Jon Michael Galindo

~ writing, programming, art ~

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3 January 2017

Magic: Desire & Effect

Well, another year has passed and I continue to muse over games in my spare time. My plans for the now-unnamed game which was formerly known as Alchemite continue to evolve. I once imagined an infinite world in which stories could be scripted and players could create experiences for each other. However, I have had more time to ponder the effects of loneliness and fantasy.

RPGs attract not only for their mechanics and events, but for what these represent: A life that is also a story, magically unfolding. In these stories, magic is very much like science: Its rigorous application works wonders. But, I have concluded that it also serves a fundamentally different role in a story, and I now suspect that RPGs differ fundamentally from life in the same way.

I have experimented a great deal with game concepts that present magic as a form of in-game computer program. The idea held so much potential in my mind, yet its implementations always lacked some crucial sense of wonder. Magic when converted fully to science lost its soul, and I could not explain why. I tried more beautiful visual effects. I tried deeper complexity in the programs. I tried adding more limitations and rules. Nothing worked. The wonder always vanished.

I could be wrong of course, but I now suspect that an emotional mystery truly differentiates magic from science. An emotional undercurrent drives fantasy worlds. In real life, emotions come and go, and events feel divorced from our inner worlds. Events trigger our emotions, not the other way around.

In a game, however, the creator's emotions drive everything. You feel the intense desire for good to win, and so it does: in a clear progression through hesitation, doubt, fear, and struggle. The game's unfolding events perfectly mirror the desires and fears it evokes.

We see this in one aspect of real life as well: social interaction. In each other, we see this same mysterious effect of emotion precipitating events. Introspectively, it is a sense of accomplishment. When intense desires produce effort and effort success, we witness a transformation of reality stemming from emotion. This is magic. Desire becoming reality, rather than reality constraining desire.

And it cannot exist in a game without the component of desire. Unfortunately, I cannot see any means of replicating this in a software-generated experience. The software would require an emotional palette, and must therefore possess a human sense beyond my abilities to program.

Assuming these things are true, how can my game ever contain magic? I will continue to dream and wonder, but this may be the end of the line for Alchemite.

© Jon Michael Galindo 2015-2018