Affordable Access

Imagined Fortresses: Video Games as Language

  • Fiorilli, Patrick Oliver
Publication Date
May 03, 2022
Scholarly Materials And Research @ Georgia Tech


This dissertation argues that video games, as virtual worlds, are composed and experienced as language, and that they function as textual and philosophical machines essential to understanding virtuality, language, and finitude in today’s world. To this end, I describe how language manifests variously as material for video game design and play. In one regard, I argue that worlds emerge from the prescription of certain linguistic limits: the nonsensical, the inexpressible, or the impossible. Far more than agency and immersion, delimitation within the constraints of a video game’s language world defines the act of play. “Can I jump up there? Can I pet this dog?” In these cases, either the language of the game world holds the answers to these questions, and it will reveal them in turn, or it takes the questions themselves to be meaningless. The ledge is too high. You see a dog, but you cannot pet her. Traversing these limits, players paradoxically attempt to use language to escape language. As part of my comparative method, I locate a literary precedent for this paradox in the fiction of Mallarmé, Borges, Lispector, and Calvino. Mirroring the theoretical preoccupations of their poststructuralist counterparts, these postmodern authors reveal the implication of language in compounding formal and material spheres. Thus, this dissertation concludes that video games are virtual worlds in language which reveal their own enclosure and explore the very nature of delimitation. / Ph.D.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times