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May 11, 2009

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Games and Novels

Joanne McNeil finds a tasty nugget about games and novels.

I like the idea of writing a novel the way you’d write a game. Maybe the end-product is completely traditional — two covers, 300 pages, plain ol’ paper — but the behind-the-scenes process is very different. Dozens of little Ruby scripts. You combinatorially create 10,000 character sketches and put them all on Mechanical Turk to see which ones resonate. Then drop those characters into a text-based world simulation. Make them autonomous agents with goals and desires. See what happens. Mine the simulation for interesting interactions, and then write those up into polished prose.

That’s the key: You use the tools and techniques of video games not as the final product — you’re not trying to generate “automatic fiction” here — but simply as powerful scaffolding to help you write an interesting story. This combinatorial/probabilistic thing is a huge part of the natural creative process anyway; in this scenario, you just admit it, and then augment it. Plug it into a server cluster.

This is probably not what any of the people in Joanne’s post are talking about. But I think it sounds fun.

Related: The widely-linked game/poem Today I Die is a weird little delight. Takes five minutes… if you’re smart!

Posted May 11, 2009 at 2:57 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


What's interesting to me is that nearly everyone who I enjoy reading talks about writing fiction in exactly this way: giving characters autonomy, putting them in situations with partially-defined parameters, and being surprised by the outcomes.

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