Book: The Aestehetics of Virtual Reality

It is a significant event that Grant Tavinor has a new book out. While it is about virtual reality rather than computer games, it will no doubt be read and used by many game philosophers.  This is the book description:

This is the first book to present an aesthetics of virtual reality media. It situates virtual reality media in terms of the philosophy of the arts, comparing them to more familiar media such as painting, film and photography.

When philosophers have approached virtual reality, they have almost always done so through the lens of metaphysics, asking questions about the reality of virtual items and worlds, about the value of such things, and indeed, about how they may reshape our understanding of the real world. Grant Tavinor finds that approach to be fundamentally mistaken, and that to really account for virtual reality, we must focus on the medium and its uses, and not the hypothetical and speculative instances that are typically the focus of earlier works. He also argues that much of the cultural and metaphysical hype around virtual reality is undeserved. But this does not mean that virtual reality is illusory or uninteresting; on the contrary, it is significant for the altogether different reason that it overturns much of our understanding of how representational media can function and what we can use them to achieve.

The Aesthetics of Virtual Reality will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working in aesthetics, philosophy of art, philosophy of technology, metaphysics, and game studies.

 

 

 

Journal Article: Ludic Unreliability and Deceptive Game Design

 

Stefano Gualeni and Nele Van de Mosselaer have a new paper out in the online first issue for Journal of the Philosophy of Games. This is the abstract:

Drawing from narratology and design studies, this article makes use of the notions of the ‘implied designer’ and ‘ludic unreliability’ to understand deceptive game design as a specific subset of trans-gressive game design. More specifically, in this text wepresent deceptive game design as the delib-erate attempt to misguide players’ inferences about the designers’ intentions. Furthermore, we argue that deceptive design should not merely be taken as a set of design choices aimed at misleading players in theirefforts to understand the game, but also as decisions devised to give rise to experien-tial and emotional effects that are in the interest of players. Finally, we propose to introduce a dis-tinction between two varieties of deceptive design approaches basedon whether they operate in an overt or a covert fashion in relation to player experience. Our analysis casts light on expressive pos-sibilities that are not customarily part of the dominant paradigm of user-centered design, and can inform game designers intheir pursuit of wider and more nuanced creative aspirations.

Call for Papers: Chinese DiGRA 2021

The call for the annual conference of Chinese DiGRA chapter is out, and the organizers wish to encourage game philosophers to submit abstracts to the conference. Please find the full call for papers below:

We are excited to announce this year’s Chinese DiGRA conference, hosted by the Academy of Visual Arts at Hong Kong Baptist University on the 4th of December 2021. Given the current restrictions on travel, we are planning this year’s Chinese DiGRA as a hybrid online and in-person event. Accepted papers will be pre-recorded as videos and live panels and paper discussions held in person and on Zoom.

We invite submissions on any aspect of Chinese games, game industries, game design and gaming cultures. We also invite submissions from people located in the Chinese-speaking region who are researching any aspect of games. The conference encourages papers from students and early career researchers as well as game industry workers. In addition to encouraging general submissions, our keynotes and themed panels will engage the converging trajectories of user-generated content and cryptocurrencies.

Keynote Speakers: To be announced.

Format:
Submissions can be in English or Chinese.
Please submit a maximum 1000 word (or 1700 characters) extended abstract.

Important dates:
October 16th: Deadline for submissions
October 26th: Decisions announced. Presenters receive additional practical information about how to record and submit their presentations (we recommend PowerPoint with voiceover or the free and open software OBS [Open Broadcast Software])
November 12th: Conference registration opens
November 12th: To facilitate uploading and translation, we ask all presenters to send us a video (or a PowerPoint presentation with voiceover) and a transcript of their presentation in advance.
December 4th: Conference.

How to submit:

Please email a pdf version of a maximum 1000-word/1700 character (excluding references) extended abstract no later than October 16th, 2021 to peteracnelson@hkbu.edu.hk. Please make sure to include “CDiGRA2021 Submission” in the subject line of your message. Extended abstracts will be selected by conference and program chairs based on their academic rigour and relevance to the themes of the conference. Note that the extended abstracts do not need to be anonymous. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by October 26th. Accepted authors will have an opportunity to submit their extended abstracts for inclusion in the DiGRA Digital Library. For questions regarding paper submission and the topics of the conference, or questions on the conference, please contact peteracnelson@hkbu.edu.hk.
Organization description and history

Chinese DiGRA (中华电子游戏研究协会​ /​ 中華 數位遊戲研究協會) is a regional chapter of DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) focusing on game research relevant to Chinese speaking countries and the surrounding regions. Chinese DiGRA aims to enhance the quality, quantity, and international profile of games research in the Chinese-speaking context, by developing a network of game scholars and researchers working in the Chinese-speaking world and/or on aspects of Chinese games and gaming cultures, forging links between academic and professional researchers on games, supporting teaching and PhD development in the region, and disseminating and promoting Chinese game scholarship around the world. Chinese DiGRA is run by a board comprised of top academics in the fields of Chinese games research from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. You can find more information on Chinese DiGRA, including papers from previous conferences, at our website.

