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The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games

ISBN: 9780262019057 | 0262019051
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Mit Pr
Pub. Date: 2/22/2013

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Every day, hundreds of millions of people around the world play video games -- onsmart phones, on computers, on consoles -- and most of them will experience failure at some point inthe game; they will lose, die, or fail to advance to the next level. Humans may have a fundamentaldesire to succeed and feel competent, but game players choose to engage in an activity in which theyare nearly certain to fail and feel incompetent. In The Art of Failure, JesperJuul examines this paradox. In video games, as in tragic works of art, literature, theater, andcinema, it seems that we want to experience unpleasantness even if we also dislike it. Reader oraudience reaction to tragedy is often explained as catharsis, as a purging of negative emotions.But, Juul points out, this doesn't seem to be the case for video game players. Games do not purge usof unpleasant emotions; they produce them in the first place. What, then, does failure in video gameplaying do? Juul argues that failure in a game is unique in that when you fail in a game, you (not acharacter) are in some way inadequate. Yet games also motivate us to play more, in order to escapethat inadequacy, and the feeling of escaping failure (often by improving skills) is a centralenjoyment of games. Games, writes Juul, are the art of failure: the singular art form that sets usup for failure and allows us to experience it and experiment with it. The Art ofFailure is essential reading for anyone interested in video games, whether asentertainment, art, or education.


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