The quiet horror of procedural generation

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/12/15/the-quiet-horror-of-procedural-generation.html

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Exploring this feeling is, to me, one of the engaging aspects of No Man’s Sky.

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The Myst games feel like this to me, as though there were people there just before you arrived and you just missed them, but they are now gone permanently.

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How much of this is driven by “The Shining” and how much of it drove Kubrick’s vision?

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The Stanley Parable

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I was sampling some of the games from the recently finished Procjam 2020, and I realized a number of them simply procedurally generated an endless series of rooms, all to disturbing effect, even though there wasn’t anything, much less anything scary, going on in those rooms. The basic premise of endless rooms somehow can’t help but be horrific.

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Of the three recurring ‘nightmares’ i have (the other two being the discovery of a neglected pet, and a neglected school course) one is needing to get somewhere in an endlessly empty indoors of connected rooms, often dilapidated. It’s so recurring that i sometimes recognize it while dreaming it (“oh this again…”). Now i have a name for it - thank you!

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giphy - 2019-03-27T072211.920

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It’s the realisation in pixels of Borges’ Library of Babel, which includes everything, including proof of its own non-existence.

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Our instruments confirm what we have long suspected, that the empty space across which we traveled from our own solar system in fact lies within the interior of the station

That is absolutely Ballard. His writing has a signature.

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It’s like the Winchester Mystery House of the Digital world.

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After reading the first two paragraphs of that post I decided to scroll to the bottom - it took hours, endless blocks of text all the same…

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Here is a photo I took of a legit art installation at SFMOMA in Oct of 2019. It was a challenging room to snap even this photo. I never appreciated this installation until now.

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I love this genre, which includes SCP. http://www.scpwiki.com/

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I forgot to credit the artist - Cinthia Marcelle’s “There is No More Place in This Place,” from 2019

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That procedural cityscape reminds me of Castle Ghormenghast, from the trilogy by Mervyn Peake.

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SCP-3008 in particular, which has its own bevy of games based on it.

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I suggest calling it a trumpian mind palace.

This kind of thing recurs in my dreams, except it’s not abandoned. Wandering around a big hotel, a colosseum, sort of like how one can wander between connected hotels in Las Vegas never having to go outside, but decor changes dramatically, as do the things going on, but there’s some unifying ineffable sameness that pervades the spaces I pass through.

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