Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Martina Sciolino

Advisor Department



This study aims to determine how contemporary video games utilize self-reflexive narrative techniques to explore the strengths and weaknesses of video games as an artistic narrative medium. This study combines emergent digital game theory with established literary theory about self-reflexive narrative (also known as ‘metafiction.’) This synthesis is further informed by observing first hand player interaction with self-reflexive gaming platforms. A focus on the problems of ontology and epistemology for both gamers and readers allows comparison between treatments of these problems in both digital game theory and metafictional studies. My study compares these concepts and applies them to the operations of two contemporary self-reflexive games by Davey Wreden: The Stanley Parable (2013) and The Beginner’s Guide (2015). These games exhibit several metafictional techniques: [1] they assume and undermine widely accepted and arguably transparent conventions of mainstream video game narratives; [2] they deconstruct notions of agency as free will in a binary, preprogrammed system; [3] through self-reflexive logic, they anticipate the process of artistic criticism to pose larger epistemological and ontological questions.


Honors College Award: Excellence in Research

Included in

Game Design Commons