Thanks Martin. You went in a totally different direction with that piece from what I imagined you might say. You are right that it is rare to find anti-Rawl’s thinking in the world of academic philosophy. Even political thinkers (conservatives and liberals) tend to find something they can agree on and like in Rawl’s works. Your points on the weaknesses of his approach are well taken though I am less skeptical then you I think on the potential application of his thinking in the “real” world. I’m not interested in debating that point however. I’m more interested in how Rawl’s philosophy of Justice as fairness can be used as a way to think about gaming, both game design and game playing. I need to state right off the bat that I am not a serious gamer myself. Therefore my comments are coming from a position of an outsider looking in. Even though I am not a serious game player I do read quite extensively about the world of gaming and visit some of the more popular gaming/technology focused websites regularly. I’m talking specifically about sites like io9, theverge, polygon, kotaku, gizmodo, arstechnica, wired and the like.
Imagine that you are starting a new game you have never played before, for the sake of my argument let’s say you have never even heard anything about it. You don’t even know the name. In this position you are essentially sitting behind a ‘veil of ignorance’ with respect to the game/the game world much like Rawl’s describes it. Of course as a game player most likely the last thing on your mind as you start to play is Justice. Probably you are more concerned about things like, is this game going to be fun, will it challenge me, how are the graphics, I should probably be studying/working right now, etc. Even though you are not thinking about justice per se you do most likely assume that the game will be fair. In Rawl’s philosophy Justice is fairness. In a sense then you are at least somewhat concerned with how just the game is. I don’t want to confuse fairness with difficulty. Even the most difficult game should still be fair in the sense that a player with enough skill/patience should have at least some opportunity to “win.” I realize that not all games are designed to be “beaten” or “won” some are only meant to be played for fun or for any number of other intangible reasons. Whatever a games ultimate purpose (even if there is no real purpose) it should allow the player(s) to achieve that purpose in a way that is fair to all who chose to play. I would suggest that a game that is not fair is a game that is not worth playing. Defining what is and is not fair is obviously no easy task and honest people can and do disagree. However I believe disagreements about fairness happen only at the edges. The core of what is fair/just is typically agreed to readily by most honest persons.
I’ll stop there. Not sure what my ultimate point is but I do think there is more to be said concerning Rawl’s political philosophy and its connection to game design and game playing. I’ll leave it to better philosophers than I to hash that out. There’s probably a doctoral dissertation (or at least a master’s thesis) in there somewhere for some young graduate philosophy student looking for a contemporary application of Rawl’s philosophy in our modern world. Lol.