Journal Article: Freedom and the Value of Games

My article, “Freedom and the Value of Games,” is now out in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy. A post-print is also available on my website.

rcjp20.v048.i01.coverThis essay explores the features in virtue of
which games are valuable or worthwhile to play. The difficulty view of games holds that the goodness of games lies in their difficulty: by making activities more complex or making them require greater effort, they structure easier activities into more difficult, therefore more worthwhile, activities. I argue that a further source of the value of games is that they provide players with an experience of freedom, which they provide both as paradigmatically unnecessary activities and by offering opportunities for relatively unconstrained choice inside the ‘lusory’ world that players inhabit.

Book: The Aesthetics of Videogames

51TXy-vm4VL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_An important book on the aesthetics of computer games will soon be out, edited by Jon Robson and Grant Tavinor.  From the description:

“This collection of essays is devoted to the philosophical examination of the aesthetics of videogames. Videogames represent one of the most significant developments in the modern popular arts, and it is a topic that is attracting much attention among philosophers of art and aestheticians. As a burgeoning medium of artistic expression, videogames raise entirely new aesthetic concerns, particularly concerning their ontology, interactivity, and aesthetic value. The essays in this volume address a number of pressing theoretical issues related to these areas, including but not limited to: the nature of performance and identity in videogames; their status as an interactive form of art; the ethical problems raised by violence in videogames; and the representation of women in videogames and the gaming community. The Aesthetics of Videogames is an important contribution to analytic aesthetics that deals with an important and growing art form.”

 

Journal Article: Competition as Cooperation

downloadI’m pleased to announce that my paper, Competition as Cooperation, was recently published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. (For those without institutional access, I’ve also put a pre-print draft online for free access.)

The paper argues that, under certain very specific conditions, games can transform competition into cooperation. Other accounts have tried to explain that transformation by focusing exclusively on player attitudes – their playfulness, or their consent. I argued instead for a distributed account of transformation: successful transformation depends on not only on players having the right motivational state, but also on aspects of game design, player fit, and extra-game community.

C. Thi Nguyen

Book: Perspectives of the Avatar

I am delighted to announce that my book entitled “Perspectives of the Avatar: Sketching the Existential Aesthetics of Digital Games” (University of Lower Silesia Press, Wrocław 2017) is now available.

MMKania_Perspectives of the Avatar

The book was funded by the research grant awarded by the Polish National Science Centre, and you can download it for free from here.

The main ambition of “Perspectives of the Avatar” is to sketch the existential aesthetics that explore the situatedness of the individual towards a single player digital game with avatar. The book focuses on games falling within the category of independent or art games, and builds upon an assumption drawn from existentialism; where the individual facing the world is the central philosophical concern. In this theoretical horizon, a situation can become meaningful only from the point of view of the particular being.

Marta M. Kania

 

Game: Something Something Soup Something

Stefano Gualeni has made a philosophical game that has received a great deal of interest. There is a recent article about it at Kotaku.

somethingsomethingStefano writes “Something Something Soup Something is my latest attempt at ‘playable philosophy’.  The game, if we agree to call it such, can be freely played on (or downloaded from) the official website: soup.gua-le-ni.com

It was developed at the Institute of Digital Games (University of Malta) with the support of Maltco Lotteries.

I and the rest of the developers prefer to think of it as an interactive thought experiment: a piece of technology that discloses situations and presents notions in ways that are interactive and negotiable (and maybe even playful).

Something Something Soup Something it is designed to reveal, through its gameplay, that even a familiar, ordinary concept like ‘soup’ is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively. It is also designed to stimulate reflection on the possibility to analytically define what a game is: does the presence of several ‘ludological ingredients’ warrant its definition as a video game? What if only a part of it could be formally recognized as a video game? Is it even wise or productive to strive for a complete theoretical understanding of concepts like ‘soup’ or ‘game’?”

Game duration: about 6 minutes.

Something Something Soup Something was developed in collaboration with:

Isabelle Kniestedt – Art, programming
Johnathan Harrington – Field research and additional design
Marcello Gomez Maureira – Web-design and additional programming
Riccardo Fassone – Music and sound effects
Jasper Schellekens – Narrator, research support

Book: Experience Machines – The Philosophy of Virtual Worlds

5855043af5ba74113c8a1ef1Mark Silcox is publishing an edited book with contributions that relate to Nozick’s experience machine argument as applied to virtual worlds. The book is highly relevant to the philosophy of computer games, and it has contributions from several members of the Game Philosophy Network. The ToC is available in the preview on the publishers site.   From the description:

“In his classic work Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick asked his readers to imagine being permanently plugged into a ‘machine that would give you any experience you desired’. He speculated that, in spite of the many obvious attractions of such a prospect, most people would choose against passing the rest of their lives under the influence of this type of invention. Nozick thought (and many have since agreed) that this simple thought experiment had profound implications for how we think about ethics, political justice, and the significance of technology in our everyday lives. 

