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SoundSelf
Zucku 18/set/2013 às 16:18
A "Response" to: Tenets of Videodreams, Part 2: Rejection of Goals or Meaning
I wrote this as a comment/response/philosophy rant to the developer blog post about goals and meaning and mind states and a lot of other stuff.

It's probably a good idea to read that before you read this.

Note that when i use the term "Zen" in this text, i'm not at all claiming to know what the hell i'm talking about. I used the term as i understand it, and i have no idea whether or not that's in line with the rest (or even parts) of the world or any dictionaries or such out there.

____________________________________________________________________

(Note: referring to "you" as no one in particular for the extent of the text)

Why the Destination is The Journey:

There's this saying or something, that it's not the destination that matters but the journey to get there, you hear it less when you grow up and stop being impatient when travelling or waiting for stuff (well, stop actively waiting anyway).

I somehow feel that entire sentiment is wrong in some manner. Not because it's not true that you shouldn't stop and smell the flowers, but because of how the endings of processes catalogues the memories you have of walking, of feeling the breeze, of bending, of sniffing in the air, of observing the petals, of breathing out again, and on all the other things you did on that journey.

Things ending is why we remember, and it's our memories that allow us growth.

That's why games have goals, that's why they have stories, why they have end credits with epic music to them. To give us the reward of memory. Goals in video games, are the means to a reward, in old arcades the reward was fame, in newer games the reward is the ending, the point where there is no more game, all the answers are given, all the challenges overcome, all the memories stored.

The goal is the point where the future becomes the past, where the past becomes the future, and when the present stays with your forever.

...

In rejecting goals you reject endings (when do i finish a soundself session? when i grow tired, bored? when my voice gives in? when i have to go do something else?), in rejecting endings, you create a in principle unending experience, though one which expires with whimsy.

In rejecting meaning you both reach for zen and push it away. different kinds of zen. There's the mind blank, (ironically) dreamless zen, which is the one you'd be reaching for. There's the zen you reach when you focus, the one where you're so focused in reaching a goal that you forget looking ahead and react on instinct. There's the dreaming zen of visualization, where the dream you're having becomes meaning in itself. (there's probably more kinds, and i don't claim to be using any (non-videogame) terms correctly)

All kinds of games have the capability of letting you find Zen, whether it's a hard action gaming sequence where you manage to get "in the zone" and manage every step perfectly, a rolling landscape full of flowers waiting to awaken compelling you to twist and turn and swoosh around being the wind carrying their petals, or the revelation of a world map, with blanketing clouds and a serene tune that makes you stay before moving on.

I kinda wanna catalogue all the zen moments i feel in games now.

.....

That said, the two games i've played that i'd catalogue as Videodreams (Flower and Journey) certainly have goals and meaning. But the goal is distant and unspoken, and the purpose is switched from movement being a means to reach the goal to the goal being a reason to spur movement. The meaning is hidden away and abstracted, layered away in the pure experience.

..

I also wanna mention Dwarf Fortress. The game where goal and meaning is to build and build, greater and grander and bigger and better.. and then watch it all eventually collapse to the community's mantra "Losing is Fun!"

.....

bottom line, i don't think you need to reject anything to create a dream, maybe except limitations.

.......

I felt like rambling was all.

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So, i'd like to hear what everyone thinks.
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RAGameSound  [desenvolvedor(a)] 24/set/2013 às 14:40 
Hey Zucku! Thank you so much for your thoughtful ramblings! This whole project for me - SoundSelf I mean - is a thoughtful rambling in itself. I think we're doing something very new, so I don't have definitive answers to these things. Just hunches and my own experiences. But I'll do my best here:

FWIW, right now SoundSelf is an open playground that ends when the player gets bored (or whatever), but we're following in Proteus' footsteps and building a more structured experience complete with an "ending" - we just have a lot more work to get it there.

