The Death of Meaning

Videogame culture discussion

The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Thu Apr 09, 2015 8:14 am

Direction and Meaning: Why Are All Their Toys Broken? - http://victorygamecenter.com/direction- ... ys-broken/

I mostly write about The Lego Movie here, but I also touch on the subject of meaning and how the anti-Christian artist is forced to deny it at all costs.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Wed Apr 22, 2015 10:47 pm

http://www.pocketcollege.com/beta/index ... -_RR101E10
R. J. Rushdoony wrote:One of the significant facts in recent years is that historians have increasingly been denying that there can be any logic to history, and as a result, they are destroying the writing of history. I may have cited the statement of a historian at a major Western university who a couple years ago, came to class at the beginning of semester in the fall. It was a large class because it was a required course for all students, and he began by saying as a radical modern, there is no such thing as history. The idea of history; a plan, a purpose, a sequence of meaningful events, was a myth. And so the first thing one would have to understand as they approached the subject of history was that it did not exist; that there is no plan, no pattern in the events of man’s life and past. But, he says, since the board of regents of the University of California are paying me a relatively good salary to teach you history, we will proceed now with our history course.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Thu Apr 23, 2015 4:05 pm

christian wrote:At bottom, it’s more of the same old, anti-Christian concept of a totally meaningless, cyclical universe that has no goal, purpose, rhyme or reason to it. And because this is what modern man actually believes, that’s what he intellectually desires from his entertainment. The meaningless, the aimless, and the absurd.


There is a conflict here. Not everyone has thought through their position as rigorously and logically as Sartre has, who said that his philosophy was "nothing else than an attempt to draw all the consequences of a coherent atheistic position." And so many may not even be aware of this conflict. It shows itself, however, whenever they begin to theorize. Reality has a way of obliterating these theories though, since in many cases, the implications of their existentialism tend to wither up in the workshop and become untenable in practice.

But many artists have tried to drag these ideas with them into their creative process. This is the domain of the avante-garde, an excellent example of which is the Theatre of the Absurd.
Wikipedia wrote:Their work expressed what happens when human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down, in fact alerting their audiences to pursue the opposite. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby Erenan » Thu Apr 23, 2015 5:38 pm

Hi. I read your article and have some comments.

I can't comment on the veracity of anything you or Burgun say about The Lego Movie, as I have not seen the film. However, you do appear to have misunderstood the point of Burgun's article. In order to respond properly, you should really try to understand what his article means in the context of his broader philosophy of game design. If you are at all interested, this is a good place to start.

For starters, he is definitely not suggesting that games should not have goals. In fact, a game having a goal is part of his definition of what a game is, so to say that games should not have goals would be plainly incoherent. I also should point out here that what Burgun means by "goal" is very specific. He means an unambiguous, precisely defined, and achievable system state. A good example is checkmate in Chess. You can look at any board state in Chess and correctly evaluate whether it is a mated position or not and if so, which of the two players is the winner. I point this out because your claim that Burgun lets goals sneak back in under the new term "core idea" is mistaken. What Burgun means by "core idea" is not what he means by "goal." They are distinct concepts.

Burgun differentiates different interactive systems by certain properties. A system without any goals is what he calls a toy. It's important to understand that by this he is referring to bare interactive systems that could have goals, but simply don't, descriptively. For instance, according to his taxonomy, a deck of cards is a toy. Poker, however, is a game, because it has prescribed rules, and in the context of these rules players make decisions to try to achieve the goal. You can play Poker by using the deck of cards, but the deck of cards itself is not a game.

Now imagine that I gave you a deck of cards that somehow forced you to interact with it according to the rules of Poker. You would not be able to play other games with it, because the cards would restrict you in some important way. You could not play War, Go Fish, Solitaire, you could not perform magic tricks, you could not build a card tower, etc. The only thing you could do with it is play Poker.

This is kind of like what Burgun is saying about many modern videogames. His point is that with many videogames, there are many players who play with it as though it were a mere toy. That is, he is making a claim about the kind of value that those players are trying to derive from playing with the videogame. He says that many players are kind of just messing around with the system to explore its possibility space. Perhaps this is true, or perhaps not. In any case, if a player were to play with a videogame in this way, they would find that the possibilities of what they can do with it are somewhat restricted by the game rules that are instantiated by the software.

