Tuesday, 9 April 2013


They were both playing with their tablets - the grandchildren. Such are games these days that young folk see their recreational amusements as activities to be undertaken in tandem rather than in any personally interactive situations. The two were sitting in the one room, on the one bed, each playing the identical game on identical tablets.

“What is this game?” was the question used to break into the intense and concerned silent concentration punctuated by the bangs, thumps, skids and growls of the audio effects.

“Oh, it’s a game where you have to run from the gorilla that is chasing you. Oh, no; I’m dead!”

“Gosh, that sounds scary.”

“You have to run, jump, turn, duck to keep up the speed so that he doesn’t catch you.”

“Oh; and how does the game end?”

“It doesn’t.”

Sitting down beside one player allowed the intricacies of the game to be observed. The 3-D runner started from the blocks followed by a huge black gorilla, and charged off down a track that turned ninety degrees frequently, and sometimes broke apart to enforce leaps. Level changes were achieved with suspended cables that could be slid down or along. The game was fast, continuous. Slow down and the gorilla loomed up again close behind, almost touching the runner. Make one mistake, and the runner was dead, having leapt into oblivion or fallen into it. The explanatory text was blunt: You’re dead! Better luck next time! . . or sentiments similar to these.

One had to keep manipulating the runner to ensure that every leap was precise, every turn accurate, and every slide exact. Along the way, as if to complicate matters - or is it just to add ‘interest’? - coins or tokens were arrayed. With a subtle tilting of the tablet, the runner could ‘collect’ these golden pieces in an astonishing blurring buzz that looked like the flicking of pages. The count was added to the accumulated total on each occasion. As an encouragement to the player, this currency could be used to purchase various other runners to get involved in the chase with differing performances and outcomes, all requiring some subtle variation in manipulation or some extra gadget to assist with the escape.

“Have a go.”

“Press this to start,” and the little fingers flashed in like the snap of a starter’s gun, well before one had time to assess the situation, let alone the strategy required.

You’re dead! appeared in no time as the runner charged off into the distance of nowhere, much to the delight of the children.

“Have another go,” and the same finger started the gorilla with as much enthusiasm as previously, with the runner getting to and turning the corner, and the next; and the leap too; only to discover that the ducking manoeuvre had not been anticipated. You’re dead! appeared again. The tablet was handed back graciously, in double death, with the explanation that one might learn better by watching those more skilled than me.

“There’s another one too,” came the excited voice.


“There’s another chasing game.”

“Show me.”

After a few finger flicks, train tracks appeared. The scenario was that the boy runner was being chased along the tracks by a railway officer. The offence was never stated. The task was not only to evade the chaser, but also to miss the trains and carriages that were travelling along or parked on the line.

“Show me how it is played.”

The game started with a button press and the boy ran, zigzagging along to miss the trains charging down, and then leaping over parked carriages and barriers, while having to duck under others. It was identical in theme to the gorilla chase. Golden coins were distributed along the track so that the boy runner could ‘collect’ them. Again, these could be used for ‘purchasing’ things like a power board that would facilitate flying, and similar items.

“And how does this game end?”

“It doesn’t.”


Indeed, watching this game being played showed that it would go on and on as long as there were no mistakes, trips, crashes or miscalculations, simple fatigue or other diversions. Instead of oblivion, the boy was always finally grabbed by the scruff of the neck by the monster officer who looked much like the gorilla in uniform.

What do these games encourage? What example are they setting? The playing of a game with no end was mystifying. It was merely an endless participation, a happening, that was there to be initiated whenever, and finished however, or when one made a ‘mistake.’ Then it could be put aside to be started again sometime, sooner or later - whenever. This was a different scenario to games that I could recall, games that had rules for engagement, a process and an outcome that was defined by the playing of it. Card games and board games come to mind. To give up and walk away from an unfinished game had something impolite about the act - desertion, the dropping of a commitment to participate. Such an outcome was frowned upon.

It was not as though the difference lay in the numbers playing. Many of these games were for two or more players; others were for one - solitaire: games that were designed for one to play. Still, these had rules, processes and outcomes that had to be complied with. These were an inherent part of the game; indeed, they were the game. To ignore these only allowed one to consider oneself, or to be declared by others, to be a cheat. One game for one comes to mind: the simple triangle with fifteen holes and fourteen pegs. The task is to remove jumped pegs in a sequence such that only one peg is left remaining on the board. These games are sometimes presented as puzzles.


2    3

4    5    6

7    8    9    10

11  12  13  14  15

They usually have some nice geometry about them, and some intriguing twists to their outcomes. They always have strict rules, like cribbage, that involves both playing cards and a board. There is nothing irrelevant about these games or in them. They hold a rigour and necessity in their patterning: see below for the ‘answer’ to this triangle puzzle. To participate in such a pastime, there is a beginning that implies an acceptance of the circumstances involved, an implementation of the rules, and an end, all in accordance with due process.

