Selectparks has posted a link to some really awesome video art using a Breakout-style game programmed in Processing. The students who had no programming skills were asked to play around with the existing code and modify it to create something new. They had six hours to play around with the code and came up with some really interesting results.
The purpose of the workshop seems to be getting students to be less afraid of computer code and to show them that you can actually do interesting things without knowing how to program. Of course, this is really just hacking and doesn’t teach them how to make something from an idea they have in their head, but it does provide them with an interesting new medium. Instead, it actually lets the users ‘play’ with the code to see what happens and to perhaps learn what they are doing by observing the results – not unlike how a hacker might attempt to understand a piece of undocumented software.
While looking at this video, you might also want to consider some concepts raised by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman in Rules of Play, namely the concept of meaningful play. While it looks like you can perform actions in the program in some of these cases, once the goal has been removed or altered (i.e. to eliminate all the bricks without letting the ball hit the ground) meaning (in terms of goals and understanding the effects of your actions) ceases to exist.
The reason this is so interesting is because some of the scenes, such as the wireframe blocks, make very interesting aesthetics – but there doesn’t appear to be any sort of meaningful play going on. The task of the game designer then is to look at interesting ideas like this and see where you can take them. For example, I once saw a demo made by a couple of really intelligent students that used John Conway’s The Game of Life as the basis for actions the player would perform. However, they never got around to building sets of goals or objectives to structure the play into an actual game. How do you actually make a game out of something this interesting – and will it be any good?
Once you have a really neat set of ideas, see what you can make out of them! The result doesn’t have to be a game, either! The Game Mod team created a video of their Breakout work as the visual aesthetics were interesting enough that people wanted to watch them. If you think hard enough, you can probably find a use for just about anything.