AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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THE HOUSE NEVER LOSES: HOW MICROTRANSACTIONS EXPLOIT VIDEO GAME PLAYERS

What follows is a guest post by Eliya Cohen, PhD candidate in philosophy at Princeton University.

Imagine an industry that makes use of a business model much like a casino’s, except – in the most literal sense of the phrase – the house never loses. Not only would the house win in the long term, but every iteration of every game would be one where the house never coughs up a cent. And curiously, it would be precisely because the house never has to pay out, because patrons can never win, but only lose something of value, that the model would be largely unregulated.

Welcome to the video game industry, where the product is so enchanting that we almost forget that producers exploit us while we play.

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WHY I USE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS TO TEACH ETHICS

What follows is a guest post from Rebecca Scott, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Harper College.

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Photo credit: Rebecca Scott

As a philosopher who thinks a lot about teaching and learning, I have a tendency to experiment wildly in my teaching methods. I’m always searching for ways to make my classes more joyful, meaningful, relevant, and fun. Sometimes, my pedagogical experiments fail miserably, and other times they lead to unexpected and delightful encounters that transform my students and me in unexpected ways. A few semesters ago, I embarked on my favorite teaching experiment yet—I played Dungeons and Dragons with my Ethics classes. And what I discovered is that role-playing games have a lot to teach us about the importance of community and playfulness in the classroom.

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GAME EXPERTS RANK THEIR TOP 5 GAMES OF THE DECADE

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God of War (2018)

This year marks the end of the second decade of the 2000s. In honor of this, we thought we’d take a look back at our decade with an end-of-year series.

The internet loves lists, especially year-end ones, and we’ll feed that love a little bit this December. We’ll be hosting seven lists of expert Decade-Best picks. We’ve done movies, and you can look forward to writing, television, music, traditional visual arts, and one surprise list at the end. Each will include philosophers working in these and related areas, but also other academics whose work concerns these topics and people working in the relevant media. But up today: games!

We asked our experts to rank their top five games of all kinds, so let’s see what the 2010s gave us to play with.


Our contributors are:

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PLAYING GAMES WITH HISTORY: PHILOSOPHERS ON THE ETHICS OF HISTORICAL BOARD GAMES

In a recent New York Times article, journalist Kevin Draper brings us up to date on some recent controversies in the world of historical board games. The article centers on the cancellation of Scramble for Africa, a historical board game which was to let players take the role of European powers exploring and exploiting Africa, trying to get the most resources.

Joe Chacon, the designer of Scramble for Africa, was accused of not treating this situation with appropriate seriousness. In his game, the savagery that was part and parcel of that exploration seems to be dealt with in minor and trivializing ways. The players must put down rebellions, and can slow their opponents by inciting native revolts. Random events include “penalties for atrocities” and rewards for ending slavery. Butchery is gameified.

The article raises a number of fascinating questions. What are the ethics of gaming history? Can we ever gameify our troubled past, and if so, how should we do it sensitively and thoughtfully? And is there something distinctive about games that make them a thornier venue for exploring history than, say, novels?

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Puerto Rico, a board game about colonizing Puerto Rico. Image credit: Jesse Michael Nix

To take on these questions, we asked some philosophers who specialize in thinking about games, ethics, and art.

Our contributors are:

  • Stephanie Patridge, Professor and Department Chair, Religion & Philosophy, Otterbein University
  • Chris Bartel, Professor of Philosophy, Appalachian State University
  • C. Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Utah Valley University

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IS COMMANDER SHEPARD FEMALE? DETERMINING CANON IN VIDEO GAMES

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variations on Commander Shepard from Mass Effect 3

What follows is a post in our JAAC x AFB collaborative series, where we highlight articles from the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. This post features Marissa D. Willis’ recent paper, “Choose Your Own Adventure: Examining the Fictional Content of Video Games as Interactive Fictions“.

“Video games don’t tell stories,” he told me. “They’re just games.”

So said a friend of mine when I told him I was writing about video games as works of fiction. And despite his mansplaining my own topic to me, my friend was giving voice to the very problem which I hope to address. Despite the fact that more people are playing video games these days than ever before, and game makers continue to create more inventive and engaging narrative works every day, my friend is not alone in his opinion. Continue reading


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WHY FASHION IS MORE THAN A MERE CONSUMER OBJECT

What follows is a guest post by Laura T. Di Summa (William Paterson University).

Perhaps we can agree on the fact that philosophers have not, for the most part, taken fashion very seriously. There seems to be something wrong, specifically, about being fashionable – about trafficking in the world of glossy magazines, runways, and looks and styles that change, frequently, and at a price. There seems to be something wrong about wearing the very clothes we find in those magazines, about buying them, and about investing energy (and money) in keeping up with them. Continue reading


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ASA Funds Workshop on the Philosophy of Games

 ASA Funds Workshop on the Philosophy of Games

The Board of Trustees of the American Society for Aesthetics has approved funding up to $5,000 in support of the Workshop on the Philosophy of Games, to be held October 14-15, 2016, in Salt Lake City.

Conference Organizers are C. Thi Nguyen (Utah Valley University) and Brock Rough (University of Maryland).

The conference will explore a variety of issues:

  • What are games?
  • What is their value?
  • Can games be artworks or possess aesthetic value?
  • Are there ethical  issues that arise with game play?

The CFP is here.

DEADLINE for paper submission: July 1, 2016

As more information becomes available, it will be posted on the ASA web site and ASA Facebook pages.

The conference will feature ten presentations, in a round-table workshop format. Travel funding reimbursement of $500 will be offered for each paper, with one $1000 travel grant for the best graduate student paper. There will be one commentator per session.

Additional funding is being provided by the Utah Valley University Department of Philosophy, the UVU College of Humanities, the UVU College of Computing and Technology, the University of Utah Department of Philosophy, and the Westminster College Department of Philosophy.

For more information, contact the organizers at: cnguyen@uvu.edu or brough@umd.edu