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Integral Video Games

Last post 09-30-2006, 8:06 PM by Fangsz. 15 replies.
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  •  07-26-2006, 4:27 PM 2108

    Integral Video Games

    I think the idea of an integrally-inspired video game is an important one in today's art scene.  Video games are probably the youngest fully-formed medium of artistic expression out there today, and they have a lot of untapped potential; potential that could be used to better people's lives.

    That's why I started this thread over in the old forums:

    http://in.integralinstitute.org/public/forums/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=17946

    I admit I got a little bit defensive over there, but it's only because I truly think video games are a medium in need of defense.  If you head over to a site like http://www.gamepolitics.com you can see that video games as a medium are being frequently singled out as a cause of all society's ills.  These attacks are generally due to violent and sexual content within video games, subjects that artists have not only a right but an obligation to explore through their work in order to, at best, provide unique and more integral outlooks for humankind.

    So... any ideas on what an integral video game would look like?  I don't think eleminating violence from video games as a healthy way to go, because I think art is probably the safest and most effecient way to explore our more violent impulses in order to avoid future tragedies.  Currently, I think both The Path of Neo, and Prey are good examples of where the most evolved video games are headed.  In the near future, I'm hopefully going to be taking my own stab at creating an integral video game, which I hope to put online.  It's tentatively called Project Deus Ex Machina, and I've got some general ideas, but I'm probably not going to be able to begin working on it untill about a year from now, because this year I'll be focusing my efforts on a (very) low budget film.  Just hoping some of you would be kind enough to offer your own ideas, so maybe when next school year runs around I'll have a bit more to go on.  One of the ideas I'm trying to work out in my head is something I mentioned on the other thread called fight, flight, or follow.  Basically, interaction in video games, at it's most fundamental level, boils down to fight, flight, or follow (not just fight or flight).  When a character or environment not controlled by the character appears onscreen, choosing which of these general paths of action to attempt should become second nature, and the controls of the game should allow a simple and unconscious flow toward each and any of these three paths of action in which a greater story can manifest.  When all this becomes completely natural and the player no longer feels like he or she is at a computer or game console, the player has become completely immersed in the narrative.  If the narrative offers, in some way, integral concepts and ideas, then this "integral video game" can quite possibly become one of the most tranformative experiences in art, not to mention our most advanced and lucid way to explore the endless fronteir of fiction.  I know this all seems very general and vague, but like I said, I've currently got the movie I'm working on, so it may be a while before I can get more specific.

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  •  07-31-2006, 7:44 PM 2648 in reply to 2108

    Re: Integral Video Games

    I'm a big fan of the Journey to the Wild Divine, which is a very interesting approach to teaching a variety of traditional wisdom philosophies and techniques for living a more wholistic life. It also uses biofeedback, which quite literally adds to the integral nature of the game. There is no violence in the game (which I definitely appreciate!), though there is some bad acting and corny music to test your patience and compassion with!

    I used this game with my preschool class, especially the rock stacking exercise, to much success. The kids really got into and understood how they could control their energy levels.

    Other games I think might well fit into the category of Integral are Sim Earth, which is actually modeled after James Lovelock's Gaia theory. The new Sim game called Spore is mindblowingly beautiful, though I'm not sure if it ever allows the intelligent species to evolve past a vMeme of Orange, but I could be wrong because I'm only basing my impression on a teaser video from the very, very early development stage that was probably aimed directly at the Orange market...

    Myst was clearly trying to be somewhat Integral, in that it presented various stages of cultures, and in it's psychological twist ending. But mostly I just mention it beause it's so damn pretty.

    As far as violence in video games, I would have to disagree that it is healthy, because in scientific studies as well as in the Buddhist philosophy, expressing anger as violence (even only in the imagination) only leads to elevated levels of stress hormones. The only healthy way I've seen to truly diffuse stress hormones is to either:

    - do productive, non aggressive physical exercise
    - "unload" one's frustrations and concerns by talking, writing, or creating art in a calm, but expressive way
    - do calming/focusing exercises like yogic breathing or meditation
    - go through an inquiry process that allows one to get at one's shadows (I like Byron Katie's "Work" inquiry, myself)
    - bring one's focus onto a "grounding" thought (mine is that my purpose in life is to alleviate suffering) that helps guide one back into one's healthy self

    However, as a teacher I know that it's important not to dismiss boys' (mostly) desires to act out their fears through pretend violence. But I'd rather that the kids use their own imaginations and open ended creative play to do this, than have a scripted game with glorified violence. I do agree with you that art is a good way of channeling ones emotional energy, but I don't see much creativity in most video games, especially where the story line is already provided. Creating them may be creative, but playing them pretty much isn't, in my experience.

    Thanks for the intreguing question, by the way!

