The common forms of contemporary videogames:
: a proposed content analysis model

  • Steven Allick

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this thesis was to investigate trope usage in videogames, including the emergence of undiscovered ‘videogame’ tropes, and to create a new model for videogame categorisation using these tropes. This model serves to complement genre as a means of distilling videogame contents. The investigative work formed two parts, initially considering how videogames use existing rhetorical tropes such as metaphor as expressive and communicative devices and secondly to analyse videogames as a source of shared literary tropes. Each shared literary trope was validated as a common form of expression (referred to simply as 'common form'), where its presence was proven in a substantial sample of videogames. Common forms were gathered through a wide-ranging investigation of ten mainstream genres one at a time and in isolation to arrive at a pool of genre-specific common forms. The most closely related forms combined, with the help of relationship modelling techniques. A set of common forms capable of representing the contents of any videogame was reached. The result is a powerful hierarchical content model allowing a game to be described in terms of its common form usage profile. Common forms can effectively describe games which span several genres and differentiates between games which appear similar on the surface e.g. within the same genre hence aiding effective classification. Common Forms were proven to exist on a number of different hierarchies ranging from those specific to a particular game, to a game type (genre) and even to those which are universal and hence can be observed within any modern videogame. Finally, it was possible to see the very core or 'heart' of the functioning videogame, the never-ending competition between player resources such as energy, ammunition or shields, the 'player status' and the threats, challenges or obstacles the game's systems throw at the player, the 'game status'. The model does have considerable potential for application in educational settings such as college and university game development or appraisal classes and further development and testing would provide an effective tool for industry use.
Date of Award1 Apr 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorClive Fencott (Supervisor), Paul Van Schaik (Supervisor) & Charlie McElhone (Supervisor)

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