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Research Questions v1 (Thursday, 28 February 2019, 11:17AM)

This is getting vaguely more tricky I think as I produce multiple versions of the game in a row. But still...

The meta-question of cumulative repetition and variation

Every addition to the series (this is the seventh iteration on the punishment idea) clearly contributes to a larger investigation around what it means to make the "same game" multiple times. It's related as always to other approaches to this I've had as with PONGS and BREAKSOUT very particularly, but also in terms of SNAKISMS and Sibilant Snakelikes where there still that idea of variation within a theme on the same base game.

Specifically I guess there's the ongoing question of what it means for it to be the "same game". This is especially true when you compare UI Edition with the others perhaps.

Cumulatively there's this story of varying different ideas within the game. Whether it's presentation (e.g. Art Edition), interface style (e.g. UI Edition), input modality (e.g. Teaches Typing), (computer) agency (e.g. CPU Edition), player role (e.g. Inversion Edition). In doing this exploration I like to think we're exposing different elements of what a game "is" to explicit examination because of the changes made - you can think more about the impact of aesthetics if you see the "same" thing done in multiple ways. You can think more about agency if you see the "same" thing with and without it. You can think more about the nature of role play if you see the same thing from different roles. You can think more about the "feel" of input if you see the same thing with distinct input types.

So I think this is becoming the larger value of the series in general. Over time it builds into a kind of "game studies" of its own, with the ability to actually "live" or play through the game studies concept in question and therefore to develop opinions and feelings outside theorisation. It's possible that theory could be interesting to apply and examine in this light, but I somewhat feel like that's a job for other people.

Further exploring hybridization

Chogue was an explicit experiment in hybridization, but I think Teaches Typing is a nice example of an informal version of this. The name came first and effectively implied the idea of a hybrid. Initially it was intended just as a cute signalling of the type of input, but already in the design process it's seemed more and more clear that a more explicit mirroring of Mavis Beacon is a positive way to approach the design, and as such this is a (simple) hybrid form. Instead of a car race we have an infinite punishment.

Typing as expression of agency and narrative

I've made two typing games to date. Safety Instructions using typing as a stressful element, not unlike Mavis Beacon but more in terms of discrete timed bursts of typing tied to critical moments. It's also narrative in the sense that it supports the visuals. In Nightmare! mode I allowed it to also become more of a storytelling element with a different voice. In Eveline typing is literalised - you're typing because the character in the game is typing. And then even further in the final version your typing is actually your typing - it's explicitly a creative act with you (the player) as creator and thus responsible. So those are different forms of agency and narrative that typing has had.

With Typing Edition here I think it's a bit of a combination. The typing is a stressor in that you're supposed to keep up a specific speed in order to carry out some specific punishment task (or to resist one in the case of Prometheus) - this applies to the extent you treat the game as a game that you want to do well at in an uncritical way, and I think something like a WPM counter will emphasise that element further.

The typing here can also be a form of storytelling as in Eveline, a way to reveal a story as you go along. In this case I currently imagine revealing a narrative version of the mythological punishment itself (though this isn't set at the time of writing). It's a further drive to participate, perhaps, because you want to know what's going on. There's some kind of opportunity here to either create a moment of tension when the story loops (if that's what happens) or to explore the idea of an infinitely generated text about the punishment, which would then mirror the punishment itself in a different mode.

In my first journal entry I've also already fretted about the agency question - if you don't type specific words and have the action carried out, your agency is kind of more a continuous force like a wind blowing? You're more a source of energy for a character to continue I suppose - which really mirrors the Mavis Beacon approach to agency - you don't steer or drive the car, you basic provide the gas/velocity through your typing. So your agency is highly restricted relative to the more complex activity represented, but it's still relevant and crucial.

Research Questions v2 (Saturday, 30 March 2019, 15:21PM)

Okay well I'm impressed by the stuff above, it's way more detailed than I remember actually writing about. I think it still holds water having actually largely finished the game at this point. What else...

Centrality of the text

The text selection turned out to be the major activity in some ways, with the rest being details. I ended up with basic verbs for beginner, grammars that produce repentance sentences for intermediate, and Wikipedia entries for advanced. I like how that went, especially how they provide really quite different relationships between player, avatar, text.

  • Beginner is a kind of direct idea of almost treating each word as a "button" you press to perform an action. "Push" for Sisyphus for instance. It's very straightforward, a verb you type to perform that action.
  • Intermediate gets at the idea of punishment explicitly, giving us sort of an internal monologue, or perhaps an additional layer of punishment on top of the physical act, where the character has to acknowledge the terrible things it has done. This also has the nice effect of being vaguely educational if you don't know the myth in the first place - you get some idea of who this is and why they're in hell.
  • Advanced is much more meta and gets at the idea of punishment through an overwhelming text to type through, and specifically one which is "about" the thing the character desires (escape, an apple, a bath), taunting them by forcing them to dwell on it, even as the punishment they're acting out (through the text) makes it inaccessible
  • And then there's Nightmare for Camus, which is just a bit of fun at the end there, but which is a nice idea I think - to punish Camus for his idea that Sisyphus, who is unhappy by definition, might be happy. A kind of "see how you like it then" moment for Camus, some realism against his idealism?
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