Betts, Thomas (2014) An Investigation of the Digital Sublime in Video Game Production. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This research project examines how video games can be programmed to generate the sense of the digital sublime. The digital sublime is a term proposed by this research to describe experiences where the combination of code and art produces games that appear boundless and autonomous. The definition of this term is arrived at by building on various texts and literature such as the work of Kant, Deleuze and Wark and on video games such as Proteus, Minecraft and Love. The research is based on the investigative practice of my work as an artist-programmer and demonstrates how games can be produced to encourage digitally sublime scenarios. In the three games developed for this thesis I employ computer code as an artistic medium, to generate games that explore permutational complexity and present experiences that walk the margins between confusion and control. The structure of this thesis begins with a reading of the Kantian sublime, which I introduce as the foundation for my definition of the digital sublime. I then combine this reading with elements of contemporary philosophy and computational theory to establish a definition applicable to the medium of digital games. This definition is used to guide my art practice in the development of three games that examine different aspects of the digital sublime such as autonomy, abstraction, complexity and permutation. The production of these games is at the core of my research methodology and their development and analysis is used to produce contributions in the following areas.
1. New models for artist-led game design. This includes methods that re-contextualise existing aesthetic forms such as futurism, synaesthesia and romantic landscape through game design and coding. It also presents techniques that merge visuals and mechanics into a format developed for artistic and philosophical enquiry.
2. The development of new procedural and generative techniques in the programming of video games. This includes the implementation of a realtime marching cubes algorithm that generates fractal noise filtered terrain. It also includes a versatile three-dimensional space packing architectural construction algorithm.
3. A new reading of the digital sublime. This reading draws from the Kantian sublime and the writings of Deleuze, Wark and De Landa in order to present an understanding of the digital sublime specific to the domain of art practice within video games. These contributions are evidenced in the writing of this thesis and in the construction of the associated portfolio of games.

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