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The painful art of extreme role-playing

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Fun is often seen as a necessary gratification for recreational games. However, like all other forms of art, games can also be created to convey painful experiences. This article studies two non-digital freeform role-playing games, The Journey and Gang Rape, that aim to create extreme experiences of tragedy, horror, disgust, powerlessness and self-loathing. Even though the games successfully produce unpleasant experiences, they gratify their target group of experienced role-players. Almost all of the sixteen interviewed players appreciated their experiences, despite crying, experiencing physiological stress reactions and feeling generally ‘bad’ during play. It was also found out that players feel intimately connected after play, and felt the need for thorough debriefing afterwards.
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Keywords: gameplay experience; immersion; painful art; positive negative experience; rich experience theory; role-playing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Tampere

Publication date: September 13, 2011

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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