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not demons that do you a favour for a cost, but a force of nature that follows rules--and if you know those rules then you can follow behaviours and use that to 'read' things the elementals can detect that you can't

find treasure, find water
March 15, 2023, 07:41:43 PM

It is described as "an experiential installation . . . that powerfully demonstrates how non-visual senses can transport audiences to different places or trigger different memories."

When we arrived on March 15, a little after 7PM, this space, swallowed in darkness, was full of people. It was possible to gently work your way into the circle of speakers through a narrow channel of people--this felt like a minor obstacle to be traversed, a boundary set safely outside the circle which separated the true inside from the outside.

At the center of the inside was a raised black circular platform, which felt like the inside of the inside, and it was full of people, occupied. There was another boundary... it was possible to sit safely on the outside of the circle ringed by speakers, until one felt comfortable enough to sit on (or lie on) the round platform.

There were sounds, and a scent, and a circular light above that pulsated nonrhythmically, slowly, to the swells of the sound.

I saw the art as well as others experiencing, reacting to, the art. It was an experience, a place.
Primordial soup / teaching how to use the toy
March 10, 2023, 09:42:08 AM
partial response to rp's post in paradise, partial only

a game, progression, a game's progression
a game's progression, does it lead to a toy or to a summit? are you done or are you free to play? are you free to forget or are you free to explore the mountains? what does it mean to be free?
the purpose of a story- is the purpose of the story to be done?
i want to be done, to be free. give me a real ending, make me believe this is a real summit
give me a summit
hints of other summits- ok
hints of other summits of other flavours- even better
summits for some, summits for others
not optional summits- but imaginary summits
draw lines and boundaries. exit points. permission to leave, permission to forget

and yet also instill a drive to explore further? not to explore. instill a mastery which produces the drive to create. empower the player to create further, create new summits. a mastery which escapes the game? but a mastery also which rests within the boundaries of the game, the tool, the toy.

a real summit. a real escape. a real ending.

a further imagined summit-scape. further imagined escapes. further imagined endings.
March 04, 2023, 11:19:55 AM
I have been thinking about business cards recently, and my website. Who am i? What is it that i do, or aspire to do? Rather than a title, i think it is a verb or an aspiration that I'm more comfortable standing by, and this is the pseudopoetic phrase i have in mind:


Now, I'd like each line to stand on its own- the second line is beautiful, but the first is obviously a hanging fragment in want of a conclusion...

Maybe that's ok? Anyway I'm much happier with the second line, and i hope to find a whole i like as much.

"Making all the world
Systems playable"


"All systems playable"...
I've made a secret gameplay demo that really excites me along these lines, but I won't go into great detail yet.

The common version of this feeling is given by bullet hell games and games like... Geometry Wars, Vampire Survivor, things like that. There is a shifting mass of things which you are trying to avoid, and so you move to try and avoid them.

See also games with interesting movement mechanics and momentum, e.g. Superflight, where the obstacles are static but your movement produces a living, shifting relationship to that static obstacle-space.
Primordial soup / The Collaborator's Dilemma
February 22, 2023, 02:03:38 PM
The Prisoner's Dilemma is a well-known game theory 'game':

Two prisoners (players) are each given the option to stay silent, or snitch on the other.
If they both stay silent, they both get 1 year in prison.
If they both snitch, they both get 5 years.
In one snitches and the other stays silent, the snitch gets off scot-free and the loyal silent one gets all 10 years.

I've been thinking of simple alternative 'payoff square'; it started while observing cars at an intersection:

Two cars (players) are each given the option to accelerate through the intersection, or slow down and wait for the other.
If they both wait, they both lose a few seconds of time. (and then they have to play another round.)
If they both accelerate, they crash and both lose hours of time to insurance, repairs, costs, and whatnot.
If one accelerates and the other slows, the fast car loses nothing, and the slower car loses a few seconds of time.

What does this look like in an environment where two (or more) collaborators have to come to an agreement together?

Two collaborators (players) are each given the option to agree with the other and support their idea, or commit to proposing their own idea.
If they both agree, they both lose some time because no idea was proposed for them to agree with. (And play again.)
If they both propose their own idea, they both lose some time because there was no consensus. (And play again.)
If one proposes an idea and the other agrees, they have come to a decision.

Obviously this is a really stripped down and silly version of how agreements are formed, but so are the prisoner's dilemma and the cars-at-an-intersection dilemma stripped down and silly versions of those real-world examples. The interesting thing here is that it describes a dynamic which gives rise to hierarchies: I've understood on an intuitive level for some time that it's useful for someone to take responsibility for a thing, to take charge, but this game makes it more clear to me exactly why that is.


