CGD Podcast Episode 30 – Deepities, a new Frank Lantz article, and updates


In this episode I discuss the concept of deepities and how it applies to game design writing. I also discuss a new Frank Lantz article on Ian Bogost‘s new book—an article that, it seems to me, pushes against progress in game design in some ways.

(Don’t forget to check out episodes 23 and 24 where I talked with Frank on the show, if you haven’t already.)

Finally, I talk a little bit about some personal updates with me, my 2-3 upcoming games, and Codex (which I’m still playing).

Thanks for listening! If you like the show, show your support by making a pledge on my Patreon page.

  • hilbert90

    I’m a writer, and I’m always really fascinated by what you have to say. It seems the academic game world is going through a similar phase as literary theory right before the explosion of postmodernism. Unfortunately, literary theory never truly recovered.

    I was wondering if you’ve ever read Hirsch’s “Validity in Interpretation.” It digs into the idea that there are rigorous ways to analyze a text, and makes a strong argument against the widespread deepity “A text means whatever it means to you.”

    And for the record, the episode on Auro and your change in philosophy really resonated with me. I had a similar change in philosophy after the complete flop of my first book.

  • Jake Forbes

    I haven’t read Bogost’s new book yet, so this might be premature, but I see Frank’s piece as encouraging designers to look at games from the perspective of “humans as operating systems for play” and not solely through the lens of games as architected rules. Keith, given your narrow focus of what constitutes a game for purposes of your own life’s work thus far, I can see how this article rankles. If one is interested in play more broadly, it doesn’t seem nearly so provocative. Broadly speaking, game makers do need to push the boundaries of the form by looking for play in unconventional places (as you yourself advocate when talking about first-person click-to-murder simulators). On its own, I agree the piece skews towards deepities, but I see it more as Frank’s enthusiasm for an important book than a design mandate. It made me want to read the book at least, so I think he succeeded.

  • You’re the second person to think that there is some connection between my interactive forms viewpoint, and this objection. Really, they are not connected at all. I could completely throw out my forms and just look at all interactive systems as just that – interactive systems – and still I would have this same objection. Regardless of anyone’s specific views, I would hope they would join me in criticizing a view that even remotely sounds like it’s suggesting that it is the audience’s fault if they don’t like our art.

    Thanks for the supportive comments, and thanks for listening!

  • I purchased the book, thanks for the recommendation. Sounds right up my alley.

    I’m glad that episode resonated with you. Thank you so much for listening, and for the comment.

  • Brian O

    I think another area where people are almost expected to speak in deepities is politics, so this seems especially topical here in the U.S. Without wading too much into issues, I think a nice balanced example would be the simple phrases “pro-life” and “pro-choice” — both over-simplifications that distract from the gray area at the heart of the issue. Deepities are necessary to rally people to opposing sides, since if you get into subtleties, people often feel pretty much the same way about the issues:

  • “Pro life” and “pro choice” are not at all deepities. While the public may have a fuzzy general grey position on the matter, politicians do not. There are many Republicans who want to overturn Roe v. Wade. There are almost zero Democrats who take such a position. So I think the distinction is actually quite meaningful.

  • I read the article you linked to first, and to me it felt like it was just a piece of fluff – an article written just ‘to write’ if that makes sense, and taking it’s own joy in the writers own use of language and musings, without any real point or purpose… So yeah, not surprised by your take on it! I didn’t think it was even really worthy of discussion to be honest :-/ (But I appreciate why it is from your context).

  • Brian O

    That disparity is kind of the point, though. The reason a politician can garner support from people that are no where near as extreme as they are is that they make their position sound like it’s about more than it really is. For example, yes, someone that wants to overturn Roe v. Wade is advocating for “life”, just not in a way that matters, and to the extent that it matters, the word “life” is almost meaningless in this context. So I think it fits that definition pretty well, even if it doesn’t have the typical deepity form. Anyway, maybe a better example would be “freedom isn’t free”.

  • Michael Grogan

    “Looked at as artworks, humans are bottomless pools of hypnotic meaning – masterpieces of light and shadow, color and shape, symbol, signal and noise.”
    All you got from this is “humans are surprising”? Really?
    This interpretation seems to ignore the premise entirely. The first four words. “Looked at as artworks”. Under this predicate, each statement is concrete. Humans are complex “masterpieces” of light and shadow, color and shape.

    With respect, I found your application of the theory of deepities in the context of aesthetics misguided and impoverished. Daniel Dennett was specifically critiquing the idea in context of philosophy, where the construct is often used to confound. Frank Lantz is not guilty of that kind of obscurantism here, his point lies in the realm of aesthetics, where, as you eloquently explained in your introduction, strong metaphors such as “bottomless pools” are entirely appropriate.

    I find your writing to be intermittently exciting, but alternately, frustratingly, reductive. I’ll keep listening and reading. You certainly spark some interesting lines of thought.

  • Jake Forbes

    Just started reading the book in question and ironically paragraph one is about establishing the thesis isn’t a deepity.

  • franklantz

    You must be thinking of Frank LUNTZ. Happens all the time!

  • franklantz

    Thanks for making this point. I am trying to say something specific about modes of looking, psychology, and aesthetics, not making some vague homily about humans.

  • Most books don’t need to have such a paragraph, it seems to me.

  • Brian O

    Actually it was the vice presidential debate that put the issue in my head. There could have been something subliminal though!

  • Mister Walter

    I just wanted to toss out that I really enjoy your podcast and articles. Take things where you like, I’ll follow.

  • Thanks a lot, I appreciate that.

  • Il Enzio

    I am not a member of any game design forum or formal community. I stumbled upon your YouTube videos and then became a fan of your podcast.

    Just wanted to say that although I didn’t always agree with your conclusions on certain things that I’ve really enjoyed your podcast. It was one of the very few podcasts on game design worth listening to actually. I particularly appreciated the effort you put into clarity.

    I understand that it is difficult to stay motivated in the face of indifference, but I hope you can find a way to continue podcasting. If you are just seeking more listeners is it possible to tweak your format rather than relent?

  • Honestly, since this episode aired I’ve gotten a handful of “I love what you do, keep it up” encouragement emails and comments and I’m pretty much excited to do it again. 🙂

    I appreciate your comments, thanks for listening to the show.

  • Isaac Shalev

    In critical theory, we talk about reading a text charitably versus reading it critically. In a charitable reading of a text, we presume that the author has a valid insight and we interpret any contradictions and fill gaps in meaning in a way that helps to support the author’s argument. In listening to your critique of Frank’s article, I thought you slipped into a largely uncharitable mode of reading, and your critique ended up being much less about what Frank meant to say, and much more about ideas that you strongly reject, which you projected on Frank’s piece. There’s some irony in this, and I don’t mean that unkindly.

    Critique in the name of progress is tricky. We find fault in things because we want to correct mistakes and apply lessons to our future work. But critique can sap our strength, lower morale, and fragment our focus. It’s an important tool in our toolbox, but it’s only one tool. Stepping back from particular paths and modes of analysis to see the big picture again is helpful. Using a new lens, like the lens of art appreciation, to consider games, can be generative. We don’t always have to feel like we’re laboring in the salt mines.