God spoke and it came to be. This reality is at the heart of Catholic self-identity. As a people of God we are first and foremost a people of the word.
The Story of the Design
The order of events in the introductory sentence is worth highlighting. The first thing we learn in Genesis is that speaking; talking…vocalization…is contemporaneous with creation. The Lord said let there be light and there was light. He then looked upon the light and saw that it was good. God does not engage in an act of show and tell; he tells and shows.
The concept that creation springs from the voice runs throughout the whole course of the Bible from Genesis, to Moses hearing God and then writing down the Ten Commandments, to the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus. It is for this reason that Catholics place special importance on the disciples’ description of Jesus as the word made flesh. We think primarily of John in this context yet Mark’s emphasis on Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophetic prediction, that he is the one foretold, is critical. The Greek concept of Logos shares with the Hebrew concept of creation ex-nihilo the belief that speaking is the original creative act.
This Biblical story of creation is predicated on an understanding of the senses as passive receivers of stimuli; our senses perceive reality but they don’t create it. This understanding is also the basis for many Warcraft class abilities. For example, the warrior ability is called Commanding Shout and the priest ability is Shadow Word: Pain. There are no class abilities entitled “Commanding Hearing” or of “Shadow Smell: Pain” because in the literal meaning of the word those don’t just make any sense; they wouldn’t reflect the way our biological senses actually work.
The Design of the Story
It is for this reason that I was astounded to read that the lead creative designer of Warcraft believes that the future of MMOs lies in, “Show, don’t tell.” It’s true that video is a visual medium but as a passive sense sight can never tell us what to do.
Let’s be explicit about how sight actually works. Human beings have two eyes that are physically spaced apart to create slightly different views of the same event. This parallax creates a contrast affect which the brain interprets as depth. What the brain perceives as movement is simply a changing ratio of depth affects. Sight tells us what’s happening but it can never tell us what to do about it. There is an exclamation point over the quest givers head but it has meaning only because someone somewhere told us it did.
I think the thing that confuses designers is that they forget that text is a visual representation of an oral fact. Written words have no power outside of the oral context; they’re random lines, gibberish. Human babies are born with the ability to make noises and their hearing is fully developed within a month. Sight is not formed until six months and reading happens much later. God spoke. Then he saw.
Depressingly, there is even an element of self-hate in Alex’s statements. He was speaking, to a journalist who was writing his words down, to be displayed on a video card and his statement was that video cards are more important than speaking or writing. OK. That makes a great deal of sense. (No, it’s stupid.)
The most mind boggling thing about Alex’s interview is that doesn’t actually represent the way World of Warcraft is designed. After you create a new character (are born) you are given a cut scene which zooms into your starting area (home town) while a voice, yes an actual human voice, tells you what the story is all about. Then once the narration is over you are deposited in front of another being and (here’s a shocker) that being tells you what to do.
Why does that ring a bell? Maybe it’s because after God created the world and after placing man in it the first thing he did was start ordering Adam and Eve around. And of course they ignored him. Exactly like what most people do with quest text.
But that doesn’t mean that the best answer is to get rid of the story. One reason the Biblical story is still around 4000 years later is because it accurately reflects in a crude way the basic development of human consciousness. It resonates. While developers may get their egos (and career ambitions) tied up in hot properties like phasing the truth is that for the new players the redesign of the tutorial system in Patch 3.3 will have a much bigger impact on customer retention. Clue to the clueless: there is a reason that God names things the moment he creates them.
I’ve mentioned before how I hate flaccid clichés and “show, don’t tell” is now officially on my hit list. Normally I wouldn’t bother about it too much except for the fact it’s annoying that someone who presents themselves as a creative designer evidences such a complete lack of understanding of even the most basic creative design. Life itself. Perhaps before he starts spouting off to the press Alex might wish to think a little more before opening his mouth. Although, now that I think about it, the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that God actually thought before he spoke either. Which would explain a lot.
6 days ago