Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Time and Space in Video Games. A Cognitive-Formalist Approach
Federico Alvarez Igarzábal
2nd Author
3rd Author
Doctor of Philosophy in Media Studies
Number of Pages
University of Cologne
Thesis Supervisor
Benjamin Beil
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Gundolf S. Freyermuth, Marc Wittmann
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Institute of Media Culture and Theater
Languages Familiar to Author
Spanish, English, German
URL where full thesis can be found
video games, time, space, time perception, gametime, gamespace, games, digital games, aesthetics, formal analysis, cognitive science, psychology, perception, game studies, media studies
Abstract: 200-500 words
Video games are temporal artifacts: They change with time as players interact with them in accordance with rules. This study investigates the formal aspects of video games that determine how these changes are produced and sequenced. Theories of time perception drawn from the cognitive sciences lay the groundwork for an in-depth analysis of these features. The formal aspects of video games are systematized into a typology of temporal structures, which can function as a tool for game design and game analysis. The different elements that make up this typology give rise to and structure gametime—time as it elapses within the boundaries of the simulated gamespace. Gametime shares many properties with real time, but it differs from it in that it can be paused, slowed down, accelerated, and reset. These aspects of gametime introduce new possibilities and challenges for storytelling, which are analyzed in different chapters. How does the capacity to go back in time and replay a portion of a game affect the relation of players with fictional characters and a game’s story? How are verbal narrators implemented in an interactive medium like the video game? The study addresses these questions and more in order to better understand the relation between gametime and narrative. The cognitive side of the approach applies theories of time perception drawn from psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics, to explain how our minds shape gametime. For example, the window of simultaneity in our time perception allows us to perceive a button press as concurrent with an event inside the gameworld (e.g. the character jumping), as long as these occurrences are no longer than 100 milliseconds apart. In turn, video games can manipulate our time perception, such as by making time fly. The study looks, among other phenomena, into the perception of the present moment, the past (memory), and the future (predictive thinking); the perception of causation; the relation between time perspective and self-control; and how these aspects of perception relate to videogames. This mixed approach that combines formal analysis with cognitive science makes for a comprehensive account of time in this novel medium.