Collapsing action; or, games of life and death

Robbie Fordyce

Proposing a means to understand videogames in terms of the connections between players’ engagement, a videogame’s narrative, and the videogame mechanisms for play produces a complex map of relationships. Understanding it in its totality is difficult, but it is possible to identify key points of tension. This paper addresses the tension between the point where play loses its engagements for the player, and examines this problem through the double-sided lens of the principles of life and death. The principles of life and death have a long history in philosophical thought, and this paper contains a projection of some of these concerns from both theological and atheological philosophical thought into the world of gaming and simulation, including a presentation of a methodology for discussing life and death as principles in the context of fiction. Drawing on Marxist social theory, a concept of the ‘tendency’ finds its purchase, resulting in a number of social and philosophical theories on the conditions under which end-users conclude their game experiences.