Grant Custer

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Fantasy consoles and framing

I’ve been thinking a lot about Joseph White’s talk on his motivations for making the PICO-8 fantasy console. There’s so much in the talk that resonates with what I’ve been thinking about for Constraint Systems: about how carefully selected constraints change the feel of working, making it feel more focused, and even cozy.

Since viewing the talk I’ve been thinking a lot about how he frames PICO-8 with the idea of a fantasy console and cartridges, and what I could do for framing Constraint Systems. I’ve toyed with the idea of making the Constraint Systems homepage into a simulation of a fantasy operating system with each experiment as an application. Part of the feeling I want to capture is going to the middle school computer lab in the mid 90s and trying out the strange collection of software the school had preloaded (even though the variety of the internet is great, there is something comforting and cozy in the idea of a finite number of programs to explore).

I had been thinking of the operating system metaphor as a fun, possibly attention-attracting, thing, that I should get around to sometime. After viewing White’s talk, however, I think it’s something I should prioritize. Framing Constraint Systems as a fantasy computer/operating system could (done well) communicate my vision of the project, and communicate it not in a long text somebody has to read, but as a general vibe. In the best case, they would “get” the project just by looking at the homepage. This is what “branding” is, I suppose, it just feels more tied to the core of the project here than I’m used to thinking of it.

Extensions of the idea:

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Grant Custer is a designer-programmer interested in alternative interfaces.

You can see work and inspiration in progress on my Feed and my alternative interface experiments on Constraint Systems. I’m happy to talk on Twitter, email: grantcuster at gmail dot com, or Mastodon. You can see a full list of projects on my Index.