Ludo-Emotional Dissonance: A Framework for Analyzing the Interplay Between Player Embodiment and Interactivity within Videogames

  • Author / Creator
    Cselinacz, Morgan
  • Videogames are vehicles for player embodiment, unique interactive experiences, mechanic challenges, and exploration of other worlds and lives. However, much of the mainstream videogame industry is predicated upon principles which perpetuate certain values while excluding many players from being able to experience these unique pieces of art. These frameworks work off of principles such as “fun” and profit as the key drivers for videogame creation, as well as white supremacist values of being “apolitical”, mastery and dominance, and how the diversification of the industry is “woke” rather than dismantling hegemonic values. In this way, mainstream videogames cyclically recreate themselves for the hegemon, excluding players, diverse experiences, and complex emotional explorations.
    In this work I explore some of the aspects cemented within mainstream videogame design as well as what has been less explored or is only now coming to the mainstream including emotional responses of players - expanding beyond if the game is bugged or mechanically “good” - as well as questioning the levels of interactivity players are exposed to regularly within these games. I adapt and build upon the concept of ludo-narrative dissonance to create the framework of ludo-emotional dissonance which is meant to be used to analyze games and how games can be positively or negatively received by different players for different reasons, as well as how player experience, player expectations, and designer intentions work to form a consonant or dissonant experience. Ludo-emotional dissonance works upon the interplay of embodiment, which includes the player’s own socio-cultural experiences and their role situated within the environmental context of the game, as well as interactivity, which mediates the player’s embodiment. Unlike many mainstream frameworks, I posit that more interactivity does not necessarily mean a better player experience. Instead, designer intentions should be mediated by a level of interactivity which will meet the player experience, which is also determined by the player expectations prior to gameplay, thus creating a “better” player experience and which does not rely on more interactivity.
    I use the framework of ludo-emotional dissonance to explore works such as Detroit: Become Human (2018), and how its author claiming it as apolitical reveals a deeper tendency within mainstream games to view white as the default, thus alienating players, rejecting emotional nuances, and rejecting deeper readings of their works. I also look at games such as What Remains of Edith Finch (2017) and how it problematizes the concept of interactivity by using less interaction to make a more accessible and approachable game for players, thus creating a ludo-emotionally consonant experience by opening up the narrative possibility space and encouraging deductive reasoning through environmental storytelling rather than through generic interactive elements. I also create a case study for Doki Doki Literature Club! (2017), and how its elements create a ludo-emotionally dissonant experience through interference between player expectations and their actual experience, and yet one which creates strong player engagement, all while disrupting mainstream game creation conventions. DDLC does this through the use of a detailed content warning at the beginning of the game, a subversion of dating simulation genre conventions, the overpowering use of glitches which narrow the player interaction space, and the theme of hopelessness which pervades the entire work.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.