassu. The use of different methods corresponds to the narrative unfolding of my research, which is centred on a continuous re-assessment of my methodology.

My findings confirm that it is possible to delineate a specific methodology to analyse the philosophical structures that are implicit in a video game-world. The definition of a tested, replicable method constitutes the main contribution to knowledge offered by my thesis. Furthermore, my findings confirm that it is possible to create significantly different video game-worlds by intervening on the metaphysical and metaethical parameters that are implicit within their structure. The prototype for a video game, Lamassu (with its accompanying text), provides a practical example of the impact of a philosophical re-design of video game-worlds.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W280 Interactive and Electronic Design
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Communication
Funders: AHRC (1477561), LDoc London Doctoral Design Centre
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy; Metaphysics; Metaethics; World-Building; Video Games
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2021 09:26
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2021 09:26
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4782
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