History of video game experience

Under the supervision of Carl Therrien

This research project seeks to trace the evolution of the video game experience during the first decades of its existence. As demonstrated by the authors of Digital Play (2003), this experience emerged at the confluence of three circuits involving a plurality of cultural practices (technological innovation, marketing, game design). While historical accounts offered by journalists and scholars devote much attention to the evolving technological aspects and the narratives surrounding this industrial explosion, this project proposes a deeper analysis of the gameplay experience and its representation through the lens of marketing.

To achieve this overarching goal, we have developed HACS (Historical-Analytical Comparative System) in order to analyse how players get into the experience through marketing, and the gameplay experience in itself. Encoding adverts and games through this system can help us identify the emergence of various gameplay segments, the dissemination of “winning configurations” as well as configurations that, although less successful, periodically resurface throughout history. In this first phase of the project, hundreds of games and thousands of printed ads published between 1971 and 1996 have been analysed.

Grant FRQSC: "Beyond the technological and industrial considerations: for a cultural history of the video game experience" (2013-2017)

Research Assistants

Academic contributions

Data visualisation: Marketing evolution

Data visualisation: Gameplay evolution

PublicationsTop of the page

The Media Snatcher

Therrien, Carl. 2019. The Media Snatcher: PC/CORE/TURBO/ENGINE/GRAFX/16/CDROM2/SUPER/DUO/ARCADE/RX. Cambridge : MIT Press. [Online]

Games and Culture

Therrien, Carl, Isabelle Lefebvre and Jean-Charles Ray. 2019. "Toward a Visualization of Video Game Cultural History: Grasping the French Touch". Games and Culture: A Journal of Interactive Media. [Online first]

Inspecting Video Game Historiography Through Critical Lens

Therrien, Carl. 2018. "La mise au jeu mise en récit". Sciences du jeu. [Online]

Inspecting Video Game Historiography Through Critical Lens

Therrien, Carl. 2017. "From Video Games to Virtual Reality (and Back). Introducing HACS (Historical-Analytical Comparative System) for the Documentation of Experiential Configurations in Gaming History". DiGRA '17, Vol. 14, No 1. Proceedings from "2017 DiGRA International Conference" (july), Melbourne : Digital Games Research Association.  [Online]

Inspecting Video Game Historiography Through Critical Lens

Therrien, Carl, and Isabelle Lefebvre. 2017. "Now You’re Playing with Adverts: A Repertoire of Frames for the Historical Study of Marketing Discourse". Kinephanos, Vol. 7, No 1. [Online]

Inspecting Video Game Historiography Through Critical Lens

Therrien, Carl. 2015. "Inspecting Video Game Historiography Through Critical Lens: Etymology of the First-Person Shooter Genre". Game Studies, Vol. 15, No 2 (December 2015). [Online]

New Media and Society

Therrien, Carl, and Martin Picard. 2015. “Enter the bit wars. A study of video game marketing and platform crafting in the wake of the TurboGrafx-16 launch”. New Media & Society, Vol. 18, No 10 (April). [Online]

The Handbook of Digital Games

Therrien, Carl. 2014. "From the Deceptively Simple to the Pleasurably Complex. The rise of the cooperative address in video game design". In Harry Agius and Marios Angelides (eds.), The Handbook of Digital Games, p. 548-572. Piscataway : IEEE Press. [PDF]

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media

Therrien, Carl. 2014. "Interface". In Lori Emerson, Marie-Laure Ryan and Benjamin Robertson (eds.), The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, p. 305-09. Baltimore : The John Hopkins University Press.

History of Games internation conference

Therrien, Carl, and Martin Picard. 2014. "Techno-industrial celebration, misinformation echo chambers, and the distortion cycle". Introduction. Proceedings from "History of Games international conference" (Montreal, June 27-29, 2013), Montreal. [Online]


Therrien, Carl. 2014. "Broken Beyond Repair : An Interview with Warren Spector". InMedia, No 4. [Online]

Cahier Remix de l'Observatoire de l'imaginaire contemporain

Therrien, Carl. 2014. "Réapprendre à voir, réapprendre à agir. L’immersion vidéoludique entre concrétisation et irréalisation". Figures de l'immersion, cahier "Remix". Montreal : Observatoire de l'imaginaire contemporain.[Online]

Avatars, personnages et acteurs virtuels

Therrien, Carl. 2013. "La présence vidéoludique : de l’illusion à la projection dans l’ecosystème affectif de la fiction". In Louise Poissant and Renée Bourassa (eds.), Avatars, personnages et acteurs virtuels, p. 37-60. Montréal : Les éditions de l’Université du Québec à Montréal.

