Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kenneth Sherwood, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gian Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Christopher Kuipers, Ph.D.


This study aims to compare the often opposed disciplines of ludology and narratology as they pertain to the study of contemporary video games. Despite recent theoretical developments, the debate continues over whether games are configurative sets of computational rules and sequences of events meant to embody the game's coding or immersive worlds designed to facilitate a narrative experience. In order to test the merits of each approach, each will be applied to analyses of BioShock, a first-person shooter released in 2007 by Irrational Games and 2K Boston. BioShock is fitting for such an analysis because of the way its narrative elements and gameplay mechanics make connections to other texts both textual and digital, including Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Irrational Games' System Shock 2. The goal of these analyses is to propose approaches that foster interdisciplinary, subjective critique that enriches both the academic and popular gaming discourse.