Journal Article: Why So Serious? The Nature and Value of Play

Mike Ridge has another paper out, this time in Philosophy and Phenomenology Research. Here is the abstract:

In this paper, I develop an account of play and playfulness, argue it is superior to its rivals and investigate the value of play so understood. I begin by laying out some interesting semantic features of ‘play’ which have not previously been systematically investigated (section 1). A failure to note these distinctions can lead theorists (and has led them) into unwitting equivocations and confusions. Drawing on this broader semantic framework, I lay out and motivate a positive account of the meaning of ‘play’ and the nature of play full-stop (section 2). I then survey some of this account’s main advantages (section 3) and argue that the theory helps us better understand the value of play (section 4), where this value should inform both moral theory and political philosophy. I then compare the proposal with rival theories (section 5). I conclude by suggesting directions for further research.

Journal Article: How to Understand Rule-Constituted Kinds

An interesting paper about rule-constituted kinds was recently published by Manuel García-Carpintero in Review of Philosophy and Psychology.

Here is the abstract for the paper:

The paper distinguishes between two conceptions of kinds defined by constitutive rules, the one suggested by Searle, and the one invoked by Williamson to define assertion. Against recent arguments to the contrary by Maitra, Johnson and others, it argues for the superiority of the latter in the first place as an account of games. On this basis, the paper argues that the alleged disanalogies between real games and language games suggested in the literature in fact don’t exist. The paper relies on Rawls’s distinction between types (“blueprints”, as Rawls called them) of practices and institutions defined by constitutive rules, and those among them that are actually in force, and hence are truly normative; it defends along Rawlsian lines that a plurality of norms apply to actual instances of rule-constituted practices, and uses this Rawlsian line to block the examples that Maitra, Johnson and others provide to sustain their case.

Discussion Note: The Value of Value Capture, by Michael Ridge

A discussion note by Michael Ridge about gamification has recently been published in the “Online First” issue for Journal of the Philosophy of Games.

JPG is interested in pursuing the discussion note format, so please contact the editor if you have an idea for a discussion note about emerging issues in the philosophy of games.

The abstract:

Gamification, roughly the use of game-like elements to motivate us to achieve practical ends “in the real world,” makes large promises. According to Jane McGonigal, gamification can save the world by channelling the amazing motivational power of gaming into pro-social causes ranging from alienation from our work to global resource scarcity and feeding the hungry (McGonigal 2011).  Even much more modest aims like improving personal fitness or promoting a more equitable division of household labour provide some license for optimism about the ability of gamification to improve our lives in more humble but still worthwhile ways.  On the other hand, Thi Nguyen has argued that there is a dark side to gamification: what he calls “value capture.”  Roughly, gamification works in large part because it offers a simplified value structure – this is an essential part of its appeal and motivational power.  However, especially in the context of gamification which exports these value schemes into our real-world lives, there is a risk that these overly simplistic models will displace our more rich, subtle values and that this will make our lives worse: this is value capture. The point is well-taken.  The way in which number of steps taken per day can, for an avid user of “FitBit,” displace more accurate measurements of how one’s activities contribute to one’s fitness is a compelling example.   If I become so obsessed with “getting my 10,000 steps” that I stop making time to go to the gym, jog or do my yoga/pilates then that is not a net gain.  However, there is an important range of cases that Nguyen’s discussion ignores but which provide an important exception to his critique:  value capture relative to behaviours that are addictive and destructive.  Here I have in mind things like alcoholism, drug addiction, and gambling addiction.  With these kinds of activities, value capture can not only be good but essential to a person’s well-being because (and not in spite of) of its displacement of the person’s more rich, subtle values.  Interestingly, the point is not limited to cases of addictive behaviour, though they put the point in its most sharp relief.  Any situation in which making rational decisions one by one can leave one worse off than “blindly” following a policy which is itself rational to adopt also turns out to illustrate the point, thus further expanding the role for value capture as itself a force for good.  The more general point is that certain kinds of sequential choice problems carve out an important and theoretically interesting exception to Nguyen’s worries about value capture.  In these kinds of choice contexts, value capture not only does not make our lives go worse, it may be essential to making our lives go better.

