Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Video Memory

I just had an idea for one of the worst video games ever. First, some philosophical setup.
As a species, we remember things by passing them down the generations first orally, then in pictures, then in writing. Each of us reads the writing of previous generations about events in our past and creates anew our own interpretation of the experiences.
In modern times, we have already developed video into another medium in this same vein, allowing a memory to be retained more accurately as more details are directly imparted. We are in the process of developing computer controls in such a way as to create what I believe will be the next stage in inter-generational memory: the interactive virtual experience.
Essentially, it won't be very long before people will be capable of recording their sensory input to digital form in real-time and others will then be able to experience what they did through playing that back directly into their nervous system. One step beyond that, however, is to allow the person experiencing the memory to take an active role in the experience and have the computer relaying the experience judge likely outcomes for actions the person takes. This idea amounts, basically, to full-realism in a completely free-form video game constructed directly from someone's real experience. I'm guessing 50 to 100 years at most before this technology is feasibly in place.

Scaling that idea back to modern technology, it roughly translates into constructing a video game with a real physics engine, detailed psychological AIs for characters other than the player, and with characters and setting drawn from real experience and constructed as true-to-life as possible.

Now, if you're still reading this, you're probably thinking "Why would I want to play a video game where I actually have to sit through an hour of driving just to get somewhere an hour away? Why would I want to play something so close to real life when I could just live?"
My answer is that some things should be remembered, and it might be worth recreating them as thoroughly as possible in order to do so.

So here's the idea: Auschwitz.

Take a high-powered realistic physics engine, construct a full-scale 3D rendering of the death camp as it existed during the war, populate it with guards and prisoners with AIs based on psychological profiles of people who historically were there.
There is no goal, no quest, no "good ending". The only purpose of this game is to deliver an experience of what it may have been like to be there.
No restrictions on the player - if you want to escape, try and probably get killed in the process. If you want to take on the guards, try and get killed anyway. If you do as you are told, experience the horror of watching almost everyone around you get gassed, shot or worked to death.

As I said, one of the worst video games ever. In fact, I doubt it should even be called a game - I envision it more as an interactive cultural memory.

Why make a game like this? Because some things should be remembered.

Okay, now you can go ahead and tell me how appalled you are at the idea.

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