BrettSpiel is a blog about board game design, written by game designer Brett J. Gilbert.

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Quotables #007

The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

Oscar Wilde

This line is taken from Wilde’s preface to his classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde added the preface to later editions of the book to address initial criticism of the novel, and to explicitly spell out his view of the role of the artist and the value of art.

I’m not smart enough to engage in an epistemological discussion of Wilde’s philosophy of art, but I guess my point in presenting the quote is to make a connection between Wilde’s view that ‘all art is useless’ and the lot of the game designer. It is of course valid to ask of a designer: ‘Why do you design games?’ But it is important to point out that there is no validity in the answer: ‘To make games.’

The designer, like the artist, must be able to see in his ‘useless thing’ something other than the thing itself. For my part I’m not sure that I know what I see in my games, at least not yet. If I ever come up with a convincing answer I’ll let you know!

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