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Featured Talk – C Thi Nguyen

Speaker: C Thi Nguyen

Date: Jan 31, 5-6pm, EAE Game Studio(Bldg 72, 2nd Floor)

Talk title: Games as the Art of Agency

Description: Games, I claim, are the art form that works in the medium of agency. Playing a game is taking in on an alternate agency temporarily. We take on different abilities and different motivations for a space of time, and then put them down again. Game designers are, then, designing agencies. They work in the medium of agency, sculpting practical goals, abilities, and challenges into a single harmonious package. Games also turn out to be a social technology for inscribing agencies into artifacts — a means for creating an archive of different agencies, which we can all explore from and learn from. This is remarkable for a number of reasons. First, it shows that our agency is considerably more fluid than we might have thought. I can voluntarily submerge myself in a sub-agency at will. Second, games turn out to be one of the methods we have for building up our autonomy, by offering us the experience of different forms of agency, as well as the practice of fluidly shifting between them. But this opens the door for a significant danger. Agency-shifting within the carefully delineated space of games is permissible, precisely because the ends of real games are explicitly artificial. But game-like systems in the actual world, which attempt to gamify our actual ends, present a significant danger to our autonomy. Consider those cases in which institutions present us with simple, quantified versions of our own values, which can then insinuate themselves into our reasoning. Examples include: educational assessment, research impact factors, publishing rates, wine scoring, Twitter stats, Facebook likes, and maybe capitalism.

Bio: C. Thi Nguyen is associate professor of philosophy at Utah Valley University. His book, Games: Agency as Art, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. He works in topics on value, aesthetics, practical reasoning, and social epistemology.