    Peace, Love, and Bicycles,
    Turtle
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  •  08-02-2006, 1:55 PM 2933 in reply to 2648

    Re: Integral Video Games

    I've heard of Journey to the Wild Devine, but I haven't yet played it (mostly because of it's price).  It does sound like a fascinating concept though, and I think biofeedback could someday be integrated into more mainstream video games.  However, while it may be great at reducing stress, I don't think it's any kind of ultimate answer as far as the art of video games are concerned.  I'm not even sure I'd consider it fully a part of the video game medium (at least not in its current form), but keep in mind this is due only to impressions from trailers.

    I think you may have misunderstood me when I said that video games should explore humankind's more violent impulses.  I wasn't suggesting that violent video games are a way to reduce stress.  I realize many people do make that arguement, so it's understandable that you made that conclusion.  What I meant was that artists who make video games, like those who make movies and novels, have a right and an obligation to explore the darker sides of human nature, as well as the more positive or progressive ones, within their narrative.  If one where to say that the violence in Prey or Half Life is unhealthy, then it must also be assumed that the violence in The Matrix is unhealthy, and even that the violence in A Tale of Two Cities is unhealthy.  I don't beleive that is the case.  I beleive artists should be free to explore what they feel needs to be explored.  For the sake of arguement, let's say playing an immersive narrative video game isn't especially creative, but it's no less creative than watching a movie or reading a novel.  And good video game, like a good movie or novel, will engage the player with its storytelling and invoke the imagination.  I think this is creative on both sides, and I also beleive this is where Will Wright's games (Sim City, Sim Earth, The Sims, Spore) generally fall short.  Will Wright attempts to make mere simulations, not immersive and engaging stories.  Video games offer so many possibilities as an art form, and not all of them involve simply giving the player more options or more things to play with.  I think the whole "sandbox" model for video games, where a player is allowed to do whatever he or she wants, is fundamentally flawed.  Truely inspirational and engaging video games, in my experience, have not been games where the options are limitless.  They have been games where the options were always based on a situation, on a story.  And while it always feels that there are in fact many options, that the player has a choice, everything the player does will ultimately lead to the story's conclusion.  The player, or more accurately, the character he or she controls, has a path; a destiny, and while the illusion of free will is presented to the player, the storyteller's conclusion is inevitable.  I'm not saying this is the only model for video games to follow, but it's a damn good one.

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  •  08-04-2006, 5:10 PM 3277 in reply to 2933

    Re: Integral Video Games

    By the way, I'm sorry if that last post came across as a bit cold.  Any attempt to be friendly when I was writing that seemed to come across as insincere.  I do want to thank you for your post though, because I think this is an important and often overlooked issue.  It seems rare that any kind of fiction, much less a newly emerging form of fiction like the video game medium, is discussed in an integrally oriented conversation.  I think it's time we got the ball rolling with an integral fiction.  I've been thinking about starting another discussion thread based on something to that effect, but I haven't quite figure out how to word it.
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  •  08-07-2006, 4:50 AM 3603 in reply to 3277

    • ats is not online. Last active: 08-05-2007, 1:07 AM ats
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    Re: Integral Video Games

    As far as an idea of an integral video game, can you imagine an Integral Sim City?  Sim City is already sort of there.  It'd be cool to have an instruction booklet explaining the rules in an AQAL format, with internal and external components.

    And, the goal would be to create an enlightened society, fully awakened in the interior and exterior, in all quadrants!Smile [:)]Smile [:)]Smile [:)]

    myspace.com/zentaimusic
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  •  08-07-2006, 5:10 AM 3604 in reply to 3603

    • ats is not online. Last active: 08-05-2007, 1:07 AM ats
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    Re: Integral Video Games

    The problem with video games is that the players will find out the programming through testing or hacking.  The problem I have with video games is that it is totally Amber  (Blue) meme.  It's all based on a "world" constructed by solid rules.  If you know the rules, you know how the game works.  I believe it can unconsciously brainwash people into living life in a parallel fashion, believing they know the rules to life.  I was a video game junkie in my childhood, and I believe I was brainwashed in this way.

    The real revolutionary trick would be to make people think Orange or Green or Yellow in a game.  Every popular game I know of so far only solidifies Amber or Red.  (But even if you had rules for Orange, Green, Yellow, etc., it still might be seen as just rules (Amber).  The problem of making a program which by nature is totally Amber (execution of solid rules in a rule oriented world), and yet fooling a human mind to think it's Orange, Green, or Yellow would take some supremely complex programming.  And I mean supremely complex programming, with perhaps dialog explanations for things turning out in unexpected ways.