Burgun calls the value derived from interacting with a toy this way as Mapping. His claim, as far as I understand it, is that a toy (that is, a system with no unambiguous achievable goals) maximizes the ability of the player to derive this value from the system because the entire possibility space is available for exploration. He is saying that if this is how players are playing with videogames, then we should perhaps design some videogames that maximize the potential for that specific kind of value. That is, we should also make some digital toys.

However, in the case of games (again, according to his definition), Burgun emphatically claims that an unambiguous achievable goal is not only a good thing, but necessary for the game to even function as a game at all. He says that when players interact with a game, they are trying to understand the nuances of the interactive system in such a way that increases their ability to achieve the goal. As you become better at playing Chess, for instance, your level of understanding of the system's rules is increasing. Accordingly, he calls the value derived in this way Understanding.

But Burgun would never in a million years suggest that in order to design a good game you should design it without any goals at all. In fact, Burgun's preferred form of interactive entertainment is strategy games, systems with clear, unambiguous, meaningful rules and goals. So the idea that Burgun's interest in interactive entertainment is in the meaningless, the aimless, and the absurd is just not true.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Thu Apr 23, 2015 11:19 pm

Hi! Welcome to the forum! Glad to have you here.

I'll be reading your post carefully, and will reply back soon with a detailed response when I have the time to give it the attention it deserves. Thanks for the thoughtful response, and I hope you'll stick around.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Fri Apr 24, 2015 4:12 am

I read his article on the four interactive forms, and I rejected it. Videogames are difficult enough to analyze as it is, and I see no need to complicate things further with these new abstractions. His broken toys article even begins saying that they've gotten him into trouble before, so if even he’s getting mixed up by it, I’m definitely not about to start adopting it anytime soon.

Burgun ends his article saying, "I hope that in the future, developers take the point of The Lego Movie to heart. Stop spraying glue all over your toys." Which developers? All developers? Well, we're not sure, but he does mention some examples earlier on, so we can only assume he at least meant the developers of either "Starcraft, Civilization, X-Com or Street Fighter", many of which would be puzzled over the idea that they weren't making games, but rather broken, glued-up toys.

And so, my article equates game with toy and toy with game in Burgun's language. And by doing so, I effectively drop the toy category entirely. If it helps, you may need to occasionally read the word "toy" where I say "game". I understand that Burgun never says that games shouldn’t have goals. He says that toys shouldn't have goals. But I don’t use his terminology. They’re all just games to me. So to bridge this gap, the result is that I have to interpret Burgun as saying some games shouldn’t have goals. But which ones? If I try to interpret it, it comes out sounding like "the games that shouldn’t have goals are the games that don’t have goals". In other words, Burgun's pure toys. Which seem to me to be a pure abstraction, and not something that could ever possibly exist.

But I think all games should have goals. Certainly the greatest games ever made have all had them. And as a Christian, I believe that even this world, the one we’re in right now, has a goal and a purpose. This is how our Creator designed it. So naturally, I reflected on the matter and considered it a ridiculous thing that anyone would try to make a game without one. Or to even counsel it.

You might say that Burgun's "core idea" is not a "goal", and I would agree with what you've said about it, but it still fits the bill in terms of Sartre's pre-existing essence, which he rejected as the logical result of his atheism. In other words, they may not be the same thing, but they still fall together under the same category of essence. The example Sartre uses in Existentialism is a Humanism is of a paper knife, and it's similar in some respects to your deck of cards example. But even he said that "we cannot suppose that a man would produce a paper knife without knowing what purpose it would serve." So I don't think he'd regard your example very highly.

But, you see, the point of my article wasn't to refute Burgun's theory of forms. It was a response to the entire philosophy of rejection of instruction, goals, and meaning. That's why the article is linked in this thread titled "The Death of Meaning". It's a serious subject that is far broader than whatever videogame theory Burgun subscribes to, touching all the arts, the philosophical root of which (openly admitted as such) is total hostility to Christianity. This is the kind of thinking that leads people to even deny that such a thing as history exists, and many other things besides. And so wherever I see it, in whatever form it takes, I'll be against it.