Aside: It's easier for smaller groups with no explicit leader (or, let us say, shot-caller) because the probability shakes out better: playing this game with two players, there's a 50% chance in every randomly played round that we will come to a consensus. With three players, a 33% chance. (Or: 2 players have a 1/2 chance, 3 players have a 1/3 chance, etc.)
Also, with smaller groups, the rounds go faster, but that's not an interesting new observation: everybody knows that already.

There's no winning strategy for this game at the level of individual players. If everyone does the same thing as everyone else, the winning chance cannot get any better than those probabilities given above. The only way to develop a better winning strategy (and one is clearly available) is through communication -- and asymmetry.
Very presumptuous of me, I'm sure.
And, perhaps unsustainable? Who knows.
Synapses / Self sufficient subsystems, and evolution.
February 18, 2023, 10:59:56 AM
Thinking in Systems - watchmaker quote

The Nature of Order - genes, self sufficient little things
Emergence - Discernible macrobehaviour

Thinking in Systems - defines systems in part as things that have a "function" or "purpose", same idea as Emergence's 'discernible macrobehaviour.'

I like the phrase given in Emergence even though it's a mouthful because it avoids ascribing intentionality to systems.
Synapses / Aligning seemingly disparate values.
February 17, 2023, 09:56:08 PM
This is a big one. Seeing two different things as the same thing. It often feels sudden and jarring and weird. And somehow comforting and right and possible.

The Nature of Order: ornamentation and function.
~ (no link)

Synapses / Synapses are bridges.
February 17, 2023, 09:11:18 PM
I've wished, a few times, for connective tissue between quotes and ideas better than simply linking thought A directly to thought B -- and realized that all that's needed is a place to put that connective tissue. I gave it a nice name, "synapses," because I wanted something brainy.

I'll see if this forum finds its use, but the idea is that I'll only use it when a connection between two things becomes large enough that it deserves a quick sideline describing the connection in all its strength, rather than lingering out of place on one end or the other of that synapse.

Perhaps in time this forum will be the most interesting of all of them.
Synapses / The harmful industrial mechanistic viewpoint.
February 17, 2023, 09:04:33 PM
This synapse (the very first!) is about this reiterated idea that the 20th-century schools of thought regarding productivity and what not are harmful in specific ways. First encountered in The Nature of Order, synapsed in Thinking in Systems.
Regarding Laralyn McWilliams'
"Get Over Yourself"
I'm not particularly happy to be writing this but I've got to get it out...

My time with Dark and Darker was short-lived. It was compelling and fascinating - an exciting blend of risk and trepidation and beautiful luck. And -

One misstep and you could lose everything. Do it all just right and you might be able to strike it rich.

- I find it incredibly stressful too, in a quietly, deeply negative way. More than that, I think it makes a statement, in the way that only a game can, through its very play-feeling, on a particular way of engaging with the world around us. I want to write this because I think it is true for a very broad spectrum of games, and I (1.) dislike it, and (2.) want to know where it comes from, what need it satisfies, or in short, which forces inevitably give birth to games like this.

There is a line from Thinking in Systems that I can no longer find. Paraphrased, it said something like, "If you close down or destroy a factory but do not change any of the conditions that cause the factory to arise in the first place, another factory will open in its place."

I don't even want to close down or destroy Dark and Darker - but I do want to understand the human system that gave birth to it, that keeps giving birth to games like it. Is it pure compulsion, as I have experienced a little of, or is it something else? Is this system the root of videogames?

And... why... does it mirror a certain strongly held attitude which I frequently encounter... the attitude that the world is an unpredictable game, that at every step you fight and claw to gain a little more, and sometimes you succeed but mostly you fail...

Dark and Darker encourages hoarding. Spending your hard-won resources is punishing and unrewarding unless you do it just right. Sometimes the real world can feel this way.

The culture of Dark and Darker is one of hopeless murder. I did not encounter a single individual who did not kill me as soon as they had the opportunity to do so. Literally, I tried to connect every time I saw someone -- okay, sometimes I ran away -- and they all ended in a knife fight (which I usually lost). It was depressing, a miserable little corner of a completely anti-social subculture.

The larger question doesn't have anything to do with Dark and Darker at all, or games at all. What gives birth to this attitude? What satisfies it, and why does it need to be satisfied?

Close reading / Thinking in Systems (A Primer)
February 11, 2023, 04:23:59 PM
Regarding Donella H. Meadows'
"Thinking in Systems"
Close reading / Glass Onion
February 09, 2023, 09:46:39 PM
Regarding Rian Johnson's
"Glass Onion"