This paper first tries to spell out the literary review of the game discourses by seminal figures like Johan Huizinga, Roger Caillois, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Then, by introducing Ludwig Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘norm’ and ‘family resemblance,’ it is argued that the ethics of games today holds the key to the metaphysical prison of the traditional game. Next, the Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) WOW (World of Warcraft) is chosen in particular, as the text set in motion to exemplify the operation of game ethics in a postmodern age. Furthermore, Emmanuel Levinas’ concept of “Il y a” will be appropriated to beacon the way out of the intrinsic contradiction in this kind of postmodern MMORPG. “Il y a” is a state of ineluctable ‘presence of absence,’ an impersonal and anonymous ‘there is,’ which echoes the feature of anonymity in a MMORPG, where the game is still on, and the chosen character is still there even when a player takes a break, logging out and shutting down the computer. The player seems absent but in fact present, entering a state of ‘presence of absence,’ owing debt to the other players as inter-subjects. It is in this sense that the ethical responsibility is involved. For Levinas, real time exists only in synchronic intersubjectivity, which can emancipate the subject from self-identity through diachronic time in traditional games (readily reminiscent of Agamben’s implication of game as a time-accelerator). The immediacy of online games welcomes and allows any player to join in at any time, whereas the traditional games refuse the impromptu joining due to the limit of artificial time such as a round, a set, or an inning. Also, it is also this immediacy of online games that makes the instant negotiation and modification of rules possible, paralleling Wittgenstein’s ‘norm’ again.


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pp. 109-124
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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