I have a question for the gamers pummeling their joysticks at Cal Poly and throughout the county.
I’m also aiming this at the philosophy profs up there in the ivory tower, pacing in circles and muttering portentously as they stroke their beards.
Here’s the question: If young Freddie Nietzsche were alive today, would he play “World of Warcraft”?
I’m guessing the gamers won’t even hear the question; they have more pressing problems, like not being taken out by the Horde.
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But I can already hear the snorts of derision from the Philosophy Department. Nietzsche is serious business, they are sneering. He and other great thinkers have nothing to do with the mind-deadening distractions we know as video games.
A group of dissident philosophers, many of them young, beg to differ.
They are trying to link the arcane discipline to popular culture and have published a series of books to prove their point.
You may have seen or even own some of them: “The Simpsons and Philosophy”; “South Park and Philosophy”; “Quentin Tarantino and Philosophy”; “The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy.”
There are many similar books out there, courtesy of Open Court Press. Just add “and Philosophy” to “Seinfeld,” “Lord of the Rings,” Harley-Davidson, the Undead, “The Wizard of Oz,” Led Zeppelin, Stephen Colbert, and even “Bull..it.”
The latest book, just out this month, is “World of Warcraft and Philosophy: Wrath of the Philosopher King,” a collection of 22 essays aimed at probing the connections between the wildly popular game and the ancient discipline.
I tracked down the co-editor of WoWaP for an interview. It wasn’t difficult — his name is (nepotism alert!) Luke Cuddy. Yep, he’s my son.
Through the miracle of recessive genes, he inherited a trait that skipped my generation; the capacity for abstract thought.
Luke and his brother, Zack, are both adjunct professors at a community college near San Diego. Luke also is part of the larger movement of scholars who want to move philosophy into the mainstream.
“We want to bring philosophy to gamers,” Luke said. “You can have a much deeper appreciation for your life if you sit back and think about it.”
He mentions some dude named Socrates, who famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” or words to that effect.
Don’t get these guys wrong: They don’t want to be a downer.
“A game is something that should be fun,” Luke says. But it can be more than that, in many ways, as the new book shows.
“WoWaP can teach us not just about huge virtual worlds and video games,” Luke and co-editor John Nordlinger wrote in their introduction, “but also about people and society.”
“In some cases WoWaP serves as a model for examining the potential of economic, ethical or political theories,” they wrote.
How does that work? The pair and their fellow authors can count the ways, but they’d prefer that you figure it out for yourself by reading a few chapters of WoWaP.
The authors go out of their way to write for a general audience without being condescending. The books have snappy designs, clever chapter titles, and amusing bios of the contributors. The book titles usually contain word play: “Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant.”
Before we leave this growing movement, let’s get back to young Freddie Nietzsche.
Luke thinks the notorious nihilist would play “World of Warcraft,” for the spectacularly creative art if for no other reason. “Video games are redefining art,” he says.
Nietzsche, he says, loved art, but rejected the values of the world around him. “He might have seen it as a painting that you can go inside of and manipulate.”
However, Luke adds, “he would have rejected the addiction of it.”
As for me, I’m proud of the kid, and I think he’s on to something. But as a longtime Bosox fan, I dread one of the coming books in the series. “The Red Sox and Philosophy.” Talk about nihilism!