Monday, June 23, 2014

Inverted Puzzles -vs- Contests

Following up on my last post, some measure of debate has occurred at the Dinofarm Games Forums concerning the purported inverted puzzle form. I'd like to try to perform an analytic survey of the issues at the heart of the debate that seems to be happening. For sake of brevity, I will be using "system" to refer to "interactive system" throughout. In addition, I'll be using "inverted puzzle," but please understand that I am not especially committed to this terminology. If you disagree with the use of the term, then just please bear with me. It is merely a term chosen for ease of communication, because I simply need to use one term or another.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ontology of Interactive Systems

I am deeply interested in ontological theories of interactive systems (puzzles, games, etc.), and one such theory that has consistently held my attention is the Four Interactive Forms devised by Keith Burgun and originally advanced in his book Game Design Theory. My own thoughts on how to classify interactive systems spring in no small part from inspiration derived from this system, but as Burgun's theory is expressly designed as a tool meant to be useful to game designers for creating better games, it does not exactly constitute a fully fleshed out and formally defined ontological theory. There is a rough ontology of sorts underlying it, but in the end it was developed only up to a point so as to render it potentially of use to those who are primarily interested in actually creating interactive systems. It is not primarily meant to be of academic interest to philosophers, and as such, trying to use the system to differentiate between any and all systems, especially weird and problematic corner cases, reveals gaps where Burgun has not explicitly provided a full descriptive account that unambiguously answers (or attempts to answer) all ontological questions.

My interest is in producing such a comprehensive descriptive ontological theory. Burgun's theory has served as a sort of springboard to propel my efforts, though by no means do I feel compelled to remain true to the details of his system. The results ought to be comparable (since we are, after all, attempting to describe the same constructs), but differences, whether merely semantic or substantial ontological differences, should be expected. Some of the terminology that we use is the same, though some of it is different.

I intend to record my thoughts on the matter on this blog. The following post is the first of what I hope will be many on the subject, and while at the moment I stand by its contents, the ideas presented here should be understood as being in an unfinished state. I am still working out certain details, some of which are mentioned below.

This article was originally posted on the Dinofarm Forums, the message board associated with Keith Burgun's game company Dinofarm Games. If you, dear readers, are interested in discussing game design theory, then please drop in there and join the discussion!