Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Duplicating Accidents

There are a lot of indicators of skill when it comes to games, crafts, and art, but one of the most important you can acquire early on is intentional manipulation.  That's a big way of saying, "you do what you mean to do."  Even if your decision making isn't 100% (and it probably never will be), and even if your decisions don't impress everybody, doing what you mean to do is of utmost importance.  It's what lets good decision-making matter; what's the point in making the right call if you can't follow through?  (For that matter, what's the point of doing things exactly how you intend to, and always picking the wrong thing?  A topic for another day!)

Learning to do what you intend to do is the most important thing when you are learning your craft.  And that's why it's so important that you learn to duplicate accidents.

Why do game testers have to replicate bugs?  So they can identify the source.  Bugs and glitches happen for a specific reason; duplicating them is how you find out what causes them.  Most of the reality we've discovered obeys laws, and a lot of the time, we only learn those laws by observing anomalies and discrepancies.  When it comes to acquiring knowledge and skills, anomalies are as important as what's normal, possibly even more so.

When something goofy happens, a lot of people say, "whoa, that was weird!" and promptly forget about it.  But if you want to further your understanding of a game (or craft, or art) exploring those weird anomalies and replicating them is a big part of learning.  It helps you understand why things happen "normally," and what causes it to go wrong so that it won't happen to you at a crucial moment.

The other thing to remember is that if a happy accident succeeds and you didn't plan it to, it means you aren't intentionally manipulating your game well.  Like I mentioned on Friday, having a results-oriented mindset will cause you to think this is good.  And don't get me wrong, it's nice when stuff works out for the wrong reasons, but if you can't control your results, you can't call yourself skilled.  So feel free to celebrate, but keep your focus on the procedure, not the result.  You might bowl a strike by falling on your ass because the ball happened to go straight to the 1-3 pocket at the right angle, but it doesn't make you a good bowler.

It also doesn't mean that if you fall over every time you roll the ball you will get strikes, which gives us another lesson; sometimes you shouldn't be trying to duplicate your accidents, especially when it comes to complicated compound motions.  You might have done everything wrong in just the right way that, added together, they yield a good result.  But if it's the result of a loss of control (such as falling over), then emphasizing the result over the process is not only faulty and damaging to your learning, it might hurt your body too.

What we're talking about is (generally) less extreme and more useful than that.  And heck, even if by duplicating your accident, you learn to make things go wrong, it might help you later on when you're trying to do something weird.  Learning what causes a hooked golf-ball (and learning to hook it on purpose when you want) tells you how to avoid a hook, and gives you information on your form.  So when things are weird, explore why they are weird.  Weird stuff obeys rules just as much as normal stuff does, and sometimes weird stuff tells us even more about the rules.  Explore!

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. I put in an "explore mode" in my game enLIGHTen. I think I linked it to you many years ago. Hmmm