Gaming the System
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Gaming the System takes philosophical traditions out of the ivory tower and into the virtual worlds of video games. In this book, author David J. Gunkel explores how philosophical traditions—put forth by noted thinkers such as Plato, Descartes, Kant, Heidegger, and Žižek—can help us explore and conceptualize recent developments in video games, game studies, and virtual worlds. Furthermore, Gunkel interprets computer games as doing philosophy, arguing that the game world is a medium that provides opportunities to model and explore fundamental questions about the nature of reality, personal identity, social organization, and moral conduct. By using games to investigate and innovate in the area of philosophical thinking, Gunkel shows how areas such as game governance and manufacturers' terms of service agreements actually grapple with the social contract and produce new postmodern forms of social organization that challenge existing modernist notions of politics and the nation state. In this critically engaging study, Gunkel considers virtual worlds and video games as more than just "fun and games," presenting them as sites for new and original thinking about some of the deepest questions concerning the human experience.

1. Terra Nova 2.0
2. The Real Problem
3. Social Contract 2.0
4. In the Face of Others
5. Open Ended Conclusions



Publié par
Date de parution 09 mai 2018
Nombre de lectures 6
EAN13 9780253035752
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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Robert Alan Brookey and
David J. Gunkel , editors
Deconstructing Video Games, Games Studies, and Virtual Worlds
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
© 2018 by David J. Gunkel
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Gunkel, David J., author.
Title: Gaming the system : deconstructing video games, games studies, and virtual worlds / David J. Gunkel.
Description: Bloomington, Indiana : Indiana University Press, 2018. | Series: Digital game studies | Includes bibliographical references and index
Identifiers: LCCN 2018006657 (print) | LCCN 2018012742 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253035738 (e-book) | ISBN 9780253035721 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253035714 (paperback : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Video games—Philosophy. | Virtual reality—Philosophy. | Video games—Social aspects. | Virtual reality—Social aspects.
Classification: LCC GV1469.3 (ebook) | LCC GV1469.3 .G86 2018 (print) | DDC 794.801—dc23
LC record available at
1 2 3 4 5 23 22 21 20 19 18
For my father, Peter Gunkel
Introduction one Terra Nova 2.0 two The Real Problem three Social Contract 2.0 four In the Face of Others five Open-Ended Conclusions
I AN B OGOST ( 2007 ) FAMOUSLY CHANGED THE DIRECTION OF VIDEO GAME studies by focusing attention not on narratives or the logics of play but on the mode of argumentation that is contained, produced, and advanced within the operational procedures of the game. Instead of pursuing research by following the established routes, Bogost introduced and demonstrated the opportunities and challenges of investigating games as a form of rhetoric—“procedural rhetoric”—by which “arguments are made not through the construction of words and images, but through the authorship of rules of behavior, the construction of dynamic models” (2007, 29). This book introduces and develops another shift in perspective. Its concern, however, is not the argument in the game but the game in the argument .
An argument—whether in academic research, law and regulation, marketing and advertising campaigns, or on the streets and in popular discussions—is nothing other than the attempt for one party to gain a discursive advantage over an opponent. Crafting a persuasive argument, following the twists and turns of another’s logic, and developing an insightful critique of the different positions that are already available are all aspects of an elaborate game. And the fact is that some individuals play it better than others. In the ancient world, it is Socrates who is considered to be the reigning champion. In the modern period, however, the prize could easily go to Immanuel Kant.
Kant, in fact, did not just play the game; he gamed the entire system. He knew the deck was already stacked against him, and that if he played by the established rules, there would be no chance of winning or progressing to the next level. So rather than continue to play by the existing protocols and procedures, he simply altered the rules of the game. For those who do not know the story, here is the short version: In the Critique of Pure Reason (episode one in Kant’s critically acclaimed trilogy), Kant notes how efforts in philosophy had run aground. For close to two thousand years, he argues, philosophers have been asking questions that they never quite seemed to get any traction on answering. So Kant, instead of trying to deal with and respond to the existing queries, games the system by changing the questions and the terms of the inquiry. As he described it, “Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regards to them a priori , by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure. We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the task of metaphysics, if we suppose that objects must conform to knowledge (Kant 1965, B xvi). Frustrated by failed attempts to determine whether and to what extent knowledge conforms to things in the world, Kant flips the script and plays an entirely different game, one based on different kinds of questions and involving a different set of rules.
