Edited by C. Thi Nguyen (University of Utah)
|Summary||What is a game, and what is the value of games in human life? For some, playing games is a trivial endeavor. For others, playing games can turn out to be quite valuable, and central part of our lives. The discussion of the nature and the value of games has been conducted in several different fields, both in philosophy and next to it. In the philosophy of art, philosophers have focused on largely on questions of whether games are a form of art, and if so, what their relationship is to other more familiar art forms. Some have argued that videogames are a kind of fiction, or interactive cinema. In the philosophy of sport, philosophers have focused on questions of the value and purpose of sport. There, philosophers have suggested, variously, that the purpose of sport is to develop human excellence, or offer a venue for human achievement, or to create opportunities for dramas of hope and redemption. Much of the discussion of games has occurred the interdisciplinary field called Games Studies - much of whose roots lie in various literary critical and anthropological approaches, often emphasizing approaches from continental philosophy.|
|Key works||The modern discussion about games is usually taken to proceed from Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens. There, Huizinga suggests that games are connected with theater, sport, and religious ritual, in being set apart from ordinary life, inside a magic circle of play. Roger Caillois' Man, Play, and Games offers a pluralist view of play, distinguishing between competitive play, mimetic play, luck play, and vertigo play. In analytic philosophy, the central work is Bernard Suits' The Grasshopper (Suits & Hurka 1978). Suits there, claims that games are the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacle. Suits' account ends with an argument that games are the purpose of life - since, in utopia, all we would do with our time is to play games. Thomas Hurka has offered an extension of Suits' account, whereby the value of games is to be spelled out in terms of difficult achievement (Hurka 2006). This style of account has recently been developed in great detail by Gwen Bradford (Bradford 2015). In the philosophy of sport, some have argued that there are norms of play, which arise from the distinctive aim of sport - what is called the ethos of sport. Robert Simon has argued that the ethos of sport can be derived from looking at what the rules aim at (Simon 2000). J. S. Russell has argued that the ethos of sport is the development of human excellence (Russell 2004); William Morgan has offered some crucial critical responses (Morgan 2004). In the philosophy of art, the discussion has centered around whether games are art, and, if so, what art form they might be. Grant Tavinor has developed an account of games as a form of fiction (Tavinor 2009). Dominic Lopes has developed an account of interactive computer art (Lopes 2009). The philosophical discussion of videogames has also raised some key questions in ethics, especially the interactive representation of evil acts (Luck 2009, Bartel 2012, Patridge 2013). Maria Lugones' influential account of play as shifting between worlds includes an important criticism of competitive games (Lugones 1987). Philosophers should also certainly take note of interdisciplinary work in Game Studies. Key figures in that field include Janet Murray, Espen Aarseth, Gonzolo Frasca, Markku Eskelinen, Mary Flanagan, Mia Consalvo, Jaakko Stenros, Jane McGonigal, Ian Bogost (Bogost 2007), and Miguel Sicart (Sicart 2009). Early work in that field focused on the so-called "ludology vs. narratology" wars, which focused on whether games should primarily be approached as a form of narrative, or whether games should be approached as a unique, non-narrative artifact. A good place to start with Game Studies is Jesper Juul's well-known book, Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds.|
|Introductions||C. Thi Nguyen's recent Philosophy Compass article, "Philosophy of Games" offers a survey of recent work in the philosophy of games, surveying work in game studies, the philosophy of sport, aesthetics, and applied ethics (Nguyen 2017). Grant Tavinor's Philosophy Compass, "Videogames and Aesthetics", covers specific issues in the aesthetics of video games (Tavinor 2010). Jaakko Stenros's "In Defense of a Magic Circle: The Social and Mental Boundaries of Play" offers a critical survey of the concept of a "magic circle" - that is, the idea that games and play occupy a special separate space, separated from ordinary life. Randolph Feezell's "A Pluralist Conception of Play" offers a useful survey of the philosophy of play (Feezell 2010). Jesper Juul's Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds is an excellent introduction to work in the interdisciplinary field of Game Studies.|
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