Finding Video Games Where They Play: The Unique Aesthetics of Decision Design (Thesis)
Trevor Ruben, Spring 2017

Director: Jennifer Maher
Committee Members: Jody Shipka and Craig Saper

This thesis conceptualizes a code-first view of video games called decision design to enable an essentialist understanding of this complex form for the sake of wide-scope genre typification. By setting video games within the culture-transitionary state of electracy and as objects in inclusive, rather than prescriptive, theories of genre, the invention of the form-wide video game genre that comes to be known therein as the aesthetics of becoming constructs a value for narratology without the unnecessary privileging of it, as something held within a framework recognizing interactivity above all else. This interactive, or playful/ludic, framework views video games as “systems of systems,” in which a player’s choosing of one action to the next as a reaction to the intermixing of systems of the game is a coder-prescribed construction, which enables a specific role becoming over the course of a game. These becomings are subsequently sub-categorized as, but not limited to, becomings of the wanderer, storyteller, and engineer.

Ruben published an article entitled, “Why Microtransaction and Loot Boxes Are Destroying Games,” in Rolling Stone related to his thesis research. To read his article, please click the article title.

In 2019, Ruben published a miniature version of his thesis on, “The Video Game Is You: An Approach to Video Game Criticism.”