2017-09-01 : Systems in Miniature

In Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, my unrivaled favorite book of game thinkery, Anna Anthropy puts forward this thesis*:

Just as we draw pictures to examine, explore, understand, or explain things, and just as we write poems to examine, explore, understand, or explain feelings, so we create games to examine, explore, understand, or explain dynamic systems.

Sketch the line at the RMV and you learn something about what it is; write a poem about the line at the RMV and you learn something about how it feels; design a game about the line at the RMV and you learn something about how it works.

I have kind of a lot to say about some of our games - games that Meg and I have designed, games that our friends have designed. What I want to say, follows from this idea of Anna's, so I'm starting here.

But even more, I think that this idea of Anna's is important and good, and I recommend her book. She says that we should all design games, basically all the time, basically whenever we meet a dynamic system and we want to tell someone else about it or understand it better than we do.

1. On 2017-09-01, Vincent said:

* In my own words. Anna, I hope I'm in the neighborhood!


2. On 2017-09-02, Paul T. said:

Very interesting! Will ponder. It makes sense to me. (And sometimes playing a game can help you understand a dynamic system in action - for me, that was Diplomacy, for example.)


3. On 2017-09-02, anna said:

this is a really beautiful way of putting it! it's interesting that i'm sort of on a trajectory now away from games as systems and towards games as poetry. i'm at a phase in my relationship with this book (which happens with most of my art sooner or later) where it seems like it was written by a completely different person.


direct link

This makes...
VB go "I know the feeling!"

4. On 2017-09-04, Ben Lehman said:

This is definitely true for me with the caveat that narratives (the thing that is produced by the interaction of reader + text) are dynamic systems.

So, for instance, clover, has something to say about how childhood learning works, and also about how "childhood cuteness" narratives work.


5. On 2017-09-05, Vincent said:

For sure. I was talking with Emily about rpgs' success at genre analysis and we came to that same conclusion.


6. On 2017-09-13, Josh W said:

Yeah, this is good, I sometimes make little satirical games about my own behaviour patterns sometimes too, and immediately hide them!

'Cos sometimes systems work based on saying they work a certain way, and making a game based on the letter of their self-description results in enlightening nonsense.

And sometimes, it's easier to write a game that fundamentally distorts how something works than that actually reveals it, so you can end up saying "what if this thing me and him do was represented as a bidding game?" or whatever.

Anyway, such work is fun for one person, but when played by more than one person has the same hazards as a fictionalised biography.


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