    If you need help, let me know.  I would love to throw ideas at making such a game.


    myspace.com/zentaimusic
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  •  08-07-2006, 9:01 AM 3624 in reply to 3604

    Re: Integral Video Games

    There's a similar discussion about video games going on in the Integral Institute forum. In it, I posted this:

    I think a more realistic, AQAL way to deal with making fun, yet healthy games would be reward healthy, shadow-free problem solving skills. Make it real, so that the higher up you get levelwise, the more Integral your techniques must become to move on in the game.

    How about this for a potential Integral video game structure...

    - Your character starts out at Beige, just observing the world and experimenting with the available tools and learning basic skills (like walking and jumping around fun playground things!)
    - then you become Purple, and get to explore and discover all kids of wild and crazy things in the world
    - then you become Red, with egocentric aggressive power games (you win the level when you lose almost everthing and have to ask for a truce!)
    - then you move up to Blue ethnocentric defensive and team building games
    - then onto Orange creative and intellectual games
    - then Green games of sharing the wealth, meeting new people, and expressing your individuality
    - finally (?) your character gets to be all second tier like and play intricate political management games where you have to keep everyone moving up the spiral smoothly, and keep people's shadows from literally eclipsing the sun (and turning the planet into a real "dark age").
    - All the while there are little quadranty subplots going on just to keep things balanced and realistic


    Yep, that's my suggestion for a great video game!

    Peace, Love, and Bicycles,
    Turtle
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  •  08-18-2006, 9:17 PM 4663 in reply to 3624

    Re: Integral Video Games

    Thought you'd be interested....

    http://blogs.ign.com/silicon-knights/2006/08/17/

    Games That Flow - Blog #4

    John Mitterer,
    Professor of Psychology, Brock University and
    Consultant for Silicon Knights


    I am guessing that some of you reading this Silicon Knights blog entry are asking ‘What in the world is a psychologist doing consulting for a game developer?” To give you a little background, Denis Dyack and I first met some time ago now when Denis was studying computer science at Brock University. Around that time, I was cross-appointed to work in the computer science department where I supervised Denis’ undergraduate honors thesis and later co-supervised his Master’s thesis. That initial interaction has since grown into a friendship and this unique working relationship.

    Being a psychologist and working with Silicon Knights, I’m very interested in applying psychological principles to game design. To illustrate how this works I’d like to take you back to Denis’ first blog entry where he touched on engagement theory: Engagement >= Content + Game Play + Technology + Art + Audio. To make this theory more “tangible” for you, I’d like you to think of it in terms of a state of mind called flow.

    The Wikipedia defines flow as “a mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” And, according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "Flow occurs when a person’s skill level is perfectly balanced to the challenge level of a task that has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.” (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience).

    As humans, we can get into this state of mind in a number of ways. One classic way is through a bodily experience. For example, the tennis player surrenders all sense of space, time and self to the game. From eye to brain to hand, it all just happens without any conscious effort. The same can be true in playing or listening to music, reading a book, watching a movie or playing a video game. And this is surely what we, as video game designers, want to induce in our players. If we are successful, then our players will want to play our game, and play it again.

    Up until just recently, there have been two basic ways to generate flow experiences. One, tied into what Donald Norman, in his book entitled Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine calls experiential cognition, arises out of being passively swept away, say, by music, a play, a book, or a movie. Our imagination reigns supreme as we are caught up in the flow of the experience. The other, tied into reflective cognition, arises out of intense concentration and intellectual effort, as in a chess game, or computer programming, or problem solving at a professional level. While reflective cognition is anything but passive, it can nevertheless lead to flow.

    As game designers we are in a unique position as we have the opportunity to generate flow in both ways at once. The sheer visual and auditory impact of a game can induce experiential cognition flow while the concentration on strategy and tactics can generate reflective cognition flow. The resulting combination can produce a powerful flow experience. Those of you who have become addicted to a good computer game know exactly what I’m talking about, right?!

    As production values continue to improve and hardware/software/bandwidth continues to expand, we can produce better and better games capable of producing experiences that induce a vibrant flow for players. At the limit, new input and output technologies will ensure that we can create virtual realities capable of producing flow along with the best that "real life" has to offer.

    While the motion picture was the dominant art form of the 20th century, it produced mostly experiential cognition flow experiences. As game creation techniques become more sophisticated, I believe that video games (maybe they won't even be called that any more) will become capable of generating experiential cognition flow experiences as profound as those of movies. But the interactive power of the computer will allow for reflective mode cognition flow as well. This combination means that the descendants of what we now call video games will become the dominant art form of the 21st century.

    The secret, then, to creating winning video games involves designing them to maximize flow, both experiential cognition flow and reflective cognition flow. I am delighted to be able to help Silicon Knights to do just that.


