Precis of Games: Agency as Art

Abstract

Games are a distinctive form of art — and very different from many traditional arts. Games work in the medium of agency. Game designers don’t just tell stories or create environments. They tell us what our abilities will be in the game. They set our motivations, by setting the scoring system and specifying the win-conditions. Game de-signers sculpt temporary agencies for us to occupy. And when we play games, we adopt these designed agencies, submerging ourselves in them, and taking on their specified ends for a while. Games constitute a library of agencies — and by exploring them, we can learn new ways to inhabit our own agency. When we play games, we engage in a special form of agential fluidity. We can absorb ourselves temporarily in alternate, constructed agencies. Games make use of that capacity to record different practical mindsets. Games turn out to be our technology for communicating forms of agency.

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C. Thi Nguyen
University of Utah

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