PhD Proposal by Patrick Fiorilli

Event Details
  • Date/Time:
    • Monday June 7, 2021
      10:00 am - 12:00 pm
  • Location: Atlanta, GA; REMOTE
  • Phone:
  • URL: Bluejeans
  • Email:
  • Fee(s):
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Summary Sentence: Imagined Fortresses: Video Games as Language

Full Summary: No summary paragraph submitted.

Date/Time: Monday, June 7 @ 10am EDT


Location: Remote via BlueJeans,


Committee: Ian Bogost (chair), Jay Bolter, Greg Zinman


Title: Imagined Fortresses: Video Games as Language


Abstract: Game designers and critics often speak of video games in terms of “objects,” “verbs,” and other parts of speech. On the one hand, this is simply metaphorical shorthand: we talk about jumping in Super Mario Bros. as if we were talking about the word “jump.” But this device is under-theorized. Does it make sense to compare game mechanics to language? If so, why? One path forward takes, as its starting point, a philosophical approach to virtuality. Deleuze defines the virtual as real, but not actual. Although his definition remains just one point on a long trajectory of the word, it reads today not unlike our ordinary sense of the word, meaning “in effect.” A video game is one kind of virtual world—a world, in effect. But this being virtual is not unique to video games, which hold virtuality in common with other kinds of worlds, like those found in tabletop role-playing games, or even those of children playing pretend. Virtuality, in these cases, remains a function of language. A virtual world is one that is composed and experienced in language. And the same holds true for video games. The connection between language and video games, on the basis of virtuality, provides us with an answer to the questions above. Perhaps more notably, however, it puts us in conversation with a lineage of continental thought—exemplified by Heidegger and Derrida—which takes seriously the structuration of the (actual) world through language. Video games become literal instantiations of such thought, whereby players experience, by way of computation, the figuration and configuration of (virtual) worlds in language. Wittgenstein famously wrote that "the limits of my language mean the limits of my world," and he extended this argument into a subjectivity positioned not in the world but at this very limit. The play of a virtual world becomes one such decentered exploration of the limit, from the limit. Players who engage in such exploration begin to resemble the literary subjects of authors like Mallarmé, Borges, Calvino, and Lispector: constantly writing their own escape from language. It has long been imagined that the ideal virtual world or video game is one in which anything is possible. But nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, the video game is the art of inescapable limitation which, as such, reveals its own limitation and the nature of limitation itself.

Additional Information

In Campus Calendar

Graduate Studies

Invited Audience
Faculty/Staff, Public, Graduate students, Undergraduate students
Phd proposal
  • Created By: Tatianna Richardson
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jun 2, 2021 - 2:04pm
  • Last Updated: Jun 2, 2021 - 2:04pm