The contrast between Connections and Infinite Craft really shows where the promise of infinite AI-generated content falls apart. A lot of gameplay depends on dialogue between the player and the designer and AI substitutes that with something completely different.

There has never been a game so stripped down to just working out what the creator is thinking as Connections. That’s the entirety of the game. It works so well because Wyna Liu makes it fun to work out what she’s thinking.

Through playing the game, you get a sense of her personality and her likes in the way that I did with crossword compilers when I did those. Her combination of archaic English and contemporary terms is very idiosyncratic.

Also, her jokes are often very funny. She put GRINDER, TINDER, BUMBLE and HINGE in a puzzle a while ago as a blind and the joke is that Grindr is spelled without the E. It feels good when you see through the blind. It makes you feel like you know the person a bit.

The same was true for Little Alchemist but Infinite Craft is more complicated. It’s at its best when you get surprising combinations. I put Continent and Apple Pie together and I got America. I put America and Destruction together and I got Trump.

But a lot of what makes this interesting is that I use Infinite Craft as a stand-in for AI as a whole and I’m still trying to see what AI is like. So, when I put Continent and Liberty together and get America, I say this is what AI believes.

This is in part because I treat AI as the condensation of general belief and so Infinite Craft feels like a window to public opinion. It’s also because I’m anthropomorphizing AI and treating all AI as one entity. Every time I come across an unusual combination, I feel that I better know AI as a whole.

Neither of these beliefs are true and both of these are going to fade with time as AI becomes less of a novelty. Even now it falls apart quickly as I keep cycling between Vampire and Dracula no matter the combination or when I ask Copilot to combine Apple Pie and Continent and get 200 words of meaningless garbage. There’s nothing interesting about getting to know an AI without them though.

Everyone who has checked a waterfall or gone the wrong way in a dungeon knows that some dialogue with the designer is par for the course. It’s a fun moment for both player and designer. This highlights the value of personality in these moments though and the value of these moments as a whole.

Instead of generic video game logic moments, this really shows the value of adding something that’s idiosyncratic to yourself and letting players recognize you over the course of your game.

It’s also just fun. I put a lot of jokes about people like Kipling and Jared Diamond in Syphilisation and I laughed at them for days.