The Water Is Not Water

I’ve finally managed to get myself back into the coding of my next game You Say Jump, I Say How High after a lot of sadness and angst and despondency. It’s only a couple of hours of solid work today, but I feel like my head is back in the… game. Ha. One thing that has been amusing me today is writing the code for the water because of the strangeness of how the water isn’t water until you say it is…

So I’ve been having this experience of looking at the graphics of the game, which clearly depicts some semi-transparent blue stuff that I know is the water for the level, and thinking “there’s the water”. But then because there’s no code “about” the water, the water is effectively not there. So you jump “into” it and there’s nothing watery about it. The little avatar placeholder (the nice red square) doesn’t notice. This was rammed home all the more when I was doing some debugging and set the water to be collidable and watched as the avatar quite understandably felt from a height and then landed on the water and was able to walk around on it like it was the floor.

Because it basically was, of course. It’s at times like this that one can see the sanity in the madness of extreme formalist claims about games being made of rules and mechanics and so on, and that these are their raison d’être. Further, to the extent that one can fairly easily adopt the metaphor of the game maker as a kind of deity and the game as the world they create, then what is this issue of water-that-is-not-water all about? This separation of the aesthetic and the procedural – or not quite, since the procedural can of course be extremely aesthetic. And vice versa? Who knows.

All I know is that now my water behaves more or less like water. Before that it was effectively a blue rectangle on the screen. And yet it was still water then, too. Hmmm.

1 February 2012
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