Timeless Games

Hello there!

Itch.io keeps telling me to write a dev blog, so here I am. I wanted to talk about games; not video games, but games. Often, games contain a series of mechanics that interlock with each other in interesting ways. But, what's the origin of these mechanics? Most games are 'designed': the authors carefully create systems and then fine-tune them. The amount of points given by collecting a gem in Spelunky or the fact that there are gems to collect are examples of this. But I've been lately more interested in purely emergent games, which feature a very small set of mechanics and states, often at the cost of depth. Here, the win state isn't decided by the author, but by the game itself. For example, pentominoes are the set of 12 distinct 5-square figures. Any civilisation that knows math, (future, past, or alien), might discover how fun is to take these pieces and try to get them into a rectangle. The game doesn't require any previous biases, knowledge, or culture, which makes completely eternal. Call of Duty wouldn't make sense 5 centuries ago. The simplest the game, the more universal it is: when we go to the classics, we find only slight references to ideas that have been around for all of humanity (Snake => eat to grow, Tetris => gravity pulls things down) but that might not be intuitive to completely alien creatures. "Pure games", like Pentominoes, the 15 slide game, or the Rubik's cube, just need the idea of creating order out of chaos to work, which I believe is inherent to any life form.

Anyway, let's wrap this up: Designed games are great, fun, deep, innovative, and like any other art form they can lead us to great illumination. But Pure games are like prime numbers: they already exist before we find them. They just need to be discovered.

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85 days ago

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