10 Nov 2013

Fusion

I guess I could say I have a sort of fascination for fusions. Combinations. Synthesis. The like.

I like stumbling upon interesting music remixes and mashups. I've even tried making a few on my own. I also get drawn towards games that let you experiment freely by trying out whatever fusions you could think of. Doodle God and its derivatives took that further and explored the creation of a world almost purely from the repeated act of combination. Magicka gave players the power to mess about and figure out good spells from the combination of elements. 

Not that I don't like vanilla options. I can appreciate purity, but I suppose I like realizing the potential from the numerous permutations that could arise from what we're provided with. Great ideas can arise. New interactions can be discovered. A window of opportunities can be opened. Sometimes failures surface. Sometimes surprising gems get formed.

And the idea of fusion is what the process of innovation is about nowadays. It's getting harder and harder to come up with something that is totally unique, building on its on one-of-a-kind concept without being a derivative from other past ideas. Often, a "new" idea is really a new combination of existing ideas. That new drink is a combination of existing ingredients. That new song is a combination of existing sounds and song templates. That new game probably took game mechanics from different sources, involved a popular story plot genre, and mimicked a certain art style.

We can almost only foster innovation through the cross-breeding of existing ideas now. And that's okay. That has never stopped us before, and it shouldn't stop us now. Nature does it as a survival mechanism: sexual reproduction allows the recombination of genes, leading to some permutations that enhance survival, sometimes granting interesting bonuses to the offspring. Similarly, the more we keep cross-breeding ideas, the more likely we'll stumble across great resultant "offspring" ideas that could possibly change the world.

I've been thinking: we should have more sandbox environments that let people do such fusion experiments with a minimal consequence for failure. When the danger of experimentation is taken care of, the fear of failure no longer impedes our imagination. We can just focus on coming up with results that succeed, or give us new insight at least.

On a side-note, I do like to see more games that expand on this allowance for experimentation and combination. Magic games that let you meticulously craft your own spells, fighting games that let you make truly custom weapons, puzzle games based around the fusion of a huge variety of elements... that kind of stuff.

Get to it, game designers :P