For Christmas, among a selection of philosophy-related books, I received Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us (About Life, Philosophy and Everything), by Jordan Erica Webber and Daniel Griliopoulos. This book, published only last year (2017), aims to "use video games to explain philosophy, and hence to improve your life" (Webber and Griliopoulos 2017, xviii), and to argue that "video games can be philosophically complex, ethically rich and morally instructive" (xviii). It does so through ten chapters exploring a variety of aspects of philosophy, from epistemology and philosophy of mind right through to ethics and political thought, in conjunction with an extremely wide selection of video games (the game bibliography which constitutes Appendix II runs to five and a half pages).
While none of the areas of philosophy discussed in Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us are precisely my area of expertise, I'm at least basically familiar with all of them. I'm also pretty au fait with a lot of the games the book covers - I've played several, such as Dishonored, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Skyrim, Stardew Valley, Bioshock and Bloodborne, to give an incomplete list, and am familiar with others through either watching playthroughs (Soma, Fallout 4) or reading articles about them. I'd consider myself a gamer and a philosopher, and so the basic notion behind this book appeals to me absolutely. I'm fascinated by the ways in which video games could function as unique ways to explore or express philosophical ideas, and I love reading theoretical articles about games and game design.
Even though this book could have been targeted directly toward my confluence of interests, however, I came away dissatisfied. Some of this wasn't the authors' fault: the book's targeted, I think, at beginners to philosophy, with a lot less basic philosophical background knowledge than I have. Much of the time, I simply wanted more in-depth or nuanced philosophical discussion than is probably feasible for the kind of text Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us is. In other respects, however, I think that Ten Things is also flawed at being the kind of book it's trying to be, and it's those problems I want to explore in the rest of this review.