Panel for PCG2016: What does it Mean to do Game Philosophy?

This year’s conference on the philosophy of computer games will celebrate its tenth iteration. We want to use this opportunity to reflect on what it means to do game philosophy in the format of a panel.

The practitioners of game philosophy belong to different research traditions and make use of different academic methods. The aim of this panel is to present views on methodological issued raised by the study of games and to conduct a political debate about how game philosophy should be performed. 

Venue: KSU Common Room (Msida campus)

Time: 16.00 – 17.30, November 1.

Chair: Sebastian Möring


Feng Zhu

Circularity and Self-reflexivity in the Critical Theory Approach to Computer Games

I will take the concept of ‘critical theory’ in a very broad sense to designate any self-reflective knowledge that provides both descriptive and normative bases for social enquiry, and which aims to promote emancipatory ends. As such, it may incorporate a range of thinkers not traditionally associated with ‘critical theory’, such as Michel Foucault. In relation to computer games, the approach from critical theory wants to theorise their connection to the broader social reality, such as the thesis of neoliberalism being the present mode of governmentality, and identify how those objects, in conjunction with the dispositions that we bring to our use of them, have a role in transforming or in further entrenching that reality. I argue that this holistic approach is circular in both a self-reflexive fashion, which adds to the degree of sophistication in the way in which we understand the relation between object and context, but also a self-affirming one that is viciously circular, in which the obdurate particularity of the object is obscured in favour of it merely reflecting what has been considered to be true of the present situation. This might be seen to be evidenced in statements such as computer games being ‘in direct synchronization with the political realities of the informatics age’ (Galloway, 2004, p.35), or computer games as ‘the paradigmatic medium of Empire’ (Dyer-Witheford & de Peuter, 2009, p.xv). Is it possible, then, for a critical approach to self-correct the deficiencies of this circularity whilst also retaining its positive aspects?


John R. Sageng

Why the Study of Games Needs Analytic Philosophy

In our interdisciplinary work we have inevitably encountered the distinction between “continental” and “analytic philosophy”. The aim of my presentation to clarify what analytic philosophy is and to recommend that we adopt its methods, also for topics which are thematized in other styles of philosophy and games scholarship. I will also address this issue from a practical context of how this field has developed and the strategic choices we should make moving forward.

I propose that analytic philosophy is characterized by an intellectual methodology which can be derived from historical cases of “conceptual” or “decompositional” analysis in early analytic philosophy. I argue that analytic philosophy today does not have a very specific specific mode of analysis, but rather a style of thinking defined by an intellectual ideology: that philosophical thinking should explicate and satisfy the normative commitments inherent in the practice of assertion and belief-formation that arise from the concepts of the phenomena to be explained. It is an historically evolved cultivation of rational standards for thinking which found an early form in Socratic analysis. Such standards are often offended in other styles of thinking today. I hold that this methodology can be applied to any subject matter in game philosophy and is ideally suited to create a shared horizon for a philosophical understanding of games. 


Marta M. Kania

On Existential Aesthetics of Computer Games

Existential philosophy and aesthetics are focused on experiences of life and art, that is, on unrepeatable. While grounded in being-in-the-world, existentialism claims the primacy of the individual and everyday over the general and abstract. In consequence, it provides a framework for interpretation of particular games as worlds that existentially situate players pointing out the way to unite the existential and the textual in interpretation of games.

The main advantage of the outlined existential approach is that it grasps and describes multidimensional experience of the gameplay on the basis of close playing. The interpretation is grounded in the in-game perspective. Therefore, interpretation of a gameplay, aesthetics of the gameworld, and an analysis of subjective in-game position, are considered to be a group of elements of equal significance. In-game existentialism does not aim at objectification of the experience, that would lead to assertions about the game as an object, system, or root of player’s experience. Alternatively, it points out at conditions and limitations of subjective perception and position within the gameworld.

This approach results in limited claims for objectivity and for “correctness” leading to falsifiable theory. As long as the central existential problem areas and categories seem to be apt for description of experience of gameplay and aesthetic reflection upon it, they need to be understood in the horizon of strong vs. weak interpretation rather than (scientific) knowledge.

The desired result are the interpretation of situatedness of the self-avatar within the gameworld; aesthetic understanding of the gameworld from the point of view of the self-avatar; and recognition of opening of the field for aesthetic interpretation, while the gameplay situation turns out to be one of the multiple possibilities from the point of view of aesthetic situation.


