Thinking Without Language

On Splintered Mind, Eric Schwitzgebel has a very interesting post about the relation between rationality or consciousness and language. He cites an example given in a paper by Andre Roch Lecours and Yves Joanette. It is very interesting story, please go to Eric’s place and read it first if you haven’t already.

Eric is very careful not to read too much from the “single anecdote transmitted second-hand”, but to me the conclusion from the anecdote seems pretty straightforward, and sensible.

First, wouldn’t it be hard to give a new name to a phenomenon, if we can’t think about the phenomenon without actually having words for it?

Think of the IQ tests (if you have solved one), and some of those problems with figures. When one thinks of which figure doesn’t fit, or something like that, what we do are things like rotating the figure in our minds (excuse my French), or imagining the mirror figure, or something like that. That is surely thinking and conscious act, and it doesn’t seem that it is done in language.

Take also playing of chess. A good chess player, might simply see that some move is wrong, without actually being able to explain or put into words why the move is wrong. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t aware that the move is wrong, he is fully conscious that the move is wrong, just it shows that his thinking is not done on linguistic level. Even simple tracking in the mind of the moves which are on the table doesn’t have to be correlated with words. I can be aware of the possibility of moves as such, without having words for them.

But why those “voices in our heads” then? What is their function, if we don’t think in terms of language?

Here is my thought on this…

The language is practice in the community, it is so very present that we are probably unaware just how much of our practices are related to language. Every informing, asking, expressing opinion, promising, threating, joking, and so on as social practices are related to language.  It is no wonder then, that we think of our experience in the world in terms of those practices, or to use the ‘language game’ metaphor, because we play language games so much, when we encounter different things, we tend to think  in terms of the possibilities that they relate to this playing a language games.

I want to relate this with the known phenomenon of how playing other games affect us.

Here are some examples Wired’s article Real World Doesn’t Use a Joystick:

Here is just one example, check the posts for more…

Taylor also said that after reviewing Quake III he had trouble getting his mind out of the game. “I’d play it, then walk out into the office corridor and realize I was looking at my co-workers as potential targets,” said Taylor. “I was so used to killing anything that moved.”

I think this is particularly interesting example related to the issue at hand:

Any addictive game can have a similar effect: The more someone plays, the more likely they are to stay mentally inside even afterward. And immersive games like Electronic Arts’ The Sims are frequently to blame, given the countless hours players put into them.  “When I played (it) a lot,” said Laura Martin, a devotee of the game, “I remember thinking, ‘What percent of my bladder is full?’ to decide if it was time to head to the bathroom.”

As I read this it says that Laura started to think in terms of the game which she was playing a lot. It is true that she used language to express what she thought, but I think that is just a consequence of necessity to express her thinking some way. Of course, without type of experiments done by Eric (and even with them) it is hard to solve this.

For what is worth, I know the feeling, as after long playing of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, when I was moving through the world I was thinking of the possibilities to grind on most ‘grindable’ things I was seeing. (For the record, in real life, I haven’t even try to skate. Also haven’t kill people.)
So, I guess you get the general idea, that the playing of the games affects what kind of possibilities we think of when we look at the world, and that because of playing the language game A LOT, we are inclined to think in terms of this (something like ‘what I would say to describe this situation’. Again, I use language here, but you get the point).

And, while at this, here is another way that things from the games can spill to our ‘real life’… Daily Bits has a post about Top 6 Bizarre Online Gaming Incidents.

Best Adventure Game Ever – Death Gate

Browsing through the The Underdogs archive (archive of old abandonware games) few days ago, looking for some old game to play, I stumbled on 1994 point and click adventure called Death Gate.
I played the game when it was released and I remember I thought it was great, so I decided to play it again.

While its name (Death Gate) might suggest that the game is about killing, it is not at all (though it includes few occasional deaths, they are not in action sequences). In the game you are put in the role of a young wizard named Haplo, which gets outside of the Labyrinth in which his race (Partyns) is jailed. Little by little you learn the history of what happened with your race, and their place in the grand story which includes few other races (elves, men, dwarfs, and other race of wizards called Sartans). The story in the game has depth which I think is never seen in any other game (adventure or otherwise). Probably it is because the game is based on several fantasy books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Wikipedia says about the septet: “The Death Gate Cycle was their most ambitious work yet, to create five fully realized and distinct worlds.”