The idea in this overview of games is that architecture has at times been seen as a ‘game,’ a puzzle, a response to a set of conditions using a pattern of facts and circumstances. Indeed, it has been seen as an involvement in a process where one has accepted a certain situation and set of rules and conditions. Architecture, its making, holds the sense of a searching for a resolution that includes the prescribed circumstances seeking a response as guideleines, in whatever complexity that these might choose to present. The response can involve the making of the parts of the puzzle to allow the whole to be put together. The term ‘kit of parts’ identifies the system and its pieces that can be assembled within the rules, somewhat like a Lego building exercise. These can conceptualize possibilities that try to attend to the situation originally posed. Indeed, Lego offers a wonderful analogy for an architectural system - open and inclusive at the same time, allowing for a maximum of flexibility in combinations and outcomes. Brickwork has something of the Lego brick logic, as do other building systems.

But it is not only the making or the building system that holds some sense of rational logic. Modernism grew from concepts such as Sullivan’s ‘form follows function,’ an idea that promoted the ambition for each part of a building, and the building itself, to achieve a form appropriate to its particular function - its demands. There was nothing random in this intent. In a similar manner, more poetically, Kahn gave expression to making buildings with parts that wanted to be that way - “what a thing wants to be.” This idea touched on the possibility of the shaping and making of an object as a way of giving form to its ‘internal necessity,’ a term conceived by Kandinsky. These approaches had rigour, anticipated a certain logic and resulted in an expression that could be identified as an end - the answer to the problem set.

The processes held the patterns of a puzzle just as the conceptualisation and the resolution of the detailing and documentation of a building does. One might explore the broad intent, but the sense of knowing each part, dimension, material, relationship and performance in precise detail requires an approach that is careful, understanding and precise. There is little that is vague or irrational in this piecing together; and there is an end to the ambition also: an achievement.

The tablet games of pursuit hold a different intent: they just keep going. What implication do these have for architecture today? Are we seeing more architecture as an ‘event,’ a ‘happening,’ being there just because it can be? Is architecture replicating the structure of the games that keep going until some ad hoc happening terminates activity? Is there a new randomness being entertained in new work? I am thinking of Dubai, of Gehry, Hadid, and similar outcomes - see http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/o-gehry-oh.html  Is the detailing of places now becoming less rigorous, just being put together to make the part and the whole, however, whatever, irrespective of what the pieces might want to be or how they might want to function together - or need to function as a whole? The question hinted at in The End of the Architect? - see http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/the-end-of-architect.html - needs a response: what is the theory and design of this technological age? If we do not know what we are doing, why and how, what does this mean?

On a broader scale where one might use St.Paul’s ‘faith, hope and charity’ as a general framework to assess a circumstance in life - on the basis that there is some native coherence in this trilogy - the computer pursuit games require faith, but this seems quite limited, internal and exclusively personal: faith in oneself. The games have very little charity - or love. They are really bitter chases into oblivion with the aim to just keep going as long as one can to put off the inevitable: promoting cynicism? As for hope - what hope is there when a game has no end? Just the hope that one might be able to continue, knowing that the end is nigh? Just beginning a game does imply a need for some hope as it does faith, but it gives hope, like faith, a very limited and contrived identity and future rather than offering the delights of the open-ended proposition with the possibility of redemption in a resolution.: a coming together of the pieces, parts and participations: precipitation.

Are our buildings suffering from the same shallow personal intent and private visions as can be seen here? Must attitudes change if more substantial, inclusive outcomes are to be achieved? Is this new amorphous structure a fuzziness that needs interpretation? Is this 'fuzzy logic' in architecture? What does this mean? What gorillas are chasing us? What demons are we seeking to avoid?

See also:


There must be numerous solutions depending on the location of the hole.

They may indeed all relate to this solution by beginning at different locations in the sequence.

Some experimentation will be needed in order to discover the pattern.

It gets tricky because of the various symmetries in the diagram.

This solution has a nice inversion about it.

It starts with the hole at the apex and finishes with the one peg in the lower centre hole.

Just knowing one solution gives one confidence to discover others - maybe rearranged sequences.

It also gives more substance to the puzzle by making it more than a decorative enigma.

Here is one approach:

(refer to diagram for position numbers)

Move peg 6 into hole 1; remove peg 3.

The code for this sequence is:

P6 - H1 - XP3

Now the rest:

P4 - H6 - XP5

P10 - H3 - XP6

P1 - H6 - XP3

P11 - H4 - XP7

P2 - H7 - XP4

P13 - H4 - XP8

P4 - H11 -XP7

P11 - H13 - XP12

P14 - H12 - XP13

P6 - H 13 - XP9

P12 - H14 - XP13

P15 - H13 - XP14

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.