Entrain (1998)

Entrain was first delivered on 14 March 1998 at the IGDN Conference in Austin, and at South By Southwest in the same city three days later.


The 6 May 1998 presentation at the Game Developers Conference in Long Beach, California featured live musical accompaniment by Paul Godwin, and was kindly noted by the New York Times.

Subsequent readings were given at Digipen in Seattle in 2001, and most recently (4 October 2002) at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The 1998 presentations of Entrain were dedicated “to Dani.”

[Entrain Poster]

The above poster was distributed at the Long Beach presentation. It was printed on parchment stock; each of the approximately 200 copies was hand-inscribed (in gold ink) with a different sentence from the lecture.

The 2002 MIT version of Entrain is reproduced below.



The word has its origin in the Middle French verb entrainer.

It means to draw along.

To induce into a rhythm. To coax into a flow.

This presentation is engineered to entrain your thinking.

It employs a rhythmic alternation of sound and picture to coax you into a state of thoughtful attention.

The video consists of two brief sequences.

[The Great Train Robbery]

The first is one of the most famous moving images ever created.

The final shot from the 1903 silent film The Great Train Robbery, in which a gunslinger fires his revolver directly at the audience.

It’s regarded by historians as the first “hit” movie.

[Quake II]

Fourscore and 17 years later, another kind of “hit” became popular.

This scene from Quake II shows a first-person perspective of a player shooting an enemy guard.

Connoisseurs will note the careful detailing of the victim’s death-agony.

The conjunction of these two images is not intended to convey any particular idea about movies or games, their relationship, merits or purposes.

I’m not showing you this to illustrate a point.

Nevertheless, I have noticed that a calm consideration of this sequence gives rise to a fascinating train of thought.

It becomes a meditation object.

A moving mandala of in and out.

Passive and active.

Subject and object.

Mirror and source.

Not bad or good, necessarily.

Only sides of a coin, poles of a rotating magnet.

Consider the screen without judgement, or hope.

Allow its rhythmic imagery to entrain your attention.

To suspend your skepticism.

To become the background for a contemplation of the mystery of entrainment.

Entrainment is a ubiquitous natural phenomenon.

It occurs in the vicinity of any rhythmic expression of energy.

Play a note on a violin and you’ll hear the same note ringing on an adjacent piano.

Rotate a magnet inside a coil of wire, and the vortex of flux will induce a sympathetic pulse of electric current.

Opera singers use entrainment to shatter glass.

Compact discs, bar codes scanners, holograms and precision guided munitions owe their existence to an optical entrainment technology known by the acronym LASER.

It has been observed that women who share housing for several months will find their menstrual cycles beginning to synchronize.

Menstrual flow is itself an dramatic example of the entrainment of human physiology by the proximity and motion of the moon.

The moon and sun are the most pervasive entraining influences in our environment.

The entire planet is under their sway.

But you don’t need a cosmic mass to initiate entrainment.

Even a very modest rhythmic impulse, given the right frequency and insistent repetition, is enough to coax any elastic system into significant oscillation.

The destruction of the Tacoma Narrows bridge by a passing breeze is a compelling case in point.

The first time I encountered the idea of entrainment was when I was in the fifth grade.

One fine October morning, my school class went on a field trip to New England’s biggest tourist attraction, Old Sturbridge Village in central Massachusetts.

It’s an authentic recreation of an early 19th-century American hamlet.

It was near the end of the day.

We’d seen just about everything there was to see.

Our chaperones had stopped at a bakery so that the kids with money could buy some cookies for the long bus ride home.

I didn’t have any money left, so I broke the rule about leaving the group, wandered across the street and stepped inside the open door of a tiny white building.

I found myself in a low-ceilinged room.

Every square inch of wall space was decorated with antique clocks.

Timepieces from all the important colonial manufacturers, carefully restored, and all fully operational.

I wasn’t alone. A little old man sat in the corner, dressed like Papa Geppetto.

