Call for Papers: Transformative Games Revisited

GAME – Games as Art, Media, Entertainment

“Transformative Games Revisited”

Edited by Kristine Jørgensen, Doris C. Rusch, Astrid Ensslin, Riccardo Fassone 

Games designed for a purpose beyond entertainment and recreation have a long history, spanning educational games, newsgames, and critical games. With the maturation of the medium, there has also been an emergence of games that invite ethical reflection and self- critical involvement, such as Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Entertainment 2012) and Shadow of the Colossus (Team Ico 2006), and games that aim for social change such as Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (Ustwo 2020) and Depression Quest (Quinn, Lindsey and Schankler 2013). Another emerging, but lesser explored approach is transformative games; games that aim to foster personal capacity building, mindfulness, and spiritual development. Sometimes called existential games (Leino 2010), deep games (Rusch 2017), or described as games for therapeutic purposes (Perram & Ensslin 2022; Wilks et al 2022) or for psychologica resonance (Rusch 2020), transformative games challenge the instrumental approaches found in educational games, training simulators, and gamification in their aim to enable players to transgress their own limitations and transform psychologically or existentially.

Transformative games inquire the rich and evocative space between top down, agenda driven games that seek to “measure” or quantify transformation, and games that aim to ignite transformation through a sense of psychological resonance and kinship. Examples of such games are The Path (Tale of Tales 2009), Journey (Thatgamecompany 2012), The Void (Ice Pick Lodge 2016), Walden (Fullerton and USC Interactive Media & Game Division 2017), Fragile Equilibrium (Magic Spell Studios 2019), and The Witch’s Way (Phelps and Rusch 2021).

This special issue in G|A|M|E – Games as Art, Media, Entertainment invites scholarly submissions that explores the transformative potential of games. The aim of this special issue is to push the boundaries of serious games and games for change. Going beyond a discussion of how games can create awareness and new perspectives, this special issue will look at how games and play can be used for personal and existential development, and how games can contribute to a meaningful life through fostering transformative experiences.

We invite submissions on topics relating to:
– transformative game design
– analyses of transformative games
– studies of player experiences with transformative games
– theoretical and philosophical discussions of the transformative and existential potential of games
– the relationship between transformative reading and transformative play
– medium-specific approaches to creating transformative game experiences
– critical approaches to transformative games
– critical discussions of the concept of transformation in games
– the methodological challenges of studying, assessing, and designing transformative games

We are particularly interested in cross- and transdisciplinary perspectives, and aim for a special issue that represents a diversity of platforms, practices, design methods and approaches, as well as backgrounds and personal experiences.

Papers should be 4,000-5,000 words and submitted in English using the .docx or .odt paper template. Papers will be subject to a double-blind peer review process. Full papers should be
submitted to
For questions about the call and discussion of possible paper ideas, please contact the guest editors on,, or

Full paper submission deadline: May 1, 2024
Notification of acceptance: July 1, 2024
Submission of revised article: October 1, 2024
Publication date: By the end of 2024

Fullerton, T. and USC Interactive Media & Games Division (2017). Walden, a game. PC. Available:
Ice Pick Lodge (2016). The Void. PC. Valve. Available:
Leino, O. (2010). Emotions in play: On the constitution of emotion in solitary computer game play. PhD thesis, IT University of Copenhagen.
Magic Spell Studio (2019). Fragile Equilibrium. PC. Valve. Available:
Perram, M. and A. Ensslin (2022). “The possibilities of illness narratives in virtual reality for bodies at the margins”. Digital Creativity 33 (2).
Phelps, A. and D. Rusch (2021). The Witch’s Way. PC. Available:
Quinn, Z., P. Lindsey and I. Schankler (2009). Depression Quest. PC. Available:
Rusch, D.C. (2017). Making deep games: Designing games with meaning and purpose. Taylor & Francis
Rusch, D.C. (2020). “Existential, Transformative Game Design”. Journal of Games, Self, & Society 2 (1).
Team Ico (2006). Shadow of the Colossus. PS2. Sony Interactive Entertainment
Thatgamecompany (2012). Journey. PS3. Sony Interactive Entertainment
Ustwo (2020). Alba: A Wildlife Adventure. Switch. Nintendo.
Wilks, C., A. Ensslin, C. Rise, S. Riley, M. Perram, K.A. Bailey, L. Munro and H. Fowlie (2022). “Developing a Choice-Based Digital Fiction for Body Image Bibliotherapy”. Frontiers in
Communication 6.
Yager Entertainment (2012). Spec Ops: The Line. PC. 2K.