Olli Leino

Phenomenology and Player Experience: Game Studies from the Player’s Perspective

The notion of ‘player experience’ has become central in many debates concerning game studies and game design. Scholars and designers alike would assumedly agree that the goal behind enquiries into player’s experience is to understand the how games’ features end up affecting the player’s experience. But what is “player’s experience” and how is it to be understood? What is the relationship between the materiality of the game, the process or activity of gameplay, and the experience of gameplay? What are the conditions by which it is possible for experiences to be shared amongst players? What purpose, if any, does the vocabulary of ‘formal’ game analysis (e.g. rules, goals, challenges) serve in understanding player experience? These, I argue, are questions that philosophy of computer can help answering, and thus assist game studies in its project.

In my presentation, informed by (post-)phenomenology and existentialism, I exemplify this by arguing that there is a difference between “studying a game by playing it” (3rd person perspective) and “studying a game as played” (1st person perspective), and that the latter is more suitable for understanding player’s experience. I will argue that the materiality of the playable artifact, as it appears in the game-as-played, while perhaps not conforming to any pre-supposed idea of a ‘game’, already contains a standard for its own interpretation, that forms the basis for inter-subjective accounts of player’s experiences.

Game Studies and the Philosophy of Games


Open seminar, Bergen, 25. November 10.00 – 17.00
Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen

uib studentsenteret

10:00 Rune Klevjer Introduction
10:15 Espen Aarseth The Game Studies Diaspora: how to study games in 2020.
Andreas Lindegaard Gregersen Social, social everywhere: Is autonomous game studies possible and/or desirable?
11:45 Pål Antonsen Self-location and interactive fictions
John Richard Sageng Conceptual Analysis and the Study of Games
14:00 Siw Othilie Haugen Phenomenology and Computer Games
Sebastian Möring Playing is Caring – On existential structures of computer games
15:30 Anita Leirfall On Our Cognition of Real and Virtual Reality (Space)
Johnny Hartz Søraker Meaningfulness With(in) Games. On Finding Purpose With(out) Temporality, Efficacy and Life Story.


The seminar will be held at the Studentsenteret building, seminar room A.
Please contact Rune Klevjer at uib for inquiries.


Post doc. for Analytic Philosopher – Making Sense of Games

itupostdocIT-University of Copenhagen offers a post doc. position for an analytic philosopher as a part of the project “Making Sense of Games”.  From the announcement:

Job description
The two-year position is connected to the five-year ERC-funded project MSG – Making Sense of Games, at the Center for Computer Game Research at the IT University of Copenhagen. The successful candidate will work as part of a dedicated team (PI Espen Aarseth, three PhD students, one additional post.doc) to create a theoretical platform for game analysis. The position’s main task is to participate in the core project activities of developing analytical concepts and models for game ontology.

The ideal candidate should document:

  • strong qualifications (PhD) in analytic philosophy (preferably philosophy of mind and/or philosophy of language) and solid qualifications in game studies
  • research publications at a high international level in well-respected peer reviewed venues

– See more at:

Registration for PCG 2016 open


Registration for the 10th International Conference in the Philosophy of Computer Games, being held at the University of Malta, 1-4 November 2016, is now open. Please go here to register. Early bird rates apply if you register before 29th September.

For more information regarding the conference, including travel and accommodation options, please visit the conference site.

We look forward to welcoming you to Malta!

Katja Kwastek is the Third Confirmed Keynote for PCG2016


Prof. Dr. Katja Kwastek is the third confirmed keynote speaker for the 10th International Conference in the Philosophy of Computer Games, being held in Malta, 1-4 November 2016.

Prof. Kwastek is professor of modern and contemporary art history at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Prior to this, she taught at Ludwig-Maximilians-University (Munich), the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI) the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Media.Art.Research (Linz, Austria), and at Humboldt-University (Berlin). Her research focuses on processual, digital and post-digital art, media history, theory and aesthetics, and digital humanities. In 2004, she curated the first international exhibition and conference project on Art and Wireless Communication. She has lectured internationally and published many books and essays, including her most recent Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art (MIT Press, 2013). 

More information about the conference is found on the conference website.

PCG 2016 Extended Submission Deadline and PhD Consortium

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The deadline for abstract submissions to the 10th International Conference in the Philosophy of Computer Games, being held at the University of Malta, November 1-4 2016, is being extended by ten days. The new deadline is 23:59 GMT on Friday 10th June 2016. Abstracts submitted later than this date will not be considered.

The call for papers with the updated deadline is available here:

In conjunction with the conference, a PhD consortium is being organized at the University of Malta on Tuesday, November 1. The consortium is intended for current PhD students or PhD applicants to present and discuss their current or proposed research. The consortium will be organized in a way that will give students a space to receive feedback and suggestions from a panel of mentors and experts in the fields of philosophy, game studies, game design, philosophy of technology, and other topics relevant to the themes of the conference.

