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Nathan Frost
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Chris, Congratulations on another successful procreation! I enjoy your writing, and want to support your Republic of Bloggers, but I must admit that your open letters are so well written, well-considered and voluminous (for a blog post, at least) that it's difficult to feel that I have much to add to your existing thoughts -- and even to the degree that I can meaningfully contribute to the conversation, doing so often feels more time consuming than I can afford. But, since having my ass handed to me (again) by FTL hasn't cured my (thankfully rare) insomnia, now seems the perfect time to vomit forth something that resembles discourse. As usual, you have many fascinating thoughts here that I find convincing. But since merely nodding is uninteresting, I will focus on my points of dissent. I claim that art does not merely "acquire a certain kind of usefulness", but in fact can easily be seen in purely utilitarian terms. Of course I understand your aim in contrasting art against the Victorian ideal of utility, but I think it's equally important to point out that numerous events (a patient overcoming post-surgery pain while avoiding drugs by playing a videogame, or a gamer relishing making decisions in her favorite fantasy world in what would otherwise be a dull couple of hours, or a group of friends centering a social gathering around a game, and so many more) are all naturally thought of in utilitarian terms. So you're really criticizing the Victorian sense of utility, not the applicability of utilitarianism to videogames and other art forms. I also object to art being characterized as "undefinable" in some way unique to the field of art. Many thinkers (including yourself!) create consistent and useful definitions for many aspects of art -- while there are surely many aspects left to understand, and many aspects that are incompletely understood (and indeed are unlikely to be fully understood in our lifetimes, if ever), to a greater or lesser degree this is true of all fields of inquiry, and is in no way specific to art. I also fail to see how "mega-bureaucracies" cannot achieve the aims of art. Can you really argue that no large organization has ever in human history played a significant role in creating a piece of art? (This statement seems hard to defend given any reasonable definition of "mega-bureaucracy" or "art") Someday I hope to find the time to read "Imaginary Games", but until then, I've felt very comfortable thinking of art in terms of communication. This metaphor seems broad enough to encompass all art, but narrow enough to provide some practical insight to the in-the-trenches artist. If art is communication, then many things can be artistic -- indeed, any time a speaker (artist) communicates something (anything) to an audience member by any means, the function of art has taken place. As with communication, miscommunication happens all the time: sometimes through an incompetent speaker (artist), an incompetent listener (audience member), or a willful misinterpretation of the art (communication). Great art communicates a great deal in terms of profundity, clarity, and volume of information. But since communication depends as much on the listener as on the speaker, it will always be entirely subjective (as it appears that Kant has noted), and great art to one person will often be superficial and nearly meaningless to another. The only thing that separates interactive art (such as videogames) from purely passive art (like film or music) is interactive artists teach the artwork itself to listen to the audience member, and adjust its speakings accordingly. I'm terribly curious to know your thoughts about these and other topics! The rest of your letter was fascinating, with numerous details altogether new to me! Hopefully someday I'll be able to dig deeper without sacrificing the other time-consuming activities I'm engaged in. Cheers and best wishes, Nathan
Toggle Commented Jun 9, 2014 on The Value of Art at Only a Game
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Congratulations on the milestone, Chris! There are few things as satisfying as achieving such a challenging and personally meaningful benchmark. :)
Toggle Commented Jun 12, 2013 on Chaos Ethics Complete! at Only a Game
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Chris, don't be put off by the advertising department's label -- it's trivial to argue that regardless of how the player approaches the game, "Revenge solves everything" is quite the opposite of the game's possible messages. However, if you're not feeling like a stealth game, Dishonored is unlikely to change your mind; it doesn't expand gaming's vocabulary to nearly the degree that games like Braid and Portal did. Let us know what you end up playing!