ONWARDS:

~~~~~

I love your idea about the goal being the thing that converts the journey into memory. That's beautiful, and I think you're on to something. Our memory organizes experience into stories. If you think of the memory as a snowflake, then the ending, the goal, is like the speck of dust around which that story crystalizes.

I disagree that a goal is a necessary ingredient in that though. Many of my best stories are crystalized not around a goal, but a surprise or a revelation. I didn't realize that my actions and experiences were weaving into a story while I was living them, and it's not until some later time that I recognize the connecting features and the snowflake of memory is fully formed or recognized.

Sometimes I have a memory that I can't describe. A dream is a great example. I can describe the things that happened, and the order they happened in. But while the dream was an intense personal experience, maybe one in which I changed and learned something about myself, I can't translate that into words or pictures without oversimplifying the experience to the point where whatever made it valuable disappears (and, worse, the describable story then replaces the indescribable experience in my memory as I recite it). Maybe this is what you mean by a dream being "meaning itself"?

I think SoundSelf is like this. It's an indescribable experience, like a dream, and there's something kind of isolating about that indescribability. There are utterly mundane aspects of the experience that are describable ("I saw, like, a galaxy... and then it felt... good"), but the experience itself cannot be evoked by words - or pictures - or even memory. Imagine trying to describe a dream to somebody who has never dreamed, or hunger to somebody who has never experienced hunger.

So what is the speck of dust that SoundSelf organizes around? We provide very very little of anything discrete for the snowflake to crystallize around - we've specifically avoided that. But the unique perceptual experience of being in SoundSelf, as in a dream or hallucination, stands untranslatably alone in that moment.

That the experiences organizes around something that is *not there* until you begin chanting with the game, and evaporates as soon as you try to describe it, is I think what makes it work, and work so well. It's not that there's no speck at the center of the snowflake, just that the speck is much more transient than the kinds of experiences that we're used to.

Does that make sense?
Zucku 24/set/2013 às 16:44 
I think it makes sense, though i think throwing in a soap bubble metaphor would make it more complete, and paint a clearer picture of what's going on.

I'll continue with the soap bubbles after answering this:

Escrito originalmente por RAGameSound:
Sometimes I have a memory that I can't describe. A dream is a great example. I can describe the things that happened, and the order they happened in. But while the dream was an intense personal experience, maybe one in which I changed and learned something about myself, I can't translate that into words or pictures without oversimplifying the experience to the point where whatever made it valuable disappears (and, worse, the describable story then replaces the indescribable experience in my memory as I recite it). Maybe this is what you mean by a dream being "meaning itself"?

(emphasis underline)

Not quite, not for me at least : }

For me, it's a form of daydreaming and/or visualisation, tied somewhat to rythm and/or music, wheter i dance, or close my eyes and create my own personal little music videos (if only i could show those to others!), or let it accompany a yoga excersize, or just let it flow through me as i walk... I can envision my own little 'His Darker Materials' style "Demon" (which is basically a sort of familiar), or let my simple moving my hands up and down become the beating of a mighty phoenix' wings, i can close my eyes and watch scenarios play out as detailed and stunning as any audiovisual work i've seen, i can dance, and take on whatever role in the story i've conjured up for this part of the song.

And while these visualizations aren't perfectly the same every time (depending how frequently i repeat them) it doesn't change.. to continue the snowflake metaphor, it starts melting until i refreeze it and let it crystallize again.

But i can describe them, given the words, or i could have made the videos (given skill in animation <.<).

The part about the visualized dream becoming it's own meaning, refers to the feeling when i'm in the middle of it, when reality stops existing, when all that matters is the next moment of the visualization. It is it's own meaning without the end... but if all it did was fade, there would be nothing to come back to, if there was nothing to come back to, there would be nothing to remember, if all there was to remember was the existance of something good, it would be something i'd miss more than cherish.

Though i'm not comparing to SoundSelf here, just musing to myself about how i work with this.

(as may or may not be obvious, i'm quite stimulatable by music :p)

...

To get back to the soap bubbles..

Because i just can't help but think that the transient, unique, life of a soap bubble is more reflective of something generated by your input, than snowflakes.

Setting up a framework and leaving the doing to the "player" also seems more right than providing not enough for the snowflake to settle on.

In that regard, there are lots of ways to play with soap bubbles (depending on bubble framework, blowing out as many as you can, blowing them as big as you can, watching them linger, trying to pop them, trying to blow them around... And all sorts of stuff in-between theese as you glide from one form to the other.

So how many ways can you play with SoundSelf?

..

Or another question; how will you keep me coming back?

If it's hypnotic enough, obviously i'd return. Or if there's something i want to do again, do more of, or try in a different way.

By descriptions and stuff it sounds hypnotic enough though <.<

....

I wish i had drawing/3d rendering/animation skills to display the things in my head to others.

RAGameSound  [desenvolvedor(a)] 26/set/2013 às 10:59 
Escrito originalmente por Zucku:

So how many ways can you play with SoundSelf?

..

Or another question; how will you keep me coming back?

:BlackMagic:

Without getting too technical, SoundSelf is a finite playable space. But it's finite-ness is so large it'd be impossible to fully explore. Imagine an acre of land, where as you wander through it, you are filled with different unique sensations. A patch of flowers here, a sand dune there. That's a 2 dimensional space you're wandering through.

Now imagine a 22 dimensional space. That's how SoundSelf works. Exploration is finite, but it's finite over so many dimensions that it may as well be infinite. I think what brings you back to SoundSelf is the same thing that may bring you back to a familiar hike, but down a different path.

Have you tried it out yet? We have a build that you can hop into the alpha for right here: (if we get greenlit, it'll be transferrable to Steam) http://soundselfgame.com/?page_id=149

I'd really love to hear how your experience with it relates to our discussion.
Zucku 26/set/2013 às 14:02 
I haven't gotten around to trying it yet ^.^'

I'll definatively try it out once i get my new PC set up!
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