Transferability

Last year I attended a class about The Beatles, in my college. Enough said that the class was more than awesome. During that class, we talked about (social) impact; how can we last in the memories of people? Some of them are: innovation, death, pity and empathy (I can’t recall the rest of them).

I suggested one more way to cause impact.

The dictionary defines transferability as “to convey or cause to pass from one place, person, or thing to another.” So, basically, we have properties in A, and we transfer them from A to B, so now B has those properties. It is not rocket science.

Take something that has already caused impact, create some kind of connections with the thing you want to cause impact with, and chances are that you’ll end up having something that causes impact.

Transferability is also a good way to spread a message or idea. Propaganda games are a good example of this.

As a child, I disliked classical music. But, then I took a Neon Genesis Evangelion to the knee. Now, I think the main influence on why my favorite piece of music is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, is Evangelion. Nowadays, I’m not a classical music freak but I’ve learned to appreciate it and am very fond of that special piece of music.

Maybe I’m biased by one thing and I don’t really appreciate the other thing for its real value, but transferability has been a bridge that helped me reach new lands (in this case, classical music).

Transferability is part of our nature. Many species tend to use experience for survival purpose; we (heavily) rely on previous experiences to make new decisions. I happen to have experienced it even in social interactions; often we meet new people through others, and usually, if that shared peer is a good friend of ours we tend to accept more quickly its friends. We think the friends of a jerk are also jerks. We think the friends of our friends are also our friends. Now, this is not a fact, but it’s a common heuristic or rule of thumb.

Movies, books, TV series, music, theater and even videogames have transferability, although under a similar concept: remixes. For more info on this, please check this series of videos called Everything Is A Remix.

Hopefully, I’ve transferred some epicness to my post.

Transferability can be used for two purposes:

  • Familiarity: we have something people know and use it as a way to make something else easy to understand.
  • Impact: as I mentioned at the start of the post, odds are that if we use something impactful, we will create impact. This is not necessarily true, but I think it happens more than often.

In this post, I want to mention a specific case: videogames. We are familiar with many gameplays because these games follow a recipe (or belong to a specific genre); we transfer the knowledge we have from one game to another, because, essentially, both share the same core elements. This helps the player experience a not so harsh learning curve.

Also, I personally see videogames as a great platform to transmit messages and ideas. Videogames can help us plant the seed of curiosity into people, to make them wonder and research, or make them discover things they wouldn’t had ever dreamed of. For example, BioShock’s foundation is a book called Atlas Shrugged (which ideas became the foundation of Objectivism, a philosophy created by the author of Atlas); using a videogame as a vehicle, the idea of Objectivism, that possibly could sound boring for the average person, now seems intriguing. Not only does the game benefits by having a (not so mainstream) theme based on that philosophy, but also both the book and the philosophy get some advertising.

Games like Age of Empires and Civilization can be considered one of the main sources of history education of my generation. Spore, with its theme on evolution and transcendence as a species, is a great source of inspiration to do some research on the history of life. Assassin’s Creed is the reason why I know of the existence of people like Cesare Borgia. And so on, examples are plentiful.

I just remembered an episode from Extra Credits that talks about Tangential Learning. While transferability can trigger this kind of learning, it’s not a requisite per se.

One thing to be noted here is that transferability is a tool. Yes, you could just take elements from pop-culture, and make a game solely with them; but, you’d be not making anything new or original.

Using a popular element in a crappy product will still yield a crappy product (although an impactful, crappy product). An example of this is Zoolander and the scene taken from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Long story short, we can use elements and ideas from other media (or other sources, if we use the same media) to not only strengthen our work, but also to make them reach a broader audience and cause impact. The reason I want to work in videogame development is to be able to cause impact on people, to make them discover new things, through my games.

Just as George Lucas stated on a Discovery Channel special on Star Wars (which I can’t seem to find on YouTube): “One of the principle purposes of Star Wars is to stimulate minds. To stimulate minds to be curious and to think outside the box, and to open up your imagination.”

I’m very much interested in developing more this idea. Maybe in the future, with more experience and information by my side, I could develop it more.

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