For more details regarding the PhD consortium, including how to apply, please visit

Conference: Just a Game? The Aesthetics and Ethics of Video Games

This conference is organized by The British Society of Aesthetics and Aesthetics Research Centre, UK.  From the description on their website:


“This international conference seeks to explore relevant connections between the ethics and aesthetics of video games, thereby also drawing on insights from the philosophy of mind, philosophy of information, and feminist philosophy.”

The Conference is held 24-25 June 2016


Jos de Mul is the Second Confirmed Keynote Speaker for PCG 2016

We are very pleased to announce the second confirmed keynote speaker for the 10th Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, being held in Malta, November 1-4 2016.


Prof. Dr. Jos De Mul is full professor of Philosophy of Man and Culture at the Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus University of Rotterdam (the Netherlands). He has also taught at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, USA) and at the Fudan University (Shanghai, China), and is a visiting fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, USA. His book publications in English include Cyberspace Odyssey: Towards a Virtual Ontology and Anthropology (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), and Destiny Domesticated: The Rebirth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Technology (SUNY Press, 2014). More information will follow on the conference website.

CFP: Workshop for the Philosophy of Games, Oct 2016


We’re proud to announce the first Philosophy of Games Workshop in October 14th-15th, 2016, in fabulous Salt Lake City, Utah. The call for papers is below. Please submit!

Call For Papers

Inaugural Workshop on the Philosophy of Games

Sponsored by Utah Valley University, the University of Utah, Westminster College and the American Society of Aesthetics

Salt Lake City

October 14 & 15, 2016

Gam8297692520_4e7a43ffcf_zes are growing in cultural weight and importance. There are many philosophical questions that can and have been raised about games: What are games? What is their value? Can games be artworks, or possess aesthetic value? Are there ethical issues that arise with gameplay?

In the philosophical world, discussion of these topics has been split over several communities, which rarely speak to each other, including computer game studies, the philosophy of sport, and digital aesthetics. It is the belief of the conference organizers that these various conversational threads have tremendous relevance to one another, but have remained isolated from each other for sociological reasons. Though there have been conferences specifically on the philosophy of sports, of play, and of computer games, there have been no conferences that seek to address these topics in a unified manner. This workshop aims to unite the various strands of work on the philosophy of games. Furthermore, the workshop aims to unite the discussion of the many forms of games, including videogames, sports, board games, card games, role playing games, and more.

Possible topics to be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following:

-What is the ontological structure of a game? Is it to be identified with the rules of the game, the physical apparatus that supports it, or some larger social structure? In particular, are games such as sports ontologically similar to, or distinctive from, computer games?

-What is the definition of a “game”, and how does it relate to other closely allied concepts, such as “artwork”, “sport”, “play”, and “social contract”?

-What are the norms of game-play? Are there norms for good and bad play, above and beyond simply following the rules?

-Is there an aesthetic value to games? Is there a distinctive aesthetic value to the physical aspects of computer games? Is there an aesthetic value to the play experience? Is there an aesthetic experience to the spectators of game-play?

-Is there a moral value to games? Is there a particular moral problem to enacting fictional violence in a computer game which goes beyond the moral problem of seeing fictional violence in a film? Is there a moral problem to consenting to interfere with one another? Is competition, in itself, problematic or good?

-To what extent is game-play a part of normal life, and to what extent is it removed from normal life?

As this is a workshop, papers will be presented in a round-table format in a single stream. Thus attendees will be able to be present for all papers and presenters will be able to expect all attendees present.

Travel funding compensation will be available for presenters and commentators. We aim to provide at least $500 of travel support for each presenter and commentator.

We invite scholars in any field of studies who take a professional interest in the philosophy of games to submit papers to the inaugural workshop on the philosophy of games. This includes, but is not limited to, scholars in the fields of analytic aesthetic, philosophy of sport, and philosophy of computer games, the philosophy of technology, and the philosophy of play.

Submissions should not exceed 3000 words and be prepared for blind review.

The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2016. Please send your submission and any inquiries for further information to  Notification of accepted submissions will be sent out by August 1.


Organizing Committee:

Thi Nguyen

Brock Rough


Advisory Committee:

Andrew Kania

Jerrold Levinson

Christy Mag Uidhir

Stephanie Patridge

Nick Riggle

Mark Silcox

Grant Tavinor


With partial funding from the American Society for Aesthetics:

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this conference do not necessarily represent those of the American Society for Aesthetics

Updates will be posted to: