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Why Am i here?. By Ashley Schilperoort Spring Quarter 2006. Existentialism. “Existentialism is a philosophical movement that views human existence as having a set of underlying themes and characteristics, such as anxiety, dread, freedom, awareness of death, and consciousness of existing.”

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Why Am i here?

By Ashley Schilperoort

Spring Quarter 2006


“Existentialism is a philosophical movement that views human existence as having a set of underlying themes and characteristics, such as anxiety, dread, freedom, awareness of death, and consciousness of existing.”

Definition taken from Wikipedia


“A chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad.”

Definition taken from Encyclopedia Britannica Online

existence precedes essence
Existence precedes Essence

Sartre, in his lecture “Existentialism and Human Emotions,” formed the slogan “Existence precedes Essence.” He illustrated this slogan with four points:

  • We have no predetermined nature or essence that controls what we are, what we do, or what is valuable for us.
  • We are radically free to act independently of determination by outside influences.
  • We create our own human nature through these free choices.
  • We also create our values through these choices.
sartre continued
Sartre Continued

Based on Sartre’s view on the way people develop who they are, it can be said that videogames cannot be blamed for a person’s actions. His second point reflects his belief that people are not controlled by outside influences, which would include literature as well as videogames. Today’s culture likes to blame videogames for many problems with youth. According to the existentialist perspective, each person makes their own choices. People have a choice in everything and are therefore responsible for them.

existentialism in videogames
Existentialism in Videogames

Here are several videogames that model existentialism:

  • God of War
    • Kratos has given up his existence to the service of the god Aries. In the service of Aries, Kratos kills his family. He then proceeds to avenge their death by destroying the god of war himself, Aries.

  • Punisher
    • After an undercover mission, Frank Castle has a run in with the family of a young man who was accidentally killed in the mission. Frank Castle’s family is killed and he becomes intimately aware of loss and death in his life. His only drive becomes the destruction of the people who killed his family and to invoke dread into the minds of people who would do evil. Frank Castle is also an example of an anti-hero.
existentialism in videogames continued
Existentialism in Videogames Continued

Final Fantasy Seven (FFVII)

  • The story is based around the idea that there are no gods or deities and the only existence after death is a place called the Life Stream where everything comes and goes. Cloud becomes aware of death when his best friend Zack and Cloud’s love, Aries are killed by the villain, Sephiroth.

existentialism in literature
Existentialism in Literature
  • Circular Ruins by Jorge Luis Borges
    • The story of a man who dreams a boy into existence.
  • The Bible
    • Free will is a key concept in the Bible. God gave people free will so they can make choices.
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
    • The story of a man who is severely emotionally detached and resembles a sociopath. *Camus does not consider his novel to be an existentialist novel although the book has strong existential themes.
how it all fits together
How it all fits together

Humans are constantly seeking the answer to the question “why am I here?” Literature and videogames reflect this desire for answers. One of the main purposes of literature is to give purpose and direction for life. In class, we discussed how morality plays were used by the upper classes to instruct the lower, illiterate, classes on morals and how to live their lives.

Videogames also include direction for life and morals. In some games, like World of Warcraft, you can choose whether or not you want to play as “the good guys” or as “the bad guys.” Other games allow you to choose between different responses to people within the game, like in Bard’s Tale. Existentialists believe we have complete control of our choices and that there is no set way to determine right from wrong.

the influence of existentialism
The Influence of Existentialism

I feel existentialism is a depressing outlook on life. If the only purpose is to exist, live a crummy life and then die; then why live? Although I do not know the statistics, I would assume the suicide rate for existentialists is high. It seems many of us teenagers are existentialists without knowing it. We slink around and believe there is no point to life and our choices are only about ourselves.

A popular belief is that it doesn’t matter what you believe, just believe something. This belief is strange to me. If what you believe is simply personal, and everyone can be right, what is the point? Existentialism states that we form our own values and nature.


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“Michel Foucault.” NNDB: Tracking the Entire World. Retrieved May 15th, 2006.

“Existentialism.” (the cry): a cry towards the absurd. Retrieved May 15th, 2006.

“Existentialism.” Wikipedia. Retrieved May 15th, 2006.

“Summary of Some Main Points from Sartre’s Existentialism and Human Emotions.” Retrieved May 15th, 2006.