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My book, GAMES: AGENCY IS ART is out! It's about:

How game designers sculpt agency.
How games let us record, transmit, and explore new forms of agency.
How real games make us more free.
How gamification undermines our freedom. Image
The core ideas:

1. Games aren't just stories, environments, or spaces for free play. Game designers sculpt agency itself. They tell us what our abilities will be in the game. They set our motivations in the game by setting the win conditions.

Agency is the artistic medium.
2. And when we play a game, we slip into this alternate agency. Often, we put our normal values out of mind. We become totally absorbed in winning. We become, for a moment, a different person, with different goals and abilities.
3. This means we, as players, have a remarkable ability: we are incredibly fluid with our own agency. We can absorb ourselves in a different, designed agency. We can explore a different way of being practical - with a different set of goals, abilities, and attentions.
4. Games offer us *value clarity*. In real life, our goals are messy and complex. In games, the goals are often simple. Everything makes sense. We can know exactly what we're trying to do and exactly how well we've done. Games are a balm from the existential horror of the world.
5. In real life, our goals and abilities are often a terrible fit for the world. But in games, our goals and abilities can be engineered to fit with the environment. The game designer can create an artificial - and beautiful - harmony of action between agent and world.
6. The upshot of all this: the game designer isn't just a storyteller, or a world-builder. They are an *activity sculptor*, whose art lies in constructing a new kind of action for a new kind of being.
7. And games turn out to be our technology for recording forms of agency. Designers can specific form of agency into an artifact. Players can learn them by playing the game.

Games are our library of agency. And we can use that library to expand ourselves, and become more free.
8. Much of this works because game values are hyper-narrow. This is OK in real games, because we are only occupying them temporarily.

But when we gamify Twitter and education and work, we are changing and narrowing our real life values.

And that's a disaster.
I'm gonna spend the next couple weeks tweeting bits from the book, but Oxford has kindly made the first chapter of GAMES: AGENCY AS ART open access for the summer. (You can click-y the tiny icon to save the nicely formatted PDF, too.)…
And you can buy GAMES: AGENCY AS ART right here:…
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