The Theme of the Conference

Computer games constitute a major cultural and economic force in contemporary society.  Whether in the form of PC games, consol games on machines such as PS2, Gamecube or XBox, Java games on the internet, or handheld games like Nintendo Gameboy, computer games make up a part of everyday life for a rapidly increasing number of people. Millions of individuals spend significant portions of their time playing massive-multiplayer games on the net, and the real economies of some such games equal those of small real-life countries.

These phenomena call for collective research by a range of disciplines and traditions. There are psychological questions concerning the impact of computer games on the mentality and behaviour of individual players; sociological and culture-theoretical questions about their impact on society and culture at large; literary questions about narrative structure; and ethical, legal and political questions concerning the production, distribution and consumption of games.

As with any area of knowledge, research into computer games engenders philosophical questions about their most general or fundamental traits. There are in particular two characteristics of the computer game medium that immediately give rise to highly pertinent philosophical questions.  The first of these is the fact that the computer game medium is built on iterated feedback between the medium and the user; the second is that the environments provided by the medium are based on “virtual” objects and events.

Computer games have only existed for a short time, and the study of them has as yet barely begun to provide the distinctions, concepts and explanatory models that will allow us to grasp the nature of the medium. A more adequate understanding of the philosophical issues arising from the nature of the medium will provide a dearly sought-after “bird's eye view” on the field.  Just as importantly, however, such discussions are philosophically rewarding in their own right, in that they provide the established philosophical subjects with the refreshing challenge of new topics and angles.

For the upcoming conference, we disseminate a call for philosophical papers treating of matters relevant to the study of computer game phenomena. Since there is as yet little or no consensus on what these issues are, it seems wise to keep the agenda reasonably open this time around, rather than attempt to force some particular question.  Contributions to the conference will be classified under three general headings, corresponding to the tripartition of day topics during the conference. The first day is titled “Computer Game Entities”, and is devoted to metaphysical issues that can be related to the virtual nature of computer game objects and events. The second day, “Player Experience”, contains papers on the subjective standpoint of the player, ranging from issues about identity to issues concerning perceptual experience. The last day, “The Ethics of Computer Games”, will be devoted to ethical and political issues that relate to the design or public consumption of games.

To get a further impression of a few of the issues discussed so far, we refer to the programme of our 2005 workshop, please go here.