    __________________________

    Corey W. deVos (dj rekluse)
    Brand Manager, Integral Naked
    Audio Manager, Integral Institute
    Managing Editor, KenWilber.com
    __________________________
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  •  08-30-2006, 4:14 PM 6034 in reply to 3604

    Re: Integral Video Games

    It's been a while sense I've been able to respond to this thread, but I have been keeping up with it.  I'll start with ats's post:

    ats:
    The problem with video games is that the players will find out the programming through testing or hacking.  The problem I have with video games is that it is totally Amber  (Blue) meme.  It's all based on a "world" constructed by solid rules.  If you know the rules, you know how the game works.  I believe it can unconsciously brainwash people into living life in a parallel fashion, believing they know the rules to life.  I was a video game junkie in my childhood, and I believe I was brainwashed in this way.

    First of all, what video games did you play, and when exactly was it that you were a video game junkie?  Earlier video games were bound very heavily by rules, and a system of rules must always be established in any video game, but today, it seems to me that a mark of a good video game is that it breaks the rules it establishes.  Here's how I see it: A video game sets certain rules, a player must figure these rules out through experimentation, then the video game breaks the original rules, and thus a sort of "whoa!" moment is created, something that jars the player's sensabilities, and video games can do this better than any other medium.  Generally, the more time the game breaks the rules, the better the game is.  This to me, is what seperates video games from other games, making them essentially not games at all (unless you would consider life itself to be a game).  So yes, early video games were all amber, but the medium has changed.  Hacking really isn't so much of a problem.  Manipulating the rules of the game makes less sense if the rules are constantly changing, and there's sort of a suspension of disbeleif that comes in to play.  If player's really want to experience a game's narrative, they're not going to try to "hack" the game.  On the other hand, once a player has completed the narrative (which usually doesn't take that long) many developers (such as Valve with their Half-Life series) encourage a certain type of hacking called modding, in which players use the game's engine as a tool to create their own video games, their own narratives.  There is a thriving modding culture surrounding the Half-Life 2 engine, and Valve actually lets many modders sell their original games on their online store called Steam.

    ats:


    The real revolutionary trick would be to make people think Orange or Green or Yellow in a game.  Every popular game I know of so far only solidifies Amber or Red.  (But even if you had rules for Orange, Green, Yellow, etc., it still might be seen as just rules (Amber).  The problem of making a program which by nature is totally Amber (execution of solid rules in a rule oriented world), and yet fooling a human mind to think it's Orange, Green, or Yellow would take some supremely complex programming.  And I mean supremely complex programming, with perhaps dialog explanations for things turning out in unexpected ways.

    If you need help, let me know.  I would love to throw ideas at making such a game.

     

    I don't know... do movies make people think on specific levels?  If a person isn't already at that level, it seems like that would be impossible, and as I storyteller, it's not a good idea to make movies exlusively for one specific level, as it would give you a very narrow audience.  I think a better direction would be to make a video game with layers of depth so that whatever level a player is at, their interpretation of what is happening will give them a very deep experience.  And I think that would be easier than you think.  It's really already happening.  The programming itself doesn't have to simulate integral consciousness, it's only the narrative that has to be integral.

    And by the way, I'd love any help you could provide.  Once I start making this game, probably sometime next year after my movie's done, we can get into more of the details of this specific game.

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  •  08-30-2006, 4:38 PM 6042 in reply to 3624

    Re: Integral Video Games

    randomturtle:
    There's a similar discussion about video games going on in the Integral Institute forum. In it, I posted this: I think a more realistic, AQAL way to deal with making fun, yet healthy games would be reward healthy, shadow-free problem solving skills. Make it real, so that the higher up you get levelwise, the more Integral your techniques must become to move on in the game. How about this for a potential Integral video game structure... - Your character starts out at Beige, just observing the world and experimenting with the available tools and learning basic skills (like walking and jumping around fun playground things!) - then you become Purple, and get to explore and discover all kids of wild and crazy things in the world - then you become Red, with egocentric aggressive power games (you win the level when you lose almost everthing and have to ask for a truce!) - then you move up to Blue ethnocentric defensive and team building games - then onto Orange creative and intellectual games - then Green games of sharing the wealth, meeting new people, and expressing your individuality - finally (?) your character gets to be all second tier like and play intricate political management games where you have to keep everyone moving up the spiral smoothly, and keep people's shadows from literally eclipsing the sun (and turning the planet into a real "dark age"). - All the while there are little quadranty subplots going on just to keep things balanced and realistic Yep, that's my suggestion for a great video game! Peace, Love, and Bicycles, Turtle