Nozick’s argument was made in 1974, about a decade before the personal computer revolution in Europe and North America. Since then, opportunities for the citizens of industrialized societies to experience virtual worlds and simulated environments have multiplied to an extent that no philosopher could have predicted. The authors in this volume re-evaluate the merits of Nozick’s argument, and use it as a jumping–off point for the philosophical examination of subsequent developments in culture and technology, including a variety of experience-altering cybernetic technologies such as computer games, social media networks, HCI devices, and neuro-prostheses.”

Journal of the Philosophy of Games is Open for General Submissions

greencover3onlinefirstcoverminimizedWe now open Journal of the Philosophy of Games (JPG) for general submissions, and welcome philosophers, game theorists and scholars in other fields of studies to submit papers for the regular issues.

JPG explores philosophical questions about the general nature of games and gameplay and about their interrelation with technology, art, communication and social interaction. More information about the submissions and the author guidelines is found at the journal website.

We welcome submissions of regular articles, discussion notes and book reviews. Please contact the editorial board to ascertain that a book review will fit the journal profile.

Submissions may be submitted via the submission system on the journal website, and will receive double-blind peer review from renowned scholars in philosophy and game studies.

The Journal of the Philosophy of Games (JPG) is now publishing the first manuscripts in our “Online First Issue“, which will be converted into a regular issue by the end of the year.

We aim to have the papers indexed in the major relevant library indexing databases.

JPG is an open-access publication hosted by the University of Oslo, Norway.

“Online First Issue” of Journal of the Philosophy of Games

greencover3onlinefirstcoverminimizedJournal of the Philosophy of Games now has its first publications available in the Online First Issue. We will publish the accepted papers as they become available in this issue, which will be converted to one or two regular issues by the end of the year.

Our first article is titled “The Incompatibility of Games and Artworks” and is written by Brock Rough. The paper is utilizing a definition of games derived from Bernard Suits to argue that for an artist to intend something as a game is to intend essential constitutive conditions that precludes it from being both a game and an artwork.

We also publish a book review of Stefano Gualeni’s book “Virtual Worlds as Philosophical Tools” written by Jonne Arjonta. Gualeni’s book explores the topic of how computer games can be used for philosophical reflection. Arjonta provides an overview of its main points of discussion as well as critical notes on its approach to the topic.

CFP: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment – SI on Green Computer and Video Games

This call for European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment may be of interest to some game philosophers:

ecozonCall for Papers

Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment 8.2

Autumn 2017

Guest editors:  John Parham (University of Worcester, UK) and Alenda Chang (University of California, Santa Barbara)

 

Green Computer and Video Games

In Last Child in the Woods (2008) Richard Louv indicts computers and game consoles as part of his thesis that the generations of children born since the 1970s are suffering from ‘nature-deficit disorder’. Yet gaming, now, is an enormous growth industry while, correspondingly, computer or video games are rapidly becoming a key area of research in ‘ecomedia’ or green cultural studies.

Ecocritical studies of games and gaming raise fundamental questions about the capacity of popular culture to present complex ecological and environmental ideas and themes and to raise public awareness, not least amongst substantial, often younger, audiences. In several studies critics have legitimately argued that games and gaming can have ecologically or environmentally damaging consequences: they can serve to remove, distance or screen us from nature; games can be ideologically complicit as Witherford and de Peuter suggest, powerfully, in Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games (2009); moreover, as Maxwell and Miller argue in Greening the Media (2012), supposedly low impact new media, including video or computer games, have merely perpetuated the detrimental material-ecological impact of ‘old media’: waste and pollution created by ‘planned cycles’ of obsolescence; or the toxic risk of rapidly discarded and dismantled components of disposable, rapidly evolving media technologies.