He greeted me kindly, smiled and asked, “Hear anything strange?”

I looked around, puzzled, too embarrassed to say No.

“Listen,” he whispered.

Then I heard it.

Nearly all of the clocks in the museum were ticking at the same time.

“How do you do that?” I demanded, genuinely impressed.

I thought it must be some kind of a trick, done for show.

“They don’t need my help,” he assured me with a faint smile. “Their own sound holds them together.”

I pondered this marvel for a few moments in silence.

And then I noticed that it was just seven minutes to four.

My fifth-grade mind formulated a daring hypothesis. “That means they all chime at once!” I announced.

“Stick around,” he agreed. “The place fills up fast.”

Sure enough, several tour groups, fortunately including my own, began converging on the clock museum to witness the synchronous chiming of several dozen antique timepieces.

It is a most righteous cacophony.

A few years later, Pink Floyd mixed it into one of their albums.

That afternoon I was confronted with not one, but two “striking” examples of the phenomenon of entrainment.

One was the collective entrainment of the clocks in the museum.

The other was the entrainment of the tourists to the clocks.

Come to think of it, I’ll bet the entire village is entrained to those clocks.

If you plotted a curve of coffee and cookie sales at that bakery across the street, you’d be likely to see a spike before and after the top of each hour.

Thirty minutes later, there’s probably another spike of toilet flushing as all that caffeine and sugar gets processed.

The hourly convergence of tourists on that museum is a prime cause that produces an expanding wavefront of effects and ensuing causes.

This lecture, 40 years after the event, is itself one of those effects.

We can generalize here, and postulate that all vibration, and every rhythm, produce entrainment effects of some consequence.

Which brings us to the topic of this presentation.

When I started writing Entrain, it was going to be a lecture about violence.

Violence in computer games, and the social responsibilities of game designers.

The subject had recently entered the national spotlight, again, because of the publication of a PC action shooter with the provocative title Postal.

Notorious in its day, but mercifully forgotten now, Postal was a frequent source of personal embarrassment to me.

Members of my family and social acquaintances who knew that I designed computer games started asking me if I had worked on this Postal thing they saw on TV.

I kept finding myself in the uncomfortable position of defending my career and industry because of a cannily marketed product with which I had no involvement.

So I decided to use my bully pulpit at the 1998 Game Developers Conference to bitch about it.

My strategy was to show film clips from early movies like The Great Train Robbery.

I would point out the preoccupation with technical novelty, sensationalism and gratuitous violence found in most of the films from that era.

I would explain how the early movies were considered a lower-class entertainment, looked upon with disdain by the educated elite, and considered little better than pornography.

Then, I would show how the advent of serious “event” pictures like The Birth Of A Nation in 1915 made the movies estimable, culturally important, even fashionable.

And I would conclude by suggesting that our own industry must outgrow its adolescent preoccupations if it is to emerge as the defining art form of the 21st century.

This high-minded sermon was going to be illustrated with visual examples from dozens of films and games, including a montage of great scenes from uplifting movies like The Ten Commandments, Lawrence of Arabia and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, and culminating at last in a lavish psychedelic kaleidoscope of inspirational imagery.

So I started to work on the fun part: the video.

First things first: The Big Ending.

The sequence of images you see here was my first tangible result.

I made a loop of these two clips, dimmed the lights in my office, switched on the lava lamp, put on a trance CD and sat back to ruminate, waiting for an idea of where to take it next.

And then I made my first mistake.

I started to think.

To really think about violence in games.

About the people who design them, the people who play them, and especially the people who complain about them.

And as I thought about it, I realized that the rant I was preparing wasn’t really about the evolution of our medium at all.

It was really about taste.

It was about people making assumptions about what is good or bad for others.

It was about morality and judgment.

It was about snobbery.

I got depressed.

My whole thesis had just gone down the toilet.

All I had was this enigmatic loop, with its relentless once-per-second rhythm.

