Computer Games as Laboratories of Digital Rationality

Workshop

Konstantin Ocheretyany, Daria Kolesnikova, Alina Latypova, Irina Busurkina

Throughout the human history games served as an “explorer” of the culture. In game interactions the patterns of the main social, communicative, interpretative, gender practices were formed and transmitted. Nowadays computer games largely incur this function. They accumulate the technical capacity of culture and convert it into the mythological and ideological forms. Computer games are at the same time media (=guides) and laboratories where the new experience valuable for the contemporary époque is created by the assemblage of the technical, social and playful activities, which overpasses just the sum of the narrative and ludic elements of the game. The aim of the workshop is to demonstrate how various sets of cultural values emerge within the computer games as the hybrids of technological, social, corporeal experience, how games become the media which transmit the cultural experience in its entity, how they produce and reproduce practices which are necessary not only in games but also in our everyday life. It is worth talking about the technical (medial) component of the value formation not only on the level of the content, but (and even more important) on the level of the form. The computer game is not considered as an object, but as a medial form that influences not only the practices, attitudes or skills, but the rationality (the reason) of the contemporary digital culture.

The Values of Ludic Boredom

Workshop

Sebastian Möring, Olli Tapio Leino, Tomasz Majkowski

Boredom as a state-of-mind seems to be at the heart of the paradox of our present mediatised culture of always being productive connected and entertained. We shouldn’t get bored yet we need to get bored, almost as a means to keep going. In particular in relation to play, boredom is often conceived as the moment when we cease to do work and begin to play and momentarily enter the void of nothingness, also in order to regroup, recharge or rethink and get unstuck again. Paradoxically, boredom seems to lie at the heart of the current culture of constant connectivity and productivity enhanced by digital media. Each potential moment of boredom is at the same time a possibility for monetization – advertisements, casual games, social media, and other pushed notifications, all seem to be competing for our attention, which could otherwise be suspended in blissfully prolonged recreational "Langeweile". Boredom becomes particularly interesting in relation to play and digital games, which are supposed to serve as an antidote. Yet even in digital games there seems to emerge a culture of boredom regarding the rising popularity of a new genre of so called self-playing idle games (games in which players are inactive most of the time), which for us is the starting point in looking at ludic boredom. The proposed workshop will explore the social, cultural, and philosophical implications of boredom in relation to play and work, technology, media, and computer games with the goal of developing an international collaboration that establishes an innovative interdisciplinary research program to examine the undertheorized phenomenon of ludic boredom in depth.

As formative as boredom may be, we have difficulties grasping what it is, both as a daily experience as well as in an academic context. In daily life boredom seems a flickering moment as we seem constantly occupied and multitasking: our airline reminds us to check-in while we are chatting on instant messengers with our international research group, at the same that our digital calendar reminds us of the upcoming meeting, and so on. At times it feels like we are played by the media we use. Therefore in present day real-time global media ecologies moments of boredom are rarely found or recalled. And if such rare moments ‘threaten’ to occur, we try to keep it at bay, automatically firing up our favourite casual game on our smartphone. In our postcapital world we pay for mediation sessions, retreats and digital detoxes to counter our never-ceasing activity. And being recharged, we start all over again.

Currently, we can hardly tell the effects of constant connectivity and productivity on significant domains of our lives such as education, entertainment, societal and political engagement, and so on. As we move on quickly with the fluxes of translations between media technologies and ourselves.

To chart the problem area and investigate its philosophical merits we propose a workshop at the Philosophy of Computer Games conference 2018 with the goal to find answers to theoretical and practical questions such as: How does constant interactivity, connectivity, and accessibility foster or counteract abusive or (self-)destructive behaviour resulting from boredom? How does it affect the ways we learn and communicate? How do media technologies like computer games, smartphones and social media keep us in place of the constant feedback-loop of production and consumption of contemporary media ecologies? How does a constant exposition of individuals to technologies of automatization affect their perceptual processes? Which are the long-ranging effects of the needs for this constant connectivity with regards to the environment or the educational system? How are current societal diagnoses like the Burnout Society (Han 2015) or the Ends of Sleep (Crary 2014) as well as the ludification of culture (Combs 2000, Frissen et.al. 2015), and gamification (cf. Walz & Deterding 2014) grounded in this desire to erase boredom? How are contemporary media structured to foster, erase or change boredom? How is boredom conceptualized in philosophy? How is boredom reflected in contemporary media such as computer games, cinema, literature, weblogs, etc.?

‘Subjects’ and ‘Objects’ in Game Studies

Panel

Feng Zhu, Espen Aarseth, Sonia Fizek, Andreas Gregersen, Graeme Kirkpatrick and Justyna Janik

This panel aims to address the philosophical issues underlying so-called player-centred and game-centred approaches in game studies. It will take stock of the changes in the theoretical climate of the last decade. In particular, it will review the possible contributions from various theoretical frameworks to game studies.

Building on the ‘intriguee’ of Cybertext (1997, p. 113), Aarseth’s essay ‘Transgressive Play and the Implied Player’ (2007) argued for the relevance the ‘implied player’. It has been over a decade since the essay characterised the methodological terrain in game studies with regard to player-focused approaches and game-focused approaches, as the conflict between the ‘critical player-theorist’ and the ‘ethnographic player-observer’ (Aarseth, 2007, p.131). Aarseth was concerned that game studies researchers who studied players were insufficiently focusing on what ‘typical’, as opposed to ‘subversive’ players, did (cf. Smith 2006). The struggle between the humanities and social sciences over the control of the idea of the player is that between the player as a ‘function’ of the game, and the player as a real embodied individual. If ‘games are both aesthetic and social phenomena, [then] a theory of the player must combine both social and aesthetic perspectives to be successful’ (Aarseth, 2007, p.130). The ‘implied player’ was the concept to accomplish this. Coming from seemingly the opposite side, Sicart’s position against what he saw as the reductive formalism of ‘proceduralism’, which subordinated everything to the game’s rules, nevertheless led him to the view that ‘for each procedural analysis there must be an orthogonal analysis of play that completes the arguments of meaning by means of accounting the play experience’ (Sicart, 2011, Against Procedurality section, para.7).

This panel proposes to discuss the justifications for this ‘bridging’ between the humanities and social sciences, and what may be entailed by them. We intend to review the different philosophical assumptions involved in a theorist attributing certain qualities to the ‘subject’ and to the ‘object’, in any assumed (a)symmetry of the subject-object conjunction, and in the veracity of the binary division of ‘subject-object’ or ‘player-game’ itself. As a non-neutral means of controlling or delimiting interpretation, such attributions demand a closer examination of the intentions at work. If we abstract the characteristics of specific players, such as their psychological disposition, idiosyncratic memories, and physical (dis)ability, into an ‘implied’ player, do we necessarily normalise the play experience despite our best intentions? Yet if we do not, are we confined to fragmented forms of analyses that can make no claims beyond their own specificity, let alone attempt to comprehend the role of computer games in a larger socio-cultural context?