Fun, Love, and Happiness — or The Aesthetics of Play and Empathy in Avatar Worlds






  • I was asked recently why I would be interested in theorizing on play outside of the context of games and persistent environments. The answer has to do with the processes of creativity, self expression, and authorship that arise when we consider interactivity in virtual worlds. Artmaking as play, and empathy as a foundation of collective authorship, are the central themes of this talk. But is that art? If one allows that art is an outgrowth of a set of techniques, tools, conventions, visual histories, aesthetic vocabularies, and above all an urge of creative self-expression then we would have to say yes. If, additionally, we posit that the digital medium may, perhaps, bring with it a special quality that we have not yet pinned down, despite various efforts to do so, then I would like to suggest that that special digital quality is reflected precisely in aesthetics of play, empathy, and a sense of collective identity and multiplicity of authorship.

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