    This is an interesting idea.  Actually, when I first heard about Spiral Dynamics, my first thought is that it would be a great basis for an online multiplayer video game, so maybe our thoughts on the subject are pretty close in that respect.  However, the trouble with this model for a single-player game is that you don't always want to tell the story of someone's whole life, the story of a video game could take place within a single day.  In this situation, using the spiral of development as a model for the game would be impossible (unless you used some really strange symbolism).  I don't think integral art, integral storytelling, or integral fiction is something that shoves AQAL concepts down peoples' throughts, as Ken says, integral art just means that the artwork arises from an integral awareness.  So definitely AQAL should be used in the making of the game, but it doesn't necissarily have to be the subject of the game.  With a multiplayer storytelling, however, it becomes necissary to have a general orienting outline story in which players can persue whatever interests them (and thus be a part of the larger story), for this type of video game (really an entirely different medium in and of itself) I think Spiral Dynamics would be an extremely effective model, and I've yet to see it implemented.  Generally, progress in today's multiplayer online games is made soley based on the time a player spends in the game, the knowledge a player has of the technical aspects of the game, and the player's reflexes.  More complex and profound things can arise from this, but it's not a very good initial model, but this type of narrative hasn't been around as long as single-player narratives have.

    Also, since we're on the subject of narratives, I think I should make it clear that when I talk about video games, I'm talking about narrative video games, since that's what video games are to me.  The phrase video game could mean something completely different to someone else, especially someone who hasn't played video games in a while, so that's an important clarification to make, and I'm sorry I didn't make it earlier.  Right now, even though video games have come a long way, they're still a very new medium.  I'd say if you looked at the best video games today, and compared video game history with film history, video games would still be in the equivalent of black-and-white.  The break into color can't be that far away.  The medium is evolving very rapidly.  In the future, we might not even call them video games, the same way we don't say "I'm going to see a moving picture".  But there is a very profound medium of storytelling that is evolving right now, and I think it's hard to ignore.  I give it ten years before it replaces film as the most prominant medium of fiction in our society.

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  •  09-02-2006, 7:07 PM 6580 in reply to 4663

    Re: Integral Video Games

    inmanagingeditor:

    Thought you'd be interested....

    http://blogs.ign.com/silicon-knights/2006/08/17/

    Games That Flow - Blog #4

    John Mitterer,
    Professor of Psychology, Brock University and
    Consultant for Silicon Knights


    I am guessing that some of you reading this Silicon Knights blog entry are asking ‘What in the world is a psychologist doing consulting for a game developer?” To give you a little background, Denis Dyack and I first met some time ago now when Denis was studying computer science at Brock University. Around that time, I was cross-appointed to work in the computer science department where I supervised Denis’ undergraduate honors thesis and later co-supervised his Master’s thesis. That initial interaction has since grown into a friendship and this unique working relationship.

    Being a psychologist and working with Silicon Knights, I’m very interested in applying psychological principles to game design. To illustrate how this works I’d like to take you back to Denis’ first blog entry where he touched on engagement theory: Engagement >= Content + Game Play + Technology + Art + Audio. To make this theory more “tangible” for you, I’d like you to think of it in terms of a state of mind called flow.

    The Wikipedia defines flow as “a mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” And, according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "Flow occurs when a person’s skill level is perfectly balanced to the challenge level of a task that has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.” (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience).

    As humans, we can get into this state of mind in a number of ways. One classic way is through a bodily experience. For example, the tennis player surrenders all sense of space, time and self to the game. From eye to brain to hand, it all just happens without any conscious effort. The same can be true in playing or listening to music, reading a book, watching a movie or playing a video game. And this is surely what we, as video game designers, want to induce in our players. If we are successful, then our players will want to play our game, and play it again.

    Up until just recently, there have been two basic ways to generate flow experiences. One, tied into what Donald Norman, in his book entitled Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine calls experiential cognition, arises out of being passively swept away, say, by music, a play, a book, or a movie. Our imagination reigns supreme as we are caught up in the flow of the experience. The other, tied into reflective cognition, arises out of intense concentration and intellectual effort, as in a chess game, or computer programming, or problem solving at a professional level. While reflective cognition is anything but passive, it can nevertheless lead to flow.

    As game designers we are in a unique position as we have the opportunity to generate flow in both ways at once. The sheer visual and auditory impact of a game can induce experiential cognition flow while the concentration on strategy and tactics can generate reflective cognition flow. The resulting combination can produce a powerful flow experience. Those of you who have become addicted to a good computer game know exactly what I’m talking about, right?!

    As production values continue to improve and hardware/software/bandwidth continues to expand, we can produce better and better games capable of producing experiences that induce a vibrant flow for players. At the limit, new input and output technologies will ensure that we can create virtual realities capable of producing flow along with the best that "real life" has to offer.

    While the motion picture was the dominant art form of the 20th century, it produced mostly experiential cognition flow experiences. As game creation techniques become more sophisticated, I believe that video games (maybe they won't even be called that any more) will become capable of generating experiential cognition flow experiences as profound as those of movies. But the interactive power of the computer will allow for reflective mode cognition flow as well. This combination means that the descendants of what we now call video games will become the dominant art form of the 21st century.

