I became interested in games based on their frequent characterization as the medium of choice. Incorporating critical theory into my experience of video games, I was fascinated by how the act of choosing reflects, or potentially constructs, the user’s identity in the process. I initially framed this project as an exploration of the legitimacy of choice and identity in designed space. I was suspicious of this prevailing definition of interactive entertainment. When I approach a fork in the road, I may not know what fate awaits me should I choose one path over the other, but I typically feel confident that something exists at the end of whichever road I choose. This environment of determination and consequence is more pronounced in games, but not always conspicuously so. In game space, the end of every road is similarly predetermined before the user’s arrival, but additionally, and perhaps uniquely, the user’s method of choosing has also been constructed. We walk down roads because someone has coded our stride. How free to choose are we if the method of deciding and the potential outcome of our decision, have already been arranged, accounted for, and designed?
I no longer understand “choice” or “agency” to be the operative features of video games. During the thesis process, my interest shifted from questioning whether or not choice exists in designed space to examining the conditions of identity in the absence of choice. Three elements became central to this exploration: loops, failure, and redaction.