Playing in VR: Imagination, Affordances and Aesthetic Experience

May 21, 2024 - May 22, 2024
Department of Philosophy, University of Antwerp

S.E. 201
Prinsstraat 13
Antwerpen 2000

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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  • University of Antwerp
  • FWO


University of Memphis
University of Lodz
Claremont McKenna College
Cambridge University
Tilburg University


University of Antwerp
University of Antwerp

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Virtual reality (VR) has been discussed in depth within current philosophical fields, including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics or aesthetics. In metaphysics, for example, the debate focuses on the ontological status of VR objects, and imagination is discussed in the context of whether objects we encounter in VR games are real or fictional (imagined). Not much research has focused on simply playing in virtual spaces, leaving out the question of aesthetic and ludic experiences.

The conference "Playing in VR: Imagination, Affordances and Aesthetic Experience" aims at filling precisely this  gap. We are interested in the role that imagination and affordances may have in experiences of playing in virtual reality. Playing encompasses a larger field of interest than only playing VR games, with strict rules and constraints. It opens up questions about the possibility of treating virtual reality spaces as environments that afford free play, creativity, imagining, education or performance.


The main objective of the conference is the critical assessment of the concept of play in VR contexts. The conference aims to extend the scope of philosophical interest in virtual reality, from questions about metaphysics, to the domain of aesthetics and ludic experiences. It aims to explore the role that imagination can play in virtual reality beyond the role of allowing to represent fictional entities in VR, and to explore whether VR can be meaningfully thought of as an environment that, when designed appropriately, can afford playful engagements. We aim to focus on the relational aspect of playing in VR, and not on the representational aspect, by looking into whether and how one can be imaginative, creative and interactive when playfully exploring VR spaces.

Example questions that we wish to examine during the conference include, but are not limited to:

·      In what way is imagination involved in virtual play? Do you perceive play spaces in VR, or do you imagine them? Can VR enhance one’s imaginative capacities?

·      Do you see virtual spaces as affording play? Are there affordances in VR that invite playing? Are affordances in VR and affordances in non-digital pretend play different?

·      Are virtual objects ‘toys’? What is the difference between playing a game in VR, and simply playing in VR (and is it still play)? Can virtual objects shape our play, just like material objects shape our play?

·      Can you make-believe or pretend in VR? What is the social aspect of virtual play? Can you cheat, hurt another, or be more vulnerable in VR? How do players connect with each other in VR?

·      How does virtuality transform our aesthetic experiences? Is there aesthetic judgement involved when playing in VR?

Call for Abstracts:

We welcome abstracts of 500 words (excluding references) to be submitted by March 18, 2024, 23:59. All submissions must be sent to: [email protected] 

Notification of acceptance: April 10. 

Please indicate on the abstract one of the section themes your talk belongs to:

Theme 1: Beyond Representing Fiction: The Roles Imagination Can Play in VR

Theme 2: Virtual Environments and Affordances for Virtual Play

Theme 3: Virtual vs. Non-Virtual Play: Free Play, Games and Virtual Toys

Theme 4: Make-Believe, Pretense, and Social Play in VR

Theme 5: Ludic Experiences and Aesthetic Judgments in VR

Please email your *blind* abstract as an attachment. In the body of the email, please include the title of the talk, author details, and the section theme.


Is registration required? Yes

Registration deadline: April 30, 2024, 23:59

How to register: [email protected]

Registration fee: 50 EUR - PhD students, 70 EUR - other. Includes conference participation with coffee breaks, lunches and visit to Immersive VR Lab at Hogeschool Antwerpen (

Optional conference dinner (barbeque) on May 21st: 40 EUR


Zuzanna Rucińska: [email protected]

Arthur Cools: [email protected]

Website link:

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April 30, 2024, 11:45pm CET

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University of Bucharest

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