Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Hanson, Christopher


board games, digital games, film, game studies, literary adaptation, new media

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Communication | English Language and Literature | Film and Media Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Situated at the interstices of game studies, adaptation scholarship, and literary theory, this dissertation puts forth a theoretical framework for effectively analyzing literary game adaptations (that is, playable digital or analog systems that are based upon a work or works of literature) as expressive intertextual systems which facilitate aesthetic experiences. By integrating contemporary game studies with filmic adaptation studies and literary theory, I argue that game adaptations allow us to see how games, adaptations, and indeed all texts can be productively conceived of as Barthesian networks of meaning: collections of interacting formal, narrative, intertextual, and contextual elements from which a user's experience arises. Doing so destabilizes the primacy of concepts that are so often used to justify hierarchical relationships between "high art" and popular culture, opening up new interpretations of texts which do not lend themselves to analysis via traditional literary or cinematic methodologies. Thinking of adaptations in terms of the systemized relationships between texts, intertexts, and the user rather than as merely derivative copies of a single "original" also redefines the classically hierarchical relationship between adaptations and their sources that has plagued adaptation studies discourse from its inception. Through my readings of a variety of digital and analog games based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Ryan North's gamebook To Be or Not to Be), J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (Beam Software's Hobbit text-adventure), Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (Storybrewers' tabletop roleplaying game Good Society), and Henry David Thoreau's Walden (Tracy Fullerton's contemplative digital "walking simulator" Walden, a game), I illustrate how thinking of texts as systems affords interpretatively productive play, encouraging users to reinterpret, revise, and remix culture to their own ends.


Open Access