May 1, 2020

Virtual Existentialism - Philosophy in Virtual Worlds

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A wild new book appears!

The Institute of Digital Games is excited to announce the release of a new book: Virtual Existentialism - Meaning and Subjectivity in Virtual Worlds!

The book was written by IDG's own Prof. Stefano Gualeni and Dr. Daniel Vella, and focuses on how virtual worlds allow human beings to take new perspectives on their values and beliefs, and explore previously unexperienced ways of being. As part of work on philosophy and game studies carried out at the IDG, in this new publications the authors draw on the philosophical traditions of existentialism to articulate the idea that — by means of our technical equipment and coordinated practices — human beings disclose worlds in which they can perceive, feel, act, and think.

Vitual Worlds: Reflections on Plessner, Zapffe, Sartre and Fink

The book is both a continuation of Prof. Stefano Gualeni's 2015 book Virtual Worlds as Philosophical Tools, and the latest evolution of Dr. Daniel Vella's thinking about subjectivity and gameworlds (a philosophical journey that began with his doctoral thesis). It establishes an encounter between philosophical existentialism and virtual worlds research (including, to a great degree, game studies) which we hope will prove fruitful in both directions - that is, using existential philosophy as a lens through which to reach an understanding of our being in virtual worlds, and using existence and experiences in virtual worlds to shed new light on existential questions.

Virtual Existentialism both presents the notion of 'virtual subjectivity' and its relevance for game studies and virtual worlds research (as in a recent paper of theirs) and explains how virtual worlds allow human beings to explore previously unexperienced ways of being (which is going to be the basis for their ongoing work on personal transformation and utopia). It also includes chapters containing focused engagement with the thought of four philosophers in particular: Helmuth Plessner, Peter W. Zapffe, Jean-Paul Sartre and Eugen Fink, and their relevance to thinking through the existential significance of the virtual.

We're hoping the book will be equally useful to scholars in philosophy, game studies, virtual worlds research and media studies.

Virtual Existentialism is available for sale on the website of the Publisher (Palgrave) both in e-book format and hardcover here: The ebook is available for free for those with a University of Malta library account!

Games Beyond Entertainment: Philosophy of Technology at the University of Malta

Prof. Stefano Gualeni and Dr. Daniel Vella research games beyond entertainment and game criticism and analysis. In fact, they are track chairs in these areas for the upcoming FDG 2020 conference (Prof. Stefano Gualeni - Track Chair Games Beyond Entertainment and Dr. Daniel Vella Track Chair Game Criticism and Analysis). Prof. Gualeni has been interviewed by the Malta Independent about the possibilities and impacts of games as part of culture. Their work on virtual subjectivity has also recently featured in Techne', one of the leading academic journals in philosophy of technology.

Virtual Existentialism in the Media

The ReThink Podcast spoke to Dr. Vella earlier this year where he speaks about his ongoing research into the philosophy of digital games and using virtual worlds to explore being 'otherwise'. Studying the relationship between the player and the game world can teach us a lot about how games impact individuals, how to evaluate games critically, and even our own relationship with reality. At the end of the podcast Dr. Vella even highlights that much of the research discussed has been going into the Virtual Existentialism book.

In a review by Kevin Saliba for the National Book Council he described the book as "[...] a great pleasure for me to see valid academic discussions on this phenomenon (virtual worlds) with continuous reference to the work of various existentialists."

Read the full review by the National Book Council (in Maltese).

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