Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




English (MA)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Russell Prather


Video games and their communities have something to teach reader response theorists. These theories already recognize readers as creators by acknowledging that their interpretations make meaning; however, these theorists are still struggling to determine the limits of reader interpretation. Norman Holland fears that without text-based constraints on interpretation, differently-reading readers are isolated from each other. Stanley Fish, who sees value in conflicting reader interpretations, limits his examination only to insular scholarly communities. David Bleich observes that students make different meanings out of texts than their teachers, but does not discuss other communal interpretations occurring in the world beyond the classroom. In order to demonstrate that video games could advance these theories, this thesis examines, among other games, The Stanley Parable, which accepts differing player responses into the story while still employing powerful constraints through its code and narrator. It also is an example of the gaming community’s experiments with constraints, as it was made by a player who changed existing game code. I argue that each of these theorists would benefit from immersion in video games as unique narratives that accept a tremendous variety of player responses, making them visible, recordable, and directly transferrable into the story. Players, as members of a community, also deserve notice from reader response scholars, as they have been discussing narrative critically with little academic recognition, and are experimenting with modifying game codes, stretching the limits of textual constraints in order to make even more interpretations possible.

Access Type

Open Access