The Journal of the Philosophy of Games (JPG) is a new open-access journal of philosophy about the study of games, hosted by the University of Oslo, Norway. The journal discusses the “general nature of games and gameplay and about their interrelation with technology, art, communication and social interaction… in contemporary culture and society”.
I think that games are the most promising, most important artistic medium that exists right now, so this new journal is very exciting to me. JPG is off to a good start with this ragefuel about The Incompatibility of Games and Artworks. Rough argues that a game cannot be an artwork and vice versa, because the creator’s intention for a thing to be a game or an artwork is an “essential constitutive conditions of the object”, which means something cannot be both a game and an artwork at the same time. Sure to generate some heated discussion. For more information, see the article abstracts below.
Another interesting article from this issue is about incoherency in games, gameplay and game narratives. Hogenbirk, van de Hoef and Meyer use examples from Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. to argue that the really interesting thing about game incoherency is not about internal contradictions or incomplete explanations but the way that players take and interpret the fiction to their enjoyment. An extreme example of this is speculative fan theories based on game logic. See our collection of Mario-cube theory started last year.
Ludonarrative dissonance has been a hot topic in the philosophy of games for the past few years, but the traditional way of thinking about incoherency has been to focus on “internal inconsistency” of the game itself. This player-centric explanation of contradictions between (say) violent gameplay and a pacifistic story, via interpretive techniques such as selectively attributing the former to gameplay as separate from the narrative, is much better suited to the kind of medium games are.
Recent debate has focused on whether videogames are art. Whatever the answer, the debate has largely taken it for granted that videogames are games, and that this is unproblematic for the art status of videogames. This paper argues that something being a game is incompatible with it also being an artwork, and thus insofar as videogames are games, they cannot be artworks. This incompatibility arises out of the different attitudes that are prescribed for engaging with games versus those for engaging with artworks. Citing a modified definition of games from Bernard Suits and commonly held conditions of artworks, I show that for an artist to intend something as a game or an artwork is to intend essential constitutive conditions of the object that preclude the object from being both a game and an artwork. This requires a reconsideration of several contemporary theories about games and art while also providing an analysis of games that calls for them to be appreciated as what they are without distracting miscategorization.
Hugo Dirk Hogenbirk, Marries van de Hoef, John-Jules Charles Meyer.
In this paper we will analyze the concept of incoherency that has been put forward by Jesper Juul in Half-Real (2005). Juul provides a paradigmatic example of an incoherency in the game Donkey Kong. The main character of the narrative, Mario, can die and subsequently reappear at the beginning of the level. However, when pressed to describe the narrative of the game, most players would not say that Mario ever died. The respawn is attributed to the game rules instead. Juul calls this phenomenon an incoherency of the game’s fictional world. We claim that the precise nature of the concept of incoherency is unclear, and that Juul’s connection between incoherency and contradictions is incorrect. Furthermore, we argue that Wesp incorrectly identifies the concept with ‘incompleteness’ in his response to Juul (Wesp, 2014). Our clarification argues that what is noteworthy in ‘incoherency’ is not some aspect of the fictional world, like it being contradictory or incomplete, but how the player interprets the fiction. Subsequently, we provide an explanation for what underlies an incoherency by adopting the principle of charity (Davidson 1973). Lastly we discuss how a proper understanding of incoherency can help game designers and how it relates to ludonarrative dissonance (Hocking, 2009).