Game Development Reference
mental work to do in finding a way to a desirable result. We need only
select the most favorable outcome.
Prediction of a possible future depends on it being driven by a
consistent, comprehensible system.
Pick up a teacup, hold it out at arm's length, and drop it. What will
Obviously, we all know the answer: shattered china and spilt tea. The
reason we know is because we intuitively understand everyday physics. We
know that gravity pulls things down over time, so things dropped from a
greater height will hit the floor with more force. We know that a teacup is
made of a brittle material that will shatter if struck hard enough. This is
all part of a system of rules — physics — which we understand. Since we
understand that system, we can predict what it will do.
The unconscious predicts possible futures by applying knowledge of
the systems which drive the universe. Physics is one, but there are many
others: psychological, economic, mechanical, and so on. Your kid's mind
is a system. So are the politics at your workplace and the lawnmower in
your garage that needs fixing. Feeling the future means first seeing the
future by using our mental models of these systems to predict what will
happen in response to any given action.
The same principle applies in prediction in games. The main differ-
ence is that the systems here are artificially designed arrangements of
game mechanics. But to be predicted in an emotion-driving way, those
mechanical systems must have certain properties.
First, they must be consistent . Like gravity, they must act the same way
in different situations so that lessons learned in one place can be applied
elsewhere. If the rules change constantly, prediction is impossible.
Second, they must be comprehensible . This means they must be simple
enough that the player can wrap his mind around them. A consistent
system isn't predictable if it can't be understood.
When game systems fulfill both of these criteria, the player can see
and thus feel the future, and a universe of emotion arises from every pre-
dicted threat and opportunity. But when game systems are inconsistent or in-
comprehensible, those emotions vanish. Even if the threats and opportunities
are there, the player won't be able to feel them since she can't detect them
through the haze of inconsistent or incomprehensible systems.
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