Tuesday, May 27, 2003

On games, space and scale

I just finished reading Chaim Gingold's Masters Thesis: Miniature Gardens & Magic Crayons: Games, Spaces, & Worlds (pdf), on the "structure, construction, and aesthetics of game worlds, branching possible worlds, point of view in games, and the design of Comic Book Dollhouse ... a toy for making interactive storyworlds."

He writes:

Space is particularly relevant to digital games. Digital games are highly spatial, and the worlds digital games construct are often particularized in the same way as literary worlds. Game worlds articulate particularized environments, agents, and activities ... “World” sits at the nexus of multiple practices and discourses. Worlds can contain rules, games, spaces, characters, time, action, stories, or any number of other things. “World” subsumes categories such as space, story, and game. Defining world broadly is not useful for constructing a function which tells us whether something is a world or not. It does, however, provide a place to stand for leveraging tools from across disciplines, and thinking about the spatial, procedural, representational, and participatory qualities of digital media artifacts as worlds. By conceptualizing an artifact as a world, we can explore it as a space, story, or game, depending on its emphasis.

Of particular interest is Chapter II - Aesthetics of Miniature Worlds - in which Gingold takes a closer look at space and scale:

A garden has an inner life of its own; it is a world in flux which grows and changes. A garden’s internal behaviors, and how we understand those rules, help us to wrap our heads and hands around the garden. The intricate spaces and living systems of a garden surprise, delight, and invite participation. Gardens, like games, are compact, self-sustained worlds we can immerse ourselves in. Japanese gardens often contain a multiplicity of environments and places, such as mountains, oceans, or forests that we can look at, walk around, or interact with. Gardens are a way to think about the aesthetic, cognitive, and representational aspects of game space. A miniature garden, like a snow globe, model train set, or fish tank, is complete; nothing is missing, and nothing can be taken away. Clear boundaries (spatial and non-spatial), overviews, and a consistent level of abstraction work hand in hand to make the miniature world believable, complete, and tractable for both the author and player. Miniatureness makes a garden intelligible in the mind of a player, and emotionally safe in his heart. Miniature scale, clear boundaries, and inner life help players to wrap their heads, hands, and hearts around a world.

[Via grandtextauto]

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