Journal Article: “On Game Definitions”

Dear Colleagues,

I would humbly like to draw your attention to a new article, “On game definitions,” written by myself, and published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. Although the focus is on games in general, and not on videogames in particular, it does relate to extant discussions of game definitions in the game studies literature, and could therefore perhaps be of some interest to the members of this community.

The article defends a Wittgensteinian approach to game definitions. It also adopts a pragmatic argumentative view of definitions which treats all definitions as implicit arguments in support of particular points of view on how to classify reality. Definitions do not reveal the “essence of gameness”; instead they are argumentative tools for influencing the linguistic habits of a given community. It is argued that definitions should not be evaluated in terms of their truth or falsity, but in terms of their adequacy and acceptability. To this end, a set of pragmatic evaluation criteria are proposed. Finally, the costs and benefits of adopting this particular approach to definitions are also weighed.

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.

Call for Papers for PCG2017: Action in Computer Games

krakowWe hereby invite scholars in any field of studies who take a professional interest in the philosophy of computer games to submit papers to the 11th International Conference on the Philosophy of Computer Games, to be held in Kraków, Poland, November 29-December 1, 2017. The notion of action connects central topics in the study of games to philosophical problems such as questions of will, intentionality and the autonomy of an agent. For this conference, we invite papers that explore ethical, experiential, aesthetic and ontological aspects of acting in a computer game. Problem of action in games can be approached from several perspectives and analyzed through different research questions. A few examples of such perspectives/questions are:

Structure of action
What is the ontological status of interactive works?
What is the ecological structure of a computer game?
How are actionable structures signified in a game?

Real, virtual, and fictional actions
Are there real and fictional aspects of a game act, and how we distinguish between them?
What is a virtual action?
How can meaning in games be created via passivity or idleness?

Norms and rules
How do ethical or social norms apply to the game acts?
How and to what extent are player actions prescribed or prohibited by gameplay norms?

How do players act?
What kinds of motivations serve to define typical player actions?
What characterizes the existential situation of a player?
How are play actions experienced?
What significance does the concept of agency have in the player’s experience?

In-game agency
What does it mean to act via an avatar?
What is the character of in-game embodiment?
Is the avatar truly an agent?
To what extent can the game itself be considered an agent?

The papers should present original (i.e. not published or presented elsewhere) research. Accepted papers will have a clear focus on philosophy and philosophical issues in relation to computer games. They will refer to specific examples from computer games rather than merely invoke them in general terms.

In addition to papers that are directed at the main theme we invite a smaller number of papers in an “open” category. 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 Midnight GMT, 01.09. 2017. 
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 30.09 2017. Participation requires that 
a paper draft is submitted by 22.11, 2017 and will be made available on the conference website.

We also issue a call for workshops or panels to be held on November 28. Please submit a short proposal to the program committee chair by 01.09.2017 if you are interested in organizing an event.

For information about the conference please visit and

Conference: Video Games and Virtual Ethics – July 21-22, 2017

This conference should certainly be of interest to many game philosophers. It is held July 21-22, 2017 at the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London.  Unfortunately, the submission deadline has passed.

From the conference description:

“Is it morally wrong to play violent video games? Academics across numerous disciplines have taken an interest in these issues. Excellent work can be found in philosophy, psychology, media studies, sociology, and literary studies. However academics within these disciplines often do not talk to each other about their shared interest in games. With this conference, our aim is to promote cross-disciplinary dialogue on these issues.”

Invited speakers:

Christopher Bartel (Philosophy, Appalachian State University)
Morgan Luck (Philosophy, Charles Sturt University)
Esther MacCallum-Stewart (Games Research, Staffordshire University)
Stephanie Patridge (Philosophy, Otterbein University)
Miguel Sicart (Game Studies, IT, University of Copenhagen)
Garry Young (Philosophy and Psychology, Nottingham Trent University).

The conference is announced at the webpages of The Open University, and has support from the British Society of Aesthetics and the Institute of Philosophy and the Institute of Philosophy.

Committee Leaders for the Next PCG Conference

The next PCG conference will be held in Krakow, and we are very happy that Tomasz
Z. Majkowski  and Pawel Grabarczyk have accepted the respective roles of organizing committee leader and program committee leatomaszandpawelder.

The full committees will get constituted shortly, and a call for papers will follow in a few weeks.

The current thinking is to have the conference from November 28 to December 1 this year.

We can also mention that we will try to better reach out to the analytic philosophy audience for this conference. The conference series is interdisciplinary and the next conference will be as open as ever to every style of philosophical thinking, but we would like to make an extra effort this year to reestablish contact with this group of philosophers.

CFP: Philosophy at Play Conference 2017

philosophyatplayThis conference might be of interest to some game philosophers. From the organizer’s website:

“The three previous conferences and ensuing publications have opened up dialogue and paradigmatic bridge building between scholars of play and philosophers. The conferences have given rise to an emerging community of very diverse scholars interested in a wide range of philosophical areas of enquiry (for example, metaphysics, ontology, aesthetics and ethics) and fields of practice (such as the arts, games and gaming, sport and children’s play). This conference hopes to continue this epistemological and paradigmatic bridge-building.”

University of Gloucestershire, UK on 11 and 12 April 2017. The Call for Papers is found here. The deadline for proposals is November 18.


Panel for PCG2016: What does it Mean to do Game Philosophy?

This year’s conference on the philosophy of computer games will celebrate its tenth iteration. We want to use this opportunity to reflect on what it means to do game philosophy in the format of a panel.

