In this project, I created a framework for exploring problems with representations of marginalized characters in video games called "critical modding." The main goal of this project was to provide a method for addressing issues with portrayals of queer characters in video games through modification of a game's narrative and gameplay systems. I also created a video game prototype called Life in the Megapocalypse as a digital tool for engaging in critical modding. In addition, I created classroom assignments based on the game prototype aimed at helping people learn more about problems with portrayals of queer characters in games through critical modding that can be found in Appendix B. I created the critical modding framework based on established research on education, queer representation, and narrative design related to video games. The video game prototype is built in a text-based interactive fiction scripting engine called Inky and is stored in a web-based version on my website; I also provided selected source code from the game in Appendix C of this project. The game focuses on representations of queer characters in a post-apocalyptic world and asks the player to make choices by offering the characters guidance, as well as talking with them to learn more about them. This project is valuable in that it provides a research-based framework for exploring problems with portrayals of queer characters in video games through modification, an idea that has not been explored in established video game research. It also provides a tool for doing so in the form of the video game prototype, offering a unique approach that blends traditional academic research with digital design.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Howard, Kenton, "Critical Modding: A Design Framework for Exploring Representation in Games" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 699.