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    Nov 20th, 2006 at 12:39:28     -    Conway's game of life (PC)

    As I explore the history and the subculture that the Game of Life has spawned, a particular artifact really piques my interest.

    It is a pattern called a Gosper Glider Gun, it is one of the many patterns that grow indefinitely. When run, it forms an infinitely perpetuating pattern of two small, almost identical patterns colliding against each other and creating a constant stream of 'bullets'. The initial state consists of strategically created cells so as to result in this pattern.

    A similarly interesting pattern evolved when I created a horizontal row of 10 cells. A simple initial pattern resulted in a complex perpetuating pattern.

    Apart from the rules that govern the evolution of the automaton, I feel that coming up with strategy that sets up the initial state so as for the growth to result in interesting patterns feels like playing a game.

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    Nov 20th, 2006 at 12:13:34     -    Conway's game of life (PC)

    I've always held in question the idea of John Conway's little organismic simulation as a game. One does not necessarily play it, it plays itself. The only thing remotely close to some sort of player agency in the 'game' is the setting up the initial state i.e determining which cells are empty and which cells are filled.

    I began the game as most newcomers do, randomly filling the cells without little heed to the rules that govern the evolution of the automaton. After a few, brief chaotic patterns I found the cells inhabiting distant corners of the structure in an almost self-similar fashion.

    This was fun for a while, but then I made up a little game up out of this simulation. I tried to set up the initial state so as not to overpopulate the structure, so that the chaotic patterns persist for a longer time before dwindling into the infinitesimally perpetuating little dots.

    I think because of the vast implications of the interconnected system of rules, the act of setting up the initial state is enough for me to consider it as some sort of game. But only very loosely so.

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    Nov 17th, 2006 at 14:52:22     -    Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)

    Groundhog Theft Auto

    I've got to stop writing these lame topics.

    One of the things I like about GTA3 is the representation of time. GTA2 had options of a 'noon' lighting model and a 'dusk' lighting model, none of which, I think, had any effect of the gameplay.

    GTA3 not only has a 'real-time' clock and weather system that lends an illusion of a dynamic world, it affects what happens in the world to a lesser degree. Primarily, the streets are abound with women of negotiable affection during the small hours.

    What I find most interesting is that the actual time is displayed in the HUD. It's a pity that computational limitations didn't allow the developers to have the residents possess some semblance of a knowledge of time. Most of them will lurch regardless of what time it is and it takes a bit away from the entire endeavor.

    Beyond the cosmetic appeal of the day/night cycles, the minor modifications in perception/vehicle mechanics in rains/fogs, the dynamic aspect of the world owes very little to the little digits on the screen. For time limited missions, a separate clock appears. The clock in itself ,thus, serves very little purpose.
    I've had one character tell me to come back next day at a certain time, this is the only time I've actually used the clock.

    In the real world, the time of day has multifaceted connotations associated with it. How many hours since I ate, what could my friends be upto now, how many hours before I sleep etcetera. Some of these connotations get transferred to the virtual realm for me, so that walking the streets at 3:00 am is a wee bit disconcerting. Had the explicit 3:00am not been shown, I probably wouldn't have cared at all.

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    Nov 17th, 2006 at 13:51:21     -    Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)

    Absolute freedom corrupts absolutely.

    Hooray for trite modifications of cliched quotations!

    In my opinion freedom in games is like probing a hurting tooth. One knows that it will hurt, yet one is not satisfied until one's tongue has fully explored the nooks and crannies of the mouth and cornered that elusive hurting tooth. One then gently, warily flicks the tooth and a minuscule universe of pain is spawned. Repeat after half an hour.

    Because the videogame is essentially a man-made construct of limited computational and expressive ability, it is foolish to pretend that it can ever provide anything remotely close to freedom for the player.

    When I usually begin playing an unknown game, I will try to probe and assess what all I can do in the game, what 'verbs' are available to me, and which button do I press to jump. This probing/exploration does exhibit a minor form of gameplay, but that's about it.

    In GTA3, then, gamers are constantly trying to probe what they can and cannot do within the game and because the world is extremely large, this previously insignificant mechanic gains undue prominence.

    After 15 minutes of playing GTA3 and completing two missions, I got bored and started a slow and systematic slaughter through the streets of Liberty City. Perhaps modern life has instilled in me a sense of always being in control, to switch off the television when I want, to get content on demand etcetera. Perhaps my attention span has waned, perhaps I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. Perhaps the thought of my fantasy world leading me crumb by crumb through this visceral maze of vapid delights fills me with disgust. Perhaps the thrill of rebellion exonerates my reason for playing this game.

    Whatever the reason was, I quit the rat race. As, I assume, so do many other gamers. Now the probing/exploration comes into play. I probe because I'm curious. I'm curious because I'm bored. Deprived of the feeble structure that the missions/plotlines afford, lacking anything better to do...I begin to probe around the mouth that is Liberty City, with the protagonist as the tongue, looking for a hurting tooth, a building I can't enter, a wall I cannot jump across. And when I do, a small universe of pain is spawned, an ephemeral disconnect from my fantasy. I retreat from that tooth, that building or bridge, only to return to a similar one in the near future.

    My fantasy world makes a little less sense as I keep on playing.

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