Dissertation PDPPosted: January 24, 2017
When looking at a dissertation it is clear just how easy it is to become afraid of the task. Writing 10,000 words on a single subject isn’t something that many people are used to, meaning that its a completely new challenge to tackle. However, the dissertation must be done, no matter how daunting or scary it may seem, and honestly, the experience has actually been very positive and exciting. The research and reading definitely wasn’t a highlight, but applying those theories to my case study and reaching my own conclusions was a satisfying finish to a very long and tough process.
People always say to write a dissertation on something you are interested in, but at the same time it had to be something that was visual in a sense, in order to fit into the courses requirements. Video games have always been one of my favourite pastimes and is a subject that I can talk about a lot. Although, I didn’t want to just talk about video games as it is too broad of a subject. That’s why I located one of my favourite games of all time, Dark Souls, and straight away I knew that’s what I wanted to write about.
Dark Souls had given me an exhilarating and terrifying experience like no other, and the game itself was incredibly complex and full of rich lore and mythical creatures. The horror elements in the game are not only scary, but also beautiful, and the features such a huge world that I knew there were so many different things I could analyse and deconstruct.
The horror genre is also something I am a big fan of. Not necessarily a genre I go to watch all the time, but I have always been inspired by the creative creatures and dark themes that many of the works feature. I was also aware of the interesting philosophy and psychology behind horror in general, which would allow for some interesting discoveries and correlations.
Obviously before starting the research I needed to figure out the angle of investigation. As said before, there are many areas I could explore in Dark Souls and the horror genre, but I needed something specific and prominent. However, it wasn’t long after asking myself this question that I figured out the answer. Dark Souls is considered by so many people as one of the most terrifying game experiences of all time. This opinion isn’t just found in my own social circle, but also game critics and the gaming community. But having played the game, I knew that it wasn’t like other horror games which are made for the sole purpose to scare you. Dark Souls features so much more than any other work in the genre, with the game prominently being classed as an action role-playing game. This is what my dissertation was going to be on, deconstructing how the game’s designers created such a terrifying and exhilarating horror experience.
After the initial tutorials with my tutor Catherine Davies, who liked the subject and angle, a plan was made. I would start by investigating the horror genre and its prominent works, the culture of gaming, and then apply those to the case study, Dark Souls.
The initial findings and the first chapter was going well. It was fascinating researching the timeline of horror and applying my own findings on its origins with the theories that are already present in the academic field. Through this research I was able to reach some strong final conclusion regarding the evolution of horror and how it might be seen going forward. However, upon looking back at it, I knew that there was something else I needed to cover. The philosophy of horror. Not only is it a subject that featured in all of the academic writings I studied, but also something that I wanted to investigate myself.
Adding in the second chapter, the philosophy of horror, was definitely one of the more complex subjects. Not only were there a multitude of debates surrounding the subject, but also many of them contradicted and criticised each other. It forced me to choose a select few theories in order to locate a true understanding of the appeal of the genre and why it has always been so popular. Despite its early difficulties, the conclusions reached and theories found ended up being vital to my ultimate conclusions of the essay, so I am glad I decided to study the subject as well as its history.
Another transformation that the essay took involved removing the over 1000 words on game culture. As I researched and wrote about this subject it become less relevant to the entire study and seemed to shift focus from the overlying angle of investigation. Perhaps if I could revisit it I might have been able to keep it on track, but it was one of the only sections which I truly wasn’t happy with so I made the decision to remove it in order to keep the essay cohesive and consistent.
Once again the essay took another change, as I added in a large chapter on horror games, in particular Silent Hill. It is such an influential game that features so many innovative mechanics (especially for its time) that I knew I needed to feature it in the research. Analysing its core features and comparing them with academic theories on interacting in video games created a diverse chapter that assisted me in creating my own arguments regarding the success of the game and the genre.
The final chapter was a long one as not only did it conclude the essay, but it also combined all of the previous findings of the dissertation. However, it was by far the most interesting and enjoyable part of the entire process. I set out the different features of the game I wanted to analyse and compare which helped me to create a coherent structure in the chapter. Each core mechanic was dissected and compared the previous findings which produced some fascination arguments and correlations. Deconstructing the creative methods used by the game’s designers allowed me to argue that the game is on of the most advanced and successful forms of the horror genre, which I was able to back up with an entire dissertation of investigation and research.
I can confidently say that my dissertation experience was both enjoyable and rewarding. Being able to analyse and deconstruct one of my favourite video games was fascinating, and gave me further insight on the technique of creativity, something which is prominent in not only graphic design, but also in the creative industry.