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.”

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

800px-Nyhavn_copenhagencroppedThe Call for Papers for the 2018 Philosophy of Computer Games Conference in Copenhagen is now available.

The conference will be part of a Game Studies Triple Conference, with Games Lit 2018 and History of Games 2018. Please submit, and please circulate the call!

The call is here:  https://gameconference.itu.dk/Philosophy.html

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.

SUBMISSION PROCEDURE
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 review.gamephilosophy.org. 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.

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE

Program Chair:
C. Thi Nguyen, Utah Valley University
cnguyen@uvu.edu

Conference Chair:
Michael Debus, ITU
msde@itu.dk

Program Committee:

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

 

Symposium and Exhibition: Towards the Expanded Field – March 7-9, Graz.

TEF_HDA_Event_fb

Talks, Spatial audio performances & VR Exhibition
7-9 of March
Haus der Architektur, Graz

Virtual reality and spatial audio technologies bring about a new paradigm in the fields of architecture and music. While defying classification, works developed in these media extend our spatial and auditory sensibilities beyond what is perceivable in the physical world. Can we regard them however as architecture and music, or are they foreign to their origins?

Architect Constantinos Miltiadis and composer and sound artist Gerriet K. Sharma will present their investigations and exhibit works on virtual navigable environments and sculptural spatial audio. The event intends to initiate a discussion on the nature of such explorations, in parallel to the nature and future of music and architecture in the expanded field.

The event includes talks by Constantinos Miltiadis (Institute of Architecture and Media, TU Graz) Dr. Gerriet K. Sharma (Institute of Electronic Music, University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz, Edgard Varèse Professor, TU Berlin) and Prof. Stephan Günzel (BTK Berlin).

There will also be a VR exhibition and spatial audio performances for the Sonible IKO, as well as a reading group of Rosalind Krauss’ “Sculpture in the expanded field”.

Event information and program:
Haus der Architektur [x]
Institute of Architecture and Media [x]
Poster [x]

Curated by Constantinos Miltiadis

C. Thi Nguyen is Program Committee Leader for PCG2018

thiWe are very happy to announce that Thi Nguyen from Utah Valley University has accepted the the role of program committee leader for the next PCG conference.  He will be the first US program committee leader for the PCG conference series. Thi is already a member of the steering group for the game philosophy network.

The next conference is due to be held in Copenhagen at ITU in August. It is planned to be a part of a unique collaboration scheme which involves participants in other areas in the study of games.

The program committee will be constituted shortly and it will start to work on the next call for papers. More info about the conference and the larger collaboration scheme will soon follow.

 

 

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.

Book: The Aesthetics of Videogames

51TXy-vm4VL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_An important book on the aesthetics of computer games will soon be out, edited by Jon Robson and Grant Tavinor.  From the description:

“This collection of essays is devoted to the philosophical examination of the aesthetics of videogames. Videogames represent one of the most significant developments in the modern popular arts, and it is a topic that is attracting much attention among philosophers of art and aestheticians. As a burgeoning medium of artistic expression, videogames raise entirely new aesthetic concerns, particularly concerning their ontology, interactivity, and aesthetic value. The essays in this volume address a number of pressing theoretical issues related to these areas, including but not limited to: the nature of performance and identity in videogames; their status as an interactive form of art; the ethical problems raised by violence in videogames; and the representation of women in videogames and the gaming community. The Aesthetics of Videogames is an important contribution to analytic aesthetics that deals with an important and growing art form.”

 

Journal Article: Competition as Cooperation

downloadI’m pleased to announce that my paper, Competition as Cooperation, was recently published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. (For those without institutional access, I’ve also put a pre-print draft online for free access.)

The paper argues that, under certain very specific conditions, games can transform competition into cooperation. Other accounts have tried to explain that transformation by focusing exclusively on player attitudes – their playfulness, or their consent. I argued instead for a distributed account of transformation: successful transformation depends on not only on players having the right motivational state, but also on aspects of game design, player fit, and extra-game community.

C. Thi Nguyen

PCG2017 Workshop: New Game Definitions

 

28. November 2017

Krakow, Gołębia 16 street, room 42

385940773_1280x720The aim of the workshop is to survey different options for answering the questions “What is a game?” and “What is a computer game?” and to get a feel for future directions that reflections on these questions may take. While keeping an eye on conventional notions such as voluntary goals, play and make-believe, the workshop will explore unconventional notions like artifact roles, status functions and new roles for play. The workshop will also discuss  foundational issues for the project of defining games, such as definition types, essences, family resemblances or nominalism. The workshop is intended as a preparatory meeting, so please contact the organizers if you would like to participate in future events.

 

Program

 

10.00 Introduction

Sebastian Möring and John R. Sageng

 

11.00 On Defining  

Anita Leirfall

 

11.30 The Wittgensteinian Thesis on Defining and Game Definitions 

Oliver Laas

 

12.00 The Game as the Partner in Play: A Posthuman Approach to the  Definition of the Video Game Object

Justyna Janik

 

12.30 Games as Status Functions

John R. Sageng

 

13.00. Lunch

 

14.00  How to Compare Game Definitions

Pawel Grabarczyk

 

14.30 Self-playing games: Rethinking the State of Digital Play

Sonia Fizek

 

15.00 On the Technological Specificity of Playable Artifacts

Olli Leino

 

15.30 Common discussion

 

Discussion forum: https://www.reddit.com/r/PhilosophyofGames/

Organizers: Sebastian Möring and John R. Sageng