Art, aesthetics, and the medium: Comments for Nguyen on the art-status of games

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Nguyen offers a number of profound insights about the nature and value of games. Games are works of art, according to Nguyen, because they offer players aesthetic experiences. Game designers aim to craft particular sets of affordances that offer players the chance to make particular kinds of decisions in an environment where their decisions become meaningful. Players in turn take pleasure in making those decisions. This ability to take pleasure in one’s own experience is a distinctive feature of the aesthetics of games. The aesthetic value of games is not found in winning, but is instead a value one finds in striving. Nguyen argues that this must be explained by reference to what he calls ‘layered agency’ (Nguyen 2020, 47–48, 52–73). On the surface, players seek to win; but deeper down, players enjoy the striving. The specific kind of enjoyment one experiences is directed at feeling one’s own agency at play in games. And, as games are works of art, then their medium is agency. Nguyen’s account of the value of games, the psychology of agency, and the nature of striving all offer important advancements in the philosophy of games. But, does it really matter whether games are art? Would the insights that Nguyen offers be any less insightful if we abandoned our worries about the art-status of games?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-331
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Philosophy of Sport
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2021


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