Modelling games of yore

When you’re eight years old, making pictures like this is super fun.

When I was growing up, my parents were computer geeks. They still are now, but they were then, too. My childhood is coloured through the lens of many different computer programs, and several of them had a flavour that I can’t taste in more recent games.

One program I played was a fractal-generating package called fractint. Fractals are procedurally generated images, created from simple equations, but that demonstrate high levels of complexity. Many fractals are self-similar – a small section of the picture will look kind of like the whole shape. Some fractals also behave chaotically, so a small change in the generating formula will result in a wildly different picture. Of course, I didn’t understand any of this, I just wanted to make the colour scheme green/red, and try and give myself a headache. It worked, too.

The other program that comes to mind is a weird planet simulator called simearth. I hesitate to call it a game, because there really wasn’t any goal to it (at least, I don’t remember one). In fact, there were scenarios that made it almost impossible to change anything. In the Gaia scenario, there were black flowers that loved to live in the cold, and white flowers that loved the hot. If you killed all the black flowers, the planet got cold, and then they all grew back again.

These programs were both really fun, but I’m not sure I’d call them games.  They seem more like computer science demonstrations. There are new games coming out that have some of the same feeling, but these days, they tend to be much more game-ey, which is probably for the best.

What is the relationship between games and models? Can a model be a game?

– David S


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