Playing the Panopticon: Procedural punishment in Dark Souls

Tom van Nuenen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article investigates discursive procedures in From Software’s 2011 videogame Dark Souls. By combining procedural rhetorics, discourse analysis, and autoethnographical research play, it is argued that Dark Souls features post-Panoptical gameplay mechanics of both continuous surveillance and playful exhibitionism and a hybrid gameplay experience of both subjectivation and empowerment. Players randomly confront one another in a notoriously difficult and unforgiving game space that requires commitment and perseverance. The game, it is shown, provides a metaphor for online surveillance mechanics in which players/netizens are not just democratically gazing at each other but subjected to a procedural system determining who can see whom. Simultaneously, players are offered a number of procedural methods and moral archetypes to normalize and empower them.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGames and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2015


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