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Moving On...

After our brief side trip back into metaphysics, we will be gradually returning to normal space over the course of this week. To ease our transition, I thought we'd play a metaphysical minigame (which starts tomorrow). I apologise for subjecting you to my angry rant - I assure you I don't like letting myself feel this way, but sometimes you just have to vent the rage, I suppose. I guess if I can forgive bigoted evangelicals for their foolishness, I can forgive Dawkins his. And on the subject of evangelicals, for Darius and anyone else bored of being the target of clumsy metaphysical bullying, I'll be putting up a piece later this week that addresses this issue.

Have fun!

Robert Anton Wilson

RawRobert Anton Wilson, the infamous Discordian intellectual and guerilla ontologist, passed away on Thursday 11th January 2006, one week before his 75th birthday, as reported in his blog.

I had the great pleasure of hearing him talk in London, at a special event where he and fellow eccentric Richard Bandler provided a scintillating evening of alternative thinking and anecodes both amusing and thought provoking. I asked him at the time what the story was behind the rumours of his death (which had circulated in the mid-nineties), and joked that we were getting tired of celebrating his death.

Although at times I disagreed with his approach, I always admired his playful spirit and his striving to propagate a wider understanding that, as the Zen Buddhists suggest "we are the master that makes the grass green". His books were  'gateway texts' into my love of philosophy, and I always admired his ability to stretch his mind so wide that no-one could see the edges.

Possessed with a ruthless optimism, a fanatical zeal for freedom of thought, and a sense of humour both wicked and charming, Robert Anton Wilson leaves behind a diverse collection of books that will surely be enjoyed by generations of alternative thinkers to come. My sympathy to his family, and I promise to keep the lasagne flying.

I Feel Foolish

When I take the time to respond to an outpouring of tendentious vitriol such as Dawkins’ recent book, I feel foolish. Since it is my view that to fight about metaphysics is a waste of our time and effort, how can I justify spending the time to respond to Dawkins’ entrenched metaphysical prejudices? But then, when is it worthwhile to oppose a viewpoint? Are the possible consequences of letting fanatical dogmas grow unchallenged sufficient justification to speak out against them? 

Although it is an extreme comparison, would it have been worth the while of German intellectuals in the early twentieth century to argue against the racist dogmas of Hitler’s Mein Kampf? Could they have stopped the horrors of the holocaust through words alone? Perhaps the individuals who write these hateful polemics are merely the focal points of the zeitgeist, and the forces behind them would carry on regardless. I choose to believe that there is at least the possibility that extremism can be resisted through debate.

I cherish freedom of belief as the basis of any society worth protecting, and perhaps I am doomed to expend considerable effort attempting to defend this basic human right in words. If it is the case, as Edmund Burke suggested, that the triumph of evil occurs as a consequence of the inaction of the good, then perhaps it should not matter that I feel foolish responding to ignorant rants that threaten to undermine our liberties, because it is assuredly better for people to speak out against intolerance than to say nothing.

The Dawkins Delusion

Dawkins Having Richard Dawkins write a book about religion is rather like asking a vegan to write a book of veal recipes: nothing good can come of it. Dawkins’ position on religion was firmly established in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, in which he put forward his own uncritical view that religions provide no advantages of any kind and are best understood as parasitic entities taking advantage of people. In his new book, The God Delusion, he further expounds his own prejudices in a manner that seems markedly short on sane discourse. 

Many of Dawkins problems seem to result from his insistence on evaluating religions as unsuccessful precursors to science, which is to say, from considering religions as failed research programmes. In doing so he commits gross category errors of the kind that any philosophy undergraduate can identify. But Dawkins has no interest in philosophy. He has previously admitted his ignorance of this field, and has since committed no time and effort to study the area. Similarly, he has wilfully ignored the field of theology on the basis that (in essence) ‘since I know God does not exist, theology cannot possibly contain anything of interest.’

