Philomath

Phil”o*math, n. [Gr. ?; fi`los loving, a friend + ma`qh learning, fr. ?, ?, to learn.] A lover of learning; a scholar. –Chesterfield.

Philomath Games is a sole proprietorship, which is a fancy way of saying it’s a company name I use for private consulting on game design. To me, the opportunity to select a new name was part of the creativity that brought me into game development in the first place, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. As of February 2009 I am full time Lead Designer at HumaNature Studios in northern California, but I still maintain this site and dump thoughts into it from time to time, as well as occasionally do independent consultation if a project can effectively ensnare a share of my attention.

“Philomath” is a word that’s been dear to me since my college days at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. One of my majors is in philosophy, and it drives much of what I do; it is one of the only disciplines — much as game development aspires — to incorporate all others. There is no knowledge that does not deepen one’s appreciation of philosophy, which itself is an appreciation of life and the world, a striving toward greater understanding in a global sense. Game development, like all disciplines, shares a general unifying philosophy. But what I found during my explorations in philosophy was that a love of knowledge — the philein sophia — can make a person shut down. If knowledge is your goal, if having it gives you superiority, there is a tendency to achieve that knowledge or level of expertise and then stop, rigorously defending the position that one strove so mightily to earn.

Philomathy, by contrast — the love of learning — never stops. There are no plateaus in learning, only a continuing process. This rather buddhist idea is how I approach my career and my life, so it felt right to name my little one woman band after it.

I believe that game development is inherently about learning. I believe that interactivity itself, as an art and a science, is fundamentally closer than all previous human media to the thought processes integral to human identity. What we engage in when we play has fundamental similarities to the scientific method*, and the means by which we explore and understand the world. By studying these mechanics, and the emergent passion that they spark (aka “fun”), I believe we understand more about human nature, science, and the future. Thus to me these concepts of game design and philosophy are inseparable, and key to achieving meaningful future vision.

So that’s what “philomath” is about! I was surprised at the number of emails I got after I “announced” my freelance endeavor (via the exciting method of updating my LinkedIn status). Contrary to initial suspicions, Philomath is not a serious games or educational games company, though I’ve worked on both and I think that the educational and “serious games” side of development is among the most important work a game designer can be fortunate to do (so if you’ve got one of those projects, hit me up!). It’s really more about my approach and my philosophy as a game designer.

I’m full up for projects right now, but I’m always interested in hearing about new ideas. So if you’ve got something in the works and you’re looking for good people (and you don’t mind them residing in a variety of locations other than your home office), or you just want to talk about game design, game development, writing, or philosophy,drop me a line. Interconnectivity is the chemistry that ignites the world.

* – this is James Paul Gee’s “probe, hypothesize, reprobe, rethink” cycle, which you should definitely read about.

One thought on “Philomath”

  1. Hello Erin

    I am a parent of an ambitious 18 yr old who wants to sell his soul to get into the gaming industry. He’s a natural artist and designer / artist. What institutes in should he be exploring thata re respected by employers in Alberta/ BC?

    Frightened Parent

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