The Challenge Of Making Things October 4th, 2016

What would you do if you could do anything? If you were all-powerful, and could create anything just by waving your hands around? The answer is, nothing.

You could create anything you want right now. Just grab a pen and paper and draw a new universe. You could have drawn 5 different scenes today, but you didn't. It takes a special kind of person to push past the barrier of the empty page, a talent I and a large majority have trouble with.

An unrestricted blank canvas is the worst possible killer of creativity. People build models of Game Of Thrones worlds in Minecraft. Why? They could build it in Autodesk Maya, or Sketchup, and it'd look better (and might even be easier for a large scene). The restrictions breed creativity. It's not enough to just make something, you need a frame to place it within. Artists need a frame to define the medium they work within.

Why do people build a working 6502 using Minecraft redstone? I mean if building a 6502 is the goal, why not use a better medium? Perhaps this shows us that the subject itself is not as important as the medium it's made in.

Retro games were originally developed in a constrained medium, and required great effort on the part of the designers to fit the game into that. Now we have gigahertz CPUs and GPUs, but people still make pixel-art games and text adventures. In a world where Unity provides instant access to a professional quality 3D scene editor, why would someone make games in PuzzleScript?

We need mediums. An artist with no restrictions will never make anything. Some people think retro games are a fad, but I think as technology gets broader we're going to look to the narrow canvas ever more so.

I worry about things like Dreams, which promises an all-powerful blank canvas. I think a large part of Little Big Planet's success is that you couldn't make everything. It limited you to a simplified 2D canvas of mechanisms, but people had fun trying to push those limits. If there are no limits, what can you push?

Written by Richard Mitton,

software engineer and travelling wizard.

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