Essentially, Dawkins comes to the topic of religion having done none of his homework, and loudly declares his own prejudices as facts: ‘I’ve done nothing to study religion, and here are my conclusions,’ seems to be his position. This is unfortunate, as Dawkins has a keen intellect, and has written some solid scientific material in the past. But outside the domain of science, he lacks both experience and insight. He is a man with intelligence but no wisdom. 

The prevailing viewpoint among critics of The God Delusion (and there are no shortage of these) is that Dawkins purposefully sets up straw men in order to knock them down. Other complaints include an apparent presumption that all religions can be treated as variations on Christianity, ignorance of religions that might contradict his opinions (such as Sufism in Islam), and an erroneous conflation of secular conflicts with religious conflicts. There seems to be general agreement that this book achieves little if anything of any philosophical importance.

Recommended reading from the critical response to this book is Terry Eagleton’s commentary from the London Review of Books which notes:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. 

H. Allen Orr of The New York Review of Books comments:

Though I once labeled Dawkins a professional atheist, I'm forced, after reading his new book, to conclude he's actually more an amateur. 

Another critic of note is Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Marilynne Robinson, who notes that Dawkin’s has chosen to actively attack tolerance, apparently on the basis that his world view is the only sane choice. She concludes her dissection of Dawkin’s polemic with this apposite phrase:

It is diversity that makes any natural system robust, and diversity that stabilizes culture against the eccentricity and arrogance that have so often called themselves reason and science. 

As a scientist, Dawkins lack of objectivity on the subject of religion is staggering. His conclusions proceed from his assumptions in a manner eerily reminiscent of Creation Science. There appears to have been no point at which Dawkins has considered that religions might provide benefits for societies and individuals – that providing people a common metaphysical and ethical framework helps stabilise societies, or aids individuals in living a purposeful life. Nor is the evidence that those with a religion to inform their world view are happier for it considered.

Although Dawkins seems incapable of understanding this basic philosophical point, God belongs to the domain of faith. This has no overlap with science, which has as its domain all things testable. The absence of God in anything testable is a subject already covered at great length in theology, and furthermore it is never possible (as the noted astrophysicist Professor Martin Rees has observed) to eliminate God on scientific grounds as science can never provide an answer to the ultimate question: why there is something rather than nothing. The issue of a personal God, as discussed by Einstein, is an area of legitimate debate, but God the creator is not an entity that can be dismissed by anything other than a metaphysical choice. 

To be clear, there is not a problem with atheism, which is one of many belief systems we can choose between. Furthermore, there are many atheist religions, and the youngest of these, such as Humanism, are attempting to find their feet despite the rather difficult problems facing any new religion. Dawkins apparently has little to offer on the issues facing atheists and seems focussed instead on attacking theists by impugning their mental faculties. What Dawkins espouses goes far beyond holding a personal belief about God and instead walks dangerously close to insisting in the supremacy of one ideology over all others. 

Poorly informed anti-theists such as Dawkins always take especial issue with God, but rarely with other untestable entities – such as nations – which surely have contributed far more directly to wars and atrocities throughout human history than religion. Dawkins single-mindedness in attacking God seems to stem from some personal issue of his own that has never been resolved, possibly overcompensation for the sixteen years he was an Anglican Christian.

What is especially bizarre about Dawkins crusade is that his current job is as Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the prestigious Oxford University. Since three quarters of the world’s population practice one or more religions, by positioning himself as radically opposed to their beliefs he effectively alienates the majority of his target audience. This is rather more embarrassing for Oxford University than for Dawkins, who it seems is long passed any shame at his own ignorance.

Dawkins chief delusion seems to be a delusion of grandeur: it is almost as if he sees himself as something akin to an atheist messiah. He seems to have missed the point that the many intelligent atheists of the world have no need or want of messiahs, while people with other belief systems are not likely to be swayed into converting to Dawkins’ faith by an outpouring of rampant bigotry. As with all supercilious zealots, the possibility that Dawkins' sectarian world view might be incomplete is never considered.

