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Weekly Links #321: philosophy edition

24 May 2020 — No Time To Play

You know, it occurs to me that game designers don't understand artistic media in general, not even their own.

You see, in books you tell a story through words. In ballet, through dance. In comics or movies, through pictures. And neither words, dance or pictures have to tell a story; all can still be art just fine without a narrative attached.

It stands to reason that games should tell stories through gameplay, if they do at all. They shouldn't have to, however, to be considered art.

So why is it that 40 years after Pac-Man we still struggle with this simple idea? Part of it is of course that we only think it's Art with capital A if it's the kind of stuff aristocrats used to enjoy. We don't even apply that rule consistently, because opera was once popular, low-brow entertainment. So was Shakespeare's theatre. Then again if human beings were willing to remember their history, we wouldn't be in this big mess now.

But mostly, it's that even those game designers with a background in philosophy are probably trained to think philosophy means Thomas Aquinas or Wittgenstein. Anything invented this side of 1920 just sort of exists, right? It's nothing worth thinking about. And definitely not worthy of much respect since it's less than a century old.

That's why we never quite came to grips with phones, either.

You caught me: we're having another week with no news worth commenting on. Well, there's another history of the Minitel system, though it fails to mention any games, and more topically the fact that Microsoft open-sourced GW-Basic; naturally, not before it was reversed-engineered by others, thus making this moot but for the historical interest. Oh! There's also Emily Short pointing out that in game design, like in other arts, you must have something to say in order to get anywhere. Gee, you think this relates to what I wrote above?

Until next week, when we can hopefully spend some time being playful instead.

Tags: game-design, philosophy

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