Existential transformative game design

This research project investigates how games can contribute to a meaningful life both for players as well as designers. Drawing on existential philosophy and psychotherapy, as well as studies in mythology and ritual, it aims to build towards a framework of transformational game design that facilitates personal reflection, insight and change towards greater inner balance and harmony. As a complement to the tendencies in the Games for Change movement that call for clearly defined and quantifiable transformation, the existential game design approach explores the concept of “psychological resonance”, the power of symbolic enactment as well as archetypal themes and imagery to facilitate transformation that is subtle, self-directed and uncoerced. We explore creative strategies for game design that connect the conscious with the unconscious mind, working with symbolism and imagery as well as transformational structures and enactments that lend a handle on intangible, inner mechanisms. We develop theories (see existing publications) that we apply to practical game design experiments, e.g. “The Witch’s Way”. We employ qualitative methods to assess impact of this kind of design both on the designers as well as players.


Peer reviewed articles

Phelps, Andy, and Doris C. Rusch. 2020. “Navigating Existential, Transformative Game Design.” In Proceedings from DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere: 1-4.
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Rusch, Doris C., and Andrew M. Phelps. 2020. “Existential Transformational Game Design: Harnessing the ‘Psychomagic’ of Symbolic Enactment.” Frontiers in Psychology (November 4).
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Conference presentations

Rusch, Doris, and Andy Phelps. 2020. “Games of the Soul.” Paper presented at FROG: Future and Reality of Gaming 2020, Vienna, Austria.



The Games & Society Lab

Last modified: 2022-05-05