No-one is denying that humanity has a problem with radical exclusionist dogmas, especially those that lead to hatred and hence violence. But these dogmas are not the exclusive consequence of religion, and occur just as readily from nationalist, racial, or scientistic grounds. They are catastrophes born of the human condition, feeding on ignorance. Anyone who thinks that this problem is best addressed by advocating some new radical exclusionist dogma is surely deluded.

Kinaesthetic Mimicry

Wii_sports Mimicry, the play of simulation, can be expressed in many roles, but few have such wide appeal as kinaesthetic mimicry – that which involves the players’ sense of touch and motion. We see it in small children who play with toys that mimic adult tools – plastic mechanics tools or cooking utensils, or mock weapons such as wooden swords and toy guns. The experience of mimicry is enhanced by the use of such props. 

The earliest instances of the use of kinaesthetic elements in videogames occur in arcade games and Atari (not to be confused with the modern publisher which has bought this name) were at the forefront in the arcade revolution of the 1970s. Qwak! (Atari, 1974) featured a satisfyingly sturdy shotgun peripheral that was integral to its cabinet, and extended the kinaesthetic mimicry of a carnival shooting gallery game (which predate videogames) to an electronic form. (The earliest light gun game, incidentally, is considered to be the Seeburg Ray-O-Lite, from 1936). In the same year, Gran Trak 10 (Atari 1974) used a steering wheel to add kinaesthetic mimicry to a simple top-down driving game. (This game was also the first to use ROM memory). However, the graphics of these early videogames were crude, and these early attempts were largely unsuccessful. 

In the next decade, arcade games began to explore kinaesthetic elements further, and games like Out Run (Sega, 1986) had a cabinet featuring not only a steering wheel, but a gear stick as well. Hard Drivin’ (Atari, 1989) went one step further. Its steering wheel included forced feedback (a first for the arcade), and as well as a gear stick the cabinet featured an ignition key, which the player turned to start playing. Coupled with its early shaded polygonal graphics (which were a sensation at the time), Hard Drivin’ was a hit in arcades the world over. Similarly, gun play was catered for with new cabinets such as Operation Wolf (Taito, 1987) and its sequels.

By the 1990s, the arcade audience demographic had shifted considerably. For some time, the rise of the home consoles and the PC as a gaming machine had taken the gamer hobbyists out of the arcades and back into their dingy bedrooms. Arcade games were increasingly required to draw upon kinaesthetic mimicry to pull in a broader audience, and the games of the nineties illustrate this neatly. Namco build elaborate control devices into their Prop Cycle (Namco, 1996), Alpine Surfer (Namco, 1996) and Rapid River (Namco, 1997). Prop Cycle was the most successful of the three – it’s control mechanism was literally a bicycle, and had wide appeal (although players often lacked the stamina to play more than once a day!), while Alpine Surfer used a snowboard (coupled with a hand rail) for control, and Rapid River used a paddle to control its virtual dinghy.

Nor were Namco the only company pushing in this direction. Sega Bass Fishing (Sega, 1998) was not an enormous success in arcades, but was widely distributed around bars in the United States, while Dance Dance Revolution (Konami, 1999) was a run away success with its dance platform which allowed the player to literally move their whole body to control the game. All of these new games had one thing in common: they were good exercise as well as being good fun.

However, attempts to spread kinaesthetic mimicry into the home were less successful. In fact, until recently the only form to make it into the home was the light gun. The NES Zapper (Famicom Light Gun in Japan) was shipped with the system from 1984 (and similarly with the less successful XG-1 bundled with the Atari XEGS system). These first light guns enjoyed success because they were bundled with the consoles, but as light guns began to be packaged separately the problem with getting kinaesthetic mimicry into the home became more apparent: the cost of the peripherals were a barrier. Games were generally quite expensive; adding the cost of the light gun peripheral made them out of the reach of most families.

The Sega Dreamcast was the first console to really attempt to push other forms of kinaesthetic mimicry into the home, most significantly with the home version of Sega Bass Fishing (Sega, 1999), which captured the play of its arcade predecessor with its satisfyingly realistic fishing controller, and with the novel Samba De Amigo (Sega, 2000), which required special maraca controllers to play. But the same problem dogged these attempts: the cost of the game and controller together was prohibitive. 