    The secret, then, to creating winning video games involves designing them to maximize flow, both experiential cognition flow and reflective cognition flow. I am delighted to be able to help Silicon Knights to do just that.

    Good find.  After thinking on it a while though, I'm not sure I agree with the conclusions that John Mitterer makes.  I've actually seen this concept used before in video games.  Jenova Chen did a college thesis on this same concept, and the result was the first game on this site: http://jenovachen.com/

    It's interesting... but there's not really that much depth to it, and it doesn't really produce any kind of narrative.  It's not really a video game on the level of all the great storytelling experiences that so many developers are producing today.  The problem with the concept in the blog is that it only looks at the surfaces of the situation.  The way Mitterer puts it, it would seem like all previous kinds of art have purely experiential "flow" and all games have cognition "flow", but this dichotomy is a complete oversimplification.  Films are not passive experiences.  While on the surface it may look that way, because audiences sit in chairs and watch, what's going on internally (if it's a good movie) is very far from passive.  A good movie will make you jump out of your seat, put tears in your eyes, and above all, engage you intellectually and spiritually in the narrative.  As mediums of fiction have developed, from novels to films to video games, if done right, they have become increasingly less passive.  So idea that cognitive flow is something new to art now that video games are around denies a long history of evolution in fiction.  The whole concept of flow in general is interesting, but I have yet to see it put to good use in video games.  Jenova Chen's games are interesting, but not particularly deep... and honestly, from the videos I've seen, this Too Human game doesn't look that interesting at all, you can check it out for yourself here:

    http://media.xbox360.ign.com/media/748/748783/vids_1.html

    So far, it seems that focusing on this flow concept hinder's the depth of a video game's storytelling.  But I don't know, Too Human may suprise me when it actually comes out.  In general though, and I think that this flow thing is a part of it, it seems like developers are trying to make video game's more simple in an effort to attract people new to the medium that may not be used to complex controls.  But I don't think it makes a lot of sense to completely ignore how the medium has evolved and go back to square one.  There really is a lot of potential for great and engaging narratives, so I think the real goal should be creating complex and deep video games with simplistic interface that becomes second nature.  Ideally, the storytelling should be complex, and the interface should be so simple you forget a controller is in your hands.  This is a difficult task, but I think it something that requires artists, not psychologists.  To me, employing a psychologist makes the game sound more like a business venture than a peice of art.

    Also, I'd love to hear what you all think of these two discussions about video games, I found them fascinating, especially the second one:

    http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?name=news&id=1532074&launchedFrom=/news/articles/1539453/20060825/index.jhtml#/overdrive/?id=1532074&launchedFrom=/news/articles/1539453/20060825/index.jhtml&name=news

    http://gamasutra.com/features/20060810/podcast_01.shtml

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  •  09-12-2006, 3:07 PM 7675 in reply to 6580

    Re: Integral Video Games

    Limiting video games to the narrative type is basically limiting them to the UL quadrant - a truly AQAL game would include all of them.  I think that any trully integral game is going to have to be some kind of MMO - though not neccessarily an RPG.  Pure narrative is no more integral than Sim City.  The former is UL and the latter LR - each focusing on an important peice  of the puzzle.

    There actually seems to be a natural evolution towards more integral video games - because they ultimately apeal to a larger audience,  and engage more aspects of the players' consciousness.  An integral game at its best would allow the individual player to write their own narrative within the context of a game-world whose intersubjective space is the product of other players - a co-creation.  This is the UL and LL quadrants.  Of course the player has control of their own actions,  but not everything that happens to them (UR).  The actual structure of the game-world - it's infrastructure,  etc.,  would only be partly the creation of the game developers.  The developers basically write the history of the game world,  and set up the starting conditions as well as certain immutable rules - like gravity,  or how many charachters you can play,  etc.  (A world without any rules is meaningless chaos).  I think,  however,  that it is important to let the cumulative actions of the players themselves determine much of the metanarrative.

    Well,  that deals with the quadrants.  Levels are easily dealt with by creating different character classes and/or proffesions which will appeal to people who resonate with different levels:  Red pirates,  Blue warriors and priests,  Orange merchants,  Green - um,  I dunno,  maby some form of ecological degredation could be introduced as the result of some of the merchant classes' activities,  to which some kind of eco-warriers might oppose themselves.  Then there would be Yellow everything.  What I mean is that whatever a player chooses as their class/profession, the option to developing skills for another should give them the ultimate posiblitiy of,  if not mastering,  becoming competent at every basic profession.

    In some ways I think Eve-online does this,  and I love the sci-fi theme,  but I think being limited to space ships closes a lot of doors.  You really should be able to run around those space stations in first person mode,  and fight that way as well.  But at least you have the option of changing proffesions by training new skills  - and because of the sheer volume of skills available,  it is impossible for any player to master them all.

