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:

https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/CsamQakeZbvE5NQbFtxe/full

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

Link

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: http://stefano.gua-le-ni.com/papers/2018%2005%20-%20Doing%20in%20the%20Digital.pdf
By the way, I am working on a new, playable philoso-thingie. Will be freely playable in a month or two, or whatever :)

Journal Article: Why Gamers Are Not Performers

journalofaestheticsMy 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.

Journal Article: Beyond Games as Political Education – Neo-Liberalism in the Contemporary Computer Game Form

 Beyond Political Education
Möring, Sebastian, and Olli Leino. 2016. “Beyond Games as Political Education – Neo-Liberalism in the Contemporary Computer Game Form.” Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds 8 (2): 145–61. https://doi.org/10.1386/jgvw.8.2.145_1.
Abstract
This article introduces the juxtaposed notions of liberal and neo-liberal gameplay in order to show that, while forms of contemporary game culture are heavily influenced by neo-liberalism, they often appear under a liberal disguise. The argument is grounded in Claus Pias’ idea of games as always a product of their time in terms of economic, political and cultural history. The article shows that romantic play theories (e.g. Schiller, Huizinga and Caillois) are circling around the notion of play as ‘free’, which emerged in parallel with the philosophy of liberalism and respective socio-economic developments such as the industrialization and the rise of the nation state. It shows further that contemporary discourse in computer game studies addresses computer game/play as if it still was the romantic form of play rooted in the paradigm of liberalism. The article holds that an account that acknowledges the neo-liberalist underpinnings of computer games is more suited to addressing contemporary computer games, among which are phenomena such as free to play games, which repeat the structures of a neo-liberal society. In those games the players invest time and effort in developing their skills, although their future value is mainly speculative – just like this is the case for citizens of neo-liberal societies.

“The Aesthetics of Videogames” is now available

CoverWe 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

Book Preview: Games: Agency as Art

oxford-university-press-logoMy 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.

Journal Article: Playing for Social Equality

ppea_17_1.coverI discovered this recently published paper by Lasse Nielsen, which should be of interest to ethics oriented game philosophers.

The abstract:

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.

Journal Articles: Philosophy of Games and The Aesthetics of Rock Climbing

philosophycompass

My article Philosophy of Games is out now in Philosophy Compass. (A pre-print draft is also available for free.) Philosophy Compass is a journal which focuses on producing surveys of particular sub-fields of philosophy, especially new and breaking ones, largely for use by newcomers. It is designed to orient. They are often used by academics to help develop syllabi for undergraduate classes in unfamiliar train.

In this Compass, I quickly cover basic foundational works on games (Huizinga, Caillois, Suits, the ludography vs. narratology debate), and then dive into particular issues on the art status of games, the nature of interactivity, the magic circle, debates about value, and ethical issues in the philosophy of sport (like doping) and video games (like the gamer’s dilemma). This article was intended to cover primarily work on games in analytic philosophy (analytic aesthetics, philosophy of sport, and analytic game ethics) with just the barest smattering of Game Studies material for minimal orientation. The article is not intended to summarize the field of Game Studies, nor does it intend to cover continental approaches to games. In fact, I would strongly urge specialists in those field to write their own equivalent summaries; they are badly needed.

Scholars from Game Studies will likely find the first half familiar. The second half, however, may prove useful, especially the section on philosophy of sports. Consider especially the discussions of internalist accounts of value in sport, the relationship between philosophy of law and the justification of sport, and the discussion of the origins of norms of sportsmanship.

Second, my essay The Aesthetics of Rock Climbing is online in The Philosopher’s Magazine. This is a popular article which adapts ideas from my forthcoming book. I say that rock climbing is a game, and one that many people play for aesthetic reasons. Many climbers climb because responding to the challenges of the rock evokes graceful, delightful movement from them. It is something like problem-solving dance:

“…Dancing, I think, is exactly the right place to start to understand the aesthetic dimension of rock climbing. So let’s start there: climbing is something like dance – not just in skill, but in aesthetic reward. You can hear the similarity when you listen to some climbers talk about their climbs. They talk about climbs with nice movement, with good flow, with interesting moves. They’ll talk about ugly climbs, beautiful climbs, elegant climbs, gross climbs. At first you might think they are just talking about the rock itself and how it looks. And sometimes they are; every climber loves a clean crack up a blank face, or bold jutting fin to climb. But if you interrogate a climber, and watch as they explain where the beauty in the climb is – with arms out, legs in the air, imitating the odd precise movements of the climb – you’ll figure out that what so many of them care most about is the quality of the movement – about how it feels to go through the rock, about the glorious sensations in the body, and the subtle attention of the mind.”

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.