Chapter 10. The Ethics of Entertainment

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Nobody actually interacts with games on an abstract level exclusively. You don’t play the abstract diagrams of games that I have drawn on the facing pages; you play the ones that have little spaceships and laser bolts and things that go BOOM! The core of gameplay may be about the emotion I am terming “fun,” the emotion that is about learning puzzles and mastering responses to situations, but this doesn’t mean that the other sorts of things we lump under fun do not contribute to the overall experience.

People like playing go using well-burnished beads on a wooden board, and they like buying Lord of the Rings chess sets and glass Chinese checkers sets. The aesthetic experience of playing these games matters. When you pick up a well-carved wooden game piece, you respond to it in terms of aesthetic appreciation—one of the other forms of enjoyment. When you play table tennis against an opponent, you feel visceral sensations as you stretch your arm to the limit and smash the ball against the table surface. And when you slap the back of your teammate, congratulating him on his field goal, you’re participating in the subtle social dance that marks the constant human exercise of social status.

We know this from other media. It matters who sings a song because delivery is important. We treasure nice editions of books, rather than cheap ones, even though ...

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