Language Games/Game Languages: Examining Game Design Epistemologies Through a ‘Wittgensteinian’ Lens

Nis Bojin


Recent theorizing around games and notions of play has drawn from a pool of mid-20th century scholars including such notables as Johann Huizinga, Gregory Bateson, Roger Caillois and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Through his articulation of the concept of language as a type of game, Wittgenstein has been both adopted and critiqued for purposes of circumscribing what are now commonly held as the necessary constituents of games including their systemic nature and the acquiescence of their participants to an agreed-upon rule structure: a set of rules which Wittgenstein likens to the ‘grammar’ of language (Salen and Zimmerman, 2001;Suits, 1978; Juul, 2005; Wittgenstein, 1953; Finch, 2001; Brenner, 1999). Although thus far Wittgenstein has served as a pillar of 20th and 21st century game theory canon, this paper adopts Wittgenstein’s notion of language-games not for purposes of examining games, but for purposes of examining the design of games.  The pursuit of this paper is to utilize Wittgenstein’s lens of the language-game to investigate what it is that informs and consequently shapes and reinforces game design epistemologies in an attempt to encourage a reflexivity about the design practices behind the games we create.


Language; play; design; game; epistemology

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