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The Web of Discovery

by Gregory Campbell on 03/25/19 09:13:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

You are here.  You want to get there.  How to get there from here?

The Web of Discovery

You are here.  You want to get there.  How you get there may seem like a linear path, but is more likely a Web of Discovery, also called a Net of Discovery.  The exact details of 'here' and 'there' in relation to one another matter not, so long as it is possible to reach there from here.  (Though I use the terms with a connotation of movement, this notion also applies to accomplishing any task, in or out of a game.)

I call this a Web of Discovery since it involves a variety of activities and iteration.  Simply put, you have X amount of stuff to learn and do to get from here to there, and, often, there is more than one way to get from here to there.  Even in a situation intended to be linear, each person's thought process is likely to vary enough due to foreknowledge, biases, real world experiences, etc., and each person effectively has a separate start point on this web, even if many people with similar experiences start at similar places on this web.

The Web of Discovery, like a typical real-world spider web, connects points and acts as the space encompassing what you can and will learn to accomplish your goals.  Also, like the aforementioned spider's web, it is spun iteratively and not all at once.  For example, if you're playing Dark Souls and you discover you have a difficult time with the game playing as a melee character, you may switch to an offensive caster and have an easier time in many places, but in so doing you find another aspect of the Web of Discovery since now this character has a different playstyle:  Instead of being a hardy, tanky Warrior, you're a Sorcerer with low HP but with high ranged offense.  Finally regarding this spider's web analogy, returning to a topic you have already learned after enough time has passed may require relearning the topic, effectively requiring a new Web of Discovery to be spun, since the usefulness of what you learned did not stick in the realm of usefulness.  This is like cleaning a house and removing all the cobwebs.

The more familiar you are with the methodology, the more likely you are to use a stable method to accomplish your goals.  For example, the more familiar you are with riding a bike or cooking pasta or making a game of a genre or navigating a game world, the more likely you are to use a stable path, and, therefore, have a smaller Web of Discovery:  There is simply less to discover about these known quantities.

For another example, why have some people been fairly inaccurate when estimating time or monetary costs for projects?  Most likely, those involved had a big Web of Discovery to traverse.  That's also because the more complex a task is to complete, the bigger the Web of Discovery is likely to be.  Many modern video games are sophisticated, multidisciplinary  projects reliant on many people and technologies working well together over a period of months or years.  (Other factors outside the scope of this article may also apply, such as people misunderstanding a project's scope, or acting in a pressured way to finish and release a game in a certain time span regardless of the consequences.)

Overall, the Web of Discovery is intended as a model of learning, and as a tool to aid in the understanding of how and why people and other beings learn.  For example, the Web of Discovery alone does not state that much learning - from the perspective of the learner - has effects not entirely obvious to all those involved, nor that some learning seems in the moment more like frustration.  However, understanding these aspects of learning can help people also understand where in a specific subject area they started, where they are likely to head at their current rate, and what would likely be handy or necessary to have them get there from here.


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