Nevertheless, a green reading of computer games encapsulates the contradictions that govern popular texts’ engagement with environmental or ecological themes. In that context, consideration of the anthropocentric and/or ideological dimensions of electronic games has to be balanced and offset against a variety of factors: the educational utility of ‘serious games’; McKenzie Wark’s argument that games productively dissolve the boundary between the virtual and the real (Gamer Theory (2007)); Alenda Y. Chang’s argument that we can learn ecological principles in the act (and interactivity) of playing a game (‘Games as Environmental Texts’, Qui Parle 19:2 (2011)); a complex ‘media ecology’ encompassing both a rich tradition of independent, countercultural, and ‘dissonant’ games, game companies, and gaming communities and online, massive multiplayer games where intercultural dialogue might facilitate an ‘eco-cosmopolitan’ popular culture. Most substantially, at the level of the text, there is also the potential of ‘meditative’ or immersive games to constitute a deep ecological sense of ecological interconnectedness; or, conversely, the role that educational games can play in teaching the precepts of ecological science or in nurturing awareness by simulating processes of social-ecological decision-making around topics such as energy supply, conservation, or the construction of sustainable cities (as in SimCity 4).

Proposals are invited for, but not limited to, essays considering video or computer games in relation to:

 

  • representation, and the modelling of nature, environment, the sublime etc.
  • interplays of real/virtual, action/simulation, the physical world/gamespace.
  • imagining and constructing utopian and/or dystopian societies.
  • environmental awareness and the formal properties of games/gaming, encompassing: interactivity; gameplay; narrative; game design; algorithmic structure; software code etc.
  • games and sustainable education.
  • games and scientific education.
  • genre studies: e.g. farm games; strategy games; conservation games; ‘meditative’ games; adventure games.
  • framings of nature and/or ideological framing in computer games.
  • modes of production: the gaming industry; ‘indie’ games; massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs); public sector/educational games.
  • ‘dissonant’ games, gamers, games companies.
  • intercultural and ‘eco-cosmopolitan’ dimensions to gaming.
  • the eco-materiality of game production, distribution, waste, recycling etc.
  • games and ecocritical theory e.g. mimesis; dark ecology; material ecology.

 

Please direct your questions to John Parham j.parham@worc.ac.uk. Manuscripts (6.000 – 8.000 words) should be submitted via the online journal platform no later than January 15th, 2017. See http://www.ecozona.eu/index.php/journal. All submissions will be subject to peer review. Authors must comply with the guidelines of Ecozon@ as indicated on the platform, including title, abstracts and keywords (these must be provided in the language of the article, and in English and Spanish). MLA style is expected for citations. Permission must be obtained for any images used and included in the text. Manuscripts will be accepted in English, French, German, and Spanish. Submissions in other languages may be considered. Please discuss with the editors.

Although this is not a formal requirement, we would like to encourage potential contributors to contact the guest editor with an abstract (approx. 500 words) prior to handing in their full article. Please submit your abstract by September 15th, 2016.

CFP: Journal of the Philosophy of Games – Special Issue on Meaning and Computer Games

Untitled

On the occasion of the 9th Philosophy of Computer Games conference in fall 2015 we gathered game researchers, designers, and philosophers to discuss topics related to meaning and computer games. We hereby invite articles to a special issue on meaning and games of the newly launched Journal of the Philosophy of Games. Submissions are open to scholars in any field of studies who take a professional interest in the philosophy of computer games.

We welcome papers that address one or more of the following issues:

Computer games as carriers of representational meanings: How do games convey meaning? Which interpretation methods are most feasible for understanding computer games? Which theories, concepts, and models of meaning-making (e.g. semantics, semiotics, hermeneutics, rhetoric, logic) may apply in the case of computer games in general, or in individual games? How do computer games challenge standing theories of meaning?

Meaning production in gameplay: Is there a unique kind of meaning that applies specifically to the activity of gameplay? How does such meaning differ from semantic, semiotic, hermeneutic and logic-based conceptions of meaning? What characterises meaningful activities in games? How should we characterize the player’s interpretations of the activity of gameplay? How can the experience of meaning arise in computer gameplay?

Value and computer games: How do specific forms of meaning-production in computer games and gameplay contribute to their wider existential, social and cultural value? What is the meaning of in-game values in computer games, how do they relate to general values?

Designing for meaning in games: Which philosophies help us theorise the concept and practices of meaningful game design? How can philosophical approaches to meaning contribute to enriching game design in general?

Contributions will have a clear focus on philosophy and philosophical issues in relation to computer games. Their main emphasis should be an investigation of a theoretical or philosophical point about computer games. They will refer to specific examples of computer games rather than merely invoke them in more general terms.

The paper should be no longer than 7000 words excluding bibliography and adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition. The deadline for submissions is Midnight GMT, 15 May, 2016. All submitted papers will be subject to double blind peer review.

The articles are submitted electronically on the journal website:

https://www.journals.uio.no/index.php/JPG/index.
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https://www.gamephilosophy.org