Friday, May 13, 2011

May 2010: Emergence

May 2010's topic was submitted by game designer Pascal Belanger.

I heard the most troubling thing from a narrative designer last year, which went like this: "If we are going to make art, we can't make emergence". I must say I was shocked about this. I could not believe that he would have that narrow a view about art and/or emergence. The first thought that came to mind was: What about Emergent Art?

I thought the statement was nonsense but some people around me seem to think otherwise, except that when asked about it they seem to take sophistic approaches to the question.

  • What is emergence to you? 
  • How do you deal with it? 
  • What place do you let it take in your games/design? 
  • And in your opinion, can we make emergent games that would still be art? 
  • Or even better, are there any valid existing examples of such games?
Jesper Juul on Emergence vs progression:


Garumoo said...

The response from that narrative designer is sadly rather closed minded. I wonder too how he would respond to the concept of hypertext narratives (eg. _Victory Garden_) which similarly smashes down presumptions of authorial intent and linear experience?

I know a few people that break out in hives just at the non-linear nature of the _Pulp Fiction_ movie, or _Run, Lola Run_. Both are definitely art, neither are linear.

Similarly then with Emergent Art, especially if emergence takes effect from the viewer's perspective[1]. For the player, their personal and particular experience each play time is linear (that's the nature of Newtonian time ;-), but what they experience in that linear time can be different each time due to emergent factors. The individual results may be great art, or may be quite dull and droll.

The interesting question is whether the art is in creating the emergent system or in the instantiations of the result.

Putting that another way:

Was the inventor of the Kaleidoscope an artist, or are the users of Kaleidoscope's the artists?

[1] Danc at Lost Garden has a solid article on how using emergent systems during development to make better art.

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