Miguel Sicart

Miguel Sicart is Associate Professor at the Center for Computer Game Research at IT University Copenhagen. He is the author of The Ethics of Computer Games and Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay, both published by the MIT Press.

  • Play Matters

    Play Matters

    Miguel Sicart

    Why play is a productive, expressive way of being, a form of understanding, and a fundamental part of our well-being.

    What do we think about when we think about play? A pastime? Games? Childish activities? The opposite of work? Think again: If we are happy and well rested, we may approach even our daily tasks in a playful way, taking the attitude of play without the activity of play. So what, then, is play? In Play Matters, Miguel Sicart argues that to play is to be in the world; playing is a form of understanding what surrounds us and a way of engaging with others. Play goes beyond games; it is a mode of being human.

    We play games, but we also play with toys, on playgrounds, with technologies and design. Sicart proposes a theory of play that doesn't derive from a particular object or activity but is a portable tool for being—not tied to objects but brought by people to the complex interactions that form their daily lives. It is not separated from reality; it is part of it. It is pleasurable, but not necessarily fun. Play can be dangerous, addictive, and destructive.

    Along the way, Sicart considers playfulness, the capacity to use play outside the context of play; toys, the materialization of play—instruments but also play pals; playgrounds, play spaces that enable all kinds of play; beauty, the aesthetics of play through action; political play—from Maradona's goal against England in the 1986 World Cup to the hactivist activities of Anonymous; the political, aesthetic, and moral activity of game design; and why play and computers get along so well.

    • Hardcover $20.95 £16.99
    • Paperback $15.95 £12.99
  • Beyond Choices

    Beyond Choices

    The Design of Ethical Gameplay

    Miguel Sicart

    How computer games can be designed to create ethically relevant experiences for players.

    Today's blockbuster video games—and their never-ending sequels, sagas, and reboots—provide plenty of excitement in high-resolution but for the most part fail to engage a player's moral imagination. In Beyond Choices, Miguel Sicart calls for a new generation of video and computer games that are ethically relevant by design. In the 1970s, mainstream films—including The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, and Taxi Driver—filled theaters but also treated their audiences as thinking beings. Why can't mainstream video games have the same moral and aesthetic impact? Sicart argues that it is time for games to claim their place in the cultural landscape as vehicles for ethical reflection.

    Sicart looks at games in many manifestations: toys, analog games, computer and video games, interactive fictions, commercial entertainments, and independent releases. Drawing on philosophy, design theory, literary studies, aesthetics, and interviews with game developers, Sicart provides a systematic account of how games can be designed to challenge and enrich our moral lives. After discussing such topics as definition of ethical gameplay and the structure of the game as a designed object, Sicart offers a theory of the design of ethical game play. He also analyzes the ethical aspects of game play in a number of current games, including Spec Ops: The Line, Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer, Fallout New Vegas, and Anna Anthropy's Dys4Ia. Games are designed to evoke specific emotions; games that engage players ethically, Sicart argues, enable us to explore and express our values through play.

    • Hardcover $35.00 £28.00
    • Paperback $30.00 £25.00
  • The Ethics of Computer Games

    The Ethics of Computer Games

    Miguel Sicart

    Why computer games can be ethical, how players use their ethical values in gameplay, and the implications for game design.

    Despite the emergence of computer games as a dominant cultural industry (and the accompanying emergence of computer games as the subject of scholarly research), we know little or nothing about the ethics of computer games. Considerations of the morality of computer games seldom go beyond intermittent portrayals of them in the mass media as training devices for teenage serial killers. In this first scholarly exploration of the subject, Miguel Sicart addresses broader issues about the ethics of games, the ethics of playing the games, and the ethical responsibilities of game designers. He argues that computer games are ethical objects, that computer game players are ethical agents, and that the ethics of computer games should be seen as a complex network of responsibilities and moral duties. Players should not be considered passive amoral creatures; they reflect, relate, and create with ethical minds. The games they play are ethical systems, with rules that create gameworlds with values at play. Drawing on concepts from philosophy and game studies, Sicart proposes a framework for analyzing the ethics of computer games as both designed objects and player experiences. After presenting his core theoretical arguments and offering a general theory for understanding computer game ethics, Sicart offers case studies examining single-player games (using Bioshock as an example), multiplayer games (illustrated by Defcon), and online gameworlds (illustrated by World of Warcraft) from an ethical perspective. He explores issues raised by unethical content in computer games and its possible effect on players and offers a synthesis of design theory and ethics that could be used as both analytical tool and inspiration in the creation of ethical gameplay.

    • Hardcover $8.75 £6.99
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00

Contributor

  • Debugging Game History

    Debugging Game History

    A Critical Lexicon

    Henry Lowood and Raiford Guins

    Essays discuss the terminology, etymology, and history of key terms, offering a foundation for critical historical studies of games.

    Even as the field of game studies has flourished, critical historical studies of games have lagged behind other areas of research. Histories have generally been fact-by-fact chronicles; fundamental terms of game design and development, technology, and play have rarely been examined in the context of their historical, etymological, and conceptual underpinnings. This volume attempts to “debug” the flawed historiography of video games. It offers original essays on key concepts in game studies, arranged as in a lexicon—from “Amusement Arcade” to “Embodiment” and “Game Art” to “Simulation” and “World Building.”