What distinguishes this game from others is probably a lot of text in it. The conversations to other characters are not just placeholders for finding something that you will need to solve further puzzles, but they are lively, rich, and full of side stories. Also, through the game you find a bunch of books (each of them with several pages), which give you some further insight in what is happening (and of course information you need). So, if you play this game, you should be ready for a slow pace, and enjoying it not just as a game, but as fiction story too.
The puzzles on the other side are also great. They are never silly, usually it is clear what you need to accomplish beforehand and the solutions are logical. (If you have problems, you can check a walkthrough)

Also, if you play it, be sure to save often. There are places in the game where the character can die, so if you save often, you wouldn’t return much back.

How to install it and play it?

First download it from the underdogs archive (here, 96MB). As it is old game, to avoid any problems with graphics and music cards, you also need DOSBox (of course you can also use another DOSBox installation to play it on other operating systems like Linux, Mac OS X, BeOS etc…).
The downloaded game should be unpacked (e.g. in c:\dgate). After that install DOSBox, start it, write in it something like:

mount c c:\
cd c:\dgate

The game should start. Of course if you installed in different directory (and not in c:\dgate, you should change to that directory using cd command, and I think you should also open the install.ed file with notepad, and change the path there too). If the game starts in window mode, and you want it to be fullscreen, you can use Ctrl+Enter to toggle.

Death Gate
for more pictures from the game click the image

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

The Incredible Machine

The Incredible Machine 3 is a 1995 game by Sierra.
It consist of a series of puzzles, each of them being a contraption, partially set, requiring from the player to add the missing pieces and connections, so that when the contraption is started it fulfills the set goal of the puzzle. There are lot of different parts available, from teeter-totters, ropes, balloons and lava-lamps, to gears, motors, lasers, candles, cats and mice.
If you are looking for something that you can play for 10 minutes now and then, this game is nice substitute for card games like FreeCell and Solitaire.
To give you a rough feel of what the game is like check out the Sierra ad for The Incredible Machine 2:

The game is abandonware, and you can get it here (30MB, be sure not to use any speed accelerators when downloading). After you unzip it and install it, you might want to change the compatibility option on the shortcut (right click, then click on Properties, go to Compatibility tab, and there switch on “Run this program in compatibility mode for”, and choose Windows 95) if you have problems.
The game also has option for creating your own contraptions.. Here are two I created:



To play those two contraptions, download the “.tim” files by clicking on the above pictures, and then copy them to the folder where game is installed. Then to load them, when in the game, go to File->Load and click on the picture in the upper right corner of the dialog (looks like a bunch of things). Another dialog will open in which you can choose which set of puzzles you want to play (easiest to hardest), but there is an option for playing “Homemade puzzles” (the last one left of the Cancel button). When you click the “Homemade puzzles” button you should see the list of contraptions you downloaded, and choose to play one of them.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Monkey Island Nostalgia

I was big classic adventures fan, particularly of old Lucas Arts games from late eighties and early nineties (Loom, Indiana Jones, Monkey Island, Zack McCracken…).
So, I got pretty excited by the Happy Monkey Island music day post at Joystiq. It features few musicians playing themes from Monkey Island 1 and 2 games. Here is one of them (check their post for two more)…

If you are by any chance proud owner of copy of a Monkey Island (or any other Lucas Arts old adventure game for that matter), let me remind you that you can play it again not just on modern PCs, but also on Linux, Mac OS X, PS2, PSP, PocketPC, PalmOS, Symbian OS, and more, by using ScummVM engine. Just download the engine for your computer/device, transfer the original files to some directory,  start the ScummVM, and point it to a folder where you have previously copied game files to. The game should be playable with perfect graphics and sound.
For those who don’t own a copy, it will be hard to find a place to buy those games at a reasonable price. LucasArts doesn’t seem to sell it any more, and the Adventure Packs which used to contain several of their adventures are available only as collectibles, and can be pretty expensive. You can check the abandonware archives, where you might find them and download the files to use with ScummVM. Do a search for “is monkey island abandonware?” on google, and you will instead of an answer, probably find a download link.
If you remember some other favorite oldie you used to play, and want to check it again, you might want to try the underdogs. They have tons of abandonware, so there is good chance they have it.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,