The Art of Failure

An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games Playful thinking

Hardcover, 157 pages

English language

Published Feb. 22, 2013 by MIT Press.


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We may think of video games as being "fun," but in "The Art of Failure," Jesper Juul claims that this is almost entirely mistaken. When we play video games, our facial expressions are rarely those of happiness or bliss. Instead, we frown, grimace, and shout in frustration as we lose, or die, or fail to advance to the next level. Humans may have a fundamental desire to succeed and feel competent, but game players choose to engage in an activity in which they are nearly certain to fail and feel incompetent. So why do we play video games even though they make us unhappy? Juul examines this paradox.

In video games, as in tragic works of art, literature, theater, and cinema, it seems that we want to experience unpleasantness even if we also dislike it. Reader or audience reaction to tragedy is often explained as catharsis, as a purging of …

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  • Philosophy
  • Failure (Psychology)
  • Video games
  • Psychological aspects