Apropos of Nothing

Pixel Chris BatemanWelcome back to Only a Game, the curious meanderings of philosopher and game designer Chris Bateman!

Last year, I published a short-form philosophy book, Wikipedia Knows Nothing, which asks us to consider whether knowledge is best understood as practices (and thus knowing cannot be reduced to the mere repetition of facts). It’s available as a free PDF, so if you’re unfamiliar with my philosophy this is a great place to start. Drawn to the merits of short-form philosophy, I have already begun work on my next project, tentatively entitled The Virtuous Cyborg, and my preparations for this will go down here on Only a Game. More on this very shortly.

I am also still working on the wealth of material that came out of my discussions last year with Babette Babich, and hope to have another installment of this some time in the Spring. If you missed the first dialogue, where we discussed continental philosophy and its current state of endangerment, check out December’s Last of the Continental Philosophers. The next discussion should dovetail with the thread that I’ll be opening up in the Tuesdays to follow. 

Hope you’ll join in when the spirit moves you, and I’ll see you in the comments here or on Twitter, which has largely usurped Typepad as the source of commentary on my material.

The Game begins in earnest next week.

Choose-Your-Own Winter Festival

Frost CrystalsWishing you all (delete as applicable) an Auspicious Dhanu Sankranti, Happy Milad-un-Nabi, Serene Buddhist New Year, Happy Hannukah, Merry Yalda, Solemn Zaratosht No Diso, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, Blessings upon the followers of Bahá'u'lláh, and Felicitations on the birth of the tenth Nanak. If you’re not celebrating any of these, then Happy Swik!

Only a Game will return in the Gregorian New Year.

The Virtue of Silence

As the festival of the Wheel of Fortune approaches, it is time once more for my Autumnal Social Media Break. No blogging, no LinkedIn, no Google+, and definitely no Twitter. It helps me focus upon life to disconnect for a while, and if you have never tried taking a break from all the computer-mediated demands upon your attention, I heartily encourage you to give it a try. Feel free to leave comments in my absence, though, and I will reply as soon as I get back upon the digital horse. Until then, trust in yourself and no matter what tries to hold you back, keep going!

Only a Game will return in December.

There Is No Number-Base That Can Make Eleven Years Sound Important


Today is the eleventh anniversary of Only a Game... I've nothing special planned this year, since I knocked myself out doing a Tin Anniversary last year. Besides, as a prime number there's really no way of glossing eleven years to make it sound cool - the best would be Base 11, in which it would be 10. You can see the problem. But all the same, I'm still writing and reading blogs, despite the wafer-thin attention span of the internet having long since migrated to more disposable forms of alleged communication. That counts for something, and presumably what it counts is eleven years.

To everyone whose come along with me for any part of this journey, my infinite gratitude! 

Sound the Bombards!

Back from paternity leave, family now fully upgraded with the arrival of Blake Patrick (9 lbs 6 oz, for those who like such numbers), and getting ready to push forward into the Summer blogging. I have been lax on the Republic of Bloggers thus far this Gregorian year, but thanks to Chris Billows I will be getting back in the saddle next Tuesday with my first blog-letter of the year. More nonsense follows soon afterwards, and tomorrow I'll be plugging the event I'm at in London next week. Hope to see some players of the Game at the Red Gallery!

Oh, and in case the allusion of the title is too obscure, bombards were cannons fired in ancient China to signal the start of an attacking charge on a particular front. So 'sounding the bombards' is roughly equivalent to bellowing 'Charge!'

Back After Baby

By the time you read this, I should already be on paternity leave – and if not, it’ll be happening imminently. With that in mind, I shall go ahead and take my Summer social media break now, so you shall have to get your nonsense without me for a while. I’m sure you’ll manage. Feel free to leave comments – I will get to them in due course. Have fun without me!

Only a Game returns later this year.

A Brief Introduction to My Philosophy

$45 haircut.cropped

Welcome to Only a Game, the philosophy blog of game designer, outsider philosopher, and author Chris Bateman. Originally dealing with videogames as well as philosophy, most games-related material now appears at ihobo.com (but is also cross-linked here). All sincere – and preferably polite – comments on posts both new and old are welcome, and will elicit a reply as promptly as I am able. What's this blog about? Read on!

Why philosophy? I started out among academic scientists, but my interests and writings these days lie to a greater extent among the discussions of philosophers. I sometimes characterise my rambling nonsense as an attempt to popularise philosophy, which is to say, to bring the resources of philosophical thinkers such as Kant, Isabelle Stengers, or Kendall Walton a little bit closer to any quirky intellectual nerd who stumbles upon this site.

Why is this blog called ‘Only a Game’? I jokingly call the discussions here at this blog a non-fiction role-playing game, and this is “the Game” I sometimes refer to in posts. Also, a lot of my early philosophical endeavours were connected by the image of a game, which is perhaps unsurprising since I am also a professional game designer – I’ve worked on over forty five game projects over the last twenty five years.

