Monday, May 18, 2015

2 Kinds of Games

“There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” -- James Carse, 1987.

I've spilled some ink on the subject of "finite and infinite games" (here, here, here...), as have many others (here, here, here...).  The notion that we can play to win or that we can play to continue the game has been meaningful and revelatory in my life.  It's a simply stated idea that is full of densities and layers -- you can roll around with it for a long time, maybe even forever.

Tower Defense games are finite.  You play them to win waves, levels, and the whole game.  Some TDs bleed out closer toward the "infinite" as you find yourself playing to uncover new relationships between towers, heroes, etc.  When you play again and again to find the secrets, though still in finite territory, you're edging closer to infinite play.

Does that make good TDs fractal, in the sense that they approach infinite play from finite play in the way that a julia set approaches 3 dimensions from a source of 2 dimensional geometric rules (yet never quite getting there...)?

Maybe that's one of the reasons why I keep coming back to tower defense.

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