Ambivalent Violence in Contemporary Game Design

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
156 Downloads (Pure)


Through a textual analysis of three noted examples—Bioshock, Spec Ops: The Line, and Grand Theft Auto V—This article explores the capacity for ambivalence in violent video games. The analyses bring into dialogue film scholarship which has sought to understand a comparable trend in cinema with games scholarship, most notably Darley’s discussion of narrative “decentering” and Bogost’s notion of “procedural rhetoric.” In all three games, the core gameplay in which players are rewarded for repetition of violent behaviors is juxtaposed with ambivalent narrative-contextual aspects. However, in the more overtly “multidimensional” video games medium, this juxtaposition plays out in a more fractured manner than in the flatter visual space of cinema.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-45
Number of pages20
JournalGames and Culture
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


  • ambivalence
  • film violence
  • procedural rhetoric
  • textual analysis
  • violent video games

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


Dive into the research topics of 'Ambivalent Violence in Contemporary Game Design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this