Something about it made me keep on watching, though.

Watching, and trying to understand what it is about violence in computer games that bothers people.

In particular, I wanted to know why it bothers me.

Why does it bother me that friends and relatives look askance at what I do?

I know there’s more to this business than Postal.

Why does it bother me that the first time I booted up Duke Nukem at home, my wife covered her ears with her hands and ran out of the room?

She does the same thing when I put on Philip Glass.

Why does it bother me that the only reason most outsiders have any respect for our business is because they heard somewhere that there’s a lot of money in it?

This issue of violence cuts deep.

It leads straight to the heart of our profession.

And it all comes down to some really basic questions.

Do players walk away from our games untouched?

Or are they affected in any meaningful way?

If players are affected, what does that imply about what we’re doing?

What does it imply if they are not affected?

In other words: Do computer games matter?

What is their significance in our society?

And what does it mean to be a gamewright?

For the purposes of this lecture, let’s assume that we’re talking about multiplayer games.

What are we doing when we design a pastime for two or more people?

What behaviors are we trying to elicit?

What is the relationship of the players to the game, to each other, and to us, the game designers?

One way to explore this is to watch somebody participating in a multiplayer game.

It sounds easy, but it’s not.

Try to watch somebody playing Quake, for example.

It’s hard not to be drawn into what’s being expressed on the screen.

The exciting variety of danger and opportunity, all moving around in 3D at a breakneck pace, makes the world inside Quake difficult to view objectively.

That’s why games like Quake are so successful with hobbyists.

They pull you into the action. They compel you to watch.

But let’s step back, take our eyes off the monitor for a moment, and look closely at the player.

Watch the body movements, the breathing, the howls and curses, the little grunts of satisfaction

Now let’s consider that monitor screen again, not as a maze full of monsters and sudden death, but as a screen, a surface filled with moving shapes and color.

Attend to the soundtrack also.

Hear it not only as a sequence of deterministically triggered cues and explosions, but as a kind of ambience, like the sound of a forest or a children’s playground.

Observe these things dispassionately, without judgement, without hope.

There’s a simple trick you can use to achieve the kind of detached attention I’m talking about.

As you stand or preferably sit in the space with the player you want to observe, try your best to remain absolutely motionless.

Calmly hold your breath, and consciously arrest every tiny movement of your body.

Don’t close your eyes, but don’t let them roam, either. Don’t stare. Don’t try to empty your mind. Don’t do anything. Just don’t move.

Be still, and allow the player, the machinery and the space between and around them to manifest.

Be still, and in a timeless instant of uncritical witnessing, you will find yourself in the presence of a curious creature.

A twitching, blinking, buzzing bundle of nerves deeply engaged in an frantic conversation.

This creature has its own language.

A language with sentences, paragraphs, and all kinds of punctuation.

Be still, observe, and you will notice certain chronic tendencies in the communications of this creature.

It keeps coming back to the same few subjects, circling around and back, around and back, with variations.

The image and sound also manifest a succession of repeating sensations.

There’s a regular alternation of shadow and light.

A cycle of action and response.

Be still, observe, and you will recognize periodicity.

Periodicity. Every game has it.

Solitaire. Hopscotch. Roshambo. Quake. Myst. Grand Theft Auto.

Periodicity in time, and in space.

An architecture of rhythm.

These games and all others can be described as entrainment engines.

Systems designed to coax the behavior of participants into mutually satisfying rhythms and patterns.

As a game designer, you are an entrainment engineer.

It is your task to devise resonant gaming spaces with interactive characteristics that reinforce harmonic activity and dampen dissonant influences.

How are these characteristics determined?

By design decisions.

By user interface, playing environment, and most of all by the rules.

When you make decisions about design, you are circumscribing the character of the entrainment phenomenon that can be supported by your game system.

An artfully constrained game system encourages the establishment of rhythms and patterns of activity that are fun for the players.

