A Social Nightmare: Player 2 as the Ghost in the Machine

Andrew Kemp

NOTE: This paper was selected by the program committee as a Meaningful Play 2016 Top Paper. It has been submitted to the Meaningful Play 2016 Special Issue of the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS). Due to the copyright requirements of the journal, only the abstract is available in the conference proceedings.


This paper conducts an examination of the unusual play mechanics of two horror video games, Ju-on and Daylight, that have elected to give second players shared control over the nature of the scares. By exploring the game studies theory of the ludic-gothic and the rhetorical theory of communication apprehension, this paper argues that by sharing the fundamental emotional and power relationships of the game, Player 2's role becomes synchronized with the machine itself, becoming, in essence, an extension of the game's coded mechanics. The relationship between Player 1 and Player 2 is therefore transformed as well, as the social relationship and apprehensive and affective nightmare of social interaction, become spaces of play beyond the space of the screen and the controller. The paper proposes implications about the shared meaning of social gameplay.