Dangers of Playing with the Virtual Other in Mind: A Psychoanalytical View on Digital Role-Playing Games and the Edge between Facilitating Personality Development and Endangering the Player's Psyche

Dangers of Playing with the Virtual Other in Mind: A Psychoanalytical View on Digital Role-Playing Games and the Edge between Facilitating Personality Development and Endangering the Player's Psyche

Katharina Mittlböck (University of Vienna, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8595-6.ch004
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Abstract

This chapter contributes to the discussion on worth and dangers of digital role-playing games. With a psychoanalytical approach it focuses on the psyche's abilities provided by entering a game space. Building on the basic axioms of psychoanalysis a set of hypotheses concerning a psychoanalytic view on the act of playing is developed, which is systematically processed in the following. The aim of these deliberations is to outline that playing always means to deal with certain chaos in the sense of an unknown and unfamiliar structure in which the player immerses. The narrow edge between facilitating personality development on the one side and overwhelming - the player's psyche endangering - chaos on the other is worked out. The chapter is a revised part of an upcoming transdisciplinary PhD-thesis in the field of educational science and game studies.
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Axioms Of Psychoanalysis

To track this perspective on the act of playing, the axioms of psychoanalytic theory have to be clarified. Besides a dynamic unconscious as part of the human psyche, we are working with the assumption that individuals internalize in the course of a lifetime – but prevalently in their early years - representations of meaningful interactions. These representations do have a scenic character as they are formed in scenic interactions. In the course of transference, which means externalizing once internalized representations anew, an actual interaction partner takes the counterpart within the old scene. We have a certain readiness doing that, because the “… infant is born with a virtual other in mind that invites replacement by some actual other in felt immediacy.” (Braten, 1993) This kind of role-playing opens up the chance to get in touch with the old internalizations in order to – eventually - modify them. The possibility space for that is given by the immersive character of co-constructed intermediate areas (Winnicott, 1971/2005; K. Stephenson, 2007, 2009, 2010; Stephenson-Mittlböck, 2012; Mittlböck, 2012).

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