Analysis 81 (2):296-306 (2021)

Authors
Quill Rebecca Kukla
Georgetown University
Abstract
In Games: Agency as Art, Thi Nguyen has given us a deep and compelling picture of agency as much more layered, volatile, environment-dependent and discontinuous than it appears in most philosophical accounts. Games ‘inscribe … forms of agency into artifactual vessels’.1 1 When we play a game, we take up a form of agency, including a set of motivations, values and goals, which has been artificially provided by the game. Our purpose in playing, in the kinds of gameplay that interest Nguyen, is to have the aesthetic experience of first-personally exercising the kind of agency sculpted by the game. As we move in and out of gameplay, we take up and drop values, motives, and goals that are provided to us by the game. Games can expand our autonomy and the richness of life by allowing us to practice different forms of agency, taking on different ends for the aesthetic experience of striving to meet them. While I am on board with these central moves of Nguyen’s book, in this essay I will argue that the situation is substantially messier than Nguyen portrays it as being. Game play, I will claim, is inextricably embedded and entangled in its larger social, material and cultural context. Conversely, I will argue, everyday life is routinely sculpted in ways Nguyen claims are distinctive of games.
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DOI 10.1093/analys/anab018
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Games: Agency as Art.C. Thi Nguyen - 2020 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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