Indicators of Effort

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Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: CPU Edition! is pretty much all done now, a welcome ‘easy’ game to make in the wake of v r 3 that was so technically challenging (for me, personally). The final addition I made was to go through and add in indicators that point to the CPU player as it goes through the various motions/trials of the different levels of the game (as above) for Zeno. I vacillated on including the indicators for a while chiefly because I had to manually add them frame by frame for a couple of the levels (Sisyphus and Tantalus), but in the end it seemed too important to the nature of the game to omit.

Specifically, although the game communicates that it is the computer playing the game both through its title (“CPU Edition!”) and the brute fact that the player has no input, it didn’t feel like it was necessarily bringing home the potential pathos of watching the computer struggle in the different scenarios. Notably, the game and an animated GIF of the game are kind of interchangeable and it might be possible for a player (if that’s the right word) to think they were merely watching an animation or a video of a game, rather than the game itself. Adding the ‘CPU’ indicator, although it could of course also be represented in a video, helps to constantly explain the automated nature of the game as it proceeds, and also helpfully assigns the computer to player to the specific character on the screen, rather than to the game as a whole.

Thus, the computer is both tormentor and tormented, eagle and Prometheus, perforated bathtub and Danaid, Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill and the unseen force sending it flying back down again. This division of labour makes much more sense with the individuating ‘CPU’ indicator to separate the character controlled by the computer from the game world simulated by the same computer, I think. Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but it genuinely seems important when I think about it.

Still, it remains true that in the end the game could still be represented as an animated GIF and appear literally exactly the same when you watch it in a browser window. But in a way, aren’t all looping animated GIFs a kind of Sisyphean torture for the computer? Rendering frame after frame to the screen with no end in sight, at the mercy of the vagaries of the human user to set it free from its infinite task? Or perhaps, au contraire, we might think of infinite loops in computation as the ultimate pleasure for a CPU – the constant and unending expression of their singular abilities to process information indefinitely and without fatigue?

Might one in fact imagine CPU Sisyphus happy?

24 March 2017
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