Existential dramaturgy and video games: a formalistic approach to Telltale's ‘The Walking Dead’ as Existentialist gameplay

Michail Kouratoras*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Existentialism has recently appeared as an analytical tool for a deeper or different understanding of video games as cultural artifacts. The existing discourse points towards the requirement of a systematic approach to this matter, which in the present research is in the form of a gameplay-dramaturgy case study. Telltale's video game The Walking Dead, Season 1, presented itself as a potential game that appeared to include many Existentialist aspects. Therefore, it became the focus of this research. This is because the game's story unfolds based on (conditional) freedom of choice in a difficult situation with challenging and ultimately insoluble moral dilemmas. Hence, the objective of this case study was a bottom-up, formalistic approach to analyze the connection between the game and Existentialism. It concentrates on the critical dramatic elements of the narrative and the game mechanics, with an emphasis on their game design pattern. The results of the analysis exposed The Walking Dead as a characteristic example of what could be considered an Existential ergodic drama or an Existential, ethical gameplay. This is because of the game's affinity with most of the major Existential concepts both in its narrative and ludic nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-360
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Early online date29 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • bad-faith
  • free choice
  • Interpretivistic/antipositivistic games
  • pauses
  • Sartre, Existentialism & ethical gameplay
  • wicked games


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