Toby Smethurst is a PhD student in English literature at Ghent University. He obtained both of his degrees from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (BA in English Literature; MA in Literary Studies) before commencing his PhD at Ghent in 2011. His thesis, "Playing with Trauma: Affect, Perpetration, and Therapy in Video Games," investigates the under-theorized potential of video games to represent psychological trauma in ways that “traditional” trauma-fiction media such as novels, films, or autobiographies cannot. It argues that, because of the interactivity which is unique to the video game medium, games are able to present a variety of ways of making the player identify with protagonists and, through them, to virtually experience traumatized perspectives or perpetrate traumatizing acts, in addition to offering players suffering from psychological trauma a safe space in which to work through and come to terms with difficult memories and emotions. The thesis conducts a series of close readings of games that integrate trauma aesthetically and mechanically; that is, both visually/sonically/thematically and on the level of the rules which govern the experience of actually playing and progressing through the game.
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