Chris Bateman

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Chris Mark Bateman
Chris Bateman.jpg
Born (1972-01-01) 1 January 1972 (age 42)
Bishop's Stortford, United Kingdom
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Fictionalism
Main interests Game Design, Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Science
Notable ideas avatar doll, demographic game design, funnelling, breadcrumbing, orthodox science fiction, moral chaos

Chris Mark Bateman (born 1 January 1972) is a game designer, outsider philosopher and author, best known for the games Discworld Noir and Ghost Master, the books Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames, 21st Century Game Design and Beyond Game Design: Nine Steps Toward Creating Better Videogames,[1] and his eclectic philosophy blog Only a Game.[2] Until 2012, Bateman was the managing director of International Hobo Ltd, a consultancy specialising in market-oriented game design and narrative, which he still consults with.[3] He has worked on more than forty published games[4] and is currently pursuing research into the neurobiology and aesthetics of play at University of Bolton.[3]


Bateman was born in the United Kingdom in the historic market town of Bishop's Stortford, but moved to Ventnor, Isle of Wight before he was one year old. He spent much of his time growing up in Steephill Cove, a secluded bay on the south coast of the island, where he studied marine wildlife, snorkelled, and surfed during the winter. During one such winter, he was almost killed in a surfing accident having chosen to go out into stormy waves despite a warning flag cautioning against entering the water. He was rescued by a local crab fisherman.[5]

In 1990 he moved to Manchester to study as an undergraduate and postgraduate at Manchester University, originally in Physics with Astrophysics but later switching to Computing and Information Systems. During these years, he was a contributing writer to the magazines GamesMaster International[6] and Cryptych.[7] Practising his game design skills by producing tabletop role-playing games with Discordia Incorporated,[8] he also won a game design competition run by Task Force Games with his card game Star Fleet Officers.

Graduating with a Masters degree in Artificial Intelligence/Cognitive Science in 1995,[9] he earned a job at Perfect Entertainment in Norbury, where he worked on numerous videogames including Discworld II and Discworld Noir, for which Terry Pratchett worked as the editor.[10] His work on the dialogue for Discworld Noir was praised by The Times newspaper as one of the best games ever scripted[11] and by Terry Pratchett as "good enough to be a novel in its own right."[12]

Bateman left Perfect Entertainment in 1999 to set up his own company, International Hobo Ltd.[13] In 2000 he lived and worked in Knoxville, Tennessee, but in 2001 moved back to Manchester having married Adria Smiley, who graduated from the University of Tennessee that year. He also lived in Knoxville for 15 months while working on Turner Interactive's FusionFall game. February 2011 saw the birth of his son, Soren Albert Bateman.[14]

Ernest W. Adams, founder of the IGDA, joined International Hobo in 2001,[4] and he and Bateman have been working together along with other game designers and narrative experts ever since. In 2007, he received the IGDA's prestigious Most Valuable Player award for his contributions to the game development community, including establishing both the IGDA North West UK chapter and the Game Writers Special Interest Group.[1]

Bateman has also pursued highly acclaimed independent research into how and why people play games. In 2009, he was invited to sit on the IEEE's Player Satisfaction Modelling task force, in recognition for his role in establishing this research domain.[15] His most recent player model, BrainHex, is based upon neurobiological principles published in his paper The Neurobiology of Play (with Doctor Lennart Nacke),[16] and the BrainHex test has been taken by more than 80,000 people.[17]

Bateman also has an abiding interest in religious belief and practice. He has travelled the world studying religious practices and beliefs, and has taken part in everything from Native American sweat lodges to Pagan solstice celebrations, as well as visiting Buddhist and Shinto shrines in Japan, and witnessing traditional tribal religions in Africa whilst living in the Sahel Reserve near the Sahara desert.[9]

Game design and narrative[edit]

In 21st Century Game Design Bateman established a new way of thinking about game design, one which focusses on the concept that professional (rather than personal or artistic) game design should be focussed towards satisfying the needs of players, thus satisfying the audience for games and ensuring the commercial stability of game developers, calling this approach demographic game design.[18] The book also includes the first typology of gamers, DGD1.[19] This model was based on Myers-Briggs typology, but later work in the same field drew from Temperament Theory.[20]

