I listened today to a talk by Warren Spector, the great computer game designer responsible for “Deus Ex”, “Thief”, and various other wonderful computer games.
After the talk, there was a conversation which spiraled around to many topics, but came down to one point: Warren’s ideal is to create games that have a kind of emergence. What he means by “emergence” is a game or interactive experience that is rich enough so that a player will be able to do unexpected things – that is, come up with solutions to game-play challenges – which were not explicitly designed into the game.
Warren bemoaned the fact that so far his favorite moments in computer games have been the ones that were tightly scripted – essentially cinematically crafted – such as the moment the giant tentacle reaches in and grabs the scientist in “Half Life I”, or when the dog bursts through the window in “Resident Evil”.
Yes, it is certainly possible to create emergent games, games that allow the player to explore in a way that was not explicitly designed by the game designer. But can we make those games as emotionally powerful as games that follow a more linear, pre-scripted design?
And then somehow the conversation got on the subject of crossword puzzles – which were held up as an exemplar of a non-emergent (ie: pre-scripted) interactive experience.
Which left me wondering the following slightly wacky thought: Could we create an emergent crossword puzzle? And if so, what would that be like? I’ve already started trying out some ideas…