Author Archives: Charles

The Philosophical Basis of Exploration Cues in Game Design

Republished from The GameSaver, whose purpose it is to use objective philosophical analysis to save the video game industry from imploding.


…it’s your game. You decide how you want to play, I mean, we’re not the ones who are going to tell you how to play...” – Mathieu Ferland, senior producer at Ubisoft Montreal, describing the design philosophy of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.

Obviously you can’t instruct people on how to enjoy art.” – Lisa Foiles, video game commentator (and former “All That” star) stating what she believes to be a truism relevant to a gamer’s choosing how (and whether) to explore a game world.

Together, these two quotations represent a malignant viewpoint stretching from video game designer to video game player. The second quote comes from one of Kotaku’s (few) intellectual features now roughly a year old. It is the perfect encapsulation of the average person’s view of art. Because this view is so widespread, what I am about to say is tragically controversial: there is an objectively correct way to read books, watch movies, view paintings, and play games. Read the rest of this entry


Role-Playing Games as Embodying the Joy of Living

Pictured: the joy of living

Republished from The GameSavermy blog dealing with philosophical issues in the field of video games.


Before beginning, I would like to acknowledge that the seeds of the ideas that ultimately led to this article were first planted in my mind when I read “Why I Like Stamp Collecting,” a 1971 essay in The Minkus Stamp Journal by Ayn Rand. I consider what follows merely my application to role-playing games of her original ideas on the philosophy of stamp collecting.

To start, consider just what a role-playing game is. I define an RPG as a game in which (1) character customization occurs, (2) there exist quests or missions that are freely chosen, and (3) non-linear character advancement of some kind is present. These features can vary immensely in scale.  Read the rest of this entry

The Liberation of: Mass Effect

This article was originally posted on The GameSaver, an Objectivist blog I run dealing with philosophy and how it is destroying, and can save, video games. The title of this piece refers to the fact that I, the GameSaver, liberate games by revealing the philosophy hidden underneath. This Liberation begins with a tripartite breakdown, and continues with an essay-style explication and elaboration of that basic breakdown.

The breakdown will consist of (1) the philosophical essence, (2) the theme, and (3) the plot of the game. The “philosophical essence” is the philosophical core of the game, or a brief description of the game’s integration of theme and plot. The “theme” is the abstract idea that dominates and integrates the various parts of the work. The “plot” is the physical, concrete series of actions that takes place in the story and is the content from which the theme is derived.

One more thing: any words that are also links are explained by me somewhere in the text of the blog post, so there is no need to interrupt yourself while reading just to figure out what I am talking about. They are there just in case you are interested in reading more on your own.


Mass Effect

The Philosophical EssenceAn abstract battle between Hobbesian personal subjectivism (Renegade) and Kantian social subjectivism (Paragon) played out in the concrete form of Hobbes’s “state of nature” versus the “Leviathan” (or Sovereign).

The Theme: The destructiveness of an individual mind’s control of reality, and the benevolence of collective control.

The Plot: Saren and the Reapers (representing personal subjectivism) attempt to impose their will and evaluation of truth on the galaxy, while the diverse, multi-species civilization that inhabits it (representing social subjectivism) fights back by sending Shepard (representing the player’s preference, through his choices) to stop them. Read the rest of this entry