Throwback Thursday Linkbait: Kuhnian Paradigms and Other Phrases to Impress Your Friends


“Videogames and Scientific Revolutions” by Peter Christiansen (Oct. 9th, 2013)

Videogames and Scientific Revolutions

In keeping with our theme this past week, Thursday’s link about tech trees and scientific progress comes from the astoundingly great collaborative blog “Play the Past.” Reading Seth’s posts about Timeline and Master of Orion 2 reminded me of Peter Christiansen’s post from PtP, which discussed how the first Master of Orion game did a relatively good job (key word on relatively) representing the Kuhnian Paradigm mode of viewing Scientific Progress (as opposed to the deterministic tech tree version seen nearly everywhere else). Most of his post is, admittedly, spent describing what Thomas Kuhn’s theories were, but that should be welcomed by people who might, like me, be a bit rusty on their History of the Sciences. Nonetheless, if Seth’s posts on science and its presentation in games got you chopping at the bit for more, you couldn’t do better than this particular post.

0 comments on “Throwback Thursday Linkbait: Kuhnian Paradigms and Other Phrases to Impress Your Friends

  1. Trying to think about how a Kuhnian-style paradigm shift could fit into games really underlines the fact that despite their presentation, tech trees are really about invention more than the advancement of scientific knowledge. When Civilization 5 tells you “You’ve discovered Astronomy,” what it really means is “You’ve invented observatories and caravels.” Because the mechanical emphasis is on demonstrably functioning inventions rather than the understanding of how they work, there’s nothing for a paradigm shift to invalidate. They cut out the chaff, pseudoscience, and dead ends, so that you don’t have to research Alchemy and Astrology to get to Chemistry and Astronomy.

    It makes me wonder if strategy, with its emphasis on planning and predictability, is just the wrong genre to try to model non-deterministic views of technology. Imagine an RPG where equipment purports to magically improve stats but in reality does nothing (or is much less effective than it is reported to be), and that this information is hidden from the player until some later revelation reveals it all to be bupkis.

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