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How we can understand ourselves through games

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Games are a distinctive art form — one very different from the traditional arts. Game designers don’t just create an environment, or characters, or a story. They tell you who to be in the game. They set your basic abilities: whether you will run and jump, or move around your pieces geometrically, or bid and raise. And, most importantly, they tell you what your goals will be. By specifying the points and victory conditions, the designer sets the players’ core motivations in the game.This helps us get a better grip on the uniqueness of games as an art form. Game designers aren’t just telling stories. Game designers are sculpting a specific form of practical activity. They are deciding what we will do within the game and how we will do it. They do so by designing the basic shape of our agency within the game, and then designing the obstacles that we will encounter. A game designer says, in Super Mario Brothers, your goal is to go right, your abilities are running and jumping — and the world is full of dangers to run past and jump over. In poker, your goal is to get money, and your abilities are strictly limited to bidding and raising, and careful surveillance of the other player’s actions and expressions — and the world is full of other people doing the same to you.Let’s approach the issue this way: What is the artistic medium of games? If oil painters work in oil, and poets work in language, what does the game designer work in? I mean games in a very broad sense here, including video games, board games, role playing games, party games, and sports. To encompass all that variety, the answer can’t be something as narrow as software code or virtual environments. Many games are played on boards or in physical arenas. But, still, there is a common thread to all game design. The designer shapes our practical struggle by manipulating our practical interests and abilities, and the challenges we will face. Game designers work in the medium of agency itself. Games are the art. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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