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Wed, Mar. 21st, 2007, 02:30 pm
1K Cars

Everyone should go, now, and check out the 1K project: an overlay of one thousand different plays on a particular track of a racing game (which, I’m sad to say, I don’t recognize off the top of my head, but if anyone does …!).

It’s visually gorgeous, of course, which is unusual among machinima. The cars flow and twist and slide like a liquid, golden river over the game’s obstacles. Watching three hundred or so cars drive off a cliff together, flipping in the air nearly in unison, then pour down onto a lower road, is remarkably original and striking.

I think this goes beyond beautiful and into profound, though, because it’s one of the few visual representations I’ve ever seen of the experience of play. We may not all play a level of a game a thousand times. In fact, with many games we’ll only play a particular level once. But! Across thousands of players and thousands of re-plays, this is a profound way to visualize the ways in which the rules of the game correct and encourage people into certain modes of behavior. Most of the players of, for example, a racing course such as this one will steer their cars in the mainstream. But you’ll get outliers, cars at the edge of the spray. In some places play fans out; in others it concentrates.

I can imagine asking my students to watch this video, and then asking them to draw a play map of their own games. Where do they let their players fan out? Where do they get constricted? What is the spectrum of play that is possible at each moment, and what rules and experiences make it so?

Does this make sense, folks? Or if you were my students, would you just say, “Huh?”