Defence of doctoral thesis in the field of computer science, MSc Julia Bopp

Emotional Experience with Digital Games: The Appeal and Downstream Effects

CS_defence_3 photo by Matti Ahlgren

Title of the doctoral thesis is "Aesthetic Emotions in Digital Games: The Appeal of Moving, Challenging, and Thought-Provoking Player Experiences"

Paintings, films, music, and literature are acclaimed for their ability to evoke a wide range of emotions. Digital games, in contrast, were argued to afford only shallow emotional experiences. Recently however, several games were awarded for their ‘artistic achievements’, and players discuss their emotional moments on online plat- forms. Despite these facts, the main focus of player experience research is limited to fun, and equates positive emotions with good player experience. In contrast, neg- ative emotions are considered as something to be controlled.

This dissertation explored players’ moving, emotionally challenging, and thought- provoking experiences with digital games. The findings showcase that players expe- rience a palette of emotions, potentially as wide as with other media. Overall, play- ers valued these emotional experiences, in some instances specifically because the game evoked intense negative emotions. Digital games also afforded emotional ex- periences unique to the medium, for instance, by confronting players with though decisions that resulted in the loss of a beloved character evoking guilt and regret. Players’ memories and personal experiences were found to shape the emotional experiences as well, highlighting games’ ability to personally impact players in dif- ferent ways. Lastly, emotional experiences were associated to reflecting on diverse aspects of the self, the world, and sociocultural issues, as well as to encourage un- derstanding and feelings for both in-game and real-world people.

Beyond a more nuanced understanding of good player experiences, these findings inform the appeal of uncomfortable interactions with technology in general. The find- ings further expand the notion of aesthetic experience with artworks by highlighting digital games’ ability to afford emotionally rich experiences.

Opponent: Professor Regan Mandryk, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Custos: Professor Elisa Mekler, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Computer Science

Doctoral candidate's contact information: Julia Ayumi Bopp, Department of Computer Science, Aalto University, [email protected], +358408121775

The defence will be organised remotely, via remote access (Zoom). Link to the defence

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The doctoral thesis will be publicly displayed 10 days before the defence on the online publication archive of Aalto University (

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