An Enactivist Perspective on Experience and Sense-making in Games and Beyond


  • Maximilian Karge University of Vienna


The study of games in (human) culture forms an interdisciplinary and heterogeneous field of research. One main reason for the broad interest in the concepts and phenomena attributed to playing games – particularly considering today’s forms of technological mediations of our reality – is that game-playing enacts experiences and realities quite distinct from what I will – very naively – call ‘ordinary life’ (i.e. reality as enacted not playing).

This work will explore what the enactment of specific games implies for the experience of reality being situated in and around such a game-context. The field of research on games is rather diverse, containing several disciplines (psychology, philosophy, education, next to others), intersections between them, as well as specifically dedicated programs (game studies). A way to integrate some of these diverse approaches to games could be an enactivist understanding of cognition [1]: Grounding mind, cognition and consciousness in action and engagement with and within a specific environment, rather than grounding action in being derived from rational reasoning.

While playing games, different rules, goals, norms, and logics apply to our sense-making and subsequently, reality is enacted differently than outside of the context of games [2]. This aspect of ‘otherness of reality‘, it‘s virtuality [3], will situate this work: Games mediate the ways in which we engage with reality and hence our experienced reality itself. Next to some of the states particularly constitutive of playing many games (e.g. flow-states), I assume the experience of playing games also implies some degree of lasting change in experience in general.

I will undertake a literature research and attempt to converge perspectives from philosophy of games, philosophy of technology, sport psychology and education, with an enactivist epistemological frame as foundation. I will use this framework to engage with a specific video game (yet to be determined) and explore the experience of playing the game, its design and technicalities, as well as being part of the community and culture around it.

The results of this work are supposed to enrich studies of games by an enactivist perspective and understanding, especially considering expanding digital dimensions which create new genres, of games. Particularly, I will engage with the question of how specific frameworks of design – with an emphasis on specific technologies– enable specific forms of phenomenology and how such experiences might extend beyond this framework of just playing a game into a culture and ‘ordinary life’ around it.


[1] F. J. Varela, E. Thompson, E. Rosch, and J. Kabat-Zinn, The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017.

[2] B. Suits, The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020.

[3] A. Miah, Sport 2.0 Transforming Sports for a Digital World. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2017.