||Digital games provide a fruitful comparison to ideologies due to their resemblance to ideologies as an organizing structures entered into; as well as due to their serving as a systematic test case for alternatively organized (ideological) worlds. They do so perhaps more than linear narrative media, as game-play presents both fictional worlds, systems and spect-actors whom are present as participatory agents.
By addressing the structural parallels between ideology and digital games as organizations of quasi-natural conventions, I argue in this thesis that games have the capacity to model, propose and reflect on ideologies. Comparing roughly twenty years of scholarship on ideological play, ludology, narratology, game design, proceduralism and play-centred studies, I argue that games dynamically present stylized simulations of a possible world, occurring to the subject of play in a here-and-now that at once grants autonomy while doing so in a paradoxically rigid structure of affordances, constraints and desires.
That subject of play, meanwhile, is split between played subject (the presented avatar and the game’s content); the playing subject as demanded by the ludic power structure of rules; and the interpreting subject that is tasked to understand and inform the process of game-play.
Through close analyses of Cart Life, the Stanley Parable and Spec Ops: the Line I argue for game-play as a dialectical process, beyond academic scholarship that posits either games as procedural systems of interpellation or play as mythical unrestrained creativity. An understanding of game-play as dialectical process akin to the relation between subjects and ideological power structures furthermore demands a recognition of the critical potential of game-play. Through theatrical techniques of enstrangement, game-play may reveal uncritical familiarity with the quasi-natural conventions of ideology – be they generic, social or political.