Bateman's conceptualisation of the way that digital games can, should, and do guide their players deploys the concepts of breadcrumbing, which lays out a path for the player to follow, and funnelling, which guides the player back to this path if they lose track of it.[21] These ideas have been influential, and were brought to a wider audience by game writer Susan O'Connor.[22]

In later books, Bateman has connected game design with philosophy, and particularly with Roger Caillois, whose pioneering work in play and games has been connected by Bateman to modern neurobiological research related to play,.[23] He has also developed ideas originating with the philosopher of art Kendall Walton.[24]


Much of Bateman's philosophical writing has been concerned with "an attempt to popularise philosophy,"[25] and he has written many articles intended to bring the philosophy of Wittgenstein,[26] Nietzsche,[27] Kierkegaard,[28] Charles Taylor,[29] Kant,[30][31] and Kendall Walton[32] to a wider audience. He has also discussed the metaphysics of author Michael Moorcock in a serial[33] that the British author has praised as "one of the most coherent précis of my work."[34]

Bateman's moral philosophy focusses upon the exploration of contemporary approaches to Kant's 'Realm of Ends', which he dubs communal autonomy.[30] He has connected Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative to the alterity ethics of Emmanuel Levinas [35] in a piece that was featured in the 121st Philosopher's Carnival.[36] He is currently working on a book entitled Chaos Ethics, which examines the role of imagination in morality.

His work in philosophy of games springboards from Professor Kendall Walton's make-believe theory of representation.[24] His serial Game Design as Make-Believe was featured on Kotaku in May 2010.[37][38][39][40][41][42] He has expanded the application of Walton's theory to games in the context of quasi-emotions in Shadow of the Colossus[43] and also teased out distinctions between the avatar and that which prescribes the appearance of the avatar, termed the avatar doll.[44] These ideas are fully expanded in his first book of philosophy, Imaginary Games,[45] due for publication by Zero Books in late 2011/early 2012.

His adaptation of Walton's make-believe theory of representation puts him into the philosophical school of fictionalism, which in 2011 he is exploring in an ongoing 'Fiction Campaign'[46] on his blog. He has explored the relationship between astrology and fiction,[47] and suggested that science can be treated as a megatext, leading to a concept of orthodox science fiction[48] which he has used to critique the immortality beliefs of both religious and non-religious individuals.[49] His fictionalist dialogue Pluto and Eris: a dialogue[50] was featured in the 120th Philosopher's Carnival.[51]

In 2011, Zero Books published his first book of philosophy, Imaginary Games, which explores the philosophy of games and addresses the question of whether videogames can be art.[45] This was followed by The Mythology of Evolution, which asks if it is possible to present the work of the sciences without distortion.[52] It has garnered praise from philosophers such as Mary Midgley who described it as "a book that’s badly needed and could be revolutionary", and added: "This matters; read it!"[52] The final part of this loose 'trilogy' concerning the philosophy of imagination, Chaos Ethics, concerns the relationship between fiction and morality, and is due for publication in 2014.[52]


His blog Only a Game deals with both philosophy and digital game theory, and contains a prolific array of articles, many of which have been featured elsewhere. Since beginning the blog, his interest in philosophy has intensified, and he recently began to achieve recognition for his work in this field. In 2009, MIT Press invited him to endorse one of their books, Joanna Zylinska's Bioethics in the Age of New Media.[53] He has interviewed Joanna Zylinska,[54] Kendall Walton,[55] Mary Midgley,[56] Michael Moorcock[57] and Allen W. Wood[58] in connection with their philosophy and writing.