What are the attributes of such a system?

In analog electronics, there is a circuit configuration known as a phase-locked loop.

It’s used in radio receivers and many other applications.

A phase-locked loop takes as its input two signals, one generated by a local oscillator, and another derived from an external source, often a broadcast carrier.

The goal of the circuit is to precisely synchronize the two waveforms.

It does this by continuously monitoring the phase of the external signal, and minutely adjusting the phase of the local oscillator to match it.

Another way of describing a phase-locked loop is to say that it permits the external signal to entrain the local oscillator.

It allows the two signals to play together.

Now imagine a system with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of external input signals, all of which need to be synchronized in real time.

This is the dilemma posed by a multiplayer game system.

It shares the basic goal of a phase-locked loop, in that the idea is to make the signals play together.

But there’s a big difference.

In a phase-locked loop, the signal to be synchronized is under the direct control of the system.

The local oscillator which produces that signal is actually part of the circuit.

This is hardly the case in a multi-player game.

Every player is an independent and notoriously fickle signal source over which the system has no direct control.

It’s like trying to design a radio that can receive a hundred stations at the same time, whose frequencies are likely to change without warning.

There’s only one design topology that can handle this class of problem.

You need lots and lots of feedback.

The system must send a signal to the external sources that tells them how to adjust themselves.

The success of the system depends on the quality of the feedback, and the ability of the external sources to interpret and respond to that feedback.

But in this case, the external signal source we’re talking about isn’t just some oscillator. It’s probably a teenaged boy.

An impatient fellow, who may have no idea what the feedback being offered by the system is supposed to mean, or how to respond to it.

So in addition to providing feedback, the system has the additional burden of having to teach each external signal source how to be an external signal source.

How to be a player.

It’s a fascinating entrainment exercise.

Luckily, the players in a game environment have lots of things in common.

They have a shared set of expectations, and the common goal of making the experience fun.

They also possess the helpful quality of intelligence.

Each player has the ability to synthesize and supply feedback to any other player, possibly to several at once, and give explicit suggestions about the kind of signal adjustments that are likely to keep things running in a entertaining way.

By now, some of you are politely muttering to yourselves, Moriarty, what are you babbling about?

What’s this crap about rhythm in games?

Lots of games don’t have any rhythm!

There’s no rhythm in chess, for example.

Some of the moves take less than a second.

Others can take half an hour. It’s totally random!

To these skeptics, I say: Be still.

Sit down with a pair of chess players, and observe.

The early moves in a game of Chess are usually rather brisk.

It takes little thought to exemplify the standard openings.

Then comes the middle game, characterized by longer pauses, with brief flurries of activity as pieces are exchanged and gambits consummated.

The final moments, in which the winning side attempts to corner a desperate king, is often performed in a fateful staccato: Check, move, check, move, move, move ... a dramatic pause ... move, move, mate.

It’s obviously musical. The curve of activity is wonderfully expressive.

You can easily determine the general progress and tenor of a chess game just by listening to it.

Aside from the chuckles and moans of the players, much can be deduced not only by the rhythm of the moves, but also by the force with which the pieces are placed on the board.

A canny chess player can actually use rhythm to lure an inexperienced opponent into making a hasty move.

The appearance of confidence implied by the steady development of pieces can entrain a careless beginner into trying to match the rhythm, causing him to overlook subtle traps or opportunities.

Intriguingly, the rhythm of a chess game appears to depend in part on how often the players have played together.

Their familiarity with each other’s style seems to quell uncertainty, and encourage a more consistent rhythm of play.

The inclusion of ranking systems and ladders in multiplayer games likewise contributes to the smoothness of the play, because it gives people an idea of what to expect from their opponent.

The establishment and maintenance of rhythms and patterns aren’t just a side effect of playing a multiplayer game.

In a very real sense, they are the game.

A game’s periodic phenomena describe the most basic activity of a multiplayer environment.

