Conceptualizing Player-Side Emergence in Interactive Games: Between Hardcoded Software and the Human Mind in Papers, Please and Gone Home

Conceptualizing Player-Side Emergence in Interactive Games: Between Hardcoded Software and the Human Mind in Papers, Please and Gone Home

Christopher Michael Yap (Internet Engineering Laboratory, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Ikoma, Japan), Youki Kadobayashi (Internet Engineering Laboratory, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Ikoma, Japan) and Suguru Yamaguchi (Internet Engineering Laboratory, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Ikoma, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/IJGCMS.2015070101
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Abstract

The concept of emergence exists in many fields such as Philosophy, Information Science, and Biology. With respect to the modern video game, emergence can potentially manifest as emergent narrative and/or gameplay. In this paper, the authors engage in a critical discussion about what it means for an interactive video game to have emergence. The authors frame the discussion of emergence as a close critical look at the games Papers, Please and Gone Home. From these analyses, the authors propose a concept of “Player-side emergence in games,” in which emergence in the form of narrative is expressible and observable in games which rely not on the game software itself, but also upon the complex system of the human mind for reconstruction of the game experience and a subsequent expression of emergence. The authors contend that such an emergent design consideration is potentially useful for designers who are trying to address the trade-off of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance.
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What Is Emergence?

In order to understand how emergence could potentially manifest in video games, it is firstly important to understand what it is in terms of how it has been used prior in other fields. From there, it can be seen just how apt a medium the video game is for encouraging emergence in terms of both gameplay and narrative, and how we might be able to identify and address emergence in other games for future study.

The concept of emergence is referenced in many fields, such as Computer Science (Corning, 2002), Philosophy (Lewes, 1875), and Art (Wheeler, 2006). Essentially, emergence is conceived as a process in which larger entities, patterns, ideas, or images arise out of the interaction of the relatively smaller constituent parts (of a thing or system), which often do not exhibit those characteristics (Stanford, 2014). Noting this behavior of emergence, the images or larger entities which coalesce out of the system are often times considered separate and/or greater than the sum of the parts it came from, and this synergistic effect is considerably unintended and/or unanticipated by the original designers of that system. Put simply, emergence is the idea that a surprising and novel thing can “emerge” from a complex system. As that new emergent entity is unique in relation to its predecessor parts, it cannot easily (if at all) be traced or reduced back to those prior components. Figure 1 displays a popular example of emergent behavior in the natural formation of snowflakes, which are all composed of the same physical constituent materials and formed in the same conditions, but which all develop unique and unpredictable patterns.

Figure 1.

Natural emergent behavior in snowflakes

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