  1. ^ a b Bateman, Chris (ed.). "Beyond Game Design: Nine Steps Toward Creating Better Videogames". Cengage Learning, 2009, p. iv
  2. ^ "Only a Game"
  3. ^ a b "International Hobo's Chris Bateman Joins University of Bolton", accessed 12 April 2013
  4. ^ a b "What is International Hobo?", 20 March 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  5. ^ "Memories of Ventnor", 23 February 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  6. ^ GamesMaster International, Newsfield, #5 (December 1990), #9 (April 1991),#12 (July 1991), #13 (August 1991)
  7. ^ Cryptych, J.M. White, vol. 1 no. 6, vol. 2 no. 1, vol. 2 no.2
  8. ^ "Discordia Inc.", 8 The Hierophant 14AA. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Chris Bateman", 22 February 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  10. ^ Bronstring, Marek "Interview: Chris Bateman on Discworld Noir", 8 February 2003. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  11. ^ Gamasutra "Author Bio", 20 February 2007. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  12. ^ "Interview with Chris Bateman", 7 November 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2011.[dead link]
  13. ^ Mobygames Developer Bio MobyGames - Chris Bateman. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  14. ^ "Soren Albert Bateman", 18 February 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  15. ^ IEEE Player Satisfaction Modelling Task Force "Members", 23 May 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  16. ^ Bateman, C and Nacke, L "The Neurobiology of Play", 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2011.[dead link]
  17. ^ BrainHex website "60,000 Responses!", 18 February 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  18. ^ Bateman, C and Boon, R. "21st Century Game Design". Charles River Media, 2006, pp. 13-32
  19. ^ Bateman, C and Boon, R. "21st Century Game Design". Charles River Media, 2006, pp. 33-77
  20. ^ Bateman, C (ed.). "Beyond Game Design: Nine Steps Toward Creating Better Videogames". Cengage, 2009, pp. 189-212
  21. ^ Bateman, C (ed.). "Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames". Thompson Learning, 2007, pp. 85-101.
  22. ^ O'Connor, Susan, lecture at GDC 2008, Moscone Center.
  23. ^ Bateman, C (ed.). "Beyond Game Design: Nine Steps Toward Creating Better Videogames". Cengage, 2009, pp. 61-116
  24. ^ a b "Game Design as Make-Believe 27 May 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  25. ^ "A Brief Introduction to My Philosophy, 13 April 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  26. ^ "Language Games" 21 April 2006. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  27. ^ "Rumours of God's Death" 31 August 2007. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  28. ^ "Fear & Trembling" 11 July 2007. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  29. ^ "Charles Taylor's "A Secular Age" 30 October 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  30. ^ a b "Kant's Yardstick" 22 June 2007. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  31. ^ "Kant's Critique of Judgement" 4 March 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  32. ^ "Mimesis as Make-Believe" 27 May 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  33. ^ "Moorcock's Metaphysics" 15 May 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  34. ^ "The Multiverse" 1 May 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  35. ^ "A Categorical Imperative for the Other 27 January 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  36. ^ "Philosopher's Carnival #121" 21 February 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  37. ^ "Imagination" 1 May 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  38. ^ "Props" 7 May 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  39. ^ "Principles of Generation" 8 May 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  40. ^ "Fictional Worlds" 14 May 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  41. ^ "Participation" 20 May 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  42. ^ "Depiction vs. Narration" 27 May 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  43. ^ "Slaying the First Colossus 25 August 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  44. ^ "Avatar and Doll" 8 December 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  45. ^ a b "Imaginary Games", 22 February 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  46. ^ "Fiction Campaign" 4 January 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  47. ^ "Astrology as Fiction 13 January 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  48. ^ "Orthodox Science Fiction" 18 January 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  49. ^ "Immortality Stories" 25 January 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  50. ^ "Pluto and Eris - a dialogue 11 January 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  51. ^ "Philosopher's Carnival #120" 31 January 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  52. ^ a b c "The Mythology of Evolution", accessed 12 Apr 2013
  53. ^ "Bioethics in the Age of New Media", 18 August 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  54. ^ "Joanna Zylinska on Bioethics", 8 September 2009
  55. ^ "Walton on Make-Believe", 1 June 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  56. ^ "Midgley on Philosophy", 26 October 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  57. ^ "Moorcock on Fiction", 29 March 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011.[dead link]
  58. ^ [1] accessed 12 April 2013

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