Implications and applications of failure in video games
Failing in video games is a near-inevitable occurrence for all and any player. This research project finds its basis in Jesper Juul’s essay The Art of Failure: an Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games and Mary Flanagan’s Critical Play.
In recent game history, we can note the success of games that seemingly put failure at their core: Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy has become an internet sensation with numerous streamers and Youtubers showcasing their raging failures, whereas choice-oriented games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead, or Life is Strange, or Papers, Please garnered audience acclaim with the difficult decisions the player has to make, and their sometimes irreparable consequences.
Using Juul’s theories of failure as its foundation, this project proposes two objectives:
- Discuss and expand on some of Juul’s concepts (the paradox of failure, the paradox of tragedy, and the paradox of painful art, as well as distinctive types of failures and reactions to failure) by examining other theories with an inter-disciplinary approach, and proposing a detailed critical analysis of a selection of noteworthy existing games.
- Put our theories to the test by developing a series of games exploring some key aspects of failure and how game designers can navigate the subject in innovative ways while offering a satisfactory experience for their players, ultimately experimenting with game design to find new ways of using failure to maintain and reinforce player engagement.
This research aims at exploring that space between the desirable and non-desirable aspects of failure for game developers and players alike. The focus of this project will lie on the game design component, thus aligning with IGGI’s research theme ‘Game Experience and Design’. Using game design as a tool for criticism, this project aims at proposing concrete new strategies for game studios to gain a better understanding of the experience of failure and find creative new ways of exploiting failure in their games that will be engaging for players.
Charline’s love for video games was born in her childhood, over many hours of Playstation and Nintendo games - but it was really once she had finished a BA in English with Film Studies at King’s College London and started a MSc in Film, Exhibition and Curation at the University of Edinburgh that her friends introduced her to Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Team Fortress 2, and Sid Meier’s Civilization V: and she was instantly spellbound by the endless storytelling possibilities and experiences games had to offer. After graduating, she moved to Berlin, where she found employment at an independent video game studio, Sandbox Interactive, as a Customer Support Agent. This experience behind the scenes of a highly competitive MMORPG prompted her to learn more about game design and game production, and she is now taking her experience and keen curiosity into her PhD project. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, reading too many comic books, film history, playing games, and tabletop games, preferably campaigns where everything goes horribly wrong.
Home institution: York
Supervisor: Dr Ben Kirman
Ready to apply?
Once you have identified your potential supervisor, we would encourage you to contact them to discuss your research proposal.Learn More