Gaming and the limits of digital embodiment

Farrow, Robert and Iacovides, Ioanna (2013). Gaming and the limits of digital embodiment. Philosophy & Technology, 27(2) pp. 221–233.



This paper discusses the nature and limits of player embodiment within digital games. We identify a convergence between everyday bodily actions and activity within digital environments, and a trend towards incorporating natural forms of movement into gaming worlds through mimetic control devices. We examine recent literature in the area of immersion and presence in digital gaming; Calleja’s (2011) recent Player Involvement Model of gaming is discussed and found to rely on a probematic notion of embodiment as 'incorporation'. We go on to further reflect on the nature of player involvement in digital gaming environments by applying insights from Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception. It is argued that digital embodiment differs so significantly from primordial embodiment that any idea of total immersion is simply fantasy. We subsequently argue that digital game media nonetheless provide us with unique opportunities for exploring the nature of distinctively human forms of embodiment, and so we need more complete and more reliable phenomenological descriptions of the experiences associated with computer games.

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