• "A great deal of what is called `digital art’ is not digital art at all, and it seems many digital artists seem ashamed of the digital.  In digital installation art, the screen and keyboard are literally hidden in a box somewhere, as if words were a point of shame.  The digital source code behind the work is not shown, and all digital output is only viewable by the artist or a technician for debugging purposes.  The experience of the actual work is often entirely analog, the participant moves an arm, and observes an analog movement in response, in sight, sound or motor control.  They may choose to make jerky, discontinuous movements, and get a discontinuous movement in response, but this is far from the complexity of digital language.  This kind of installation forms a hall of mirrors.  You move your arm around and look for how your movement has been contorted."
  • "If I were in London now or in the next few weeks, instead of Frieze I'd probably be getting to these shows." Rod's lists are always good.
  • I've used the Settings plugin a lot, but it's very old and dusty. This is a nice fork of it, ported to Rails 3, and saved for future reference.
  • "In a sense, a child, by definition, shrinks Scribblenauts’ scope. The game’s potential solutions are necessarily limited by vocabulary, so players with a smaller vocabulary have fewer options open to them. But, free of the dry, efficient logic of adulthood, a child’s imagination also opens the game up in ways beyond most adults’ reach."

Cowboys and Batman

13 December 2009

When I was reading Brandon‘s round up of the year’s games at Boing Boing, I stumbled upon this fantastic quotation about one player’s experience of Scribblenauts:

For example, a friend at work solves most problems with a jetpack and a lasso, instead of a grappling gun. In his heart he’s a cowboy, and in mine I’m Batman. That the game lets both of us express that is awesome.

comment by ‘Periphera’

I’ve already linked to this in my delicious stream, but the more I think about this, the more I love it.

I loved that the way players approach problems in the game is tied to their own imaginations – I know that my solutions in that game are.

But as I thought on it, I loved the delineation of the world – into people who are Batman, and people who are cowboys.

Batman’s a toolsmith; not only does he rely on his tools (as will as prowess) to solve problems, but he manufactures new ones to fit the task. His toolkit becomes more diverse as the problems he solves do, and he’ll use any and all available technology to influence what he builds. So he’s one kind of hacker, if you like: he’ll glue anything and everything together, pick up tiny fragments of techniques, languages, platforms, patterns, and bodge them together. (Toolsmithery is a practice and metaphor I’m very fond of for hacking/coding – the first part of building anything is building the tools you need. My dad’s a model engineer, and has spent as much time building tools as building a steam engine, I reckon).

The cowboy is more pragmatic. He has one tool – a lasso, or a gun, or perhaps just a prairie stare – and he uses that to solve all problems. He’s still using wit and ingenuity, but channeled through the single tool that he’s master of. Again, another kind of hacker: one favoured tool that they’re master of, and can be applied to all problems; the best of the bash/Perl hackers I’ve met are much like this.

I talked to Webb in the pub on Friday about this. He instantly asserted that he’s a cowboy. That fits. I’m pretty sure I’m a Batman.

And now I have another lens to view the world through.