Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

17 August, 2016

Cargo cult game development

Theoretical physics Richard Feynman popularized the phrase, “cargo cult science”, referring to “cargo cults” on some Pacific islands that sought to bring material wealth by performing rituals and building elements that seemed to attract it before. In particular, they built airplane runways, hoping to attract the airplanes that carried cargo to them before. The connotation is that the islanders (and scientists practicing “cargo cult science”) were going through motions they didn’t understand to get a result.

As an aside, modern scholars think the islanders weren’t ignorant of technology, but rather performing an elaborate ritual. But, the term has remained and used in the original sense and I’ll use it here without rendering judgement on those Pacific islanders.

We can just as easily point to “cargo cult game development”, where game developers of all stripes copy something they don’t understand in order to get result they want. They blindly copy rather than understand. So, let’s take a look at how this work across different disciplines.
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