Only a game? Player misery across game boundaries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Videogames often confront players with frustratingly difficult challenges, fearsome enemies, and tragic stories. As such, they can evoke feelings of failure, sadness, anger, and fear. Although these feelings are usually regarded as undesirable, many players seem to enjoy videogames which cause them. In this paper, I argue that player misery often originates from a fictional or lusory attitude which brackets game events from real-life, making the player’s emotions solely relevant within the game context. As they are part of the game themselves, these negative emotions can be enjoyed and easily relativized, since players can acknowledge that their cause is ‘only a game’. However, there are feelings of misery associated with the playing of videogames which are not caused by either the game’s fiction or challenge. In the last part of this paper, I describe a qualitatively different kind of player misery: one that is caused by elements that are not perceived as part of the game by the player, and is not bracketed from real life by a lusory or fictional attitude.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-207
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Philosophy of Sport
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Videogames
  • Emotions
  • Fiction
  • Make-believe
  • Lusory Attitude


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