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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

I just got finished reading from the Popol Vuh, or Sacred Book, of the Quiche Indians. It contains a creation myth, similar to that of Genesis, but it tells of fallible gods that make mistakes in their creations. They are vain and seek creations to celebrate their names and worship them, but their first efforts — the land-based animals and birds — are unable to speak their names, communicate with one another, or worship them. These animals are condemned to be killed for food. Later they try to make humans, but their first attempts fail to hold their forms and are destroyed; the gods must eventually confer and put their efforts together to create the first humans. The result eventually thrives and multiplies, but it is not successful; the first humans forget about the gods, and do not worship them. But these become the ancestors of modern humans.

The idea of a whole group of gods combining their efforts across multiple attempts to try to create people is fascinating to me. The immediate comparison is to science fiction accounts of a creator race. It is natural to imagine that many mistakes and iterations exist in the progression of their development of people. But rather than humans being the final product of this process — as you might see in real-world creation myths that explain the apparently higher intelligence and exclusive religion of the humans — what if humans were just one of a sequence of attempts, discarded on Earth as a merciful disposal site for another failed experiment? The “seeding” of human-like aliens across the nearby stars would make sense in this regard, and cultures that arise with parallels, but with unique racial twists (similar to Star Trek) would make sense.

What values would these creators have? What are they trying to achieve? What differences would humans have with the previous and next iterations of this sequence? Why were we refused? Would the earliest experiments be the most dangerous, or perhaps the most primitive or self-destructively subservient? Would they even have survived? What about the last iteration?

I imagine the final iteration in this sequence to have finally reached the objectives of the creators, and never been abandoned on an alien world, instead to have been taught directly by the creators. Perhaps they serve the creators, or act as equal partners. Perhaps the creators have moved on, and they are left with the keys this part of the galaxy, and advanced knowledge and technology. Would we admire their abilities and values, or find the ideals that they were constructed for too alien, and divorced from our own self-determined ideals and principles? As the myriad old failed creations finally claw their way up from their respective planets and are greeted by the vast and unified empire of the chosen ones, will we find peace, or war? And how do endless creations deal with the ultimate truth that they were not judged acceptable by their own creators?

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I’m enjoying history class, just as I hoped I would. The instructor is dynamic and enjoyable, and the class focuses on the fascinating why and how of history, in addition to the traditional who, what, where and when.

We aren’t even out of the Ice Age yet — yet reading the first chapter of The World: A History by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, and the adjoining lecture on the same time period, I’m already struck by the way of life of hunter-gatherer societies. Working only about 2 to 4 hours a day, they were able to live in nearly every climate with the most stable social model in history. But then — perhaps related to the Toba supervolcano and near-extinction of humanity? — the a Great Leap Forward led to abstract thought, planning, innovation, and symbolic behavior. Humans started to think in new ways, create symbolic art, strategize, and invent more advanced tools. Tens of thousands of years later, they would only then come to begin to specialize and develop unique skills, gathering in larger groups.

And of course, all this is replete with inspiration for game development. Take the image of a disaster or other event nearly wiping out humanity, forcing the rest to learn new ways of adaptation and thinking, and then leaving to few thousand surviving humans an open world with abundant resources. Transplanted from the Ice Age history to a futuristic setting, one could imagine a nuclear holocaust or alien invasion nearly extinguishing humanity, and leaving the rest to develop new concepts of innovation — a great leap forward in thinking that would leave the previous age of humanity nearly unrecognizable to those who came after. Perhaps they practice aggressive genetic engineering, have a psychic awakening, or some other paradigm-changing advance that forms a foundation for gameplay. The world is nearly empty — artifacts and resources from the previous age are seemingly infinite, and civilization is few and far between. With this beginning to the story, there are an infinite number of possibilities, moving forward from there…

I’d like to challenge myself to post something each week reflecting on history class and how it can connect with games. The challenge isn’t in making the connections, that’s something I do automatically. It’s that I want to start recording some of these thoughts on a week by week basis. This record would be interesting to me — and, I hope, to you as well.

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