while(True): Experience and Expression

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I love a beautiful expression. Many others prefer a beautiful experience. Both are necessary.

Expression is moving something inside outward, pouring out what is already in the soul. Experience is drawing something outside inward, lapping up the un-self into the self.

Of course, rarely does one exist without the other. We experience our own expressions, and modify them even as they are pronounced. We respond to our own experiences, and express our reactions even during the event. Experience and expression each chase the other. One leads, and then doubles back, chasing the first; This recursive cycle feeds on both the other and the self, and can quickly lead to surprising places.

Most events in life are experiences, which artists can express. Paintings, sculptures, and movies are expressions which the audience can experience. A game is a special kind of expression, which allows the players to express through interaction with the mechanics, and then experience the results through the presentation. This (more closely than any other medium) mimics the normal experience expression cycle, and gives rise to a powerful ability to “immerse” the player in the game.

Some experiences are “good” and some are “bad”, or at least many express such feelings about them. Good experiences (we are told) are those which re-enforce what we hope for, know, and expect. Bad experiences leave us feeling empty, give us nothing of value to express, to sustain us. Yet even in the worst experiences, we have learned something true. And even in the best experiences, we have always missed something. Still, in experience, we can know beauty.

Some expressions are “good” and some are “bad”, or at least that has been my experience. Good expressions (from what I can tell) clearly allow others to experience the internal state, which hopefully closely mimics reality. Bad expressions leave us feeling confused, give us no lasting experience, nothing meaningful. Yet even in the worst expressions, we can glimpse the desire of the artist, the longing to create. And even in the best expressions, there is always something lacking. Yet, in expression, we can create beauty.

Expression requires a large self, something that is “me” that wishes to be known. Experience requires a large other, something that is “outside” which can be known. To exprerience an expression, we must humble ourselves, become small enough to look up into the artist’s soul with wonder. To express an experience we must presume to be valuable, become large enough, as if to say to each “I, too, have something to express! Experience not only all things, but myself as well!” and pour out our soul to be known.

Playing a good game is like a good experience, and a good expression all at once and together. Creating a good game is the same, for creating a game is both expression and experience. The player and the designer draw close together. The best games are but a skin that separates them, it contains the two bodies, the two selves.

Many love a beautiful experience. I prefer a beautiful expression. Both are very good.

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