Computer Says “I Don’t Care”

Have been working on prototyping the new game I’m making called Celebrate FTW!. Actually it may not be seen in public for a little while because it’s actually a commissioned thing for an exhibition in Baltimore(!). Anyway, it’s a two-player head-to-head competitive celebrating game. It’s to be fairly simple, as with most of my games, and prototyping mostly revolves around getting some simple stuff working (in this case having the game respond to input by adding various sprites to the screen appropriately) to make sure it feels about right. Which is why this afternoon little green dudes playing vuvuzelas rained down from the sky. And that is because computers just don’t care.

The vuvuzelist downpour came about because I needed to write some code that would allow for fireworks in the game (fireworks being a necessary part of excessive celebrating). In Flixel (the 2D game library I use) there are various bits and pieces that make it easy to “emit” a bunch of “particles” from a particular spot on the screen – i.e. sort of explosion, basically like a firework. To make these explosions you need to define what the particles look like by supplying some kind of image. And because I was in a hurry to just see if things were working at all, I defined a particular to look like a person playing a vuvuzela. Et voila. At no point did the computer suggest that this was idiotic.

And that is beautiful.

It’s common to complain or feel that the impassive nature of computers and software is problematic and limiting. Because computers just don’t care what you do, we run into problems like having to program in every “significant” thing that could happen, leading to a really tiny number of possibly “interesting” actions. The usual problem of content – you have to tell the computer everything, because on its own it is essentially indifferent to what input it gets.

But while this is indeed a pain in the ass in terms of trying to general “meaningful” (procedural) play, it’s a real blessing, or at least really liberating. Because the computer doesn’t care, it means you can have fireworks made of people playing vuvuzelas. You can accidentally have your character animate as walking backwards throughout your game. You can do all kinds of thing, on purpose or by accident. All you have to do is care a bit less yourself in order to see and accept possibilities.

Because sometimes you can be too careful.

21 June 2012
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