Readings: Dynamic Systems

October 19, 2011 - Readings

A diagram of a simple finite state machine

Posting a day late due to some travel kerfuffles yesterday. For the record, and since I haven’t announced it before, here’s the planned schedule I have in my head: Readings on Tuesday, a Mouthwash update on Thursday (if there’s been progress), Short Reviews on Friday, and a feature every week but whenever. Next week will be another disruption in bloggery, since I’ll be at a conference, but I’ll be back and fairly stable after that. Anyhow, lots of good stuff this week!

My new favorite blog is Dan Cox’s Digital Ephemera, which had a great response to my post on moral incentives last week with All Games Are Comedies. Dan discusses how this all relates to why games struggle with tragedy (in the classical sense), a thread which is taken up by Ari and ~hellfire~ in comments here as well. It’s a meaty question.

The same blog also has an older post called Games Are Languages, from the epic Games Aren’t Clocks thread, in which Dan straight up starts analyzing games as finite state machines. This is so hardcore I can’t handle it. He ends on a point I disagree with, by arguing that the performance of a player through said state machine can be a work of art, but the state machine itself is not. Me, I have no problem appreciating the aesthetic qualities of a state machine, as well as a particular execution of it. I’d say that’s pretty much what I do here.

Justin Keverne has a very thoughtful post on a Framework for Systemic Storytelling (Part 2). I haven’t read Part 1, but this seems really solid to me. This kind of simulation-driven story space is something I keep arguing for, but I haven’t seen its requirements articulated quite so well before. Lots of interesting implications to chew over.

In The Constraint History of Digital Games, Chris Bateman writes about how hardware and social factors played into the development of game genres over time. As with the best of Bateman’s writing, it cuts past a bunch of silly holywars stuff to get to some practical reasons why games are the way they are.

Finally, the first part of Brendan Keogh’s article on a game jam in Brisbane is just a great, really entertaining read. I’ve always been curious about what it’s like to do one of these things, but they don’t seem suited to the “spend an hour sketching plans in comments, write ten lines, then thoughtfully puff on a cigar” style of games programming that I specialize in.

› tags: game history / genre / morality / procedural narrative / tragedy /