Toggle Commented May 9, 2013 on A Game for the Summer at ihobo
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I enjoyed Dishonored. It felt similar to -- but more compelling than -- System Shock 2, Deus Ex, Thief, Metal Gear Solid and their ilk. Dishonored's incremental advance of 3D stealth mechanics were sufficient to rejuvenate my interest in sneaking about (and better still, improvising my way out of surreptitiousness gone awry), and its narrative and world building are some the best I've seen in a game, with some delicious moral decisions to be made along the way. It's not a perfect game, but it worked for me. I'd be curious to hear your response if you get a chance to try it! (As an aside, I'm looking forward to the latest Studio Ghibli film -- I've seen all the rest, and I'm glad Miyazaki's keeping that train rolling)
Toggle Commented May 4, 2013 on A Game for the Summer at ihobo
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Indeed, clear genetic links to conditions like schizophrenia do not reliably express themselves. One of my favorite psychological theories* was originally derived by studying schizophrenics, and posits that -- given identical twins where only one becomes schizophrenic -- that a systems view of family relationships can predict which twin becomes schizophrenic. I'm convinced that for most schizophrenics, the "random factor" associated with schizophrenia actually expressing itself is in fact little more than the sum of the schizophrenic's important family relationships. Fun stuff! And speaking of which, the new book looks very interesting, Chris. Thanks for the excerpt! *
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Well, Chris, you're probably as expert as it gets, which means that you realize that all your knowledge amounts to a small percentage of the knowledge you'd like to possess. Only novices think they know it all! Also, nobody multitasks effectively, so contiguous blocks of focus on one demand at a time is almost always most efficient. I suspect you're well aware of all of this stuff, but I thought I'd toss it in just in case. ;) Good luck! A lifetime always seems far too short to do even a fraction of all worthwhile endeavor, but we can't let that slow us down! :)
Toggle Commented Jul 16, 2012 on Do the (Poly)math at Only a Game
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Not depressing it all; I found this beautiful and poetic. This may be because I happen to hold very similar views to Chris, but there it is. ;)
Toggle Commented May 31, 2012 on When I Am Gone at Only a Game
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Chris, I am very interested in your philosophical analysis of other intellectuals' concepts of "game", and look forward to further postings. (Normally I never post such a content-free comment, but given my enthusiasm for Chris Bateman's writing, the topic, and most importantly Chris Bateman writing about this topic, I had to make an exception) ;)
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I think I basically agree with you, Chris, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that modern society possesses vastly more "raw knowledge" across most every field (technology, science, psychology, art, take your pick) than societies even a century ago by virtue of having many more people and much more efficient technology for information communication, storage and retrieval. It is debatable if this makes our daily lives better or simply different, but I'd argue it's better in many cases. A person in modern society typically has a significantly longer average lifespan with a superior physical quality of life, and a much greater variety of things to do with one's life than those even a century ago, let alone a millenia or four. Of course I agree that dismissing prehistoric monuments, calendar festivals et al is pointlessly condescending, and assuming that a much greater volume of knowledge makes modern society superior to in every way to all prehistoric societies is very unlikely. (For example, I suspect many ancient societies had a much stronger sense of community than modern societies. In this respect -- and others -- we could probably stand to learn from the past) However, I think it's clear that modern society Knows More Stuff than societies of the past, and this does make modern society better at certain important things. I'm curious: how do you think we are likely worse off than the typical circa-Grey Wethers ancient society? I'm sure your knowledge far outstrips mine here.
Toggle Commented Oct 12, 2011 on Grey Wethers at Only a Game
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This is fascinating stuff, but I'm not sure I have a solid grasp of Kant's ideas. It seems that Kant is saying: 0. Beauty is entirely separate from utility (as a product of "entirely disinterested satisfaction") 1. We are all born with an innate sense of aesthetics. (We all "ought" to agree that certain things possess a "free beauty") I. This innate sense can be unlearned with experience II. This innate sense stems from some "supersensible substrate of humanity" a. We cannot understand this "substrate" since it is an "undeterminable concept". This concept is undeterminable because it is a fundamental element of how we perceive reality, and so we cannot perceive this concept without having that very concept shape our perceptions 2. When one gains a unique set of life experiences, one also gains new and unique senses of aesthetics ("dependent beauty") 3. The "sublime" is like "beauty" only even more totally awesome Thus, objective aesthetic taste is impossible to define, because -- although we all begin life with the same taste -- the source of this innate sense is inherently unknowable, as it is bound up in our very perception of reality. Further, this innate aesthetic taste is inevitably modified through experience. Assuming I have a reasonable understanding of Kant's ideas (and please correct me where I don't), I largely agree, though I have the following problems: 0. Must the "entirely disinterested satisfaction" sensation evoked by a beautiful thing be entirely separate from all other (utilitarian) forms of satisfaction one derives from that beautiful thing? EX0: If I view a painting and feel pleasure, must I separate out the (utilitarian) pleasures of learning about color, form, composition, as well as the enjoyment derived from thinking about concepts the painting suggests, along with any other enjoyment that could possibly be even indirectly useful to me -- and whatever pleasure remains (if any) is the "entirely disinterested satisfaction" of the painting's "free beauty"? EX1: Similarly, if I simplify a practically useful mathematical equation to a more elegant form, must I separate out the (utilitarian) pleasures of furthering my understanding of practically useful mathematics and finding a way to more effectively explain these mathematics to others along with any other enjoyment that could possibly be even indirectly useful to me, and whatever pleasure remains (if any) is the "entirely disinterested satisfaction" of the simplified equation's "free beauty"? If this is true, I conclude that I perceive very little "free beauty", since the vast majority of pleasure I experience has some utility, though that utility is often very abstract. 1. I have the vague sense that there might be some way of effectively studying concepts that are fundamental elements of how we perceive reality, but I don't think I know the right things to mount a coherent argument. Great stuff, Chris! Thanks for writing it. :)
Toggle Commented Sep 19, 2011 on Kant on Aesthetics (4): Taste at Only a Game
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Sep 16, 2011