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'The X of Games', or: games Twitter plays

Perhaps in our pursuit of new creative horizons we can look to simpler, nearer to hand sources -- like the absurdity and brilliance produced by Patrick Rodriguez's "The Citizen Kanes" Twitter bot.

Kris Ligman, Blogger

December 12, 2013

3 Min Read

Kris Ligman is a contributing editor for Gamasutra.

There is an entertaining Twitter bot drawn up by the inimitable Patrick Rodriguez which creates snowclone variations of that most popular of video game hyperbole, "the Citizen Kane of games."

The point of the bot is twofold: first, it mocks the idea of a film being the encapsulation of an otherwise disparate medium (typical tweets include "the Monty Python & the Holy Grail of lint" and "the Sound of Music of crusades"); second, perhaps unintentionally, it becomes a sort of game in its own right -- or anyway, a series of prompts for an ongoing creative writing exercise.

If games are good for anything, it's in enabling players to forge connections that might otherwise elude them. Perhaps your game models a complex idea like colonization in a way that helps it make sense to history students, or perhaps your game allows for something as simple and expressive as the mixing and matching of shapes, colors and patterns to excite young imaginations. I don't mean to suggest all games are inherently pedagogical or geared toward kids, but certainly we see the exploratory potential there, even in games where the exploration is quite limited on certain axes.

In my mind, Rodriguez's Twitter bot works the same way: using a very simple and endlessly repeatable grammar, it produces sometimes poignant, often nonsensical thought exercises. What would the Lord of the Rings of bibliographies look like? Would it be unnecessarily long, subdivided into three sections each with its own appendices? How would we model the episodic structure of the Mythbusters of accusations? And can we even conceive of a Thus Spoke Zarathustra of spaghetti?

To be sure, I'm not the first to notice the understated brilliance of these little social media automatons. Wired did a feature on them before the unmasking of horse_ebooks, and renowned bot overlord Darius Kazemi recently held a summit on the subject. To call these kinds of bots an emerging art form is not hyperbole, but a statement of fact -- what matters now is how we engage with them.

I think it would be interesting to take snowclone bots like Rodriguez's at their face value and engage them as games -- perhaps not video games, sure, but at least on par with party games. Devon's And Now Imagine bot and Darius Kazemi's Alt Universe Prompts are also fertile ground for at least a drabble competition, if not a few game jams. Consider:






If these strike you as similar to the half-nonsense of Peter Molydeux, well yes, look how that account ended up taking off. And while the nature of these bots may be lighthearted, the imaginative output doesn't have to be. The Schindler's List of pursuits, for example, sounds inherently depressing. And the Donnie Darko of porridge is probably at the very least terribly confusing.

I find that there is a great deal of untapped imaginative potential in the serendipitous collisions of brilliance these bots produce. If they don't lead to games in their own right, then at least they're good for games in the less structured and more playful sense. Certainly worth exploring, no?

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