    Written by scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines, including game development, curatorship, media archaeology, cultural studies, and technology studies, the essays offer a series of distinctive critical “takes” on historical topics. The majority of essays look at game history from the outside in; some take deep dives into the histories of play and simulation to provide context for the development of electronic and digital games; others take on such technological components of games as code and audio. Not all essays are history or historical etymology—there is an analysis of game design, and a discussion of intellectual property—but they nonetheless raise questions for historians to consider. Taken together, the essays offer a foundation for the emerging study of game history.

    Contributors Marcelo Aranda, Brooke Belisle, Caetlin Benson-Allott, Stephanie Boluk, Jennifer deWinter, J. P. Dyson, Kate Edwards, Mary Flanagan, Jacob Gaboury, William Gibbons, Raiford Guins, Erkki Huhtamo, Don Ihde, Jon Ippolito, Katherine Isbister, Mikael Jakobsson, Steven E. Jones, Jesper Juul, Eric Kaltman, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Carly A. Kocurek, Peter Krapp, Patrick LeMieux, Henry Lowood, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Ken S. McAllister, Nick Monfort, David Myers, James Newman, Jenna Ng, Michael Nitsche, Laine Nooney, Hector Postigo, Jas Purewal, Reneé H. Reynolds, Judd Ethan Ruggill, Marie-Laure Ryan, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Anastasia Salter, Mark Sample, Bobby Schweizer, John Sharp, Miguel Sicart, Rebecca Elisabeth Skinner, Melanie Swalwell, David Thomas, Samuel Tobin, Emma Witkowski, Mark J.P. Wolf

    • Hardcover $50.00 £40.00
  • Zones of Control

    Zones of Control

    Perspectives on Wargaming

    Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

    Examinations of wargaming for entertainment, education, and military planning, in terms of design, critical analysis, and historical contexts.

    Games with military themes date back to antiquity, and yet they are curiously neglected in much of the academic and trade literature on games and game history. This volume fills that gap, providing a diverse set of perspectives on wargaming's past, present, and future. In Zones of Control, contributors consider wargames played for entertainment, education, and military planning, in terms of design, critical analysis, and historical contexts. They consider both digital and especially tabletop games, most of which cover specific historical conflicts or are grounded in recognizable real-world geopolitics. Game designers and players will find the historical and critical contexts often missing from design and hobby literature; military analysts will find connections to game design and the humanities; and academics will find documentation and critique of a sophisticated body of cultural work in which the complexity of military conflict is represented in ludic systems and procedures.

    Each section begins with a long anchoring chapter by an established authority, which is followed by a variety of shorter pieces both analytic and anecdotal. Topics include the history of playing at war; operations research and systems design; wargaming and military history; wargaming's ethics and politics; gaming irregular and non-kinetic warfare; and wargames as artistic practice.

    Contributors Jeremy Antley, Richard Barbrook, Elizabeth M. Bartels, Ed Beach, Larry Bond, Larry Brom, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Rex Brynen, Matthew B. Caffrey, Jr., Luke Caldwell, Catherine Cavagnaro, Robert M. Citino, Laurent Closier, Stephen V. Cole, Brian Conley, Greg Costikyan, Patrick Crogan, John Curry, James F. Dunnigan, Robert J. Elder, Lisa Faden, Mary Flanagan, John A. Foley, Alexander R. Galloway, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Don R. Gilman, A. Scott Glancy, Troy Goodfellow, Jack Greene, Mark Herman, Kacper Kwiatkowski, Tim Lenoir, David Levinthal, Alexander H. Levis, Henry Lowood, Elizabeth Losh, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Rob MacDougall, Mark Mahaffey, Bill McDonald, Brien J. Miller, Joseph Miranda, Soraya Murray, Tetsuya Nakamura, Michael Peck, Peter P. Perla, Jon Peterson, John Prados, Ted S. Raicer, Volko Ruhnke, Philip Sabin, Thomas C. Schelling, Marcus Schulzke, Miguel Sicart, Rachel Simmons, Ian Sturrock, Jenny Thompson, John Tiller, J. R. Tracy, Brian Train, Russell Vane, Charles Vasey, Andrew Wackerfuss, James Wallis, James Wallman, Yuna Huh Wong

    • Hardcover $50.00 £40.00
  • The Gameful World

    The Gameful World

    Approaches, Issues, Applications

    Steffen P. Walz and Sebastian Deterding

    What if every part of our everyday life was turned into a game? The implications of “gamification.”

    What if our whole life were turned into a game? What sounds like the premise of a science fiction novel is today becoming reality as “gamification.” As more and more organizations, practices, products, and services are infused with elements from games and play to make them more engaging, we are witnessing a veritable ludification of culture.

    Yet while some celebrate gamification as a possible answer to mankind's toughest challenges and others condemn it as a marketing ruse, the question remains: what are the ramifications of this “gameful world”? Can game design energize society and individuals, or will algorithmicincentive systems become our new robot overlords?

    In this book, more than fifty luminaries from academia and industry examine the key challenges of gamification and the ludification of culture—including Ian Bogost, John M. Carroll, Bernie DeKoven, Bill Gaver, Jane McGonigal, Frank Lantz, Jesse Schell, Kevin Slavin, McKenzie Wark, and Eric Zimmerman. They outline major disciplinary approaches, including rhetorics, economics, psychology, and aesthetics; tackle issues like exploitation or privacy; and survey main application domains such as health, education, design, sustainability, or social media.

    • Hardcover $55.00 £45.00