There are many different types of video games and new types are being designed all the time.  I think it is more important to understand the different types of games on their own terms rather than try to characterize what video games are as a “big unitary category” with necessary and sufficient conditions for membership.  After all, Wittgenstein famously argues that “game” is a family resemblance concept, not one with strict borders.

Long world-driven games like Bloodborne, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Batman: Arkham Knight (just to mention three new ones of varying degrees of difficulty) have the special property of being “mini-lives.” Players can live in these worlds for many hours, sometimes over weeks or months of play.  Each time they play they add another “day” to this mini-life.  In the mini-life they project their real word identity (really identities) onto a story-driven character. Through the lens of the game world and the character players experience themselves anew.

When I play these games as an old man, I experience things—good and bad—about myself.  Each play session intersects with how I am feeling and what has been happening in my life at that point, and this serves as a real-world context for that play session.  My trajectory or history through the game intersects with my ongoing trajectory or history as a person with diverse identities and roles in life.  In playing the game, I confront myself as a learner, problem solver, thinker, emoter, inventor, persister, gamer, and researcher (as I seek resources outside the game).  I face my weakness and strengths, choices and challenges, have highs and lows, get angry and happy, and escape self and reality while all the while intersecting with them.

I play games drunk and sober, tired and alert, sick and well, depressed and happy, anxious and relaxed, with things going badly and things going well, feeling bad and good about myself.  I feel I have a duty to the game world and my character—to my mini-life— but one I have chosen.

What is the value of such a mini-life?  In reality, I don’t really know or care.  I crave them.  No peasant in the Middle Ages really wanted to be “only” a peasant (and none were “just” that).  Though I can and have been more than any peasant got a chance to be, I (as, I assume, many others) crave as many worlds and lives as I can have before I die.  That is why I read and why I play games.  But in the game, unlike a book, I get to face failure and seek success personally and feel it in my bones, just like in life but without all that looming and permanent death thing.


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March 29th, 2018

The Interpreter System (7)

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March 27th, 2018

Joint Actor Systems (6)

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March 26th, 2018

A Human Being (5)

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March 25th, 2018

Jim and Identities/Discourses (4)

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March 10th, 2018

Alternates (3)

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March 7th, 2018

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February 25th, 2018

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October 29th, 2017

The Principle of Charity

October 8th, 2017

Character Education

Recently, the College of Education at Arizona State University—where I work— received funding from the Kern Family Foundation to make […]

June 15th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 6 (The End)

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June 14th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 5

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June 14th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 4

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June 12th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 3

Today, we have among the highest levels of inequality we have ever had.  Drug addiction, environmental degradation, flows of climate […]

June 11th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 2

The British economist John Maynard Keynes and “Keynesian Economics” were foundational to the Bretton Woods Agreement and to the world […]

June 10th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 1

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May 30th, 2017

Main Points from My New Book

Teaching, Learning, Literary in our High-Risk, High-Tech World: A Framework for Becoming Human (Teachers College Press, 2017). Ignorance We humans […]

April 17th, 2017

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 10 The End

Neither love nor liking is necessary for the sorts of critical discussions among different frameworks that might lead to shared […]

April 15th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 9 Interpretation

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April 14th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 8 An Example

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April 12th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 7 Discussion

We are at a critical juncture now in our attempt to understand why frameworks can cause us humans such grief.  […]