My article, “How Can We Be Moved to Shoot Zombies? A Paradox of Fictional Emotions and Actions in Interactive Fiction” is out in the Journal of Literary Theory. A post-print is also available here.
In this paper, I apply the paradox of fiction, or the problem that we are often emotionally moved by characters and events which we know don’t really exist, to interactive fictions such as videogames. I argue that videogames show that we can not only be made to feel paradoxical emotions towards fictitious characters or events, but that we can also be motivated to undertake actions towards them. As such, videogames introduce a paradox of interactive fiction, consisting of three premises that cannot be true at the same time:
- Players act on videogame objects.
- Videogame objects are fictional.
- It is impossible to act on fictional objects.
I discuss two possible strategies to solve this paradox of interactive fiction. The first one, based on work by Espen Aarseth, is to deny that the game objects we can act on are fictional at all. The second one, based on Kendall Walton’s make-believe theory, is to claim that the actions we perform towards fictional game objects are not real actions, but fictional actions.
A new anthology on transgressive aesthetics is out. The book is edited by Faltin Karlsen and Kristine Jørgensen. From the book description:
Contributors from a range of disciplines explore boundary-crossing in videogames, examining both transgressive game content and transgressive player actions.
Video gameplay can include transgressive play practices in which players act in ways meant to annoy, punish, or harass other players. Videogames themselves can include transgressive or upsetting content, including excessive violence. Such boundary-crossing in videogames belies the general idea that play and games are fun and non-serious, with little consequence outside the world of the game. In this book, contributors from a range of disciplines explore transgression in video games, examining both game content and player actions. The contributors consider the concept of transgression in games and play, drawing on discourses in sociology, philosophy, media studies, and game studies; offer case studies of transgressive play, considering, among other things, how gameplay practices can be at once playful and violations of social etiquette; investigate players’ emotional responses to game content and play practices; examine the aesthetics of transgression, focusing on the ways that game design can be used for transgressive purposes; and discuss transgressive gameplay in a societal context. By emphasizing actual player experience, the book offers a contextual understanding of content and practices usually framed as simply problematic.
Contributors Fraser Allison, Kristian A. Bjørkelo, Kelly Boudreau, Marcus Carter, Mia Consalvo, Rhys Jones, Kristine Jørgensen, Faltin Karlsen, Tomasz Z. Majkowski, Alan Meades, Torill Elvira Mortensen, Víctor Navarro-Remesal, Holger Pötzsch, John R. Sageng, Tanja Sihvonen, Jaakko Stenros, Ragnhild Tronstad, Hanna Wirman
My article was published in the current issue of the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport (Vol. 45, No. 2). There are 50 free e-prints for readers available on a first-come, first-served basis. Abstract follows below:
An essential and yet often neglected motivation of Bernard Suits’ elevation of gameplay to the ideal of human existence is his account of capacities along perfectionist lines and the function of games in eliciting them. In his work Suits treats the expression of these capacities as implicitly good and the purest expression of the human telos. Although it is a possible interpretation to take Suits’ utopian vision to mean that gameplay in his future utopia must consist of the logically inevitable replaying of activities we conduct in the present for instrumental reasons (playing games-by-default), because gameplay for Suits is identical with the expression of sets of capacities specifically elicited by game rules, it is much more likely that he intends utopian gameplay to be an endless series of carefully crafted opportunities for the elicitation of special capacities (playing games-by-design), and thus embody his ideal of existence. This article therefore provides a new lens for understanding both Suits’ definitional work on gameplay and its connection to his utopian vision in the last chapter of The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia.
My article on the uses and applications of formalism and formal analysis in game studies titled “The Form of Game Formalism” is out now in the latest issue of Cogitatio Press’ Media and Communication.
In this article I explore how various traditions of formalism have influenced the formalist approach to digital game studies. I go on to identify three types of formalism in game studies based on a review of their uses in the literature, particularly the discussion of essentialism and form that resulted from the narratology-ludology debate:
1) formalism focused on the aesthetic form of the game artifact,
2) formalism as game essentialism, and
3) formalism as a level of abstraction, related to formal language and ontology-like reasoning.
The three types are discussed in relation to the distinctions between form and matter, in the Aristotelian tradition. Moreover, the relationship between game essentialism and the more computer science-centric approach to ontology is explored to account for the contemporary trend of identifying the unique properties of games and opposing them with properties of more traditional storytelling media, explored through their aesthetic form. Finally, I argue that he method of formal analysis of games appears to be dealing with matter rather than form, on a specific fundamental level of abstraction. Therefore, formal analysis becomes a misleading or at the very least problematic concept.
I am taking the liberty of writing as I recently published a chapter in a 2018 book published by Palgrave: Towards a Philosophy of Digital Media
, a chapter that I imagine might be of interest to you.
My chapter begins by offering an understanding of “doing in the digital” that methodologically separates “doing as acting” from “doing as making.” After setting its theoretical framework, the chapter discusses an “interactive thought experiment” I designed and developed (you might remember it: Something Something Soup Something
) that is analyzed as a digital artifact leveraging both dimensions of “doing in the digital” for philosophical purposes.
