Date: May 26, 2022
Time: 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Location: L224

Speaker: Christopher C. Yorke

In Return of the Grasshopper (Routledge 2022; forthcoming) Bernard Suits interrogates the possibility and desirability of seeking “A Perfectly Played Game,” using characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to give voice to various philosophical issues regarding the relationship of skill, luck, and game design to the principle of fairness. This presentation will shed new light on Suits’ utopian thesis (the idea that a life consisting entirely of gameplay is the ‘ideal of existence’) by arguing that utopian games are impossible on his own account, due to his acceptance of the paradox of the perfectly played game. For Suits’ utopians represent perfectly matched (and omniscient) opponents, to whom contests of pure skill would essentially reduce to a series of coin flips, and a lifetime of such contingent outcomes would not constitute sufficiently boredom-defeating or existentially meaningful activity on his utopian schema. However, this result only follows if one accepts Suits’ definition of a ‘perfectly fair game’—as I do not, and instead argue that an alternate conception of fairness, utilizing a more grounded apprehension of the effects of chance, is equally viable. I conclude by outlining potential routes for finding meaning and fairness in well-designed hybrid games wherein skill and chance both play balanced roles, and thereby offer a coherent restoration of the plausibility of Suits’ utopian thesis, at the cost of his paradox of a perfectly played game.

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