 

CfP: Philosophical Essays on “Uncharted” (Abstract deadline October 1)

This call might be of interest to some game philosophers. It specifically requests submissions of abstracts for “philosophical essays”.

 

Call for Papers – Uncharted [EXTENDED DEADLINE]

deadline for submissions: 
October 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Łukasz Muniowski
contact email: 

Abstracts are sought for a peer-reviewed collection of philosophical essays related to the Naughty Dog action-adventure video game series Uncharted (2007-2017). The essays should refer to the games that are considered the canon of the series: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. As the production of the movie adaptation of the game has been once again put on hold, and it seems that Naughty Dog will not develop new entries in the series in the foreseeable future, a book of essays seems rather timely.

Uncharted was a groundbreaking series, which combined great characters, spectacular visuals, engaging puzzles, and captivating storylines to create a movie-like experience unlike that of any video game before it. At first, the game was dubbed “Dude Raider” – and indeed, it made its main character go to exotic locations, look for mythical treasures, and embark on other adventures reminiscent of Tomb Raider. In no time, however, Uncharted’s Nathan Drake was able to create identity dissimilar to that of Lara Croft. The character was portrayed as an everyman: he looked rather unimposing, yet was extremely smart, strong, and had an excellent aim. This dissonance created inevitable frictions between his likable persona presented in the cutscenes and in the game itself, as in the course of gameplay he shot multiple NPCs with no remorse.

All the games in the series followed a three-act structure similar to that of classic Hollywood movies, and at times, they were like interactive movies themselves. In a sense, they were the video game equivalent of the summer blockbuster genre. Throughout the years, the developers created numerous memorable sequences, such as the bar fight in Uncharted 4, the plane catastrophe in Uncharted 3, or the train derailment in Uncharted 2.

The series was already analyzed academically in regard to its violence, narrative, and gender representations. While these issues are worthy of further exploration, the game can also be discussed in the context of ideas such as: determinism, randomness, exploitation, orientalism, racism, tourism, civilization, continuity, consequences, war, addiction, white privilege, categorical imperative, or egotism.

Below are some quotes and questions for you to consider:

“Greatness from small beginnings” – is Drake’s social/economic/familial background to blame for his obsessive personality?

“It’s like a camera, you just point and shoot, right?” – why does the violence in the game come so frequently from unlikely characters?

“This is like trying to find a bride in a brothel” – can the series be regarded as sexist, or did its approach towards female characters change with time?

“Everything you touch does turn to shit” – how much oppression and damage does Drake actually cause (especially in the developing countries he frequently rampages through during his escapades)?

“You think that I am a monster, but you’re no different” – are the villains in the series significant? How are they different from its protagonists in terms of violence and chaos they create?

“You should play the hero more often. Suits you” – could Chloe turn into the true hero of the series in the future?

“You two can hold hands though” – how accurately does the game depict local customs and traditions? Does it exoticize and exploit them or represent them with respect and attention to detail?

“He would go to the ends of the world with you Nate” – is forming real-life bonds with NPCs possible?

“Why Nate? Why this obsession?” – the importance of Francis Drake for the story of the game

“Hey, are you happy?” – relationships, friendship, and family life in the series

“I don’t know why people get into video games” – do we really need an Uncharted movie?

“Same to you, cowboy” – how does Drake correspond with the cowboy archetype?

“A parasite who exploits our struggle in order to fatten her pockets” – how much of what the Uncharted’s heroes do is morally questionable?

“Nice work, partner” – what does the series teach us about cooperation?

Please submit abstracts of about 300 words with brief bios to: unchartedessays@gmail.com

Abstracts due: October 1st, 2020

Notification of accepted abstracts: October 5th, 2020

First draft of papers due: January 1st, 2020.

Final papers: 6,000 – 8,000 words

Łukasz Muniowski – holds a PhD in American Literature from the University of Warsaw, Poland. Co-editor of the collection of essays on the Altered Carbon Netflix series (Sex, Death and Resurrection in Altered Carbon, McFarland, 2020).

Kamil Chrzczonowicz –doctoral student at the Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland.His academic interests include humor theory, history of American satire, and digital humanities.

Journal Article: Existential Dramaturgy and Video Games: a Formalistic Approach to Telltale’s ‘The Walking Dead’ as Existentialist Gameplay

An interesting new paper by Michail Kouratoras is out. It is a contribution to the growing literature that uses existentialism to analyze gameplay and narrative in computer games.