The first real success story of bringing this kind of play into the home was with Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution brand. Although retailers were reluctant to stock the dance pad peripherals, the arcade game was so popular that the Playstation and Playstation 2 versions of the game (from 1999-2006) experienced unprecedented success through online sales. Part of the reason for the success was that the games targeted an audience traditionally considered out-of-bounds for videogames (namely a female audience, although the games were enjoyed by people of both genders).

Sony’s EyeToy, released in Europe along with EyeToy Play (Sony, 2003) used visual and motion recognition technologies to allow the player to control games with their entire body – while simultaneously showing the player themselves on screen. Although a great commercial success, the general lack of sensitivity meant that it was not ideal as a control device, and was mostly only used for simple minigames. 

The success of both dance mat controllers and the EyeToy paved the way for the boldest step forward in bringing kinaesthetic mimicry into the home. In 2006, Nintendo unveiled their latest home console, Wii. It’s unique remote controller contained a variety of sensors, including a pointing suite equivalent to a light gun, tilt sensors, and motion sensors. This device offered something that was previously an impossibility: it could be used in multiple different roles to mimic multiple different activities. The Wii removed the barrier that had previously hindered kinaesthetic mimicry from making into the home: the expense of a separate control device. The Wii remote came bundled with the console.

Furthermore, with Nintendo packaging Wii Sports (Nintendo, 2006) with the console, they had produced a home electronic package ideal for a wide audience – six different experiences of kinaesthetic mimicry, most of which were readily understandable by a new player (even one with low game literacy) since the actions of play were modelled upon the actions of the sports being simulated. The fact that the games are also great aerobic exercise only furthers their appeal. 

However, the potential to bring experiences of kinaesthetic mimicry into the home still depended upon games that leveraged that potential. Although Wii Sports succeeded admirably, the fifty mini-games in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (Sega, 2006) show the problems of developing for Wii. Many of the control mechanisms for the mini-games are difficult to teach the player (since they do not copy real world motions), and consequently produce highly unsatisfying game experiences.

Nonetheless, the Wii represents the forefront of this form of mimicry, and will certainly succeed in bringing a wider audience of players into the videogames market with its potential for highly intuitive control, and the ability to mimic any number of different activities. It is likely, however, that this wider audience will not need to purchase many games for the Wii, hence the majority of the cashflow in the games industry will remain focussed on the gamer hobbyist (requiring new games every month and, in some cases, every week), and hence on the battle of the power gaming machines between Sony and Microsoft, both haemorrhaging money on their hardware in an attempt to secure the support of the key demographics. Meanwhile, Nintendo will be making sterling revenues on their console, selling it to a broader demographic and making a profit on every unit sold. 

Although the chief activities emulated in videogames remain the same – guns, cars and sports – the advent of a generalised control solution for kinaesthetic mimicry finally breaks down the cost barrier of getting this form of play into the home. The chief question remaining is whether the success of the Wii is sufficient to spur Sony into continuing their copycat policy. Either way, the Wii represents a significant step forward in the kinaesthetic mimicry of videogames – and perhaps, an opportunity for unfit gamers to get some much needed exercise.

The Religious Cold War

Abstract_art From April until September 2006, I wrote a series of philosophy posts here on Only a Game which explored issues in metaphysics. Since I half-jokingly refer to this blog as a non-fiction role-playing game, this period is known as “the Metaphysics Campaign.” What follows is a digest of these posts along with some discussion of the key themes. Since this material deals with inflammatory subjects such as religion, politics and science, please approach it with an open mind.

What is meant by metaphysics are those things which cannot be tested, but may still be discussed and explored. We can imagine metaphysics as a region delineated by Popper’s Milestone, which figuratively stands at the edge of the domain of the testable. Metaphysics are intimately connected with religion, as every religion has some kind of metaphysical position associated with it – regardless of whether those metaphysics concern God, the soul, ultimate causes or assertions of absolute Truth. However, it is less widely accepted that scientists (even those who do not identify a religion) have a system of metaphysics which affects their perspective in some way. Indeed, everyone has some system of metaphysics informing their world view. 

