31 March, 2016

Helixes... (or "going full circle, but ending up a level higher")

Sometimes I think of my creative process like a child holding a crayon, drawing constant circular squiggles on a page. Sometimes the squiggle line is focused in small circles, working through a particular area until it's filled with waxy colour. Sometimes the squiggle line forms large circles sweeping through wide areas of blank space (or maybe the inner child is drawing on a collage, made up of other people's work).

Let's go with the "squiggling on a collage" analogy. Sometimes the squiggles join together elements of different people's work into a chaotic pattern (this is especially true when those other worksare fairly similar to begin with), sometimes they erratically join disparate concepts, often inelegantly and the squiggle line moves on.

The first important thing about the continuous, repetitive circles of the squiggle line is the fact that it covers a field of area, it doesn't stay in one place for too long. The second important thing about the squiggle is that it often intersects itself quite often. It's these intersections that interest me.

When I first pass through a conceptual space, the line often heads onward along a specific trajectory. It doesn't stop to consider things on that first pass through. If the line comes full circle and passes through the same conceptual space again it typically does so from a slightly different angle, and I see that conceptual space from a new perspective. That becomes interesting to me, but the line often continues in another direction. If the line passes through that point a third time, that's probably the point where I'm really starting to grasp the nuances of the concept from a few different directions. The subconscious prods at the inner child, and the circles may now become smaller to explore that concept more completely. This is the point where I start looking at the links between this conceptual space and the other concepts that the circular squiggle's journey has previously linked to.

It basically ends up as a huge relationship map, with hundreds of concepts mentally arranged and linked. Many of these links have been established by other people, but some might be brand new pathways of creativity to explore. The circular squiggle then forms more of an ellipse orbiting two focal points until the line becomes solid in my head.

You may wonder what prompted me to write this post.

This morning as I was washing the dishes my inner child continued drawing it's stream of consciousness arc, this time linking two areas I've given considerable thought to.

The LARP project I've been working on recently has been a gradual building of concepts, trying to develop an elegant holistic system that is fairly easy to learn, only gaining complexity for a single player as their character develops experience. To use an expression in vogue among certain educational theorists, it "scaffolds". It builds a layer purely designed to facilitate the learning of the system, and the initial scaffolding layer fades away once the key concepts are understood...new scaffolding is then built to extend the reach of the system in an organic manner.

Pretty much everything where there is a random component falls back on the basic idea of  Rock-Paper-Scissors test. If you win, you accomplish your goal with no sacrifice. If you tie, you accomplish your goal if you are willing to make a sacrifice. If you lose, you don't accomplish your goal, but the sacrifice is made anyway. Some characters might have the ability to retest the result if they don't like it, other characters might have more things to sacrifice in specific action areas.

The thing I realised this morning is that the LARP system can easily be ported back across to my Walkabout project. I had been looking for a simple way to get players into that world, and had also tried to find a way that the game could be played while the group is taking a walk (through bushland or wilderness) with minimal components to get in the way.

Adapting the boffer LARP system, where almost everything that is done in character is physically done by the player just feels like a really nice extension of the earlier concepts developed in Walkabout. It might be the piece I've been missing all these years. I still haven't decided whether to split this off as a more LARP-ish variant of Walkabout, or whether to make this the core game mechanism.

We'll see how the scribbling progresses from here.
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