Final Year Thesis

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the blog , part of my major for my first three years is video game design. This third year though, its almost over–and this means it’s almost Division 3 time. What’s a Div 3, you say? My school describes this as “a year-long extended study project. Students must form a committee with a specific idea in mind for their project.”

Basically, it’s “shit got real” time. The final year–at least, how I think about it anyway–is the time to actively apply what we’ve learned to the “real world”. Thus, some people make businesses, some people write books, and, most people studying game design make a game. I’m…not insane though. I’m not about to try to make a game on my own, too many roles to fulfill and one school year simply isn’t enough time for me to produce something I’m proud of. So then, what’s the next best thing? A thesis, unfortunately. I say unfortunately because of the whole “How is this project going to further my skillset for the real world?!?!?!” buuuuut let’s not get into that right now.

So, I’m trying to come up with a good subject right now. The idea bouncing around my head right now, and yes, it sounds very vague, and completely amorphous, but I’d like to look at how video games are emblematic of the type of society we’re becoming/are. Everything we typically associate with the basic tenets of humanity–soul, friendship, morality, romance, identity, etc– can be transcribed and parsed into the digital realm, quantified. Save a family? +5 paragon points. Have a conversation with a friend? +5 friendship. Not to mention the more obvious things like hit points, attack points, that sort of thing. Everything is a number, is quantifiable. The worlds themselves are ‘just’ a string of numbers and letters, too.

Why is that? And what does that say about the type of society that we are?

I’m going in with some thoughts of my own.  First, capitalism ensures that everything can be commodified, and this means that everything has a value (this gets into the Marxist ideas of base/superstructure, which might be the underbelly of this all) . Then you have things like the decoding of the human genome, the extension of the human lifetime. What it means to be human is actively being questioned by such pursuits, evolving–what is natural? What isn’t? We’re redefining just about anything you can think of that makes us human.

Anyway those are all tentative thoughts and I have until this fall to formulate a concrete idea of what this thesis will be. Until then, I’m collecting as much literature as I can–if it even loosely relates–and talking to people to help refine the idea. I’ll be updating this blog with progress on that front, since hey, it’s writing about video games, ennit?

One Comment

  1. I would pick a fight with you over the numbers/digitization aspect. One of the failings of video games in the BioWare style is that relationships with NPCs/party members are conceived on sliding scales, and doing actions result in a set number of points one way or another on that scale.

    Human interaction is nowhere near being numerically discrete. Video game characters should surprise us, not react to set triggers.