{Experimental}

Game Concept

Thesis: {Experimental} is an educational game-creating meta-game which calls upon its community to create variable interactive puzzle / real-time action / turn-based textual / narratively subtextual, etc. ‘games’ as iterative exercises upon the theme of a particular thought experiment. Any and all famous thought experiments in the realms of scientific and philosophical thought are on the table to be exploited as potential creative, learning, gaming experiences for creators and players alike.

Do you make a “trolly problem” short text-based narrative adventure game in which the player replays the events of a strange multi-track train accident from the perspective of all parties involved or observing in an enlightening Rashomon-esque retooling of the classic ethical experiment’s play?

Do you conceive of a multiplayer heist stealth action game in which you and your crew try to outwit “Laplace’s Demon“, the owner of a casino & secret progenitor of all events in the universe, having to use the chaotic power of unpredictable chance coin flips and die rolls in your schemes in order to slip past his infinity of predictions to catch you in the act?

Do you create a “Schrödinger’s cat” first-person shooter wherein you hold the infinite cat-producing gun-box in a Hellrealm where demons accost you around every corridor and you never know what kind of cat you will get with each shot – alive, dead, explosive, poisonous, spiny, etc… etc. etc.

The choices of what experiment to focus upon and what kind of game to make are yours entirely, using the customizable toolset of the {Experimental} game creation kit.

Setting / Characters & Story: Variable. Is the player in the real world, a fantastical kingdom, a futuristic world advanced or apocalypted, an experimental vacuum world, featureless and pure in its singular focus upon the experiment at hand? … Are the characters named, their hopes and dreams accounted for and part of a narrative, or are they faceless actors only working as bodies to move in your game realm?

Dr. Brain! 😂

Inspired by ~

Thought Experiments

Einstein Thought Experiment in Central Park (2014) ~
This collage was inspired by a walk around the reservoir in Central Park and an episode of Radio Lab about one of Einstein’s Thought Experiments. The experiment involved someone wearing roller blades racing their opponent wearing a jetpak travelling 669 million miles an hour.
Different speeds are represented by offset squares, in the shape of an arena. Historic landscape diagrams of Central Park are collaged with images of the New York Times building, Times Square, a street and subway map of the area, a historic map of Amsterdam and a map of the island of Manhattan.

LittleBigPlanet

Project Spark

Justice: What Is The Right Thing To Do? (book)

“Some moral dilemmas arise from conflicting moral principles. For example, one principle that comes into play in the trolley story says we should save as many lives as possible, but another says it is wrong to kill an innocent person, even for a good cause. Confronted with a situation in which saving a number of lives depends on killing an innocent person, we face a moral quandary. We must try to figure out which principle has greater weight, or is more appropriate under the circumstances.”

Gameplay:

Game as Game-Maker ~ {Experimental}, as a game, ultimately amounts to a toolkit to create a variety of different games. Like other similar games, such as RPG Maker, Little Big Planet, or Project Spark, it provides the sandboxes to create a variety of different types of game experiences within its kit’s options. Within the bounds of {Experimental} game templates – (action, puzzle, text-based, roleplaying game, roguelike, first or third-person, strategy, platformer, fighting, other) the player is afforded optionality in scenery, setting, character, dialogue, mechanics, stats, overall design and structure of a short (or long) game experience befitting their vision.

The core conceit of {Experimental} lies in focusing that vision upon a historically relevant and real “thought experiment.” A thought experiment is a kind of philosophical question that involves using physical or merely theoretical aspects of reality to create an experiment. Only ‘on paper’ – or in our minds – these characteristics are cast into an imaginative situation or circumstance, in order to create the conditions to deliberate or converse concerning what the results of this interaction might end up being, if such an experiment were run (or if it were possible).

Wikipedia provides the general definition of a ‘thought experiment’ as such:

~ The common goal of a thought experiment is to explore the potential consequences of the principle in question:

“A thought experiment is a device with which one performs an intentional, structured process of intellectual deliberation in order to speculate, within a specifiable problem domain, about potential consequents (or antecedents) for a designated antecedent (or consequent)” (Yeates, 2004, p. 150).

Given the structure of the experiment, it may not be possible to perform it, and even if it could be performed, there need not be an intention to perform it.

Examples of thought experiments include Schrödinger’s cat, illustrating quantum indeterminacy through the manipulation of a perfectly sealed environment and a tiny bit of radioactive substance, and Maxwell’s demon, which attempts to demonstrate the ability of a hypothetical finite being to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

~

Bientôt l’été is part thought experiment, part video game, all art

A video game is a kind of thought experiment in of itself, in the sense that it creates worlds of a spectrum of unreality for players to interact within and reveal their personalities and preferences unto.