They are literally the pulse of a game system.

Let me offer you a simple and most profound example.

I am not a baseball fan; but my wife may be fairly characterized as a fanatic.

One season, when we were living in San Francisco with both the Giants and the Athletics nearby, she personally attended more than 60 professional ball games. She saw every one of the thirty major league teams play in competition at least once.

For the life of me, I could never understand what my wife saw in this game.

But a few years ago, when she dragged me into a ballpark for the very first time, I finally experienced the noble tradition, the extraordinary ritual that is live American baseball.

And that afternoon, I discovered the existence of a nearly perfect example of massively multiplayer gaming.

I’m not talking about baseball, though.

I’m talking about a game that regularly attracts up to 50,000 simultaneous players.

A noisy but delightful game of exquisite form and beautiful simplicity, created by, and for, the fans.

Like many great pastimes, including baseball itself, the real origins of this game are lost in legend.

The most well-publicized claim is that it was invented at the Oakland Coliseum on the afternoon of October 15, 1981, during the third and final game of an American League Championship Series with the Yankees, by an Athletics fan who went by the name of Crazy George Henderson.

Crazy George was a one-man institution.

He used to wander around the Coliseum wearing zany clothes and banging on a tambourine, working up the crowd with his crazy antics and infectious enthusiasm.

At some point during this particular ball game, Crazy George somehow managed to provoke the fans seated up in Section 331 into simultaneously leaping out of their seats, throwing their hands over their heads, and cheering at the top of their lungs.

This amusing incident would probably have soon been forgotten, except for what happened next.

Suddenly, in a dramatic and unprecedented example of spontaneous entrainment, Crazy George’s cheer was taken up by a group of fans seated in Section 330.

And without any further coaxing, the cheer swept from section to section, building in intensity as it spread downward to the middle and lower decks, circling the perimeter of the Coliseum, until it returned to Section 331, where it started all over again.

Thus, according to legend, was born one of the truly great multiplayer games, regularly practiced by sports fans all over the world, and affectionately known as The Wave.

As an example of user-friendly game design, The Wave is exquisite.

Nobody has to teach you the rules.

Anyone over the age of two, of any nationality, can understand The Wave just by looking at it for a few moments.

The goal is equally simple and obvious: Keep the Wave moving.

An independent study, published just a few weeks ago, found that the Wave usually circles clockwise around the stadium, propagating at an average speed of 20 seats per second.

It’s a pastime that requires no experience, no special equipment, and very little skill.

A game that gets better as more and more people join in.

A game that everybody wins.

Why do sports fans create and sustain the Wave?

Because it’s fun, right? Okay. Next level: Why is it fun?

Why is it such a joy for 50,000 people to coordinate their behavior?

For the same reason it’s such a joy for two adults in bed.

Because we are wired for it.

The mind is a periodicity integrator.

It’s designed to lock onto rhythms and patterns, sample their frequency, amplitude and relative phase, sum the results and derive the mean.

The mind is a mean-ing engine.

Our ability to mean rhythms and patterns allows us to compare and contrast stimuli, to recognize things and events, and to imbue them with significance.

Periodic phenomena attract our minds like flowers.

It’s fun to get involved in periodic phenomena.

That’s why babies like to be rocked.

That’s why people like to dance, and chant, and why marching is more fun than walking.

And that’s why gamers like to play.

Some of you may object to characterizing The Wave as a multiplayer game.

In that case, can we agree that The Wave is a form of multi-user entertainment?

And are we not in the business of multi-user entertainment?

I envy Crazy George Henderson.

Long after Zork and Myst and The Sims are forgotten, numberless sports fans will be realizing his simple ritual.

The Wave is a valuable lesson for those aspiring to be game designers.

Just look at those fans, with their goofy hats, loud Bermuda shorts and T-shirts stained with mustard.

Tens of millions of them.

Are they particles or oscillations?

Call them what you will. I call them ... customers!

