We are the children of children and we live as we are shown. – Waponis Chief, “Joe Versus the Volcano”
My mother refused to buy me video games when I was a kid. She hated them. However, she was political enough to let me play games that were “educational”. Yup, I was that kid. So instead of mowing down monsters with a nail gun in Quake, I sharpened my logic with the puzzles in Super Solvers: Ancient Empires. When I could have been leveling up my party in Final Fantasy, I was composing mise-en-scene with 3D Movie Maker. But the real legacy–and the most popular when a buddy came over to my place–was Klik & Play.
The irony of Klik & Play is that it was itself a game maker. With a simple visual layout and clear tutorials, even twelve year-old boys could create a world where two neon aliens struggle to keep a bouncing hamburger afloat. I doubt my mother was impressed with what my friends and I produced; but what she did appreciate was that we were the ones who dictated what should happen IF that bouncing burger landed in the chocolate shake sea (one of your dudes died, is what happened).
My tiny game company created several projects over the years. Many were never completed. Perhaps the best was an adaptation of the O’Doyle Rules! thread through Billy Madison. It was a side scroller where the O’Doyle family, riding in a station wagon, had to avoid oncoming cars. Each collision with a car would take off a percentage of life. Any time the station wagon hit the occasionally generated banana? Automatic GAME OVER complete with cut-scene. There was no true end to the game, so the station wagon (or rather, the obstacles) increased in speed over time.
This post isn’t about what I did as a young pubescent boy instead of making out with girls. That phase of my life would come much, much later. Some would even say, “too late.” What I’m trying to shed some light on is the IF/THEN I learned from creating those simple games. The conditions that I drew up is what made the game a game. Points would only be added if I mandated that they be added. IF BALL collides STAR THEN +10 COUNTER “POINTS”. Otherwise the ball and the star have no relation and there are no points.
Any true programmer will probably laugh at my above attempt to write coding language. That is not my forte’. I have a hard enough time following the rules of English. The extent of my programming doesn’t go beyond Klik & Play, so my understanding of it is limited to what the Klik & Play programmers themselves thought fit to introduce to me. In effect, any “programming” I did was couched in the programming done before me…
Since the iPad came out almost three years ago, I’ve seen plenty of videos featuring babies exploiting the power of the touchscreen iOS. It may be in bad taste, but I can’t give too much credit to these tech-savvy infants. Even if they are soooooo adorable. The real praise goes to the developers of modern intuitive design. Yet, these developers’ contributions would not have come about were they not previously mouse-users, television-watchers, or the like.
This is me admittedly pulling a figure out of my ass, but I am willing to wager that those currently in the tech industry have been around a personal computer for the majority of their lives. I’m 29 years old and I recall using my grandmother’s Apple IIe as a young boy to fashion works of art with MacPaint (recreation). That means 1) I’m getting old and 2) personal computers have been around, sonny boy. Since the current digital innovators have lived their lives in a digital age, they will make decisions privy to that world view. Thus, their instinctual solutions to contemporary necessities will appeal to those also living in an increasingly technological environment.
Maybe I should say it a different way: today’s programmers have been coded by yesterday’s programmers. Today’s programmer builds off yesterday’s code to make for a better code tomorrow. The more programming there is, the better the programming will be so long as there is a demand for good programming.
All of that may have the cold poetry of a robot reading Bukowski.
In that case, I will appeal to my humanistic side and make the point I’m really trying to make. We, as individuals, are both the program and programmer. We are born into a way of doing things and also influence how things are done by doing them ourselves. Our languages, religions, governments, ethics, societies, histories, and anything else humans use to grapple with the world is passed down as a kind of “program”.
Hold on! Don’t give up on me. I’m not saying to quit your job and start a beet farm. Not yet, anyways.
These programs we have inherited are generally beneficial. Right now, for example, you’re able to think my thoughts by reading them in the English language. You’re decoding my mind like some clandestine brain spy. English isn’t perfect, but it is alive and flexible. It changes and adapts to the culture at large. Plus, a lot of people with guns have spoken it for some time now. It was the language given to me and I use it daily. I, in turn, continually pass it on to those around me and–by extension–those beyond me.
But even a communicative language can have some bugs built in to it. It can have words meant to demean, disenfranchise, or debase. Language can obscure the truth and promote ignorance. But as an individual both program and programmer, I can chose how to employ language. It only takes consciousness of what it is. This follows suit with all human “programs”, even (dare I say it? DARE IT SAY IT?!) religion.
That’s right I’m about to quote 2pac’s tattoo.
T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E – The Hate yoU Give Lil Infants F***s Everybody
What kind of code are you using?