Stieren Arts Enrichment Series Guest Speaker, C. Thi Nguyen

Wednesday, March 6, 2024 7:30pm to 9pm

One Trinity Place, San Antonio, Texas 78212

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2023-2024 Stieren Arts Enrichment Series - Philosophy Lecture

“Games and the Meaning of Life”

Dr. C. Thi Nguyen

7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Mabee Auditorium (Dicke Hall 104)

Reception to Follow

Talk Abstract: We can become obsessed with the score, and with winning, in two very different places in our life. Sometimes we do it with games: we become entirely obsessed with victory in the terms specified by the game. Sometimes we do it in our real lives: we become entirely obsessed with success, as measured by the rankings and metrics of our technologies or institutional environment. These two phenomena look superficially familiar, but they’re spiritual opposites. At its best, game-playing is done for its own sake. It helps us find our way into in rich, brilliant, fulfilling activity. Games embody two forms of self-fulfilling activity: they are a form of play, and they put us in touch with the beauty of our own actions. In game-playing, we’re choosing our scoring systems because we like the actions they shape. At their worst, rankings are a tool for warping our values – for forcing us into hollow, empty activity for the sake of somebody else’s interests. Real play is the heart of a meaningful life; an obsession with rankings and metrics can rob our life of vivid meaning.

Dr. C. Thi Nguyen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. He writes about trust, art, games, and communities, and is interested in the ways that our social structures and technologies shape how we think and what we value. Dr. Nguyen’s first book, Games: Agency as Art, was awarded the American Philosophical Association’s 2021 Book Prize. It’s about how games are the art form that work in the medium of agency. A game designer doesn’t just create a world – they create who we are in that world. Games shape temporary agencies for artistic purposes. And games turn out to be our way of writing down and communicating modes of agency; by playing them, we can try out different forms of agency.