I’m Frank Lantz, Founding Chair of the NYU Game Center, designer of a bunch of games (including Universal Paperclips, Drop7, and Hey Robot), and author of “The Beauty of Games.” AMA!
I've been making games and teaching game design for almost 30 years. Proof. Here is a link to my Substack where I write about games, art, and AI. I recently published a book titled The Beauty of Games, which explores the creative, expressive, and cultural aspects of games.
Here are some of the main themes from the book:
One of my goals with this book is to help people who aren’t already “on the inside” of game culture to understand games better. Game criticism and discussion tends to be somewhat insular. Despite their massive popularity, games don’t have much presence in mainstream cultural conversation. I want to illuminate, for a broad audience, the ways that games can help us better understand ourselves, each other, and the world.
The best way to understand games is to see them as an aesthetic form, alongside music, literature, film, painting, and so on. As opposed to seeing them as appliances, devices, toys, hobbies, or other kinds of simpler cultural objects.
The best way to understand video games is to see them in the broader context of games in general, including board games, folk games, gambling games, and sports. For one example, see this excerpt from my book.
Despite wanting to blur the lines between digital and non-digital games, I try to emphasize the deep connection that all games have to computers and computation. Games are the artform of systems, the artform of software. Games have always been an exploration of how rules generate behavior, about interactive models and simulated worlds. In a way, games invented computers and are therefore responsible for helping us figure out what to do with them.
A recurring theme in the book is the idea of meta-cognition, or what I call "thought made visible to itself". Games are the artform of thinking and doing. Games are ritual representations of being in the world. They are opportunities to observe ourselves perceiving, planning, modeling, predicting, acting, interacting, and learning. As such, games have a complex relationship to reason, rationality, logic, and problem-solving. They are a deep dive into, as well as a kind of escape from, instrumental reason.
That's a brief overview of some of the book's main themes. I'm happy to answer questions about any of that, as well as to answer any questions about any of the games I've made or about teaching games and helping create and run one of the world's top game design programs.
UPDATE: OK, I think I'm going to call it a night. Thanks so much for all of your questions. I really appreciated them!