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.

Workshop: Ludic Boredom, Potsdam June 1.

The Digarec program at Potsdam University is organizing a very interesting workshop logodigarecon “Ludic Boredom”. The program and more information is found here. It contains contributions from several members of the network. Note that there is limited participation. From the description:

“The workshop will explore the social, cultural, and philosophical implications of boredom in relation to play and work, technology, media, and computer games with the goal of developing an international collaboration that establishes an innovative interdisciplinary research program to examine the undertheorized phenomenon of ludic boredom in depth.

Paradoxically, boredom seems to lie at the heart of the current culture of constant connectivity and productivity enhanced by digital media. Each potential moment of boredom is at the same time a possibility for monetization – advertisements, casual games, social media,and other pushed notifications, all seem to be competing for our attention, which could otherwise be suspended in blissfully prolonged recreational “Langeweile”. Boredom becomes particularly interesting in relation to play and digital games, which are supposed to serve as an antidote.”

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 :)

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.

2nd CfP: Values in Games – 2018 Philosophy of Computer Games Conference in Copenhagen

800px-Nyhavn_copenhagencroppedThe deadline for the next PCG-conference is fast approaching.  Please submit your abstract!

Call for Papers:   Values in Games

We hereby invite submissions to the 12th International Conference on the Philosophy of Computer Games, to be held in Copenhagen on August 13-14.

The theme of this year’s conference is “value in games”. The topic will connect central themes in the study of games, including questions about the importance of games in a human life, the ethical value of games, and the values communicated through games. For this conference, we invite papers that explore these and other aspects of value in games.

We welcome submissions on (but not limited to) the following questions:


  • Can games contribute to a meaningful life?
  • Is there a special value to games, distinct from other social practices?
  • What is the value of difficulty, achievement, excellence, and skill in games
  • What is the relationship of the artistic value of games to their other values?
  • How do games transform the values that normally attach to activities outside the gaming context?
  • Are games an integral part of ideal society?
  • Can games contribute to an ethical life, and in what ways?
  • How do games encode systems of values, especially in their mechanics and game-play? In particular, how might they encode biases and other problematic attitudes?
  • How can the values in games be studied?
  • What value might games have for thinking about issues of race, gender, and sexual and romantic orientation?
  • How might we justify the inclusion or exclusion of transgressive content in games (violence, pornography, racism)?
  • How do players relate to, resist, shape, or appropriate a game’s values?

In addition to papers that are directed at the main theme we invite a smaller number of papers in an “open” category.

Accepted papers will have a clear focus on philosophy and philosophical issues in relation to computer games. We strongly encourage references to specific examples from computer games, as well as reference to diversity of games and game types. We are especially interested in papers that aim to continue discussions from earlier conferences in this series.



The abstracts should have a maximum 1000 words (maximum 700 words for the main text and 300 for the bibliography).The deadline for submissions is May 21st. Please submit your abstract through All submitted abstracts will be subject to double blind peer review. Notification of accepted submissions will be sent out by June 1st. Participation requires that a paper draft is submitted by August 1st and will be made available on the conference website.
We also issue a call for workshops or panels to be held on August 15th. Please submit a short proposal to the program committee chair by May 21st if you are interested in organizing an event.



Program Chair:
C. Thi Nguyen, Utah Valley University

Conference Chair:
Michael Debus, ITU

Program Committee:

Pawel Grabarczyk, Rune Klevjer, Anita Leirfall, Sebastian Möring, Stephanie Patridge, Jon Robson, John R. Sageng, Mark Silcox, Daniel Vella


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.
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.

Seminar: Existence and Emotion in Play

Skjermbilde-2018-05-03-kl.-17.56.17This game studies oriented seminar from the Games and Transgressive Aesthetics project should surely be of interest to many game philosophers as well. Full program is available on their website. The seminar is held on May 25. From the description of the seminar:

Games have a long tradition of dealing with myths and monsters, thereby tapping into topics that are associated with how we as humans understand ourselves and our role in the world. At the same time, as games are maturing as medium, there are still challenges relating to how existential and profound topics can be implemented into games in an experientially interesting way. 

This seminar concerns games and play that tap into such issues, covering the design of games that tap into the mythical and the existential. Further, the seminar will look at the emotional impact that games can have upon us, from the awe and terror brought forward by monster play, to the emotional response that players have when encountering uncomfortable and provocative game content. The seminar also asks what we can learn from live-action role-playing games concerning how to create emotional impact and immersion in games.

Redirecting attention from how games move us emotionally to how they move the boundaries between play and gambling, the seminar will end with a presentation on loot boxes as a form of transgressive game design.

Announce Your Publications on!

downloadjournalsYou may have noticed that we have semi-regular announcement of new publications on I would like to encourage all members to submit posts about those of their publications that are of relevance to other game philosophers.

Such posts mean that others see what is going on in the field of game philosophy. It is also very useful to the author.  These posts get quite a lot of hits, and are an easy way to make people aware of your work. The posts are automatically posted to the Facebook page for the initiative, to a Twitter feed, and also sent out the subscribers on an email list.

We normally aim to announce recent papers, but many members haven’t announced any of their papers yet. So please make a post, even if the paper was published some while ago.

This is how you do it: When you log in to the system, you simply click on the +sign in the top bar, which under “post” gives you a form where you can enter text for the post. Describe the content of the article and add a picture, for example of the cover of the journal in question. Google also has a search option for images with open licences. The title should with a description of the document type, like “Journal Paper: “ or “Book: “. Make one post for each publication. The post will be sent to me for moderation.

Note that you can also post about events and other relevant news in the same fashion.

If you are working with issues related to the philosophy of games, you are very welcome to have a member profile. Just send me an email at j dot r dot sageng * gamephilosophy dot org. with a few words about your background. I may make a new post about this later on. I don’t really have much time to work on these sorts of things, but I do what I can.

John R. Sageng

“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