    Another piece of software (I won't call it a game) that has recently enthralled me is Second Life.  Linden Labs is pushing for it to be the next-gen version of the WWW,  but it certainly contains game elements.  It is certainly feasable for a developer to create a game that exists within the Second Life world on a private island.  The nature of SL,  which brings in all four quadrants and many,  though not all levels,  makes it more integral than any game I've ever played.  (I'm actually trying to get fellow aqalistas to join me in SL to bring it a more consiously integral presence.  See here).

    Great thread btw.  I've been a gamer for years and think it has on the whole been a positive force in my life.  As to accusations that games are being dumbed down:  part of that stems from pc-console convergence.  Pc games tend to be a little more intelligent/challenging.  I can only hope the end result is better console games,  not dumbed down pc games.

    later,
    Mike
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  •  09-13-2006, 3:12 PM 7749 in reply to 7675

    Re: Integral Video Games

    93Nothing88:
    Limiting video games to the narrative type is basically limiting them to the UL quadrant - a truly AQAL game would include all of them.  I think that any trully integral game is going to have to be some kind of MMO - though not neccessarily an RPG.  Pure narrative is no more integral than Sim City.  The former is UL and the latter LR - each focusing on an important peice  of the puzzle.

    There actually seems to be a natural evolution towards more integral video games - because they ultimately apeal to a larger audience,  and engage more aspects of the players' consciousness.  An integral game at its best would allow the individual player to write their own narrative within the context of a game-world whose intersubjective space is the product of other players - a co-creation.  This is the UL and LL quadrants.  Of course the player has control of their own actions,  but not everything that happens to them (UR).  The actual structure of the game-world - it's infrastructure,  etc.,  would only be partly the creation of the game developers.  The developers basically write the history of the game world,  and set up the starting conditions as well as certain immutable rules - like gravity,  or how many charachters you can play,  etc.  (A world without any rules is meaningless chaos).  I think,  however,  that it is important to let the cumulative actions of the players themselves determine much of the metanarrative.

    Well,  that deals with the quadrants.  Levels are easily dealt with by creating different character classes and/or proffesions which will appeal to people who resonate with different levels:  Red pirates,  Blue warriors and priests,  Orange merchants,  Green - um,  I dunno,  maby some form of ecological degredation could be introduced as the result of some of the merchant classes' activities,  to which some kind of eco-warriers might oppose themselves.  Then there would be Yellow everything.  What I mean is that whatever a player chooses as their class/profession, the option to developing skills for another should give them the ultimate posiblitiy of,  if not mastering,  becoming competent at every basic profession.

    In some ways I think Eve-online does this,  and I love the sci-fi theme,  but I think being limited to space ships closes a lot of doors.  You really should be able to run around those space stations in first person mode,  and fight that way as well.  But at least you have the option of changing proffesions by training new skills  - and because of the sheer volume of skills available,  it is impossible for any player to master them all.

    Another piece of software (I won't call it a game) that has recently enthralled me is Second Life.  Linden Labs is pushing for it to be the next-gen version of the WWW,  but it certainly contains game elements.  It is certainly feasable for a developer to create a game that exists within the Second Life world on a private island.  The nature of SL,  which brings in all four quadrants and many,  though not all levels,  makes it more integral than any game I've ever played.  (I'm actually trying to get fellow aqalistas to join me in SL to bring it a more consiously integral presence.  See here).

    Great thread btw.  I've been a gamer for years and think it has on the whole been a positive force in my life.  As to accusations that games are being dumbed down:  part of that stems from pc-console convergence.  Pc games tend to be a little more intelligent/challenging.  I can only hope the end result is better console games,  not dumbed down pc games.

    later,
    Mike

    I can see your point, and I agree with some of your conclusions, but not all of them.  I don't think a video game has to be multiplayer to be integral.  If "narrative" is limited to the UL, then maybe I'm using the wrong word.  But the thing is, if single-player video games can only represent the UL quadrant, then The Matrix Trilogy, for example, isn't integral because there isn't interaction between people in the process of watching the movie.  And by that logic there is no such thing as recorded art that is integral.

    But if you're willing to accept that recorded art can be made to represent concepts from all four quadrants (and all levels, all lines, all types) even if only the UL quadrant is involved in actually perceiving the art, then there can be an integral video game.  That's all I mean when I say narrative video game, it's a recorded experience that allows for a certain degree of author control.  This control is there, not to limit the player, but to hammer out a path that will bring across certain stories and ideas.  A single-player video game can be integral in the same way a movie can be integral, it comes from artists with integral consciousness.

