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Making meaning out of social harm in videogames

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
A literature review demonstrates that videogame research has theoretical and empirical relevance to criminology. This thesis explores the construction of meaning around representations of social harm in videogames by answering two research questions: 1) How is social harm represented in videogames? 2) How do players construct meaning around videogame content relating to social harm? Study 1 is a qualitative content analysis of representations of social harm in the popular videogame Skyrim. Themes included crime and punishment, money and power, extrajudicial crime control, legitimacy of violence, and criminalization of race. These findings are contextualized against analogous real-world cultural constructs. Study 2 consists of 18 interviews with players about their experiences interpreting and responding to social harm representations in videogames. Players’ construction of meaning depended on factors including player-character relationship, playstyle, game genre, and play context. Preliminary metrics for measuring these factors are proposed, and implications for future research are discussed.
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Copyright is held by the author.
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Kinney, Bryan
Member of collection
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