2 min read

Media supporting random access prompts

"Reading a randomly-chosen section of a Discworld book" has worked out well for me as a prompt, and I wonder if this could be extended to other media. My first thought is that replaying random sections of a video game seems like an interesting way to generate ideas for things to write about.

A problem with this is that video games are not very random-access-friendly the way books are. With a book, you can easily find the number of pages, generate a random number between 1 and that number using the Internet, and quickly (in \(O(\log n)\) worst case time) crack it open to that randomly-chosen page.

With video games, random access is much more difficult. Linear-ish games are the easy case and still hard. If you have a list of saves, you can randomly choose one of those, and that vastly simplifies the problem. But what if you want to access the game experience more fully at random, rather than "wherever I thought it was useful/interesting to save"? How would you even define the length and pick a random point given that games are variable in length? If there are some kind of meaningful checkpoints you can grab onto then dividing the space easier, but now you run into the access problem. You need a save at the appropriate point in the game. Unless you have an arbitrarily number of saves and save at every chance it's likely you don't have a save there. Many games don't give you an arbitrary number of saves. (It's not quite a linear game, but if I recall correctly, Deltarune gives you just 3 slots. There are way more than three sections in any given chapter of Deltarune.) So you need to find one that's close to the randomly-chosen point. This can take far longer than one minute. For less linear games this gets more complicated.

For games with procedurally-generated playthroughs, this whole system breaks down. For those kinds of games you might as well just play a game. Finding an interesting part to write about, though, could take much longer than with a book. The medium generally prevents you from skipping around.

Overall podcasts, videos, movies, and TV seem like a better fit for this access mode. For podcasts and TV, you have a list of episodes, and for all four a seek-to-running-time function, which are all you need for this kind of prompt.