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Name: Bettina Bodi

PhD: Film and Television Studies

Thesis Title: Agency as Game Design Affordance in Avatar-Based Video Games


Thesis Description:

Agency is an over-used and under-defined buzzword in discussions surrounding interactive entertainment media nowadays. Particularly in the case of video games, developers and journalists often use it as a qualifier to indicate the degree of influence players have over the virtual world created: the higher it is, the more power the player has, the more attractive and marketable the product is. Vast open-world sandbox multiplayer games populate today's market. But what, indeed, is this nebulous qualifier?


Whether the player is escorted along a linear path of progression signposted by narrative events or level design, or is free to engage with the gameplay mechanics offered by the game in a chosen order has an impact on manifestation of player agency. Equally, configurability of character appearance and skillset, and consequently, playstyle, as well as the gameworld, affects the player’s possibility of exerting agency whereby it allows various degrees of designing the challenge, tailoring it to their preference. To speak to these variables, I propose to frame agency as an affordance of game design (Gibson 1979).


My dissertation examines how ‘agency’ is conceptualised in different discourses surrounding digital games: as discussed in game studies, and as theorised by game design discourse. The findings in these parts are synthesised to create a heuristic framework for conceptualising agency in avatar-based games. Game studios with a particular design focus serve as case studies to demonstrate the applicability of this framework, examining how agency is designed (textual analysis) and how designers think about how it is designed (paratextual analysis).


Such an approach facilitates a way of discussing game design which does not get too tangled up in oversimplified notions of ‘genre’, ‘rules’ or ‘narrative’. It also incorporates the analysis of the language used to refer to these phenomena by industry practitioners, grounding abstract theory in production practices.


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr Elizabeth Evans - University of Nottingham

Dr Jan-Noel Thon - Norwegian University of Science and Technology


Teaching experience:

9/2017-ongoing: Nottingham Trent University - School of Art and Design

  • Graphic Design BA - Dissertation supervisor
  • Graphic Design BA - Seminar tutor on 'Design in Context 2'

9/2017-9/2018: University of Nottingham - School of Cultures, Languages, and Area Studies

  • 'Understanding Cultural Industries' (Year 2)
  • Researching Culture, Film, and Media (Year 2)


Research experience:

8/2017 - 12/2017: University of Nottingham

  • Research Assistant on Mapping Television Audiences Project (led by Liz Evans), exploring the audience research strategies currently employed by broadcasters and media agencies.
  • Research Assistant on Collecting Strategies for a Gaming Age (led by Ellie Groom, National Science and Media Museum), identifying the challenges curators face when it comes to the collection and exhibition of games and gaming related objects.
  • Research Assistant on Teaching Transformation Project (led by Becky Parry, School of Education, UoN), discovering the ways in which participants of a summer school interact with platforms facilitating the formation of online communities of practice (CoP) evolving around a learning experience.



Bodi, B. (2020) ‘Procedural Content Generation, Player Agency, and Playfulness in Survival-Crafting Game Astroneer’ Extended Abstract Proceedings of DIGRA 2020, University of Tampere, Finland. (forthcoming)


Selected conference presentations:

  • ‘Procedural Content Generation, Player Agency, and Playfulness in Survival-Crafting Game Astroneer’ CGSA 2020 - Canadian Game Studies Association Annual Conference, London, Canada. 3-5 July 2020. Paper accepted, but event cancelled due to COVID-19.
  • ‘Procedural Content Generation, Player Agency, and Playfulness in Survival-Crafting Game Astroneer’ DIGRA 2020 - Digital Games Research Association, Tampere, Finland. 2-6 July 2020. Paper accepted, but event cancelled due to COVID-19.
  • ‘Spatial-Explorative Agency in Avatar-Based Video Games’ The State of the Avatar. DIGRA 2020 Workshop. Tampere, Finland. 2 June 2020. Paper accepted, but event cancelled due to COVID-19.
  • ‘“The World Is Your PlayDoh”: Procedural Content Generation and Player Agency in Astroneer’ Studying Indie Games Workshop. 31 March 2020. NTNU Trondheim, Norway. Paper accepted, but event cancelled due to COVID-19.
  • ‘A Roadmap to Nowhere? BioWare, and the Changing Trends in the Realm of AAA Video Games’ MECCSA PGR 2019 - Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association Postgraduate Network Conference. Bangor University. July 1-2 2019.
  • ‘Agency as a Game Design Affordance in Avatar-Based Video Games’ Birmingham Digital Day. University of Birmingham, 7 Nov 2019.
  • ‘Ludonarrative Dissonance and Agency in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted Series’ Play|Pause 2019 Symposium: Immersion|Dissonance. University of Birmingham. 22 May 2019.
  • ‘Level Up!’ M4C Research Festival 2019, Birmingham. 23 May 2019.
  • With Anna Cruse: ‘Space and Experience in Renaissance Painting and Assassin’s Creed 2’ Historia Ludens 2017, University of Huddersfield. 19 May 2017.

Active professional memberships:

Digital Games Research Association (DIGRA)

Digital Culture Research Network (DCRN)

Professional development courses:

05/2019: Adobe InDesign Training

Web Studio Nottingham with Adobe Certified Instructor

02/2019: Royal Literary Fund Academic Writing Retreat

12/2017: University of Nottingham Centre for Advanced Studies

 Creative Industries Funding Bid-writing workshop


09/2016-05/2020: University of Nottingham Graduate School – Central Short Courses

Introduction to Qualitative Research

Further Qualitative Research

A Practical Look at Core Teaching Skills

Foundations of Teaching in HE

Preparing to Teach in HE

Introduction to Research Integrity

Digital Research in the Arts and Humanities: Social Media

Small Group Teaching

Knowledge Exchange and Impact

Public Engagement for Researchers: Community, Schools and Colleges (SSAGC)


Related outreach projects and employment:

2018-present: Journal peer reviewer at Networking Knowledge: Journal of MeCCSA PGN; Journal of Languages, Texts, and Society

09/2017-08/2018: Welfare support staff/resident tutor at University of Nottingham - Broadgate Park

04/2017-07/2017: Assistant Promotions Coordinator at Children's Media Conference UK

Other Research Interests:

  • Interactivity and Agency
  • Video Games
  • Media Industry Studies
  • Genre Theory
  • Interactive Storytelling
  • Graphic Narratives


University email address:


Twitter: @betti_bodi

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