Project: Bachelor Thesis - Finally - a Topic for My Blog!

So, if you take a look at the date of my first (and last) blog entry, you'll notice it's been a while (after which you'll probably laugh since that post was about finally starting a blog which obviously never happened). Now that I'm fairly close to finishing university, I finally found a topic worth blogging about: the process of researching and writing my bachelor thesis ... about video games!

As someone studying English and Media Studies and an avid gamer since the early SNES days, writing my final paper about video games was somehow inevitable. The only real alternative would've been to write about TV Shows and milk Joss Whedon's shows for yet another topic (I wrote my first paper mainly about the Buffy episode "The Body" and the portrayal of death on TV). One of my classes this year in the literary studies department was about utopias/dystopias and I thought this would be a natural jump-off point for a topic relating to video games.

Today I finally got around to talking to the professor who's going to oversee and grade the paper for the first time. Fun fact: turns out, he used to be a gamer as well. What I want to write about is basically interactive narrative, player choice and emotional investment in games set in a utopian/dystopian world. One of the major influences for this was episode six of the Irrational Behavior podcast in which designer Justin Pappas talked about playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. with the Redux mod installed which introduces a hunger mechanic that forced him to resort to extreme measures to survive and how that made him feel (starts at 26m50s).

I killed a man for his sausage and I still carry the guilt. And no game has ever forced me to so compromise my morals as this S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Redux mod and I think it was because of this hunger mechanic - Justin Pappas

After reading some interesting blogs and articles over the last years, I have my eye on games like BioShock, Metro 2033, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and possibly Deus Ex. Most or all of them have been significantly influenced by other works (Metro 2033 is even a straight up adaptation of a book) like novels (Atlas Shrugged, Roadside Picnic) or movies (Blade Runner, Stalker) which may or may not be relevant to the final paper. My professor told me that covering three games should be more than enough for a topic like this which he said he liked and found quite interesting.

The next step will be more pre-research to narrow down the topic and justify my topic and the choice of works to analyze. The tricky thing with that is that the focus should be on works from anglophone regions which is why S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro are a little problematic. But I might be able to make a good case for why they are important enough to write about regardless. More (?) importantly, I need to play the games! The only game I have played out of those I want to look at is BioShock (and its sequel). I own all the others but they're firmly situated in my pile of shame, waiting to be played. Last week, I joined a "Game Club" for Metro 2033 that Giant Bomb user started in the forums because I loved the idea. It's like a book club, for video games! That's going to be a nice resource for detailed impressions!

I plan on updating this blog with my progress or lack thereof. Maybe someone even ends up caring enough to read the blog, who knows! If anyone reading this has any suggestions for other games portraying detailed utopian/dystopian worlds or has read something interesting about interactive narrative, world building and immersion on games, feel free to post suggestions in the comments!