The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies

Therrien, Carl. 2013. "Immersion". In Bernard Perron and Mark J. P. Wolf (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies, p. 451-458. New York : Routledge.

Other relevant publicationsTop of the page

The Archives: Post-Cinema and Video Game Between Memory and the Image of the Present

Perron, Bernard, and Simon Dor. 2014. “Addressing the Preservation of Gameplaying: Archiving Actional Modalities (Execution, Resolution, and Strategy)”. In Bernard Perron and Federico Giordano (eds.), The Archives: Post-Cinema and Video Game Between Memory and the Image of the Present, p. 177-200. Milan : Mimesis International.

Before the Crash: Early Video Game History

Therrien, Carl. 2012. "Video Games Caught Up In History. Accessibility, Teleological Distortion and Other Methodological Issues". In Mark J. P. Wolf (ed.), Before the Crash: Early Video Game History, p. 9-29. Detroit : Wayne State University Press. [PDF] [Online]

Encyclopedia of Video Games

Therrien, Carl. 2012. "Interfaces"; "Help Function"; "Videotopia". In Mark J.P. Wolf (ed.), Encyclopedia of Video Games, p. 288-290; 324-326; 674-675. Westport : Greenwood / ABC Clio Press.


Therrien, Carl. 2011. "'To Get Help, Please Press X'. The Rise of the Assistance Paradigm in Video Game Design". Proceedings from "DIGRA 2011, Think Design Play" (Utrecht, September 14-17, 2011). [Online]

Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play

Therrien, Carl. 2009. "Games of Fear. A Multi-Faceted Historical Account of the Horror Genre in Video Games". In Bernard Perron (ed.), Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play, p. 26-45. Jefferson : McFarland & Company.

The Video Game Theory Reader 2

Arsenault, Dominic, and Bernard Perron. 2008. "In the Frame of the Magic Cycle: The Circle(s) of Gameplay". In Bernard Perron and Mark J. P. Wolf (ed.), The Video Game Theory Reader 2, p. 109-131. New York and Londres : Routledge.

Lo stile cinematografico/Film Style

Therrien, Carl, and Bernard Perron. 2007. ">>Pointez-et-cliquez ici<< Les figures d’interactivité dans le cinéma interactif des premiers temps". Lo stile cinematografico/Film Style, p. 395-403. Proceedings from "13ème colloque international d’études cinématographiques", Udine : Forum.

Le game design de jeux vidéo. Approches de l'expression vidéo-ludique

Therrien, Carl. 2005. "L’appel de la simulation. Deux approches du design vidéoludique". In Sébastien Genvo (ed.), Le game design de jeux vidéo. Approches de l'expression vidéo-ludique, p. 175-194. Paris : L’Harmattan.

EventsTop of the page

History of Games international conference
1st edition: construire, raconter, et travailler avec l'histoire

Game History annual symposium, Montréal [Website]

Selected Conference PapersTop of the page

Therrien, Carl. “Inspecting Video Game History. Misinformation Echo Chambers, Techno-industrial Glorification, and the Distortion Cycle” (keynote speaker, “best paper award”). Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA) National Conference, Brock University, St-Catharines, May 27-28, 2014.

Therrien, Carl. “The Hunt for the First-Person Shooter. Video Game Historiography through the Lens of a Critical Etymology”. Games and Literary Theory 2nd annual conference, University of Amsterdam, November 20-21, 2014.

Goggin, Joyce, and Carl Therrien. “Constructing Bodies: Welcome to the Dollhouse”. ColloqueFrom ‘Traditional’ Games to Digital Games, Nancy, November 26-28, 2014.

Roux-Girard, Guillaume, and Carl Therrien. “Tracing the Evolution of Gameplay”. Pressing Restart: Discussions on Video Game Preservation, New York University Game Center, September 28, 2013.

Therrien, Carl. “From the Deceptively Simple to the Pleasurably Complex. The Rise of the Cooperative Address in Video Game Design”. History of Games International Conference, Grande bibliothèque de Montréal, June 21-23, 2013.

Therrien, Carl. “Living in the Edge, or the Mapping Situation. The illusion of Symbiosis and the Six Types of Mapping in Video Game Interface Design”. Canadian Game Studies Association National Conference, University of Victoria, June 4-5, 2013.

Recommended LinksTop of the page

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