The persona in autobiographical game-making as a playful performance of the self

Stefan Werning

Abstract


The paper at hand investigates forms and interpretations of author personae in autobiographical videogames. While, previously, autobiographical modes of expression have only been discussed in a few game-based artworks (Poremba 2007), the availability of free, easy-to-use tools like Twine and Ren’Py gradually affords autobiographical writing as a cultural technique outside of deliberately artistic endeavors. Therefore, the paper considers the creation and distribution of autobiographical games as a playful form of identity politics. For that purpose, a comparative content analysis (cf. e.g. Rössler 2012) of selected autobiographical games will be conducted, taking into account rhetorical and audiovisual elements but focusing on procedural design strategies and “bias” (Bogost 2008, 128). The corpus includes explicitly autobiographical sketches like Gravitation (2008) and Dys4ia (2012), but also cases in which the autobiographical characteristics are only implied like The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne (2016) as well as less polished, sometimes unfinished vignettes. This approach will be selectively complemented by a rhetorical analysis of paratextual elements such as developer statements and user comments. Play and games are increasingly recognized as modes of conceptualizing and expressing individual identity (Frissen et al. 2015, 35–36) that are particularly compatible with postmodern sensibilities. Consequently, the focus of the analysis will lie on how the implementation of the author personae as playable characters enable the developers to curate their identity online, both in terms of Moreno’s psychodrama (Moreno 1987) and Foucault’s technologies of the self (Aycock 1995).


Keywords


Autobiographical Games; Procedural Rhetoric; Amateur Game-Making

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21153/ps2017vol3no1art650

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