The Giant in Digital Roleplaying Games


Too monstrous to be truly accepted, too human to be entirely and comfortably cast out. The giant has traditionally held a unique position amongst monsters, an “Intimate Stranger” (Cohen, 1999, p. xi) who threatens the boundaries of the categories we impose upon the self, society and culture. In this thesis, I consider what the position of the giant is in digital roleplaying games and how digital games provide a new and particular arena for the giant. A familiar figure in myth and legend and no less familiar in digital games, I combine traditional monster theory and scholarship on giants with work on videogame monsters and digital game research more broadly. To do this, I first introduce the figure of the giant and its definition and then undertake a brief literature review, summing up the present state of videogame monster research and other theories which are relevant to my thinking and arguments. Then, I consider the giant in digital roleplaying games through three lenses. First, as monsters of excess, a perspective that considers giants as an exaggerated manifestation of those traits which we deem monstrous when taken to their extremes. Second, as technological giants: giant robots, cyborgs and so on whose appearance as giants links the age-old figure of the giant with our more current anxieties regarding our future and our increasingly intimate relationship with technology. Finally, as aspects of nature: giants that seem to be more a living part of the gameworld than as a horrifying and excessive human monster. I explore how these giants seem to relate more to how we think of and understand our relationship with nature, from its sublime beauty to its hostile wildernesses. To conclude, I attempt to draw these perspectives together to gain an oversight on what role the giant plays within digital roleplaying games, arguing that the giant is a particular figure used to consider and work through our socio-cultural anxieties at the most fundamental level and is one that requires medium-specific consideration within game studies.