Journal Article: Virtual Subjectivity – Existence and Projectuality in Virtual Worlds

The forthcoming issue of Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology features a paper by Daniel Vella and Stefano Gualeni titled “Virtual Subjectivity: Existence and Projectuality in Virtual Worlds.”

Their paper draws on the notion of the ‘project,’ as developed in the existential philosophy of Heidegger and Sartre, to articulate an understanding of the existential structure of engagement with virtual worlds. By this philosophical understanding, the individual’s orientation towards a project structures a mechanism of self-determination, meaning that the project is understood essentially as the project to make oneself into a certain kind of being. Drawing on existing research from an existential-philosophical perspective on subjectivity in digital game environments, the notion of a ‘virtual subjectivity’ is proposed to refer to the subjective sense of being-in-the-virtual-world. The paper proposes an understanding of virtual subjectivity as standing in a nested relation to the individual’s subjectivity in the actual world, and argues that it is this relation that allows virtual world experience to gain significance in the light of the individual’s projectual existence. The arguments advanced in this paper pave the way for a comprehensive understanding of the transformative, self-transformative, and therapeutic possibilities and advantages afforded by virtual worlds.

A pre-print draft can be accessed here.


Three New Papers on Gaming Published in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

The latest two issues of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism include three new publications on the aesthetic philosophy of video games.

Marissa D. Willis’s paper, Choose Your Own Adventure: Examining the Fictional Content of Video Games as Interactive Fictions, which appears in the Winter 2019 issue, “explores the unique philosophical challenges that video games pose as forms of interactive fiction and examines the different types of fictional truth which they present.” She argues that video games are an important development in the narrative arts that should be of natural interest to philosophers.

Appearing in the Spring 2019 issue are Players, Characters, and the Gamer’s Dilemma by Craig Bourne and Emily Caddick Bourne and On Virtual Transparency by Grant Tavinor. The former addresses the apparent moral “difference between playing video games in which the player’s character commits murder and video games in which the player’s character commits pedophilic acts” and seeks to provide a new means of approaching this question through an account of the differing fiction-making resources available to players in the different cases.

Tavinor questions whether virtual media, including those in recent video games, allow users to literally see the world and objects presented by virtual media, and “whether the concept of “photographic transparency,” introduced by Kendall Walton to account for the inherent realism of photography, can be extended to account for the realism of virtual media.” The paper considers the differing uses of VR and concludes that there may be token uses where VR counts as a “virtual prosthesis.”

Volume 77, Issue 1, Winter 2019


Volume 77, Issue 2, Spring 2019

Book: A Defense of Simulated Experience – New Noble Lies

Mark Silcox has a new book out on Routledge about the value of simulated experience. While the topic is broader than experience in computer games, it is clear that the topic is of great interest to many game philosophers and game theorists.


“This book defends an account of the positive psychological, ethical, and political value of simulated human experience. Philosophers from Plato and Augustine to Heidegger, Nozick, and Baudrillard have warned us of the dangers of living on too heavy a diet of illusion and make-believe. But contemporary cultural life provides broader, more attractive opportunities to do so than have existed at any other point in history. The gentle forms of self-deceit that such experiences require of us, and that so many have regarded as ethically unwholesome or psychologically self-destructive, can in fact serve as vital means to political reconciliation, cultural enrichment, and even (a kind of) utopia.

The first half of the book provides a highly schematic definition of simulated experience and compares it with some claims about the nature of simulation made by other philosophers about what it is for one thing to be a simulation of another. The author then provides a critical survey of the views of some major authors about the value of certain specific types of simulated experience, mainly in order to point out the many puzzling inconsistencies and ambiguities that their thoughts upon the topic often exhibit. In the second half of the book, the author defends an account of the positive social value of simulated experience and compares his own position to the ideas of a number of utopian political thinkers, as well as to Plato’s famous doctrine of the “noble lie.” He then makes some tentative practical suggestions about how a proper appreciation of the value of simulated experience might influence public policy decisions about such matters as the justification of taxation, paternalistic “choice management,” and governmental transparency.

A Defense of Simulated Experience will appeal to a broad range of  philosophers working in normative ethics, aesthetics, the philosophy of technology, political philosophy, and the philosophy of culture who are interested in questions about simulated experience. The book also makes a contribution to the emerging field of Game Studies.”

Journal Article: Carnal Hermeneutics and the Digital Game

The first article for the second issue of Journal of the Philosophy of Games is available in the online first issue. It is written by Paul Martin and introduces the fascinating topic of carnal hermeneutics, or how the body makes non-predicative distinctions during play. The article has actually been online for a while, but it has been postponed for publication to this year, since we want a section on meaning in computer games for this issue.

From the paper abstract:

Carnal hermeneutics claims that the body makes sense of the world by making distinctions and evaluating those distinctions in a non-predicative mode. This article makes the case that ludohermeneutics can be enriched by attending to the way in which the body makes sense of digital games and advances carnal hermeneutics as a way of theorising this process. The article introduces carnal hermeneutics, argues for its relevance to ludo-hermeneutics, and outlines three examples of how carnal hermeneutics can be used to theorise sense-making in digital games. The first example demonstrates the capacity for touch-screen games to put us in a new relationship with the image. The second example shows how generic control schemas can take on new meanings in different games. The third example shows how marketing of game controllers draws on conventional attitudes to touch to make digital game touch meaningful.

First Issue of Journal of the Philosophy of Games

The first issue of the Journal of the Philosophy of Games is now available online.

JPG is the first journal dedicated to philosophical issues that pertain to the general phenomenon of gaming. Our aim is to investigate questions about the nature of games and how they intersect with art, communication, technology and social interaction.

Games offer unexplored philosophical territories and new theoretical frontiers. They are prominent cultural forms that occupy a manifold of existing and emerging roles in culture and society. Many forms of interaction exhibit structures similar to those found in games. We can expect that a philosophy of games will contribute to many areas in theoretical and practical philosophy as well as to foundational discussions in the field of game studies.

The articles in the first issue discuss a wide range of themes. Can games become art? How should we understand the contradictions between game mechanic and fiction in computer games? Can theories of justice be applied to account for playability in role-playing games? What are fictional actions?

JPG welcomes submissions from any discipline that deals with philosophical issues raised by games, such as theoretical game studies, analytic approaches, critical theory, phenomenology, structuralism and post humanism. We also publish discussion notes and book reviews.

Journal Article: “How Can We Be Moved to Shoot Zombies?”

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:

  1. Players act on videogame objects.
  2. Videogame objects are fictional.
  3. 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.

Book: Transgressions in Games and Play

A new anthology on transgressive aesthetics is out on MIT-press. 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

Journal Article: “Bernard Suits on Capacities: Games, Perfectionism, and Utopia”

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:

downloadAn 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.

Journal Article: The Form of Game Formalism

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.

cogitationIn 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.

Book Chapter: A Philosophy of ‘DOING’ in the Digital


Greetings, earthlings!

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.
SomethingSomethingSoupSomethingExampleSoupIt is titled “A Philosophy of ‘DOING’ in the Digital”, and it proposes an understanding of the digital medium that focuses on its disclosing various forms of “doing.”
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. 🙂

Find a pre-print draft at the link below, in case you think these ideas are interesting and/or useful for you:
By the way, I am working on a new, playable philoso-thingie. Will be freely playable in a month or two, or whatever 🙂