What is the subject of your thesis?
My thesis is situated in the areas of aesthetics and philosophy of narrative. Specifically, I explored video games as a new mode of storytelling: I argued that the ontology of video games allow us to relate to narratives in ways that radically diverge from our engagement with novels, film, and other narrative media.
How did you decide on this topic?
I've been played video games for 13 years in much the same way as people read novels: I immerse myself in their stories, interpret those stories, and so on. Once I took up philosophy in college, it occurred to me that the kind of storytelling that video games make possible might be philosophically significant. I was fortunate enough to be able to engage these issues in independent studies with Bernhard Nickel and Ned Hall, which spurred me on to a full thesis on video games.
Who on the faculty are you working with and what has it been like?
Richard Moran advised me, and his advice was invaluable throughout the process. He had little familiarity with video games at the outset, which forced me to articulate my views on video games from the ground up, starting with the seemingly simple question of what is is for something to be a video game. In the end, this process inspired my ontological approach to analyzing video games as a storytelling object. Professor Moran constantly pushed me to continue refining and improving my views, and the finished thesis is an immeasurably better piece of philosophy for all of his help.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of writing your thesis?
It was rewarding to be able to intervene in an area of philosophy which is only just beginning, the philosophy of video games: I felt poised to make a genuine, worthwhile contribution to the literature, which was inspiring at the undergraduate level. Many aspects of the project were challenging: the newness of philosophy of video games made it difficult to find a wide array of useful literature; I quickly learned that writing a 60-page philosophy paper is exponentially harder than writing a shorter philosophy paper; and developing a view over many months naturally invites spells of self-doubt. But I think I grew tremendously throughout the process: there is nothing quite like committing yourself to one topic for two semesters and crafting a substantial, novel contribution to a field of philosophy, with your very own name on it.
Do you have any advice for concentrators who are approaching the thesis writing stage?
Pick a topic that you're passionate about. Writing a thesis does not mean finding that one paper you got a good grade on and expanding its scope. Writing a thesis is an opportunity to pick what you most love in life, or what most drives you, and ask yourself, "What makes me feel so strongly about this?" Then, you can keep asking "Why" and interrogating the topic until you arrive at a central claim of philosophical significance. If you reverse-engineer your thesis in this way, beginning by reflecting on what you most care about, then you will never really lose your drive to work on the project, and you'll have a blast while doing some of the most intensive philosophy of your undergraduate degree.