How games create beauty and meaning, and how we can use them to explore the aesthetics of thought.
Are games art? This question is a dominant mode of thinking about games and play in the twenty-first century, but it is fundamentally the wrong question. Instead, Frank Lantz proposes in his provocative new book, The Beauty of Games, that we think about games and how they create meaning through the lens of the aesthetic. We should think of games, he writes, the same way we think of literature, theater, or music—as a form that ranges from deep and profound to easy and disposable, and everything in between. Games are the aesthetic form of interactive systems, a set of possibilities connected by rules of cause and effect.
In this book, Lantz analyzes games from chess to poker to tennis to understand how games create beauty and evoke a deeper meaning. He suggests that we think of games not only as hyper-modern objects but also as forms within the ancient context of artistic production, encompassing all of the nebulous and ephemeral qualities of the aesthetic experience.
Frank Lantz has taught game design for over twenty years at New York University, where he helped create the NYU Game Center and served as the founding Chair of the Game Design department from its inception until 2021. Frank is a game designer who has shipped over fifty titles, including the 2017 viral hit Universal Paperclips. In 2020, Frank created the board game Hey Robot in collaboration with his wife and son. Hey Robot has since become a recurring feature on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
“In reframing the players' minds as the true field of play in every game, Lantz has mapped out a compelling, inspiring new way to talk about games and play. I loved this book!”
Bennett Foddy, game designer
“Everyone worth listening to knows that games are art. This book is the clearest argument I've read for why, and how. No game designer writes as well, and no writer designs better, than Frank Lantz.”
Chris Suellentrop, former video game critic for The New York Times
“Reading this book is like listening to a virtuoso musician explore new realms of sound. It will send you back to your favorite games or on to new ones with a renewed perspective on the beauty to be found in your most precious moments of play.”
Tracy Fullerton, Director, USC Game Innovation Lab
“Lantz invites the reader to think about what games (and other mediums) do to us, whether it's profound, pointless, or a bit of both. Forget whether or not games are art. What do they make you feel?”
“In The Beauty of Games, Frank Lantz at once avoids and aims for the heart of the 'Is it art?' debate by considering video games from within 'the aesthetic domain.'"