Reflexive Play: Complicity, Emotions, and the Limitations of Choice in Video Games

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Authors
Huk, Darby
Keyword
video game , rpg , games , reflexive play , play , gaming , the witcher , the witcher 3: wild hunt , the legend of zelda , zelda , breath of the wild , the last of us , complicity , choice , choices , decision making , role playing games , loss aversion
Abstract
Video games stand apart from other narrative media because through play, the audience is not just an audience, but a participant who actively takes part in the narrative as it unfolds. This paper examines complicity and reflexive play in narrative video games. Within these discussions, I define player agency, role-playing games, and I establish a model for identifying different types of choices in games. Specifically, this paper presents case studies on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and The Last of Us, examining how the decisions – or the lack thereof – affect the emotions of the player. Autoethnography was combined with recent work in the field of game studies to better understand how choices are defined and designed, and how complicity plays a crucial role in the emotional power of video games. This paper brings the discussion of complicity into the foreground of games studies, arguing that the guilt and pride accessible through player complicity sets video games apart from other media.
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