Welcome to the first post in a regular series where we're going to be inviting members of our team to talk about One Cool Thing (not necessarily from games) and if/how it influences/reflects on their work. While we're not able to talk about the exciting things we're working on right now, we hope this will be a nice little series of introductions to the interests & practices of our excellent new team. First up: Char Putney!
One Cool Thing: Randomness
One of the mainstays of my creative practice has always been harnessing randomness. From basic writing exercises battling the blank page to crafting complicated works using artificial intelligence - I want the work I create to tell me something new, to teach me something I didn’t know already, sometimes even to suggest the numinous.
Getting the Cogs Whirring
In every form I use it in, the technique at the heart is the same: I’m getting out of my own way. Initially removing my ego from a task it has no place in allows my human brain (nature’s greatest pattern recognition machine!) to then sift through the fragmentary results and find the gold within.
Exercise: Pull 3 tarot cards and write something that connects them together. If you don’t have tarot cards of your own, you can try it with cards from boardgames like Dixit or Mysterium. Or you can try it online here.
Exercise: Stuck? Think of 6 ways the work can go and roll a dice to pick the first avenue to explore.
Exercise: Unhappy with a poem or piece of writing? Do like the Dadaists and cut it all up into small phrases and re-arrange them in front of you to find a new meaning.
Feeding the Machine
Moving beyond the blank page, I’ve found randomness to be my greatest inspiration in personal projects also. As I create, I find the most meaning when I can pull order out of chaos, when I can whisper a question to the universe (and the universe shouts back!), and when I can actually utilise the strange human tendency for apophenia to create something cohesive out of disparate elements.
Working with my partner Martin Pichlmair, we’ve recently made a bunch of procedurally-generated Twitter bots, from a recipe generator to haiku fortune cookies. We’ve also used the power of Open AI’s text generating model GPT-2 mixed with human curation to craft new inspiring tarot card meanings. If you are interested in reading more, Martin explores our experiments in this paper.
Exercise: Try feeding the machine yourself. Just enter a sentence here and watch artificial intelligence join in on your creation.
Exercise: Train GPT-2 yourself using your own words, or any other texts, to pull content with a particular voice or flavour.
What’s next? In my personal projects I’m keen to hook up the “real world” even more to our projects: to devise yoga routines, multiplayer poetry games, and knitting patterns. And in my work at Die Gute Fabrik? I’m mostly practicing getting out of my own way as I consider the infinite ways in which a scenario might go before plucking forth the one that is just right.