What We Talk About When We Talk About Game Aesthetics


Digital games are commonly described as phenomena that combine aesthetic, social and technological elements, yet our understanding of the aesthetic element of games and play is perhaps the least developed of all. All too often, an aesthetics perspective within game studies and design discourses is relegated to a marginal role, by conflating game aesthetics with graphics and “eye candy,” or by limiting aesthetic discussion to graphic style analysis or debates on the question “are games art?” Changing game technologies, as well as arguments from within philosophy, psychology, interaction design theory and cultural theory, call for us to examine the implicit and explicit assumptions we make when we write about aesthetics within game studies research, as a prelude to reclaiming a perspective that will allow us to better understand the way in which games function as sites for sensory and embodied play, creative activity and aesthetic experience.