(The entire Metaphysics Campaign was built upon a foundation of philosophy of language, based upon the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Although not strictly metaphysics, I find it invaluable to approach the subject armed with an understanding of Wittgenstein’s concept of a language game, and consequently appreciating the extent to which language defines our realities). 

My purposes in undertaking this endeavour were various. I was prompted by the absence of clear thinking on the topic of religion on the internet, and in particular by a current of scientistic atheism that seemed to pervade the kinds of blog I was reading, and which I felt was exacerbating the problem it was hoping to solve. Both issues arguably stem from the low importance our modern culture places upon philosophy, so I set myself the dual task to popularise this vital field while simultaneously furthering my own philosophical investigations. Philosophy, it should be understood, is not concerned with finding ultimate answers so much as it is concerned with exploring ultimate questions – its very name means ‘love of wisdom’, and we should not confuse wisdom with truth.  

One of the key problems our modern cultures face is the paralysation of representative democracies as a result of the inability of the electorate to form consensus views. In the absence of a clear ‘will of the people’, politics becomes a game of media manipulation as individuals and parties jockey for the slight shifts in support required to secure positions of power. But when the people agree on something, it is easy (albeit slow) to make it happen. The tricky part is reaching a popular accord.

It is my contention that a tremendous amount of political power and social influence is being squandered on a religious cold war between chiefly-Christian theists on the one hand, and chiefly-scientistic atheists on the other. Although this problem affects much of the Western world, it is centred upon the United States, perhaps in part because the metaphysics of certain Christian factions from this country are some three centuries old, thus increasing misunderstandings (and hence tensions) between ‘modernist’ atheists and ‘traditional’ theists. An early post discussing this concept dates back to September 2005, and shows the roots of the metaphysics campaign. 

Another of the roots of the campaign was when I posted an old article of mine examining aspects of evolution outside of conventional Darwinism, and was instantly dismissed – without discussion – either because in one sentence I used the word ‘faith’, or because I was arguing against the dominant paradigm in evolution. Now the article in question is both verbose and clumsy (not to mention tediously overlong), but it contains some salient discussion points – still, someone felt it was necessary to pronounce it “bunk, stuff and nonsense” citing only alleged errors in the minutiae as justification, and entirely ignoring its content. I presume this happened because I was erroneously identified as a Creationist, but whatever the reason, it is not in the best interests of science to demonise opposing viewpoints on metaphysical grounds.

It is necessary to be absolutely clear here. The Christians do not form a single collective, and neither do the atheists, so when referencing these factions we are being necessarily general, and consequently imprecise. There are considerable differences of opinions among Christians on all manner of issues, and an equal range of different opinions among the atheists. In fact, beyond the key metaphysical tenet of these two positions – belief and disbelief in God respectably – it is almost impossible to make a meaningful generalisation about the people concerned. 

One of the key battlegrounds in this metaphysical cold war is over the teaching of evolution in schools. A minority faction of Christians, the Young Earth Creationists, want to strike the teaching of natural selection from schools entirely, something that would be entirely unthinkable in almost any country but the United States. I argued (alas, somewhat obliquely) that this position is fundamentally inconsistent with most Christian belief systems – but in doing so I courted severe criticisms from the atheist camp for suggesting that it was not necessary for an individual to believe in evolution. Part of this confusion resulted from my suggestion that, given the extremely incomplete state of the science in this area, it was actually reasonable for someone holding the metaphysics of a Young Earth Creationist to not believe in evolution. This is categorically not the same as arguing that evolution should not be taught in schools – I am merely affording people their right to freedom of belief, a right guaranteed by law in the United States.

A separate, but related, political issue is that of the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools. This is of concern to many more Christians than just the Young Earth Creationists, and should not be confused with the previous point despite the apparent similarity. While some of the people advocating Intelligent Design are doing so as a fallback position from banning the teaching of evolution, some support this view because they believe that the teaching of evolution in schools has taken upon an atheistic bias, thus violating the supposed exclusion of religion from school curricula by supporting a specific metaphysical position. I suspect there is a viable case here, and actually favour the inclusion of Intelligent Design in the US school curricula – although not in science classes, since it is clearly a philosophical issue.

