‘Lost in the game: Philosophical explorations of play, power, and partying through the apocalypse’ ran from 15th-16th September 2023 at the University of Nottingham. Over the two days, twelve contributed papers and two keynotes were delivered exploring conceptual, ethical and social questions about play and games, with the conference aiming both (i) to open up dialogue between very different areas of the study of play and games and (ii) to encourage constructive and playful dialogue on the subject among delegates. Over 50 delegates attended either in-person or online, and papers were delivered covering a wide range of issues such as:

  • The range of uses to which video games are put by the US military.
  • Whether video games constitute a distinctive philosophical category.
  • How to understand quitting as a response to the challenges presented by a game.
  • Phenomenological analysis of queer rave culture.
  • Disco Elysium as a challenge to the narrative of police mastery in games.
  • How to understand the nuances of so-called ‘dark play’ as reflecting dark realities.
  • The implications of considering so-called ‘silly questions’ about video games.

Alongside the fascinating contributions by speakers, discussion was taken beyond academic spaces at our two socials – a board games session at Ludorati Cafe, and a live music event at the Chameleon Arts Cafe, both in Nottingham’s city centre.

Delegates at the conference were invited to share their impressions of the conference online, and a great deal of positive feedback was received, a selection of which is given below:

  • I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. The speakers, presentations, discussions, social events etc. all beautifully encapsulated and represented the aims and ethos of the conference. What I most want to applaud the organisers for, though, is the overtly inclusive and open approach of the conference – it truly was a delight to be in such a space.
  • Attended in person, really enjoyed it. It was my first ever philosophy conference so it was interesting to learn about different disciplinary conference cultures. It’s not everyday I go to a gig where the songs are about the Frankfurt School! I also got a lot out of the Q&A after my paper.
  • I attended the conference in person. I had a great time at the conference and I consider that I’ve gained some extremely useful experience both as a presenter and as an attendee.
  • I really enjoyed learning more about the Philosophy we can do about ‘play’ and how play can focus on various things. I especially enjoyed the keynote from Nele Van De Mosselaer – I have new interest in philosophy of fiction!
  • …it was quite surprising (in a pleasant way) that we could have so much valuable time to discuss in every conference. So, congratulations to all the organizers, and I really encourage you to keep going this way.
  • I attended in person, and really enjoyed the friendly intellectual atmosphere – it was such a pleasure to spend two days in such focused and comradely conversation.

Finally, following the event, and given the positive feedback received, it was decided to build on our success by aiming to create an academic network for the exchange of ideas and the organisation of further events: this has been named the Perspectives on Play (PoP!) network. The network has so far signed up a number of scholars from across a wide range of disciplines, and we are in the process of arranging two one-day workshops for this year (a workshop on wild play, and a general work-in-progress workshop) as well as applying for funding to run longer-term research and knowledge exchange projects.