Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Transparent runner on the second base!

Many people have said various things about video games. Although there are many pros and cons, one thing is strangely missing from the current video games. A huge deficit of functionality, seeded in the game and then required for the human to conform, is apparent if you once notice it. Let's call that functionality "meta-cognition for rule-making" What does the meta-cognition signify here? Let me explain.
When I was a kid, I used to play the baseball a lot. The reality of suburban Japan at that time was that you wouldn't play in a proper baseball field. You had to make do with what vacant space there happened to be, either in the small playgrounds or chunks of land being vacant temporarily before the construction began. You sometimes chose to play with "triangular base", instead of the regular "diamond". You discussed with your friends whether there should be a catcher. The "strike" and "ball" counts were also optional. Stealing the base was seldom allowed. All these things had to be negotiated before the actual game started. You also had to decide what handicaps needed to be allowed for the weak and unskilled. All these negotiations were aimed, with the benefit of hindsight, at making the game the most enjoyable possible. You didn't simply play the game, you had to make all these rules. That's what I call meta-cognition. Standing out of the gaming itself, and observing it with the eye of an outsider.
There were even times when you had to resort to exotic rules. Like when there were only insufficient number of players, and you had to declare that a "transparent runner" was on the base. That happened when a player on the base had to be the next batter. He would then shout "transparent runner on the second base", and run to the batter's box.
All these meta-cognitive functions are lacking in today's video games. You don't make the rules, the computers make the rules. You simply try to maximize your performance under the dictatorship of the computer. Thus a whole area of human capabilities is forced to be dormant.
When you observe small kids playing, you would often notice that they are making their own rules. Like granting handicaps for the small and weak. The meta-cognition comes so naturally to children. It is a grand challenge for makers of video games to install that functionality. It is certainly a tall order.

A triangular base game. Everything so free and chaotic. You have to make your own rules.