I recently noticed that my four-year-old daughter was doing something a little strange when she was playing The Maw.

In case you’re not familiar with the game, it features a user-controlled character named Frank and a non-user-controlled character named…The Maw!!!

(Yes, at some point I’ll stop talking about The Maw. I swear.)

Uh…sorry. Anyway, Frank can call Maw to him and Maw will come if he’s close enough to hear. I noticed that my daughter was calling Maw and then immediately running behind a tree, then running around and around the tree to see how long she could keep Maw from touching Frank. And giggling madly the whole time.

She’d found a new game inside the game. The developers of Maw never intended for people to play keep-away inside their game but it grows naturally out of the gameplay elements they did put in.

Which reminded me of a couple of stories. My friend Ryan Clark told me that he was working on an early version of the Zarria engine (which later powered Hit & Myth) and he was testing the 2D physics of the game. The test map consisted of a house, a whole bunch of NPC frogs and the player’s character. There was no combat, but if your character bumped into one of the frogs it would be thrown back away from you.

He showed it to his brother, who immediately found a game that Ryan hadn’t programmed – trying to wrangle all the frogs into the house by bumping into them. Of course, the more frogs you got together the more they’d bump each other around. The only way to keep the frogs inside the house was to stand in the doorway, but you had to leave the doorway to go get another frog, which means that three would probably escape.

And Ryan even found an unintentional game in an early version of Inaria. I made a map with one of every creature on it to test their AI. Most of the AIs were designed to hunt you down as soon as you came near. Ryan instantly started triggering every single unit and then seeing how long he could stay alive. Since there were structures on the map he eventually found a way to trap or block them all and stay alive.

And then of course, there’s these guys who found a new game to play in Super Mario 64:

In case you don’t understand Japanese, these guys are activating a one-up mushroom and then running away from it and seeing how long they can prevent it from touching them. This is hard because it not only moves pretty fast, it can fly through the terrain of the level. It’s pretty funny to hear them freak out whenever it suddenly appears through a wall next to them.

And let’s not forget this excellent article by Shamus Young, wherein he programs Starcraft to play itself so he can find out which enemy AI is the strongest.

So what’s my point? Um…I dunno. It’s long been known that humans can make a game out of anything, and you don’t even need a good framework to do it. Maybe I just wanted to brag on my daughter 🙂