IF: Call for Pet Theories

[posted to the Boston IF group; crossposting here]

I’m moving back to the Boston area soon. This group got organized just a few months after I left, which I felt was very unfair — anyway, I’m looking forward to meeting up with you guys.

(Do you have a weekly schedule?)

I’d like to talk with you folks, in or out of the Official Group Meetings, and collectively or one-on-one, about all our pet theories regarding IF — what software solution the community needs today /or/ that the ideal IF of the future will not be parser-driven, but based on brain scanners /or/ whatever you’ve got.

I’d just like to meet for some chats on this basis.

My own pet theory, of course, has to do with hypnosis, and it runs something like this:

A TOTE is a behavioral feedback loop. TOTE stands for “Test-Operate-Test-Exit.” Here one usually draws a flowchart that goes something like: Is the temperature in this room comfy? No -> tweak the thermostat and wait. Now is it comfy? No -> repeat. Yes -> exit.

It’s a basic unit; you can look at complicated behaviors as a lot of these guys nested inside one another.

One application, of course, might be to use these to create smarter NPCs. I’m working on that, although it isn’t easy by virtue of my virtual incompetence in programming.

Another application is via hypnotism —

Because you can look at hypnotism as the project of mapping behavior onto language, and tinkering with the language in order to tinker with the behavior (for a therapeutic result). And one way of doing this is by telling stories, which are great vehicles for communicating with the unconscious mind. These teaching stories are called *hypnotic metaphor*, and there’s a lot of ways to do it.

But, when we look at behavior through the TOTE lense, we translate each TOTE into a micro-narrative and nest those narratives inside one another. These are called *loops* — after the computer programming strategy of nesting loops.

The upshot of this is, if the hypnotic technique is sound — and it seems to be — you *ought* to be able to write games that foster emotional growth, healing, and skill acquisition.

Besides that dimension of benefit — finding a theoretical model for designing games that players will respond to more deeply — the other dimension is that, designing a game in TOTEs means designing your scenes as interlocking mini-games. And a benefit of that could be (as I recently posted in a comment on Emily’s blog) that your player has more freedom to spend time in the parts of the narrative that interest him.

So — a different way of considering choice structure, a different way of considering narrative structure, potential for creating hypnotically benefitial text games; that’s my pet theory. And I assure you, if anyone wants to talk in person about it, I can expand on any of these points, TOTE-like.

What are your pet theories?


Published in: on September 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. If you’re in town — the next Boston meeting’s in a week and a half!


    Date: Monday, Sept 27, 2010
    Time: 6:30pm
    Room: the Trope Tank, aka 14N-233 on the MIT campus (That’s in Cambridge, actually; which is like Boston, but not entirely)

    No membership, sign-up, or any of that; just show.

  2. The meeting was difficult for me to get to, but I’m glad I went. A lot of it was business I didn’t know much about — discussion of past or upcoming events.

    About half of us hung out at a pub after. I got more out of that, because it was a good opportunity to ask the guys some questions on my mind. (What makes a good NPC? What’s my programming strategy to make — happen?)

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