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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Emily West

Second Advisor

Lisa Henderson

Third Advisor

TreaAndrea Russworm

Subject Categories

Critical and Cultural Studies


This dissertation frames gaming practices in relationship to thriving, an area of inquiry that has received little attention within the fields of video game studies and cultural studies. It argues that video games can be used by audiences as a tool for thriving, provided we define thriving outside of the framework of success and failure established by a neoliberal political rationality. Using survey data from 70 video game audience members, textual analysis, and ethnographic and auto-ethnographic methodologies, this dissertation first describes how video game audience members define thriving by distinguishing it from a related term, self-care. It then moves to a discussion of how the participants view the relationship between thriving, self-care, and gaming, arguing that their perspectives are informed by a neoliberal political rationality that cultivates a disposition structured by self-surveillance, self-government, and productivity. From there, it moves to a discussion of a representative example of a video game used for the purposes of self-care and thriving, Final Fantasy XIV, to examine the affordances and limitations to thriving a video game can provide.