Happy Accidents

I’ve been hard at work on my next game, MVC Racer, and struggling like the dickens! For one reason or another, this project has flowed a lot less naturally than GuruQuest seemed to and, as a result, I’m constantly feeling disappointed by it, even though I think the long-term vision is a good one. Still, all this coding has reminded me of how hilarious “in progress” games are. Actually, this has been true of watching the development of my students’ projects this semester as well.

There’s that cliché where a programmer defensively says “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” And traditionally the point is that, no, it’s a bug. But with games especially, I sometimes feel that the strikingly wrong behaviours we accidentally create in code can be deeply awesome. We occasionally see these things bubble through to the surface in commercial games in the form of interesting glitches (something I wrote about a while back). but by and large they’re presumable fixed.

What if this “fixing” is more like “fixing a cat” than “fixing a problem”? What if, in eliminating one strange behaviour after another, we’re kind of “neutering” the beautiful potential of our strange worlds? What would happen if one coded in a sort of “stream of consciousness” and let the bugs fall where they may? What if we embraced them and, as the the oddities mounted up, redirected the flow of the game to incorporate them.

It seems like it could be pretty liberating (and perhaps has been the secret inspiration for some games). Messed up implementations of gravity, if we could just shake ourselves from viewing them as “wrong”, might yield really interesting territory to explore. AI opponents who occasionally walk through walls could become all the more intimidating. Glitched graphics could be windows into new worlds.

There. Inspired yet? Go make a game of glitches, then.

20 May 2011
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