Games and the art of agency

Philosophical Review 128 (4):423-462 (2019)
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Abstract

Games may seem like a waste of time, where we struggle under artificial rules for arbitrary goals. The author suggests that the rules and goals of games are not arbitrary at all. They are a way of specifying particular modes of agency. This is what make games a distinctive art form. Game designers designate goals and abilities for the player; they shape the agential skeleton which the player will inhabit during the game. Game designers work in the medium of agency. Game-playing, then, illuminates a distinctive human capacity. We can take on ends temporarily for the sake of the experience of pursuing them. Game play shows that our agency is significantly more modular and more fluid than we might have thought. It also demonstrates our capacity to take on an inverted motivational structure. Sometimes we can take on an end for the sake of the activity of pursuing that end.

Author's Profile

C. Thi Nguyen
University of Utah

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