They are the potential audience for multiplayer games.

They enjoy coordinating their behavior.

They want to play together.

The designer who figures out how to reach these people with the online equivalent of The Wave will be a hero.

A very wealthy hero.

From the apparent chaos of a crowded ballpark emerges evidence of a higher order.

The Wave is a moving manifestation of human nature, in every sense of the word “moving.”

When you join The Wave, you are jacking in to the dial tone of the universe.

It is a rare and precious glimpse of reality.


Let’s apply this entrainment conceit to the question of violence, and our responsibilities as game designers.

When we make antisocial behavior a part of our multiplayer games, we are introducing dissonance into our products.

I use the word “dissonance” here, not as a value judgement, but strictly in its technical sense.

Dissonance is a nonharmonic relationship which produces destructive interference of waveforms.

It is often associated with chaotic phenomenon because of the complex diffusion of its influence.

In fact, chaos may be conveniently defined as a predominance of dissonance.

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s anything wrong with dissonance.

In music, dissonance is a perfectly valid tool for producing specific emotional effects.

If you want something to sound raucous, angry or nervous to Western ears, if you want to set people’s teeth on edge, dissonance works really well.

Once, long ago, when my wife and I had money, we used to subscribe to the Boston Symphony, one of the world’s great orchestras.

The programs usually consisted of old chestnuts, Beethoven, Brahms, with an occasional piece by a “modern” composer like Ives or Copland thrown in at the beginning for a little adventure.

But one Winter night the Symphony decided to get hip.

In the late 1980s, during the period of the Soviet Union’s collapse, works by contemporary Russian composers became fashionable.

So the BSO’s conductor, Seiji Ozawa, arranged a performance of the United States premiere of Symphony No. 1 by a Russian named Alfred Schnittke.

Mr. Schnittke himself was present for the occasion.

The program began with a piece by Haydn.


It was, in fact, Haydn's Symphony No. 45, “Farewell,” written in response to a labor dispute with the composer's patron. A sly companion for the piece that followed.

I don’t remember what it was. Something safe.

After the intermission, Maestro Ozawa took the podium again and raised his baton.

The next morning, a critic for the Boston Globe declared that what happened next had not been seen in Symphony Hall since the Boston premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring.

Within three minutes, the elite of Boston society began streaming up the aisles, literally holding their hands over their ears as wave after wave of dissonant Soviet anguish assaulted the auditorium.

As they stormed out the side doors, several horrified patrons made a point of proclaiming, loudly, exactly what they thought of Alfred Schnittke and his Symphony No. 1.

It must be admitted that this Symphony has some unusual features.

At one point, for example, the percussion section goes on strike, and holds up painted signs demanding better working conditions.

By the conclusion of the final movement, only about fifty patrons remained in Symphony Hall.

The orchestra actually outnumbered the audience.

Those 50 patrons gave the Boston Symphony and Alfred Schnittke a standing ovation.

I stood up and applauded too.

Not because the music was any good.

Because of the delightful spectacle of 1700 Boston Brahmins on the hoof!

There is a lesson here for us.

But this lesson has nothing to do with Schnittke’s Symphony No. 1.

It has to do with Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring.

They don’t walk out of the Rite of Spring in Symphony Hall anymore. In fact, their next scheduled performance of the work, this afternoon at two o’clock, is sold out.

The dissonance in Stravinsky’s ballet was quite startling to concertgoers in the early part of this century.

But it wasn’t long before the difficult Rite Of Spring was recognized as a masterpiece.

What happened?

Why did the dissonant Rite Of Spring survive to become a classic?

Because of the integrity of Igor’s vision.

Stravinsky consciously employed dissonance in the ballet to achieve specific emotional effects.

His unconventional palette was unfamiliar to audiences accustomed to Brahms.

But attentive listeners soon recognized the validity of Stravinsky’s choices.

And even the most hostile listeners had to admit that the experience was intense.