On the other side of the coin, the problem becomes immediately more difficult. Christians recognise they are coming from a religious, and hence metaphysical, position, but many atheists do not recognise that their beliefs are metaphysical in nature. A few even labour under the misapprehension that atheism is scientifically mandated – a gross misunderstanding of the domain of science, as one cannot devise experiments to test what is inherently untestable. Furthermore, attempts to suggest to certain atheists that their metaphysical beliefs constitute at the very least a partial religion can result in severe cognitive dissonance, thus preventing this information from being taken on board. Although in effect a minority group in the United States, the atheists nonetheless wield considerable influence in science and the media - hearing first hand reports of a widespread prejudice against Christians working in science jobs in the US gives me an extremely uneasy feeling, as does allegations of people being excluded from newspapers and magazines as a result of whispering campaigns condemning individuals as ‘secret Creationists’. 

To attempt to approach this issue tangentially, I initially tried to lay a firm foundation by outlining the benefits that skeptics provide for a society, along with a brief warning about not allowing this (or any other) belief system to become fanatically entrenched. Later, we approached the subject in a more direct fashion, firstly looking at whether Marxism can be considered a religion, before proceeding to look at atheist religions in general. In many ways, the discussion of atheist religions – while strictly a piece on religion, and not philosophy, per se – was a culmination of the metaphysics campaign, in that by this point we had not only explored the issue of atheism as a metaphysical (and hence religious) position, but also wider issues in science relating to metaphysics.

Near the end of the metaphysics campaign, we returned to the topics that inspired it. I advanced the view that if we wish to exclude Intelligent Design from science, we also inherit an obligation to purge science of all manner of metaphysical artefacts, including quantum interpretations, speculative cosmological models and teleological games. But it is difficult for many scientists, lacking any training in philosophy, to appreciate the distinction between science and metaphysics, and this in turn is one of the factors driving scientism – the ideology that scientific knowledge is the only kind of knowledge of any value. This confusion undermines trust in science: whenever a scientist asserts their own metaphysics as scientific truth, they perform a disservice to the scientific community and often simultaneously advance a fanatical (atheistic) religious position, as staunchly partisan as the fanatical (theistic) religious positions they seek to oppose. 

I do not expect that my meagre offerings have the power to put an end to the religious cold war, but if they can in any small way contribute to increasing understanding or reducing tensions between the theists and the atheists, I believe they are worthwhile. I suggest to any Christian with the patience to read me that fighting over metaphysics is in strict contravention of the teachings of Jesus which they purport to follow – love they neighbour extends to everyone regardless of their beliefs, as the parable of the Good Samaritan clearly demonstrates. I simultaneously hope to convince the open minded atheists that if they genuinely desire a world in which religious intolerance can be abolished, atheistic bigotry must also be eliminated. Either way, one should get one’s own house in order before pointing fingers elsewhere.

For centuries, our planet has been beset with conflicts between people with differing metaphysics. At one point, Christians of different factions went fought over whether God the father and God the son had the same nature or a similar nature, a metaphysical conflict no-one today would consider worth fighting over. Today, neo-Darwinists fight a metaphysical battle with almost every opposing view of the evolutionary process, although thankfully not yet with weaponry. Although most wars attributed to religious causes have strictly secular roots, there is no doubt that mankind did fight bitterly over metaphysics in the last millennium - although in the time before this, there was substantial tolerance and exchange between different religious traditions, as typified by Zoroastrianism. Sadly, we have forgotten this part of history, and as George Santayana noted, those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

If we are to make the next millennium a time when humanity will refuse to fight over metaphysics, it must begin by changing ourselves, not by blaming others. The answer to religious intolerance cannot be atheistic intolerance – to advocate otherwise is to propose a new metaphysical war, but now instead of fighting over the nature of God, we will be arguing over whether we are allowed to believe in God – which is what is implied when one accuses all theists of irrationality – or whether we are allowed to disbelieve in evolution. These are not battles worth fighting. We should all be free to believe or disbelieve in God or evolution – from a theistic perspective this is the God-given right of free will, but even without invoking God we gain this right through our mutual agreement to freedom of religion, and hence to freedom of belief. Only when we come to truly respect the diversity of our planet’s beliefs will we be ready for peace. 

