Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

Category: Philosophy(Page 1 of 8)

Get To Know Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan was a very influential thinker who changed the way we think about media at large. He argued that the medium is the message when it comes to understanding popular culture. If you grew up in Canada you may remember this Heritage Minute:

McLuhan was a visionary and here all I hope do to is get you interested in learning more about him and his thinking. In the first week back in class he came up twice with one of my classes looking directly at his work. Due to many students asking for more information, here is a very quick look into McLuhan and his impact on media, culture, and humanity.

The term “the global village” was coined by McLuhan and has been used ever since to describe the interconnectedness of the planet thanks to technology. His impact was large and you can get a good idea of the complexity of his thinking and its impact in the documentary below.
The documentary, This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage, is a great introduction to the thinking of McLuhan.

If you’re interred in hearing more from McLuhan, you can check out and the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto (check out their events). And here is giving a great interview on ABC:

Part 1
“A baseball game without an audience would be a rehearsal only.”

Part 2
“Participation in replay is a form of pattern recognition that is new in new media.”

part 3
He uses the word Orient so much I think he should’ve read some Edward Said.

Game Praxis: A Game Competition About Philosophy

Game Praxis

Game Praxis is a game competition and a journal exploring the intersection between games, philosophy, and practice.

The goal is simple: generate more interesting content about how games can be used to explore bigger questions. For the first run of Game Praxis pre-existing games can be submitted so if you’ve already made a game that you think should be considered you can do so.

The Game Praxis mission:

Should you choose to accept it? Marx observed philosophers have interpreted the world when the point is to change it. Much the same could be said for the game industry. We need to build more than better worlds, we need to build a better world. We see crunch, the precarious careers of late capital, and a troubled and troubling apprehension of gender in game and the game industry as symptoms of an underlying pathology of the spirit. In the game industry, the measure of success is money. With all due respect to our invocation of Marx, we aren’t against the production of surplus value but we believe there are more creative ways to evaluate games, game industries and our lives in game.

The theme of the competition is ALEA JACTA EST. Any game or writing about around the theme can be submitted from now until June 1st.

We want to encourage more discourse and thoughtful analysis through the use off gaming. I say ‘we’ because I’m on of the founding editors of Game Praxis.

There is a fantastic list of people who will be reviewing the submitted games too. They are:

GOLBOO AMANI
GABRIELA AVEIRO OJEDA
TRUDY BARBER
VASS BEDNAR
SANDRA DANILOVIC
MANAF FAKHRO
EMMA WESTECOTT

For the last few months I’ve been working on getting this going with Nicholas Packwood. It’s fun to finally announce it to the world!

Submit your game now!

Does Morality In Video Games Matter?

There are games out there that claim to have the player make moral decisions – and that the decisions will change the game in dramatic ways. I’ve always been let down by these games because they promise so much and don’t fully deliver. It’s very rare to find a game that brings moral issues to the forefront of the player’s experience.

Walking Dead Game

It’s too easy to put the moral aspects of play in a cutscene and that does very little. This may have something to do with how some game makers learn about morals and ethics in games.

Take a look at this tutorial on karma and moral decision making. The way that moral decisions are discussed is to frame them in the context of what moral decision system to use (relating to interface and not ideology) instead of what makes for a good moral question.

Too often the moral decisions are made for the players by the virtue of the design of the game. It’s not about what’s morally “correct” but what’s best to “win”. I’ve done horrible things in video games because they get me to win, but these horrible things are actions I’ll never consider outside of game play.

By crafting moral decisions into our game a priori the played experience we are not giving the player a decision.

As designers, if we focus on crafting good questions we can get good moral exploration in games. It’s of the utmost importance that we embody this in the gameplay and not just in a single character or a cutscene.

The moral quandary must transcend the game!

How do we create this feeling that transcends the game? We can do so by invoking aspects of the player’s life or by incorporating an open question around meta-ethics. By looking at meta-ethics we can start thinking about really good questions that will get players thinking in new ways. Philosophy Now has a good podcast episode on meta-ethics.

A recent Guardian article on guilt in video games touched on getting the player to feel moral issues. In fact, the article is a good summary with issues around morals in games today.

Which is why guilt is so fascinating as a game component – it can exist both inside and outside of the mechanics, and it can permeate the whole experience. In the sci-fi strategy game XCOM, players can name the characters themselves, and many of us choose to use the names of friends and relatives. Almost by accident, this brings to the game an almost unconscious guilt mechanic – you feel bad about endangering the character named after your boyfriend, or pet dog, or mum; maybe you even protect that character, placing them at the back of the pack.

If you find all of this too heavy, take a break and listen to this interview on morality and humour with Noël Carroll.

Resources for Getting Into Philosophy

There is no easy way into philsiophy beyond asking questions and then once you think you know something ask more questions. Still, a starting point always helps (and has been requested by one of my classes) so here’s some places to begin your journey into the gigantic world of philosophical inquiry.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do is head over to YouTube and get some search results:

Watching all those videos takes time, as does reading Wikipedia’s philosophy portal. For faster consumption, you can take a look at the philosophy posts I’ve made. If you want to stay engaged in philosophical wonderings there’s more you can do.

The easiest way (at least as I see it) is to listen to the occasional podcast or watch the odd video found on the philosophy subreddit. Or have a laugh at Existential Comics.

Philosophy Podcasts:

Other places for more:

One cannot overstate the greatness of Heidegger in the Kitchen:

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