Notes on Ian Bogost Talk at UCLA 1/24/17

Here are my notes from Bogost promoting his book “Play Anything”:

Rule as limitation
Rule leads to challenge
Challenge leads to pleasure


Focusing on following a rule can make an experience more interesting

The words: game play and fun have become trite, just like how are you doing or I love you when overused.

We understand little about our object of interest – video games. What is a game? Harder to define than other mediums, harder to explain what fun or game is? We kind of don’t know

Mary poppins – a spoon ful of sugar helps the medicine go down, singing a song makes work more fun

Covers over drudgery – isn’t a good solution to real work, kind of like listening to music while working.

Asteroids math games are no good, they try to hide something instead of integrating with it

In every job that just be done there is an element of fun, find the fun and the job becomes a game – Mary Poppins

The first time you tell someone I love you, it means more the first time than it does 2 years down the line, only means something when it is withheld.

Fun is like this, it is kind of infrequent. This is a fun game, that was a good book, does little more than show anonymous endorsement. Single vague metric for aesthetic value in games.

Mercilessly vacant.

A painting has to be fun to be good! Sounds horrible.

Fun is a limited sort of novelty descriptor which is inadequate to describe a mature art form

Raph Coster redefines fun as a good feeling we get from solving problems and defining patterns.

Folly creates surprise from exploration – the fool finds something new in a familiar situation

Even with the same friends at the same bar talking about the same thing, something new was discovered, something fun happened.

A spoon ful of sugar stipulates that any problem is insufficient on its own and everything about it has already been thought through, marry poppins is a liar.

In our secular age, value must be found by sheer force of will, from within, we are skeptics and resistant, irony – everything is duplicitous and untrustworthy, this demand forces us to recede within ourselves.

Refusing to choose / the hipster decision. Afraid to confront any reality of the self. Irony has become refusing to reveal whether or not you mean what you say.

Fear of the incompatibility of our inner desires and reality. Irony is an escape root from earnesty. Irony is an escape from having to choose between earnesty and disdain, not being able to know.

We need a defense again the sense that anything might go wrong at any moment. Irony comes from fear, our lives are subject to ever increasing uncertainty. We now resist engaging with reality to protect us from the risk.

This distances us from the experience of reality. Irony is a cultural illness or madness. Ironoia is a distrust of things. Recede further from things rather than using them.

We think that fun is within us and not within the things themselves. The meanings that we invent.

We embrace the wretchedness of difficult things to make them fun. Allowing things to be just what they are and actively communing with them allows us to find pleasure with them.

Game: the voluntary attempt to over come arbitrary obstacles

Something terrifying in games – sublimity can be found everywhere and is arbitrary.

Free movement within a more rigid structures – respecting the structure and subjecting oneself to it – not overcoming it – this is play. Fun is the feeling of operating.

Paradox of play – we think of it as freedom, but in fact it is about limiting freedom.

We think that doing whatever we want is playing – this is backwards. Instead, meaningful play arises from constraints.

On the guitar you must follow rules and follow constraints to play well, to PLAY well. You can play anything.

Play is a material property of things. A name for deliberating operating a constrained system.

Finding something new in something familiar.

Fun is not a goal, it is a result of treating a play object with dignity and respect.
The things we find the most fun are the hardest things that resist us – in that resistance we find fun.

Sometimes things give up secrets, instra and mahout the tennis players found something in tennis that no one had found before.

Fun is related to folly.

It’s hard to care about things at all. Its easier to keep them at arms length.

We expect things to come to us and bring value to us. Comfort is the problem not the solution.

Find the job in the job to truly make it fun instead of finding the fun in the job

Fun is finding novelty in familiarity. Play is working within restraints. Play is deep attention. Give respect to something that does not deserve respect. Attend to something over time with care and it will reveal its secrets.

The most interesting things about games is that we know we are experiencing arbitrariness and we accept it.

Boredom – we have expended the obvious answers, and now we have to dig deep and do the hardest work.

“I am trying to reframe play in the most abstract way possible such that it can apply to anything.”

-Ian Bogost

Book Recommendation: “Play Anything” by Ian Bogost, to find out about the meaning of play in its most abstract form.

VR + AR Telepresence Applications

Paul Graham states that a product needs to be wanted/needed by the customer…desperately…like a child with a cut finger needs a band-aid, the need must be strong as possible in order for the product to succeed. If you want to sell a band aid, go to a kitchen full of sharp knives with many cooks working under pressure…. Etc..

What does a person want/need ordinarily?

  • To be with his family
  • To live in a comfortable place
  • To do well at work


Unfortunately, these things conflict with one another. Families are expensive, work is hard to find, and comfortable places are not always where the work is. Many companies exist in places that are not ideal for raising families, like New York City. Say you run a company in NYC, but wanted to live with your family in Colorado. How would your family take it if you had to travel to New York every week? Your children would miss you, your partner would grow unhappy, and your life would be painful – and on the other hand, if you worked remotely from Colorado, your company would lack your leadership presence.


Right now, many working people have long commutes and travel which actively detriment the things that matter most to them, many people are forced to live in cities they despise because of the localization of certain industries.


What if we could introduce a technology that could alleviate the suffering that comes with long commutes, travel, and uncomfortable domestic situations? Well, it is called AR/VR, and it already exists. What we will discover is that the greatest strength AR/VR possesses is that of allowing the telecommunication of HUMAN PRESENCE in a way that surpasses all pre-existing communication technologies, it will change what it means to be AN EMPLOYEE, to be IN THE OFFICE, it will change what it means to BE, at least within reasonably effective limits.


As it stands now, there is a major issue with remote work: communication. Most remote work style communication is done via text, video, or audio. These are all subpar to sitting down face to face with a team member, and while they suffice for relaying directives and specific instructions, they fall short in the realms of creativity, collaboration, spontaneity, and empathy. VR/AR can capture 95% of a human presence and represent it in 3D space – only in the realms of touch and smell does it truly fall short – both of which are not usually important aspects of work life.


If we can simulate the presence between two people in a room we can increase the collaborative potential of remote work ten fold and cut costs on travel, real estate, and improve QOL on all employees. Imagine that you work at a web design company – you could have a remote meeting with a client and bring her into your office for a virtual white boarding session where you could both write on the same white board while looking each other in the eye. The level of communication and understanding would completely trump that of a Skype call by relaying facial expression, hand gestures, and human presence. This would allow for unrestrained collaboration without the cost of travel, and an expedited communication of expectations with the client – ultimately resulting in a cleanly executed development process.


The ultimate success of AR/VR will be in telecommunicating human presence and physical space, this will be able to unlock the most important aspects of human communication: collaboration, creativity, spontaneity, and empathy for use across a network in ways that will expedite and improve the quality of remote work, delocalize industries, and give liberty to professionals to live where they want and work where they want.

Book Recommendation: “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki, for anyone looking for an introduction into how to think like a rich person.