transfer 26(2) » Rezeptions- und Wirkungsforschung

Moral Agency in Single-Player RPGs

A qualitative content analysis of interviews to identify player motivations in the video game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The presented bachelor’s thesis deals with the topic of how players experience Moral Agency in single-player RPG video games and how important this feature is to them.

The uses-and-gratifications theory was used as an approach and eight experts on video games were interviewed. The scope of the thesis was limited to one RPG, “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”, but the thesis also draws comparisons to comparable titles. The research looked at what motivations to play existed (research question 1), whether players experienced a Feeling of Presence and how important this was to them (research question 2) and whether they experienced Moral Agency and how important of an aspect this was for them (research question 3). Finally, this research also ascertained how Moral Agency and Feeling of Presence were experienced by players in other single-player RPGs (research question 4). For this purpose, eight qualitative interviews with seven prominent gaming Youtubers and one RPG-enthusiastic philosopher were conducted and evaluated with a qualitative content analysis. It was found that most participants found the aspects of exploration, story, and characters most important. Participants experienced a strong Feeling of Presence, with a big part of this being attachment to the characters. Feeling of Presence was a strong motivation for play. Participants also reported that they felt a lot of Moral Agency in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but this was not the key motivation for play. The participants spoke fondly of Moral Agency as a feature, but mostly in relation to their experience and importance when it came to the characters and story. Participants also comprehensively compared other single-player RPGs and their morality-systems and outlined differences in respect to Moral Agency and Feeling of Presence.