An intensity that comes from the confidence and sincerity behind every note of Stravinsky’s score.

Dissonance has its place in entertainment.

Used thoughtfully, skillfully and with sincere intent, it can attain valid artistic objectives.

Used without purpose, or sincerity, or talent, dissonance alienates.

It establishes inharmonious relationships with little or no prospect for reconciliation.

A conflict without hope. A forever war.

I suspect that this is the secret reason why non-hobbyists are disdainful of today’s computer games.

They intuitively sense the lack of a larger purpose behind the events they see on the screen.

Aside from a few jingoistic platitudes, a bit of narrative hand-waving to set up the slaughter, there’s little or no justification for anything.

The fighting just seems to go on and on.

It’s not the violence that bothers people, really.

It’s the uselessness.

Am I starting to make one of those unwarranted value judgements here?

Heaven forbid, am I moralizing?

Maybe. But consider the practical angle.

When Hollywood makes movies without hope, what kind of audiences do they get?

Bob Fosse’s biography of Dorothy Stratton, Star 80, is a harrowing experience, absolutely brilliant.

But nobody went to see it. Word got out. The characters are repulsive. In the end, everyone dies, stupidly. You want to take a shower when it’s over.

Hollywood has learned the hard way how to incorporate violence into films without alienating moviegoers.

Even movies about large-scale disasters like Titanic, in which hundreds of extras are doomed to die, can succeed precisely because you know right from the start that Kate Winslet is somehow going to make it.

Of course, Hollywood takes heat for its use of violence just like we do.

But there are many, many examples of films with significant violence that are accepted by audiences because the justification is clear.

It would be premature for our industry to make a similar claim.

As game designers, as entrainment engineers, we bear a special responsibility.

Unlike any other media, the interactive arts possess the power not just to tell people how to behave together, but to show them with living examples.

We can not only describe the horrors of Auchweitz.

We can put your hand on the lever of the gas chamber.

This new kind of authority is not for the careless.

If you want to include violence or other forms of antisocial behavior in your games, do it.

Put your soul into it!

Make Duke Nukem look like a Sunday School picnic!

Make it so disgusting they have to pull it off the shelves!

But for the love of God, do it with awareness.

Don’t do it just because everyone else is doing it.

Don’t do it just because it’s less work, or easier to program it that way.

Do it because you need it, and only if you can articulate why.

Some people take the position that there is no need to justify the violence in their products.

To them, unremitting violence is an exciting, cathartic experience with intrinsic value.

This viewpoint cannot be dismissed without turning down a path that quickly degenerates into name-calling.

There’s one point on which I hope we can all agree.

Violent computer games are a phenomenon whose import is not yet understood.

Nobody knows for certain if violent games desensitize kids, turn them into misanthropes, or result in any other predictable outcome, bad or good.

Our critics don’t know what they’re talking about.

They don’t know what we are doing, but neither do we.

When we bring people together to engage in violent games, we are entraining them into a dissonant relationship that has unknown consequences.

Nevertheless, an expression of energy is undeniably present, and the inevitable succession of effects and ensuing causes must and will manifest, somehow.

Western science has a term for the moment of cause and effect, of action and reaction.

They call it Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

Eastern science has term for it, also.

They call it karma.


At the beginning of this lecture, I told you that I wasn’t showing you this video to illustrate a point.

Apparently I lied.

What have you been looking at for the past forty-five minutes?

An intriguing conjunction.

The definitive art form of a dead century, and an emerging art form of the next.

Designing computer games is a delightful profession.

It’s a privilege to be here at the beginning, where it’s possible to make a big difference.

We won’t lose our way if we remember that every multiplayer game we create, whether we intend it or not, is a lesson.

A lesson in how to get along.

Game designers are teachers.

We can offer lessons in dissonance, or in harmony.

Indifference, or passion.

Futility, or hope.

Which choice is likely to result in a home run?

Or shall we let the courts decide?