Pursuing my doctoral degree has been a long road. I started my journey in September 2021, and now, in the winter term 0f 2024, the road ahead is finally clearing up and the goals are well identified.

Part of the challenge is balancing a full time job as a professor and program coordinator to two college game-art programs (undergraduate and postgraduate) as well as being a full-time doctoral student. And life, of course. Can’t ignore that little detail, especially when one is his 50s.

For me, this is what makes the learning, research, and overall academic experience such a fulfilling endeavour. It reinforces the concept that it is never too late to learn, and there is still so much knowledge to absorb, analyze, and share.

My graduate supervisor, Dr. Mark-David Hosale, has been a pillar of support and inspiration in this journey. Taking his course – Vertical Labs – in the second semester of the first year of my graduate studies, exposed me to new concepts and paradigms, which have been foundational to my research.

My research delves into the intersection of the noosphere, the anthropocene, semiotics, and procedural game systems within the context of roguelike game environments. By invoking the concept of the noosphere – the abstract representation of human thought and the evolution of consciousness – this research seeks to understand how the noosphere can be manifested in digital game worlds, while integrating semiotics to analyze the intricate web of meaning embedded within these realms.

Furthermore, the study delves into the anthropocene, a geological epoch marked by human influence on the Earth’s ecosystems. This dissertation examines how procedurally generated, open-ended game worlds, as complex digital ecosystems, mirror and comment on the anthropogenic impact on the natural world.

Elements of Artificial Life are explored to understand how the procedural generation and emergent behaviors of non-player characters within the rogue-like gameworld contribute to the creation of dynamic and evolving digital ecologies.

The draft of my Major: General comprehensive analysis, is being formulated now. It describes the thread between the two paradigms of the noosphere and the anthropocene, and how video games – specifically rogue-likes – can create a virtual representation of these abstract concepts in a digital, virtual environment.

The Major: Specific will discuss procedural generation of gameworlds and how the implications of the anthropocene influence these generative algorithms. The aim is to create virtual mirrors of the human impact on Earth’s ecosystems.

The Prototype analysis is centered around the application of the previous analyses, focusing on the development of a roguelike game that incorporates smart NPCs, and dynamic, evolving digital ecologies. The game engine I’m considering to use is Godot 4.

Unity is a close second (also considering the hundreds of dollars I spent over the years in the asset store, but that’s crying over spilt milk).

Further concepts of research and exploration:

  • The structure of a thought
  • Semiotics and symbolism
  • Procedural generation of symbols
  • Emergent behaviors in gameworlds tnad their parallels to real-world ecological dynamics
  • Hexagons
  • Back to basics in terms of game visuals. A return to the golden age of video games (1980s and 1990s) where imagination ruled supreme
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Temporality in video games