Most importantly, using its generalized creation kit designed to make variable experiences, {Experimental} provides a canvas for game creation for ANY player, regardless of their coding or game design ability. The result will be that a ton of shaky, even broken, and most certainly ‘bad’ games are created within the platform. However, players can continuously improve their designs and ideas as they get used to the tools the game provides, and iterate their games to become more balanced and more satisfying experiences for players to engage with. The process of learning to create a game within {Experimental} can also be a thought experiment in of itself…

Interpretative Creations ~ The process of making your {Experimental} games involves first choosing the thought experiment you will be focusing upon, and then – most crucially – interpreting the purpose and meaning behind the thought experiment into an interactive gaming experience. After reviewing the in-game resources detailing the experiment’s origin, content, and history, using the game-creation kit, the player begins to create an experience to reflect their interpretation.

Given the disparity between the abstract nature of any given thought experiment and the reality of having to design a digital game with systems and mechanics and replayable loops of gameplay, the interpretations can be as creative and wide-ranging as the creator wishes them to be. The purpose is not to recreate the thought experiment in video game form (which will rarely be possible) but to allow the different experiments and their intriguing subject matter to guide a player’s creativity within the creation process, engendering brainstorming for characters, maps, items, narratives and gameplay loops related to the experiment.

Here are a few examples upon interpretations of thought experiments into games:

The Monkey and the Hunter shooting puzzle game in which the player-hunter fires a blowgun with finite ammo toward a shooting gallery of monkeys hanging from the various branches of jungle scene, with different maps, monkey amounts and challenge ratings for the hunter to progress through.

The Lady, or the Tiger? card battler game involving a two-player duel where each player is assigned one of two different, equivalently balanced decks: The Lady or The Tiger. The Lady deck involves finesse and more indirect strategies for winning (a ‘Control’ deck), whereas The Tiger deck has more a direct and aggressive style (an ‘Aggro’ deck). Using each deck, complete with relevant card types akin to the story, the players must adapt their thinking to the deck in order to try to outduel their opponent.

Dyson sphere sci-fi real-time strategy game in which players control a space battleship that is attacking a rogue exoplanet’s Dyson sphere in order to gain control of the star’s resources that it is affixed to. The sphere is composed of different zones of power, attack and defense, and depending upon the semi-random structure of its maneuvers, which change over time through animated, color-coded, and sound-based signifiers that the player has to react to. Through observation and anticipation of the routines, the player-battleship must adapt their strategy to defend against attacks and target the sphere’s most vulnerable areas until it is completely destroyed.

Utility monster action game where you play as the namesake, roaming through a city and consuming resources, destroying structures, trying to get as high of a utility score a possible, for comparison upon an overall leaderboard of all player’s experiences and their campaigns of destructive utility.

If a tree falls in a forest horror game where a lone traveler faces off against and tries to escape the clutches of an invisible beast that can cut trees in half with its claws…

Interactive Education ~ Ultimately, {Experimental} is a mix between both a fun and an educational experience upon these myriad topics covered by our thought experiments. By making the subject matter of these experiments further thought-provoking, strategically interactive, emotionally compelling, and even bloody, the games created by players offer learning opportunities for players through a unique lense. After playing a session of {Experimental}, a player will naturally ask ‘what is a thought experiment?’ / what is the point of thought experiment X? / what is the origin and scientific/philosophical field of the question being analyzed within thought experiment X? / how many different other ways might this experiment’s hypothesis be engaged, or produce a different result? / etc., etc.

Community-oriented ~ For players and creators, {Experimental} will provide a menu of community-creations to review, play, and discuss – for free. Every player who has played through a creator’s ‘experiment’ will then be able to rate and review it if they so wish, including their commentary and 1 to 5-star rating. Players can view the top-rated games on the leaderboard and choose their next experience accordingly. Players can also customize their view of the available ‘experiments’ to play from a list of the game’s thought experiments being interpreted upon, organized by field, topic and overall rating. Every player’s ‘experiment’ will be playable and rateable by the community of players once it has been officially published upon the {Experimental} menu, and at any time along the way, the creator can provide updates and iterations to their creation or even de-list temporarily it for more serious design or content changes.

A rather exhaustive list of examples of thought experiments ~ Featured upon the Wikipedia page for thought experiments:

Physics

What is a dyson sphere? https://youtu.be/pP44EPBMb8A

Philosophy

Mathematics

Biology

Computer science

Economics

The Mind’s Eclipse ~ The Mind’s Eclipse is a Reality-bending Thought Experiment in Video Game Form

Endgame: {Experimental} is a meta-game designed to produce creative, iterative experiences from out of the world’s many historically relevant and hotly debated thought experiments. What kind of wild world will you build out of the philosophies of imaginary conduct within the implausible realms of the prototypical Gedankenerfahrung?