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Cryptomnesia induced programming

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DrunkenCoders RPG
DrunkenCoders RPG tech demo (2002)

Seriemas RPG
Seriemas RPG competition entry (2003)

While writing a paper on the Ego and the Self, as described by Carl G. Jung, I came across a very interesting phenomena called cryptomnesia.

This has happened very clearly to me once and has probably happened to most of you, if not all. You know when you're coding and hacking and spitting and drinking coffee and coding, then suddenly getting struck by the bright light of an eXtremely unique and great idea? An attack of creativeness that takes you off spinning a new functionality with such clear details of what you want and how to do it that you grin from ear to ear. Congratulations! You probably just stole the idea from someone else here on gamedev, without realizing it! [grin]

A real life example from myself. While competing in the RPG-Dev.net's summer compo 2003 I needed a way to handle the dialogues. Ah! Got it! I invented a type of window that was really easy to implement and useful, I even gave it a really sweet layout and colour! Then I showed it of to my friend... He just stared at me and went, "Is this your great idea? You just ripped of my dialogue menu from my RPG demo I showed you last year..." [shock] What's worse, I even had the same avatar!

I had absolutely no recollection of that while developing or the moment he pointed out my plagiarism. After a while of hard thinking I remembered his demo, and the dialogue was, in fact, exactly the same - even the colours. This happens a lot with writers apparently, which were the main discussions by Jung. He defined this phenomena as the recollection of a subconscious memory into the concious memory. The reason for the memory being created in the subconscious memory in the first place could simply be that the concious was to busy or didn't have enough space at the time. When retrieving the memory from the subconscious it isn't recognized by the concious as a memory and thus defaulting to be a newly created idea.

To my defence, a case of cryptomnesia isn't considered plagiarism because it's not a conscious attempt to copy someone's work. Rather, it's the similarities in your own work (or something completely different) that reawakens a memory of something you liked, or didn't like. Could this be natures way for humans to naturally and instinctively applying design patterns? To speed up the process of our own development by sometimes infusing seen and proven functionality into our own work? Why doesn't it sit in the concious memory directly? Is it somehow related to a refinement process occurring in the subconscious to extract exactly what the idea consists off? Does it sit in the unconscious so it can emerge naturally instead of forced to by the conscious? Just as the Self applies forces onto the Ego to steer it in the a direction, naturally, instead of the Ego steering based on what the Self is. Just as the way design patterns are meant to be applied, not forcing your software design to fit a pattern but to apply a pattern where it is emerging?
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I don't know that it's that complicated. It would appear that in each case the original material shown was actively appraised and regarded as high quality by the subject (e.g., you thought your friend's dialog window was cool when he originally showed it to you), which would create a positive association with that design. Pressured to come up with something meeting near-identical requirements at a later date, this favorably-evaluated solution would naturally bubble to the surface.

By way of analogy, consider childhood impressions and the way they influence design sensibilities or even reflexes and reactions (phobias, philias) in adult years.

Ultimately, being so common, I guess it's not really of interest, and that's why there haven't been many (any) responses. It's like deja-vu: we all experience it, but in many cases it's because we have seen something similar before.

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The way phobia works is veery different, but I think I understand what you mean. And we all experience stuff like deja-vu. Does that really make cryptomnesia any less interesting? Not to me at least =)

The concepts of an unconcious memory and unconcious processing was pretty new in my book, but then again - this is just a new hobby for me. ^^

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