In extreme synthesis, one could say that this chapter is about several kinds of soups. 🙂
By the way, I am working on a new, playable philoso-thingie. Will be freely playable in a month or two, or whatever 🙂
My article on “Why Gamers Are Not Performers” is now out in the latest issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. It is in some ways a companion piece to “Why Gamers Are Not Narrators,” recently published in The Aesthetics of Videogames, edited by Jon Robson & Grant Tavinor (Routledge, 2018).
I argue that even if videogames are interactive artworks, typical videogames are not works for performance and players of videogames do not perform these games in the sense in which a musician performs a musical composition (or actors a play, dancers a ballet, and so on). Even expert playings of videogames for an audience fail to qualify as performances of those works. Some exemplary playings may qualify as independent “performance‐works,” but this tells us nothing about the ontology of videogames or playings of them. The argument proceeds by clarifying the concepts of interactivity and work‐performance, drawing particularly on recent work by Dominic Lopes, Berys Gaut, and David Davies.
We are happy to announce that the The Aesthetics of Videogames is now available. The book is a contribution to Routledge’s Research in Aesthetics series and is a collection of essays written by philosophers working in the tradition of analytic aesthetics, where videogames are now frequent topic. Among the issues discussed are transmedial games, the definition of videogames, game ontology, games and performance, videogames and creativity, virtual media and videogames, interactivity and fiction, the representation of women in games, videogames and the genre of romance fiction, and pornographic games.
We hope that our volume will show the potential in analytic aesthetics for the discussion and analysis of videogames, and further establish videogames as a focus for philosophers working in that area.
Ontology and Transmedial Games, Christopher J. Bartel – Videogames as Neither Video nor Games: A Negative Ontology of Videogames, Brock Rough – Videogames, Constitutive Rules, and Algorithms, Shelby Moser – Appreciating Videogames, Zach Jurgensen – The Beautiful Gamer? On the Aesthetics of Videogame Performances, Jon Robson – Creativity and Videogames, Aaron Meskin – Interactivity, Fictionality, and Incompleteness, Nathan Wildman and Richard Woodward – Why Gamers Are Not Narrators, Andrew Kania – Videogames and Virtual Media, Grant Tavinor – On Videogames and Gendered Invisibility, Stephanie Patridge – The Moral Transformation of Videogame Violence, Thi Nguyen – Videogames and the “Theater of Love”, Mark Silcox – Pornographic Videogames: a Feminist Examination, Mari Mikkola
My book, Games: Agency as Art, is now forthcoming from Oxford University Press! Oxford has given me permission to offer the first chapter as a preview.
The book will offer a sustained defense of the value of games and game-playing, from several perspectives. The book says that:
- Games are the art form of agency. Game designers don’t just create environments and obstacles. They set our goals in the game and our abilities; they create the agency which we will inhabit in the game.
- Games can work in the medium of agency to create aesthetic experiences of acting and doing. They can offer us crystallized, designed, and refined versions of our everyday experiences of practicality.
- One way that games are satisfying: they let us inhabit a world that’s easier to make sense of, one in which the values are clearer, simpler, and easier to apply. Such games offer us are rare experience of clarity of purpose. They are an existential balm against the rest of our lives, which are full of a plurality of subtle and competing values.
- This also leads to a danger: games can seduce us into expecting that simplicity elsewhere. They can serve as a morally problematic fantasy of clarity.
- The fact that we can play games teaches us something remarkable about ourselves. We have the capacity submerge ourselves in alternate agencies, to slip in and out of temporary agencies. We can take up ends that we don’t usually care about and dedicate ourselves to them, for a time. We can adopt different modes of thinking, acting, and deciding. And then we can put them all away when then game is over. Games teach us that our agency is notably fluid.
- A big bonus: it turns out that stupid drinking games and party games are incredibly important to understanding the nature of our own practical rationality and agency.
- Just as narratives are a technique for writing down stories, games are a technique for inscribing and preserving modes of agency. With them, we can create an archive of agencies – we can experience different ways of being an agent. Games are a technology for us to cooperative to help develop each others’ autonomy.
- The book offers a unified account of the art form of striving games. It discusses, under a single conceptual umbrella, computer games, board games, card games, party games tabletop role playing games, live action role playing games, and sports. (There are many other sorts of games besides striving games, however, and the book doesn’t purport to cover them all.)
- Also: discussions of the aesthetic ontology of games, the nature of interactivity in games, a taxonomy of game types, and a comparison of games to contemporary practices of relational aesthetics and social practice art.
I discovered this recently published paper by Lasse Nielsen, which should be of interest to ethics oriented game philosophers.
This article claims that the protection of children’s capability for play is a central social-political goal. It provides the following three-premise argument in defense of this claim: (i) we have strong and wide-ranging normative reasons to be concerned with clusters of social deficiency; (ii) particular fertile functionings play a key role for tackling clusters of social deficiency; and finally (iii) the capability for childhood play is a crucial, ontogenetic prerequisite for the development of those particular fertile functionings. Thus, in so far as we consider it a central political goal to tackle social deficiency, we should be concerned with protection of childhood play capability. This conclusion raises new insights on the importance – for global development policy as well as for welfare states’ aim to secure social justice – of protecting children’s capability to engage in playful activities.