Can videogames be overtly philosophical?

A few years back, Ian Bogost began writing a 3-part series asking if one could ever build a “metaphysics videogame.” Part 2 was published shortly thereafter, leading with the promising question: “what kind of videogame” would such a philosophical inquiry make? Unfortunately we never saw the final post, when Bogost promised more “concrete design treatments” for his proposed game. A recent profile of New York-based artist and graphic designer Erin Schell featured in Salon poses a similar question: how to use “graphics as a means for critical inquiry”:

Schell’s interests have converged in the Occupy movement (she has contributed illustrations to the literary journal n+1’s Occupy! gazette and recently went on a tour of Italy discussing the protests) and in the New York Times’ philosophy blog, the Stone. Her collages for the latter ? Socrates in the clouds contemplating earthly delights; carnivorous animals dangling over a moral abyss ? use graphics as a means for critical inquiry. “It’s not just empty decoration,” says Aviva Michaelov, the art director of the Times’ opinion pages and Sunday Review.

The depth of Schell’s work is apparent in an installation she created for a public library in Washington, D.C. In “Illuminated Memories of Tenleytown,” she gives a visual history of the changing D.C. neighborhood, drawing on three months of research and reporting. Old newspaper stories and halftone images come together in a rich assemblage of overlapping memories and histories. Mixing sharp politics with evident empathy for the people of the community, it’s exactly the kind of work Schell wants to do more of. “It’s the idea of storytelling,” she says.

“The question of: How do you foster a sense of community to shake people out of modern alienation?”

Given the spiritual and metaphsyical inflections of most responses to games like the recent critical darling Journey, hopefully many game designers and critics will pick up this mantle once again.

[via Salon]