Kant, therefore, was not content to continue playing by the existing procedures and protocols but questioned the very operational limits of the game itself in order to shift perspective and formulate new and previously unheard of possibilities. This is precisely the task and objective of Gaming the System . Following Kant’s example, what I am interested in identifying and critically examining are those philosophical problems regarding video games, game studies, and virtual worlds that seem, for one reason or another, to be intractable, irresolvable, or inconclusive. This is done not in an effort to offer some novel or innovative solutions to the existing problems but to challenge the terms and conditions of the standard modes of inquiry in order to change what is asked about and why. And this effort falls squarely within the proper purview and domain of what is called “philosophy.” As Daniel Dennett (1996, vii) once explained (and in the first lines of the preface to one of his books): “I am a philosopher, not a scientist, and we philosophers are better at questions than answers. I haven’t begun by insulting myself and my discipline, in spite of first appearances. Finding better questions to ask, and breaking old habits and traditions of asking, is a very difficult part of the grand human project of understanding ourselves and our world.”
FOUR OF THE CHAPTERS INCLUDED HERE ARE BASED ON AND CONSTITUTE significantly expanded and updated versions of research that was undertaken and produced for other opportunities. The first chapter, “Terra Nova 2.0,” was assembled from research that was originally produced for and presented during the Ninety-Third National Communication Association (NCA) convention convened in Chicago, Illinois, in mid-November of 2007. I am grateful to the other participants, Edward Castronova, Lisa Nakamura, and Robert Brookey, for their insightful comments and incredibly useful suggestions, and to the NCA members who came to the session with enthusiasm for the subject and a bunch of really good critical questions. An expanded version of the conference paper was developed in coordination with Ann Hetzel Gunkel and published in a special issue of Critical Studies in Media Communication (Gunkel and Gunkel 2009), which was edited by Robert Brookey, my former Northern Illinois University colleague and partner in crime with the Indiana University Press Series in Digital Game Studies. Additional comments and suggestions were provided by the faculty and students of the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora at Uniwersytet Jagielloński in Kraków, Poland, during the fall semester of 2011. My thanks to Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bieńkowska for organizing this event and to the students and faculty of the Institute for their interest and insight.
The second chapter, “The Real Problem,” was initially developed for and presented at 10 anos de Filocom: a Nova Teoria nos 44 anos de ECA Escola de Comunicações e Artes da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil on November 24, 2010. I am grateful to Ciro Marcondes Filho, who organized this meeting and invited my participation; Francisco Rüdiger, Eugênio Trivinho, and Massimo di Felice, who served as respondents; and the students and faculty of ECA/USP, who provided extremely useful questions and insightful commentary. A shorter and arguably less developed version of the text that is included here was initially published in New Media & Society (see Gunkel 2010).
The third chapter, “Social Contract 2.0,” was originally written at the invitation of Can Bilgili and published in a Turkish translation under the title “Toplumsal Sözlesme 2.0: Hizmet Kullanim Sartlari Anlasmalari ve Siyaset Teorisi” in the book Kültür, Kimlik, Siyaset (Baski Mayis 2013). Special thanks to Neşe Kaplan for providing the translation and to Can Bilgili for the invitation to participate in the project. An English version of the text is available in the Journal of Media Critiques (Gunkel 2014) and was presented in bilingual versions at Encontro Nacional da Rede de Grupos de Pesquisa em Comunicação in Natal, Brazil on November 20, 2013, and at Uniwersytet Mikołaja Kopernika in Torun, Poland on January 13, 2016. My sincere thanks to Ciro Marcondes Filho, Lauren Ferreira Colvara, Alex Galeno, and Eloisa Klein for their assistance with and support for the lecture in Natal and to Ewa Binczyk for her hospitality and invitation to speak in Torun.
The fourth chapter, “In the Face of Others,” is an amalgam of three closely related research efforts: “Communication and Artificial Intelligence: Opportunities and Challenges for the 21st century,” which was publish

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