Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
This story isn't a made-up piece of fiction from a writer's mind, but neither
is it a made-up piece of fiction created by a machine. It's a true story from
the player's life. This kind of real-life story generation can only happen
emergently. A game designer can't author a player's life for them.
aPoPHenia
APOPHENIA is the human tendency to see imaginary patterns in complex
data.
The human mind is a voracious pattern-matching machine. We see pat-
terns everywhere, even when there are none. Kids look at clouds and say
they look like a dog, a boat, a person. Stare at television static, and you
can see shapes or letters swirling around the screen. The ancient Romans
foretold the future by looking for patterns in the entrails of sacrificed ani-
mals (and always found them). Even today, astrology, numerology, and a
hundred other kinds of flimflam are all driven by apophenia.
Apophenia works with any recognizable pattern, but the mind is
especially hungry for certain specific kinds of patterns. One of them is
personality. The human mind works constantly to understand the intent
and feelings of others. This impulse is so powerful that it even activates on
inanimate objects. It's why we have no problem understanding a cartoon
where a faceless desk lamp is afraid of a rubber ball. And it's what makes
us say, “An oxygen atom wants to be next to one other oxygen atom, but
not two.” This doesn't literally make sense, because oxygen atoms have no
minds and cannot want anything. But we understand nonetheless because
we easily think of things as agents acting according to desire and intention.
This kind of apophenia is what makes it possible to have characters
and feelings in emergent stories. We don't have the computer technology
to truly simulate humanlike minds in a video game. But apophenia means
the computer doesn't have to simulate a realistic mind. It need only do
enough to make the player's mind interpret something in the game as
being an intelligent agent, the way we can interpret a cartoon desk lamp as
being curious or afraid. Once that's done, the player's unconscious takes
over, imbuing the thing with imaginary wants, obligations, perceptions,
and humanlike relationships. The game itself is still just moving tokens.
But in the player's mind, those moving tokens betray a deeper subtext of
intrigue and desire. The king is afraid of that pawn coming up. The knight
 
Search Nedrilad ::




Custom Search