And of course the point of my concluding paragraph is that nobody actually wants games without goals. Not even Burgun. I make the point throughout the site that these are primarily intellectual exercises, which is what is meant when I said "that’s what he intellectually desires from his entertainment." It's not what he really wants. Incidentally, this is also what Sartre meant when he said existentialism was "strictly intended for specialists and philosophers."

By the way, I quickly switch between "he" as in Keith Burgun and "he" as in "modern man in general" quite rapidly. This article isn't about Burgun. All he did was provide the fuel. And for that, I owe him my gratitude.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Wed May 13, 2015 10:40 pm

So what is the chief end of art? Well, that question's never been easier to answer, and videogames have helped to make it so. But that answer cannot be grasped until you can answer the question, What is the chief end of man?

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.


And the same is true of art. This is not so novel an idea. In fact, it's exactly what Johann Sebastian Bach believed.
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote:The aim and final reason of all music should be none else but the glory of God and the recreation of the mind. Where this is not observed there will be no music, but only a devilish hubbub.


I need not elaborate on the man's accomplishments.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Fri Aug 07, 2015 8:53 pm

https://twitter.com/tevisthompson/statu ... 0696346624
Tevis Thompson wrote:New videogame essay coming next week: “The Existential Art”


Very interesting.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Sat Aug 08, 2015 11:44 am

https://warrenspector.wordpress.com/201 ... ut-choice/
Warren Spector wrote:One of the hard and fast rules I lay out for my teams is “Never judge the player.” Never. Players should never know what you think about a question or its answer. (See, this is where last week’s blog post about about questions comes in.) You’re not there to answer the questions your game asks players to consider. You’re most assuredly not there, I tell my designers, to say to players “this is right and that is wrong.” Designers exist to provide opportunities for players to test behaviors and then see the consequences of those behaviors. Given the chance, players will judge for themselves whether the benefits gained by making a particular choice were worth the cost of making it.

It may just be me, but in my experience, there are few, if any, questions or situations that lend themselves to clearly defined, universally agreed upon right or wrong answers or solutions. In most real world cases, there are only shades of gray. Even if you disagree (as extremists and believers of all stripes might) I’m comfortable saying that the most interesting situations are the ones where right and wrong are not readily apparent. I don’t understand why more game developers don’t acknowledge that and revel in our medium’s unique ability to reflect the wondrous, complex lack of clarity of the world in which we live.
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Re: The Death of Meaning

Postby christian » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:58 pm

http://kotaku.com/dishonored-co-directo ... 1726981392
Chris Suellentrop wrote:“And similarly with Dishonored, Raph”—that’s Raphael Colantonio, his co-creative director and the founder of Arkane Studios—“and I made the decision, near the end of the project, if you played very, very darkly—you not only killed to get to your goal, but you also went out of your way to kill the maids and everybody else, then at the very end of the game, Samuel Beechworth, the old man who’s been driving your boat around, he basically says, ‘I despise you for what you’ve become.’ And he pulls a flare gun out, and he fires it, and he says, ‘That’s why I’m warning them that you’re coming.’ He betrays you. And we got so much pressure to cut that from the game.

“Because people are not used to video game characters being mean to them, or telling them you’re not a hero, you’re a bad guy. Everybody just wants to be told in a video game that you’re great, no matter what you do. If you slaughter everybody—you killed the maids, you killed the old people, you killed the beggars—you’re great, here’s a medal, you’re a hero.

“We decided that sounds psychotic. It doesn’t match our values, it doesn’t match the way the world works, it doesn’t match the way any other fiction—imagine a novel where a guy wakes up in the morning, kills everybody in the house, goes down the street, kills everybody on the way to work, kills everybody in the office, and then at the very end of the novel, there is a scene where he is given a medal and made some sort of hero and anointed in some way. It doesn’t make any sense. What we wanted was to let you express yourself in the game, but to have the world react to that, at least in some way. Samuel Beechworth, betraying you and firing off that flare, was something we had to fight for.”


"It doesn't match the way the world works", Harvey Smith says. And he's right. This, of course, puts him in complete opposition to Warren Spector, who said "Never judge the player."
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