Designing Rituals Instead of Ceremonies. The Meaningful Performance of Violence in Video Games
The research of violence in video games has been mainly centered around the question of whether playing video games makes players more aggressive. Within this question, two major approaches remain the most prominent: on one hand, the focus on the content of media itself, and on the other hand, the user as the constitutive agent. Instead, we propose a perspective on violence in video games as part of an interactive process, in which both the player and the game system are actively involved as part of a performance through which meaning is created. We analyze these processes as ceremonies and rituals, which enables us to distinguish between two very different approaches to designing and experiencing violence in video games. The difference between the two lies in what they convey. While a ceremony indicates a status, a ritual transforms an agent from one state into another passing through a liminal phase. Using these classifications enables us to distinguish those mechanics that utilize violence to signify the status of players and their skills (ceremony) from those that use a system to tell the player something about the significance and meaning of the action while also offering a choice (ritual). Both approaches have their merit, depending on what a designer wants to achieve. As game genres and their mechanics are manifold, our analysis focuses on close quarters combat in Action-Adventures/RPGs. Through examination of the macro elements of fights in Dark Souls and Gothic, we analyze violence as part of a social drama.