The Late Modern Hero’s Quest for Meaning : A case study on the psychological construction of meaning and play, ritualization, and, quests in video games in late modern Sweden

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Religionspsykologi


This essay focuses on two cases studies that include two game designers’ views of meaning-making construction in games and an analysis of their corresponding games. This isplaced in relation to the late modern Sweden context. The study examines how the designersconceive purposeful play by employing a multi-disciplinary approach consistingof Pruyser’s three-world model, Bell’s ritualization framework, and, Howard’s quest theory.Such a study is relevant due to the new ways meaning-making is actively producedwithin games and contributes to the understanding of meaning-making in late modernSweden. The two designers work at DICE and Starbreeze Studios and were interviewedusing a semi-structured methodology. The data is analyzed with a qualitative narrativetechnique applying an inductive theoretical lens to analyze the data thematically. Bothrespondents illustrate patterns of meaning-making in their construction of games wherefunctionality is central and vital to produce purposeful play. The construction of illusionisticgame worlds encloses on feelings of authenticity to the world’s structure. Realistic,autistic, and, object symbolism operate to mold the world structure and are connected tothe designers’ genre. The designer from DICE promotes realistic worlds and the designerfrom Starbreeze Studios autistic representations. Ritualized practice within the worldfocuses on combat differentiation techniques to legitimize violent practice. The designers’realistic world construction makes combat plausible within its border and autistic worldsare empowered by back-stories. Opposition is seen as essential in both cases. The correspondinggame shows similar tendencies except that many of the quest themes are intactalthough the designers themselves consider the games to use less of the mythologicalformulae. Characters, themes, and, allegorical imagery was used to amplify the sense ofdialectic oppositions and logical opposition where the enemy is always darker. However,the hero and heroes are considerably grimmer compared to the stereotypical hero. Meaningis maintained through non-allegorical quests where the player and hero are motivatedby functionality linked to opposition or emotional elements. An anti-heroic concept isemployed to construct a practical and credible hero-character that has ambivalent attributesand convincing behavior. An alteration to dark-light symbolism can also be seen inone of the cases. In relation to other studies, this essay has broaden the spectrum of thepsychology of religion in terms of fields for meaning strategies; confirming ritualizedstrategies in video games; displayed altered ways of using mythological symbols in theSwedish context; presented cultural differences in hero structures that might be based onthe Swedish context.

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