The practitioners of game philosophy belong to different research traditions and make use of different academic methods. The aim of this panel is to present views on methodological issued raised by the study of games and to conduct a political debate about how game philosophy should be performed. 

Venue: KSU Common Room (Msida campus)

Time: 16.00 – 17.30, November 1.

Chair: Sebastian Möring


Feng Zhu

Circularity and Self-reflexivity in the Critical Theory Approach to Computer Games

I will take the concept of ‘critical theory’ in a very broad sense to designate any self-reflective knowledge that provides both descriptive and normative bases for social enquiry, and which aims to promote emancipatory ends. As such, it may incorporate a range of thinkers not traditionally associated with ‘critical theory’, such as Michel Foucault. In relation to computer games, the approach from critical theory wants to theorise their connection to the broader social reality, such as the thesis of neoliberalism being the present mode of governmentality, and identify how those objects, in conjunction with the dispositions that we bring to our use of them, have a role in transforming or in further entrenching that reality. I argue that this holistic approach is circular in both a self-reflexive fashion, which adds to the degree of sophistication in the way in which we understand the relation between object and context, but also a self-affirming one that is viciously circular, in which the obdurate particularity of the object is obscured in favour of it merely reflecting what has been considered to be true of the present situation. This might be seen to be evidenced in statements such as computer games being ‘in direct synchronization with the political realities of the informatics age’ (Galloway, 2004, p.35), or computer games as ‘the paradigmatic medium of Empire’ (Dyer-Witheford & de Peuter, 2009, p.xv). Is it possible, then, for a critical approach to self-correct the deficiencies of this circularity whilst also retaining its positive aspects?


John R. Sageng

Why the Study of Games Needs Analytic Philosophy

In our interdisciplinary work we have inevitably encountered the distinction between “continental” and “analytic philosophy”. The aim of my presentation to clarify what analytic philosophy is and to recommend that we adopt its methods, also for topics which are thematized in other styles of philosophy and games scholarship. I will also address this issue from a practical context of how this field has developed and the strategic choices we should make moving forward.

I propose that analytic philosophy is characterized by an intellectual methodology which can be derived from historical cases of “conceptual” or “decompositional” analysis in early analytic philosophy. I argue that analytic philosophy today does not have a very specific specific mode of analysis, but rather a style of thinking defined by an intellectual ideology: that philosophical thinking should explicate and satisfy the normative commitments inherent in the practice of assertion and belief-formation that arise from the concepts of the phenomena to be explained. It is an historically evolved cultivation of rational standards for thinking which found an early form in Socratic analysis. Such standards are often offended in other styles of thinking today. I hold that this methodology can be applied to any subject matter in game philosophy and is ideally suited to create a shared horizon for a philosophical understanding of games. 


Marta M. Kania

On Existential Aesthetics of Computer Games

Existential philosophy and aesthetics are focused on experiences of life and art, that is, on unrepeatable. While grounded in being-in-the-world, existentialism claims the primacy of the individual and everyday over the general and abstract. In consequence, it provides a framework for interpretation of particular games as worlds that existentially situate players pointing out the way to unite the existential and the textual in interpretation of games.

The main advantage of the outlined existential approach is that it grasps and describes multidimensional experience of the gameplay on the basis of close playing. The interpretation is grounded in the in-game perspective. Therefore, interpretation of a gameplay, aesthetics of the gameworld, and an analysis of subjective in-game position, are considered to be a group of elements of equal significance. In-game existentialism does not aim at objectification of the experience, that would lead to assertions about the game as an object, system, or root of player’s experience. Alternatively, it points out at conditions and limitations of subjective perception and position within the gameworld.

This approach results in limited claims for objectivity and for “correctness” leading to falsifiable theory. As long as the central existential problem areas and categories seem to be apt for description of experience of gameplay and aesthetic reflection upon it, they need to be understood in the horizon of strong vs. weak interpretation rather than (scientific) knowledge.

The desired result are the interpretation of situatedness of the self-avatar within the gameworld; aesthetic understanding of the gameworld from the point of view of the self-avatar; and recognition of opening of the field for aesthetic interpretation, while the gameplay situation turns out to be one of the multiple possibilities from the point of view of aesthetic situation.


Olli Leino

Phenomenology and Player Experience: Game Studies from the Player’s Perspective

The notion of ‘player experience’ has become central in many debates concerning game studies and game design. Scholars and designers alike would assumedly agree that the goal behind enquiries into player’s experience is to understand the how games’ features end up affecting the player’s experience. But what is “player’s experience” and how is it to be understood? What is the relationship between the materiality of the game, the process or activity of gameplay, and the experience of gameplay? What are the conditions by which it is possible for experiences to be shared amongst players? What purpose, if any, does the vocabulary of ‘formal’ game analysis (e.g. rules, goals, challenges) serve in understanding player experience? These, I argue, are questions that philosophy of computer can help answering, and thus assist game studies in its project.

In my presentation, informed by (post-)phenomenology and existentialism, I exemplify this by arguing that there is a difference between “studying a game by playing it” (3rd person perspective) and “studying a game as played” (1st person perspective), and that the latter is more suitable for understanding player’s experience. I will argue that the materiality of the playable artifact, as it appears in the game-as-played, while perhaps not conforming to any pre-supposed idea of a ‘game’, already contains a standard for its own interpretation, that forms the basis for inter-subjective accounts of player’s experiences.