The abstract: Existentialism has recently appeared as an analytical tool for a deeper or different understanding of video games as cultural artifacts. The existing discourse points towards the requirement of a systematic approach to this matter, which in the present research is in the form of a gameplay-dramaturgy case study. Telltale’s video game The Walking Dead, Season 1, presented itself as a potential game that appeared to include many Existentialist aspects. Therefore, it became the focus of this research. This is because the game’s story unfolds based on (conditional) freedom of choice in a difficult situation with challenging and ultimately insoluble moral dilemmas. Hence, the objective of this case study was a bottom-up, formalistic approach to analyze the connection between the game and Existentialism. It concentrates on the critical dramatic elements of the narrative and the game mechanics, with an emphasis on their game design pattern. The results of the analysis exposed The Walking Dead as a characteristic example of what could be considered an Existential ergodic drama or an Existential, ethical gameplay. This is because of the game’s affinity with most of the major Existential concepts both in its narrative and ludic nature.

Journal Article: Individuating Games

Michael Ridge has a paper out in the  philosophy journal Synthese which discusses the individuation of games.It is notable to our community that there are ever more papers on games in traditional philosophy journals. The abstract of the paper:

Games, which philosophers commonly invoke as models for diverse phenomena, are plausibly understood in terms of rules and goals, but this gives rise to two puzzles. The first concerns the identity of a single game over time. Intuitively one and the same game can undergo a change in rules, as when the rules of chess were modified so that a pawn could be moved two squares forward on its first move. Yet if games are individuated in terms of their constitutive rules and goals, this is incoherent—new rules mean a new game. The second concerns the individuation of games at a point in time. Intuitively, there can be different versions of a single game, where the versions differ in the details of their rules. I offer a solution to this problem that draws on an analogy with individuating languages. The resulting theory should illuminate the metaphysics of games more generally.

 

 

CfP: Special issue on the Taboos of Game Studies in G|A|M|E

Call for Papers: The Taboos of Game Studies (extended abstract deadline Feb 24, 2020)

Editors: Kristine Jørgensen (University of Bergen) and Riccardo Fassone (University of Torino)

The next issue of the Italian journal of game studies G|A|M|E (http://gamejournal.it/) welcomes contributions that address the taboos of game studies.

Taboos can be understood as social prohibitions based in religion or custom rather than in legislation or common sense, and are as such bearing moral weight (International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences 2001). Taboos can be found in all parts of society and guide our practices.

With its maturation, the field of game studies has been through several large debates, spanning the disputes about effects and learning, the so-called narratology versus ludology debate, and in the later years the impact of the #gamergate controversy on research and game culture. As game studies is a multidisciplinary field, such dissensions have been approached from a number of perspectives, as researchers bring their disciplinary paradigms and methodologies into game studies. In this multidisciplinary context, it becomes necessary to critically ask whether we are in a situation where nothing is taboo and everything is permitted, or whether the risk of public or disciplinary controversy makes certain topics or approaches untouchable.

At the same time, video games have historically been the center for a number of moral controversies over excessive violent content and other norm-breaking issues. While criticism and condemnation are not uncommon responses to such game content, in some cases an apologetic rhetoric is applied to the controversial content found in games, which claims that “these are only games.” However, while play research has demonstrated that the playful frame indeed may change the meaning of game content, it can also be argued that it is precisely this frame that makes games so good at treating taboo topics.

Focusing on the taboos of game studies, this issue asks ask whether there are topics that the field does not address, or whether there are perspectives or methods that are being avoided, either due to pressure from the research community itself, or from the society. How do game scholars guard their boundaries, and who is defined as insiders and outsiders? To what degree is game studies currently able to address the problematic aspects of game culture and playful practices? And concerning game content, is there such a thing as an ultimate taboo for game content? Do games have different taboos than other media, and what happens when taboo topics are addressed in a game context?

Topics may include:

  • The taboos of game studies
  • Game research into taboo areas
  • Research on games that deal with taboos
  • The breaking of in-game taboos
  • Game taboos in relation to other cultural forms (literature, cinema, art, design)

Scholars are invited to submit an extended abstract (between 500-1,000 words excluding references) or full papers for this special issue on the topics of the taboos of game studies to editors@gamejournal.it.

Timeline:

  • February 24, 2020: Extended abstract submission deadline (full papers are also accepted)
  • April 2, 2020: Notification of acceptance/rejection sent to authors
  • July 2, 2020: Full paper submission deadline
  • Sept 1, 2020: Review deadline
  • Oct 19, 2020: Deadline for edited papers