The Tanner Humanities Center The author meets the reader The series kicks off well this year with C. Thi Nguyen discussing his book”Games: agency as art.”
The event took place on September 7 and was a discussion between Nguyen, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, and Alf Seegert, associate professor in the English department. They discussed the book and why people play games.
“The heart of the book is this claim that games don’t just tell stories, they don’t just create environments, they create agencies for us,” Nguyen explained. “They create who we are and they say who we care about. And so that says something to me about games. This is why games are a special form of art.
One of the main focuses of Nguyen’s book is the nature of point systems and how they motivate people in games and in our lives as a whole.
Fiona Trinite, a U student studying English who attended the conference, has always loved video games and after the conference she felt like she understood that love better. Trinite shared that they’ve been playing Mario Kart lately and trying hard to get high scores, but don’t understand why they love playing the game so much.
“And now I feel like I can put words to it,” Trinite said. “And it’s definitely a change of perspective for me. Like, I know why I derive joy from this.
Nguyen argued that game designers use point systems to tell people what to care about and that somehow manipulates our agency. It can be fun, in the case of a game, but Nguyen said that these point systems are used in our daily life like the scoring system.
Nguyen talks about the gamification of education in his introductory course on ethical dilemmas in a unit called, “Are the grades bullshit?”
“The first 20 minutes felt more like therapy than philosophy,” Nguyen said in a tweet about how the class went during this unit. “Students were telling stories about how they loved school and now they hated it, how their curiosity was exhausted, how all the things they were interested in but stopped.”
For some in the audience, this discussion of gamification was instructive. Trinite talked about how it helped them explain why they weren’t comfortable with gamifications.
“It finally, like, clicked in my brain, like, ‘Oh, that’s my problem with like, everyone’s trying to make a whole game out of it,'” they said. “It robs games of, like, their true joy.”
For others in the audience, the conference changed the way they think about the games they create. McKane Searle, a graduate student in entertainment arts and engineering, said that as a game designer, they found the game design discussion “really interesting.”
“It was interesting, because I didn’t consider how the point systems that I create affect my players…it really helped me to think about point systems and systems in general that are designed for completely different reasons.”
The following The author meets the reader the event will take place on October 6 from 1 to 2 p.m. with United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo.