Learning Incorrect Schema

Just finished watching Will Wright’s presentation for the Games for Learning Institute.  It’s cleansing, I think, to move from some of the raw intuition that open source types present as social commentary and listen to someone like Will Wright, who’s actually considering the difference between “the social landscape and the material landscape” and has been doing so for years.  The talk itself focused on the concept of games and stories as schema, fostering understanding of our world through lessons and cause-effect chains.

Wright obviously has been engrossed in story for his entire career, and during the unplanned delay before the talk engaged with an audience and pointed out that games do not supplant the linear narratives of books, but rather modify and complement them.  This comes up at the end of the talk, where he discusses Fractal Entertainment– How modern “properties” or “worlds” are not a single piece of media, but rather multiple expressions (some cinematic, some interactive, some linear, some board game, some RPG).  This includes not only top-down licensed expressions but also crowd-driven epiphenomena such as machinima and graphic novels based on Sims gameplay.

Also interesting is the concept of emergence not only within a game but also around a game, where the activity that surrounds, say, Wii Bowling, is as important to the enjoyment and definition of the game as the hardware and software.  As Wright puts it, the absurd gesticulations one makes while trying to bowl with a plastic stick.  But emergence plays a role outside the story proper, and becomes part of the meta-story, where the story is dissected and used as lesson (Wright notes that Blade Runner is the inspiration for city planners for The Dystopian Future to Avoid) and also as Story deconstructed into components to create what the designer calls “possibility space”.  And once that space is created, story emerges from it, to start the dialectical chain all over again.

Of course, story is too narrow, and Wright deals with this by settling on describing movies and books as linear narratives, which is broad enough not only to cover romance novels but also monographs and encyclopedias.  The convergence presented by Wright is mirrored by the convergence of high end research, focusing on model building and schema pattern strategies.  And while these schemas and models are arbitrary, they allow, as Wright points out, the ability to map the patterns that emerge within possibility space.

So many years of so many toys has left the theorists of the world in flux.  That’s why we have so many would-be philosophers with no background in the matter and so many academics struggling to understand their place in  society cut loose from the linear narrative.  It’s good to see someone like Will Wright, who is knowledgeable and systematic in his understanding of how the digital world and the social world mesh and the new subtleties available as a result of that meshing.  And on top of all that, there’s a great story about the Soviet space program accidentally crash-landing in China.

“Dinner for wolves”

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