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The Column icon The Column: Issue 43

The Library > The Column Archive > The Column 043

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Want to take a ride?
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

My son said "so, what are you supposed to do?", I looked across. He'd already figured out: "Oh, I see, now you push the play button". The next moment we were both hooked. I asked him to send the URL my way. We then spent the next two hours playing. Line Rider has one editorial tool, a pencil.
This simple webtoy is not only a great challenge, it's also a perfect example to illustrate the creative process...

Toys do not have clear aims like a game, but rather emphasize play. There's no high score to beat in Line Rider, no particular goal to achieve, and although you can define your own challenge, the true purpose of any toy is to have fun. The more fun you have, the more fun you'll want to have. Toys at their best fixate the player.

Line Rider

The player draws and designs a toboggan ride one line at a time, and as they draw they discover the many, often surprising ways, to affect the movement of their rider.

View An Example I made of a Line Rider course [Internet Explorer only]

Line Rider: jump As a Line Rider player you'll create a series of lines that scoot your rider along a roller coaster ride. Loop the loop, have your rider dive and jump through hoops, across ravines, over, under, the direction and the journey is very much up to you.

As I played I began to ask myself why this particular toy was so much fun, and why I was driven to create the perfect ride - which thankfully continues to allude me :)

Speed at a Distance

First and foremost we are physical animals. We have an inbuilt need to observe and relish movement. Understanding movement helps us survive as we become more expert in flight and fight. It is why sport attracts us, the slow motion reply serving a deep instinctive need to learn and appreciate a body in motion. The runner, racket, arc of a ball, the interplay of mind and muscle, the forces of nature, mastered, the competitive edge, sharpened. All these and more come into play as we play, but at a safe, secure, and comforting distance.

Line Rider: jump Line Rider provides a self contained environment that mirrors the physics of our daily experience. Create a line that travels steeply downwards and your rider will pick up speed and jump across wide spaces, but travel too fast across rough terrain and your rider will be thrown from his toboggan.

The Narrative Line

As you become increasingly ambitious within the world of the Line Rider you'll push the boundaries of what is possible. There is no adversary, no challenge other than that of making the ride better. This vicarious rush fires your desire for just one more ride as your toboggan is thrown back, tilts close to the edge, and explodes outward, far beyond the stage. The rider hits a line at high speed catapults high, twists, and then is pulled, downward into a bed of vertical lines that shoots him first sideways, then higher, like a doll shaken by some great beast. Soon the rider is in freefall, no line in sight, like an astronaut, graceful, weightless against the white, the opposite of night.

There's detail too. Your rider's arms and legs move with limbs that eco faint familiar forms. The white and red scarf, blown by an unknown wind.

Appearing from the lower stage a line comes into view, and then another long and smooth, and now the rider lies as one against the edge, slowing as the line decreases angle, sitting up the rider blinks, the ride is over, or so the player thinks...

Playing God

Authorship is playing God. Being in control. Whether painting, designing, directing, writing, whatever the medium, the creative act asserts our will. After the assertion is complete, the next stage is to communicate our work with others.

Line Rider: Line Rider, with its easy rules of engagement, shows how even the simplest of actions: the creation of a single line, encourages a rich creative experience. There is no need for complex three dimensional graphics financed by multi-million dollar budgets to satisfy our curiosity or creative desire.

There's a scene in the film Contact when Dr. Ellie Arroway, a brilliant young scientist working on the SETI programme, believes all is lost. She feels everything she had worked for was for naught when the machine which was to transport a single person to make first contact with an alien species is sabotaged. I won't spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it by saying what happens, but as I played with Line Rider, I was reminded of that movie. To me the creative adventure is as much defined by what is implied as what is concrete. Imagination, expectation, anticipation.

Play Line Rider at AbleStable and get ready for the ride of your life...


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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