What’s In a Name?

I’m often asked about the name IKantKoan. What does it mean? Where does it come from? Why, for heaven’s sake, would someone choose a company name that is so hard to pronounce?

I adopted the name IKantKoan for precisely this reason: it doesn’t reveal its secrets at a glance. When my best friend’s mom first suggested ‘IKantKoan’ it made me laugh and I loved how many layers it had, so I ran with it. 

The name is both puzzle and game and something deliciously in between. As with most puzzles, it can be solved. As with most games, it is full of unexpected twists and turns on its way to an end state. The components are as follows: 

  • Immanuel Kant was a rationalist philosopher who believed in what he called Categorical Imperatives- absolutes of thought and action that are iron clad and universal. He believed in rights and wrongs that were unaltered by circumstance. In short, Kant put his faith in certainty.                                                                                                                                                                         
  • Zen koans are paradoxical or inquisitive provocations focused on the exploration of deep, hidden truths. Koans do not concern themselves with rationalist absolutes, but rather expansive possibilities. Koans can be returned to at different points in a day, a year, or a lifetime and have the power to shift our understanding of the world over and over again. 
  • I (the royal I) am the player. I make choices about how to live. Yet I can’t go on this way forever. At some point I must change, be it a change of mind or the change of lifelong biological degradation. Some day, I will certainly die, and hand in hand with that certainty, someone will surely speak of how I am “living on.” I will leave an echo in this world, whether I wish to or not. I can’t go on existing any more than I can’t not go on existing. 

The name ‘IKantKoan’ challenges me to contend with paradoxes playfully. The heavy subject matter of mortality, certainty, and endless possibility coalesce at a nexus of puns and silliness. This combination of playfulness and seriousness  is a fundamental part of how I design games and immersive experiences and the name ‘IKantKoan’ reminds me to joyfully embrace uncertainty every day. I have yet to reach an end state in my understanding of ‘IKantKoan’ and I hope it’s still a long way off. What’s life without a little mystery?

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