“Select the Type of Experience You Would Like to Have”: Exploring Player Roles and Role Affordance in Video Games


  • Sean P O'Brien Loyola University Chicago


video games, game studies, digital humanities, cultural studies, reader response, player response, role-playing games, RPGs, popular literature, player roles, role affordance, player types, possibility space


This paper focuses on the concepts of player roles and role affordance, drawing its examples from role-playing video games (RPGs). RPGs present a useful test case for exploring how player role analysis adds a more fluid, dynamic perspective to existing possibility space and player type analytical approaches. Within possibility spaces, players negotiate the enactment of designed, afforded, and constrained roles. Game designers can take these concepts of possibility spaces and possible roles into account in future designs, and the resulting combinations of spaces and roles are crucial to games’ procedural rhetorics, popular appeal, and aesthetic interest. We can better understand video games as a medium by attending to player roles in relation to possibility spaces and player types. The roles that games afford and players adopt are key to why games have become such an important cultural force in our society, and further exploration of the concept will advance our understanding of why players play, how designers design, and what meanings and pleasures emerge from players' experiences of games. This approach to analyzing character and player roles integrates the player-centric insights of player types and the game-centric insights of possibilty space analysis while addressing leading RPGs such as Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, and Final Fantasy XIII.

Author Biography

Sean P O'Brien, Loyola University Chicago

Graduate Assistant, Department of English