Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Anderson, Douglas


In this dissertation, I make a serious philosophic application of several aesthetic theories to the emerging medium of video games. I look at concepts such as the play of art, psychical distancing, and an experience, and apply each of these to a representative video game. Hence, I use a variety of aesthetic works, but apply these in a pluralistic manner. The thesis I defend is that a number of specific video games offer possibilities for aesthetic experience that can be comprehended through these traditional aesthetic theories. The purpose of my project is not a comparative one among these theories: I do not argue that any one of these is definitive in application to all video games. Instead, I hold these theories in tension by showing that each has practical merit in being applied to different games I use a variety of aesthetic approaches to argue that a specific game exemplifies the aesthetic value which is at the core of a particular theory. I apply John Dewey's notion of an experience as a single, distinctive whole consisting of parts in unity to the music-based game Rock Band. To consider the distance between the player of a video game and the game's content, I discuss Edward Bullough's theory of psychical distance and apply this concept to a violent game such as Grand Theft Auto IV. Finally, I consider Hans-Georg Gadamer's thoughts on the play of art and the connection of play to seriousness and apply these thoughts to a game which integrates a sense of playfulness with serious themes: Braid.




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