My thanks to all the players of the Metaphysics Campaign: Ajedireligion, Anon10001, beepbeepitsme, Chico, Chill, Colin Bennett, Darius K, DavidD, gconner, GregT, Gyan, Joseph Capp, Matthew Cromer, Mikko, Mory, rhrempe, Tide, William Fechter Phd, and latecomer Theo, and my especial thanks to all the “regulars”: Peter Crowther, Craig, Malky, Jack Monahan, Neil, Patrick, RodeoClown, Suyi, translucy, and zenBen. It wouldn’t have been the same without you!

The opening image is Excalibur by Curtis Verdun, which I found here. As ever, no copyright infringement is intended and I will take the image down if asked.

A Brief Diversion

We'll be taking a very brief diversion this week back into philosophy, then it'll be back to working on the remaining Temperament-derived play style descriptions. We will be returning to philosophy in the Spring for the Ethics Campaign, which will start some time after GDC (which is in March). Why the diversion? Well, see the fourth point, below.

  • Talking of the Ethics campaign, can anyone recommend a good book on social contracts ? Something more recent than the 18th century, preferably. I'd like to skip ahead beyond Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau (if possible) to a modern conception.
  • My wife and I got our Wii the day before leaving for the Isle of Wight to spend the winter festival with my family there. We've been the very model of the game evangelist, showing it off to all and sundry on the way. We're loving it - and getting some much needed exercise too. My arms ached after the first few days of playing Wii Sports.
  • I'm a longtime fan of the Zelda games, but I have to say I'm rather disgusted by the heart piece tax in Twilight Princess. I'm not saying you can't vary the rules, but this one is a real kick in the teeth for established fans!
  • I feel compelled to comment on Dawkin's recent polemic, and will be posting on this later this week. Call me old fashioned, but if a noted intellectual wants to stray into a new field, I feel they should do their research first and not simply publish their own bigotry. To make it as clear as I can that my problem is with Dawkin's foolishness, and not atheism in general, I am first going to post a precis to last year's Metaphysics Campaign and reiterate my position on such matters as clearly as I can.
  • To the various people waiting to hear from me about various things, I apologise for the various delays. Hopefully things will settle down a little over the next few weeks.

Have fun everyone!

Play with Fire - On Sale Now!

Lloviendofuego Ready to burn things to the ground? You can now download the demo of Play with Fire from Manifesto Games here!

You can turn the demo into the full game by buying an unlock code - and please do! If you want to see more original, unusual and inventive games, you need to support the indie developers who are the only people in a position to make these sorts of games (see the Indie Games Bazaar in the sidebar).

Most mainstream developers are now locked into a vortex of spiraling development costs where risk-averse publisher buying strategies dictate making more of the same but with fancier graphics and licensed IP. A few new things manage to survive the system, but they tend to get rarer each year. Let's try something different for a change!

Oh, and just so you know, we made Play with Fire for less than 1% of the budget of a typical game. For every humdrum videogame film tie-in you see, publishers could have funded a hundred games like this.

Also, if you blog, please help pimp Play with Fire for us. You can get screenshots from the Manifesto site. We need your help!

A few minor issues... the Manifesto page doesn't currently show the Fantasy Labs logo - they are the developer of this game, International Hobo are just the design team. Will get this fixed as soon as I can. Also, a couple of versions of Windows XP shipped by Microsoft are inexplicably missing a key dll for directX 9.0c. If this affects you, the missing file (d3dx9_30.dll) can be downloaded from here.

I hope you enjoy the game, and if you do - tell your friends!

Regular blogging will resume on Tuesday - see you then!