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Why play games?

Explore how games allow the players to solve problems in ways that are pleasurable, interesting and beautiful with C. Thi Nguyen at the Author Meets Reader event on Sept. 7.

According to C. Thi Nguyen, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, game playing can be a cure for the unease of living in the world. The experience is satisfying because of the internal logic of the game, rather than its service to any real-world application. Games allow the players to solve problems in ways that are pleasurable, interesting and beautiful. But be advised, as Nguyen argues in his critically acclaimed book, "Games: Agency as Art," game playing is the opposite of love.

C. Thi Nguyen, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Utah.

To further explore game philosophy, Nguyen will join the U’s Tanner Humanities Center for an Author Meets Reader event on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 1 p.m. in the Jewel Box of the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building on the U campus. Examining the history of games and game scholarship, Nguyen will explain how game players immerse themselves in an artificial aesthetic environment, adopt a new form of agency and take on temporary goals for reasons that are internal to the experience of playing the game. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required. Zoom option available here.

Nguyen will speak with Jeremy Rosen, acting director of the center, and Alf Seegert, associate professor of English whose research focuses on fantasy literature and storytelling in video games. The subject will be Nguyen’s enlightening research behind “Games: Agency as Art”—awarded the American Philosophical Association’s 2021 Book Prize—which positions games as a unique art form where designers tell players who to be and what to care about during the game.

"Games are central to human experience and are flourishing in our contemporary media landscape,” said Rosen. “Thi’s book offers a lucid and insightful argument for how to understand what we do when we enter the world of a game.”

Nguyen received his doctorate in philosophy from UCLA and has published his research in top-tier journals, including Mind, the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy and Philosophical Studies and has contributed articles to the The New York Times, The New Statesman and Boston Review. His research focuses on how social structures and technology shape rationality and agency, and his writing examines topics of trust, expertise, group agency, community art, cultural appropriation, aesthetic value, echo chambers, moral outrage porn and games.

About the Author Meets Reader Series

The Author Meets Readers series connects humanities scholars and their research with lifelong readers and learners. Individual sessions run for one hour, are facilitated by the Tanner Humanities Center director or campus and community experts and feature insights into the research and writing process, the impact of humanities scholarship on culture and society and an audience discussion.

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About the Tanner Humanities Center

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah is proud to be celebrating 35 years of promoting humanities inquiry and exchange. The center supports innovative scholarly projects and creates opportunities for interaction among scholars, students and lifelong learners. It offers programs in three major areas: public outreach, educational enrichment and academic research. The activities reflect a vision of the humanities as not only relevant, stimulating and cutting-edge, but also essential for developing critical thinking, tolerance and respect on campus and in the community.

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