    On most of your ideas about Massively Multiplayer games, I couldn't agree more.  But this, in some ways, is a different medium of art altogether, or perhaps (and I'm partial to this idea) they're part of the begginings of a new medium that's going to emerge sometime in the future.  Here's the problem with a game like Second Life.  If you look at it as a product, it's fantastic.  You can build societies in a virtual world.  There are so many possibilities.  But if you look at it as a video game, it sucks.  As far as I know, the story behind what goes on in Second Life is pretty much non-existant besides what the players create, it doesn't immerse you in any kind of narrative, and to be honest, the visuals are rather unexciting (unless you want to take it upon yourself to create something spectacuar).  And of course, all this fine if you want a creative product, but if you want a story; a peice of art, then it's really not going to do anything for you.  It's like giving a guitar to someone who wants a Stuart Davis CD.  And like you said, it probably shouldn't be identified as a video game, so why would an integral video game have to be multiplayer?

    There are millions upon millions of artistic possibilities with something like Second Life, and whatever creations will follow it, where the world of a story actually becomes very real, and not all of them involve the internet.  But saying all video game developers should aspire to make something like Second Life if they want to be integral is kind of jumping the gun.  Right now, I think the most important thing in fiction is to evolve this interactive narrative medium that has developed, essentially as the next evolution of fiction after movies.  When that medium moves to the forefront of society, I think we'll begin to see the development of a new medium where fiction and reality actually begin to merge, where the world of fiction actually becomes something that is fully real.  The concept behind Second Life is quite astounding, but we're not going to be able to truly realize it's goal (and make something completely integral about it) until we figure out how to make integral single-player video games and fully master the process of creating the best possible relationship between the artists who make the game, and the player who plays it.  If you look at a video game as a product with certain features, then you'd be right, a video game would have to be multiplayer to be integral.  But if you look at a video game as storytelling, then we're clearly only just begining to realize the possibilities of the interactive narrative.

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  •  09-13-2006, 4:34 PM 7752 in reply to 7749

    Re: Integral Video Games

    I thought a bit more on it, and I thought I'd pose another question, is the concept of a narrative really limited to UL?  Here's the definition: 

    nar‧ra‧tive/ˈnærətɪv/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[nar-uh-tiv] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

    –noun
    1. a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.
    2. a book, literary work, etc., containing such a story.
    3. the art, technique, or process of narrating: Somerset Maugham was a master of narrative.
    –adjective
    4. consisting of or being a narrative: a narrative poem.
    5. of or pertaining to narration: narrative skill.
    6. Fine Arts. representing stories or events pictorially or sculpturally: narrative painting. Compare anecdotal

     

    I'd say the type of single-player video game I'm talking about probably fits closest to the second definition.  It's a "literary work".  The moment the player experiences this work, it's essentially an UL experience, but what about what went into creating that work, and the ideas that it presents.  They can stem from all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all types.  The same is true for novels and films.  But maybe my wording in this thread has been unclear.  Maybe instead of talking about video games as narrative experiences, I should be talking about video games as literary works, that's essentially what  I was trying to say anyway.

    lit‧er‧ar‧y/ˈlɪtəˌrɛri/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[lit-uh-rer-ee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

    –adjective
    1. pertaining to or of the nature of books and writings, esp. those classed as literature: literary history.
    2. pertaining to authorship: literary style.
    3. versed in or acquainted with literature; well-read.
    4. engaged in or having the profession of literature or writing: a literary man.
    5. characterized by an excessive or affected display of learning; stilted; pedantic.
    6. preferring books to actual experience; bookish.
     
    Number 2 there is basically what I'm refering to when I say literary video games.  The concept I've been talking about on this thread is essentially about authorship.  When we get into actually experiencing the artwork, it becomes another matter entirely, in which case I agree with you.  Actually experiencing a novel, film, or single-player video game is essentially a UL experience, but one that has deep connections to the other quadrants.
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  •  09-19-2006, 4:28 PM 8465 in reply to 7752

    Re: Integral Video Games

    Hey guys, I just rediscovered this thread and was happy to see all kinds of great thoughts since I'd posted earlier.  I don't really have much to add, except that I think you've all got some good ideas, and I think we are likely to see more integral games evolving in the near future. 

    I'd also suggest thinking about the idea of intent in designing a game.  Intent could be to convey a specific idea, or it could be to inspire the generation of new ideas, or it could be to teach a skill, or just lead people in a general direction in exploring the world (internal and/or external).  Traditional narratives usually do the first - convey a specific idea - while openended games can either teach a skill or encourage exploration, or maybe even inspire new ideas.  Structured games generally teach a skill, or maybe convey an idea.  Though any one technique could accomplish all intents, I imagine, if it was done well.  Multiple techniques, though, are more likely to be effective, I excpect.  And certainly appealing to people on a variety of sensory inputs is helpful for a more integral approach.  (I hate the tactile interface of most video games, for example.  While I love the visuals of Myst.)  Exercising body, mind, and spirit is probably a good thing to consider in designing a really excellent integral game!

    Peace, Love, and Bicycles,
    Turtle


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