What’s the point of philosophy? We experience the worlds we live in via our concepts, and the process of inspecting or adjusting our concepts is philosophy. Everyone is a philosopher sometimes, some of us just spend more time on it than others. While many philosophers have toiled upon their problems alone, I view philosophy as limited if it is not also engaged in public discourse. Wisdom lies scattered amidst the world it might inform: even when uncovered by a lone investigator, wise thoughts lack value until they are brought back to a shared space.

What do I philosophise about? My main interests in philosophy at the moment are in aesthetics and ethics, which are both expressions of our values. The conventional view of both these topics at this time is that they are subjective, which is to say, they don’t have meaning beyond individuals. This is a position I resist. If we understand the knowledge of the sciences as objective, that’s because they entail practices that ‘make objects talk’ (hence ‘objective’), but in many contexts our subjective knowledge is better equipped for dealing with the worlds we actually live in.

Why bother with aesthetics? Imagination transpires to be a key to understanding how living beings like us experience reality, a point I explored in my first philosophy book, Imaginary Games. What’s more, my studies in aesthetics feed into my understanding of game design: it has helped me think about how our different values for play create different kinds of aesthetic flaws in games, for instance.

What's the point of ethics? Our ideals for life are incredibly diverse, yet we must live together: I seek methods that permit this possibility, a project that takes its spirit from Kant’s “Realm of Ends” (which I term communal autonomy). Recently, I’ve been thinking about this in terms of our living in an ethical multiverse (a key theme in my book Chaos Ethics) since we all experience existence from within a unique system of metaphysics, what I sometimes call ‘a mythology’.

What are metaphysics? Untestable beliefs, foundations upon which different thoughts and ideas attain authority. Everyone has to believe something to get by in life, whether a notion of self, a cultural identity, an abstract (Science, God etc.) or some combination therein. By talking about metaphysics I hope to share some of the charms of our many different ways of looking at our shared world, and dissipate some of the prejudices.

Do you have a religious agenda? Absolutely! I want to find ways we can all live together, and that means dealing with religions, like the Hindu traditions, Buddhism, and Christianity, as well as non-religions, like positivism. Frankly, its impossible to explore metaphysics and ethics without intersecting with religion, which is not to suggest these traditions have a moral monopoly. Rather, the paths through morality begin and end in many places, and while many of them have come to us through traditional religious practices, that is far from the whole story.

What about science? The sciences are the means we acquire robust objective knowledge, but that kind of knowledge offers only a very narrow perspective on existence – we need much more than mere research if we are going to find good ways to live. I am unimpressed by the idea that the sciences are ‘at war’ with religion, or destined to replace it: as I explored in my book on the role of imagination in the evolutionary sciences, the relevant conflicts are better understood as disputes within the sciences and between religion and non-religion.

What does this have to do with you? Join in if you're interested! My philosophical thinking thus far – or my nonsense, as I oft term it – is right here at this site. Simply pick a topic from the sidebar (or a link in this post) that spurs your interest and join me for a while in contemplation of questions that I hope will, at the very least, provide an entertaining diversion.

Should I leave a comment? Please do! I love comments. But if you own your own blog consider taking part in the Republic of Bloggers instead, and send me a letter. I am committed to pursuing virtuous discourse, and I welcome discussions on any and all topics however they reach me, and whomever they are from.

Welcome to the Game!

This piece, written in April 2016, replaces an older version with the same title written in April 2010, before I had any of my philosophy books published. The links within this new foreword are intended to offer points of ingress into my nonsense for the intrepid explorer of ideas.

Ongoing Blockquote Fixes

Owing to the move to the new template, older posts with 40 pixel indenting around quotations no longer work. I am in the process of fixing these as I find them (I just fixed the entire ten-part A Secular Age serial, for instance), which just involves hacking out the monstrous miasma of HTML that Word excreted and replacing it with basic <blockquote> tags. It's simple, mindless work, so if you see a post with broken blockquotes and you want to flag it to me,  just leave a comment and I'll get to it when I can.

1500 Shades of Nonsense

1500This post marks the fifteen hundredth slice of nonsense I’ve posted at Only a Game in the eleven years I’ve been blogging. Not sure if that’s an achievement or if it’s rather horrifying, but there you have it: one thousand five hundred short essays on anything and everything that felt worth rambling about. Over the years, there has been less and less about games and more and more about philosophy, but even from the very beginning that was a direction I was happy to go in.

Many thanks to everyone whose been here for any part of the journey, and especial gratitude to those of you who have stayed with me in one way or another for the entire voyage. Here’s to the next fifteen hundred!


To celebrate the arrival of Spring, I’ve created a new responsive template for Only a Game, the first change I’ve made to the appearance of the blog in many, many years. I’ve tried to keep some of the elements of the original design, but the new template should be much more friendly to view on mobile devices.

Check it out! Feedback and suggestions always welcome.