Poetic Gameplay, Emergent Structures, and Bending Light

Generative Arts Weekly #030

Website | Instagram | Youtube | Behance | Twitter | BuyMeACoffee

"scattered star-light falls a faint birdsong on the water's surface" - Wayfinder

The poem was the generative haiku that I was presented while playing through Wayfinder. As I played through it, it gave me some time to think through generative poetry and how we experience it.

But first, What is Wayfinder?

Wayfinder is a web-based generative art game that takes the player on a contemplative cause-and-effect journey through nature. Symbolizing the give-and-take relationship humans have with the natural world, players move a mystical character through forest, grasslands and tundra in search of poetic tokens dotting the landscape. When activated, they reveal words hidden in the wind, breathing new life into the nearby flora and fauna. Leaves stir and flowers spring up in the character's footsteps. Birds and butterflies emerge. As the player continues on their journey, these uncovered words combine into verse, expressing our eternal need to capture nature’s fleeting moments in poetry.

The gameplay is soothing; the artwork and generative aspects of the game make it an experience of art in its own right. The team produced a beautiful piece of what is probably more of an exhibition of generative artistry in game form. As the character glides along, subtle sight sounds, and changing environments, create a journey as the player collects a unique poem.

Every game played creates a different environment. Some of those things include,

  • The variation of color and orientation of flowers

  • the swaying grass and its length

  • the location and variety of woodland creatures

  • to the area of trees and their leaves

  • the time when precipitation falls

  • insects flying (fireflies, butterflies)

  • Sounds depending on location

All packaged up into a seemingly simple world of discovery.

At its core, the game embodies the beauties of discovery and the attention to detail that make every new experience slightly different, as every occasion is a new poem.

Which leads to generative poetry.

Poetry, in its own right, is a world of discovery. Its medium of discovery is words that express the essence of things, experiences, and emotions but in a compacted form just as the world is full of ways to say these things from photography, paintings, music, film, and games.

So, poetry is the minified music of words and can be experienced in many ways.

Generative poetry brings a second layer as it creates a temporal element to a poem. Rather than the reader experience one verse with the exact words, with generative poetry, a few things can happen:

  • Words within the poem are changed, creating the experience of the same verse to be slightly different at each read.

  • The order in which a poem is read can be altered.

  • The words can be utterly different from poem to poem yet embodying the artist’s vision.

  • The words can be altered by external signals (a.k.a. the weather might change the words of the poem when the reader reads them)

  • The words are generated entirely without any control of the artist (a.k.a. think a program that randomly selects words out of a dictionary)

This list isn’t comprehensive but gives you an idea of what generative poetry might look like.

So how does this tie back?

Just a second, there is another element that can be added to poetry, and that is how we experience it. Poetry can be shared by reading it.

  • To oneself

  • With an audience or with a small group of friends

  • On the walls of a museum exhibit

  • Paired with a collection of paintings

  • Synced up with an animation

  • or placed directly into an animation

  • or a variation of all of the above (see video below w/ Bill Collins)

I give all of the context as I think through what it means to have a generative poetic game, and it boils down to experiencing generative poetry in a slightly new way, and it is something that (at least to my knowledge) has not been explored.

It’s like walking through an installation at a museum, there is sound coming from the ceiling and the lighting is dimmed. You walk past walls with words written on them and you follow a trajectory set by the curator of the exhibit.

It’s a unique exhibit to experience specific to everyone who enters.

Have a great week!

Chris Ried

📰 Happenings

Joshua Bagley: Dreams

If you could not attend the newest drop from Artblocks.io, here are a few of my favorites.

Joshua Bagley is a prolific generative artist filling my Instagram feed with joy for a couple of years. Plus, he has a dope HP 4550 plotter that makes my Axidraw weep. LOL.

His latest work is featured on the Artblocks platform called Dreams. Currently, all of his work is minted, but you can find his work on the secondary market OpenSea if you are interested in purchasing some of his careers.

Joshua Bagley - Website / Twitter / Instagram

🔖 Articles and Tutorials


Nature is full of poetry. As the breeze dances over fallen leaves, its earthy sighs intertwine with birdsong off in the distance. What ageless tale is the landscape whispering today? It may never be whispered again…

Artistic Coding in Blender

David Mignot creates art in Blender by using mostly lines of code. In this video he gives us a basic breakdown of his special workflow in Blender.

If 3D work is your thing, I have found that this video probably has been the most streamlined guide to thinking about creating generative works in Blender. There is much to learn about Blender and generating 3D shots. However, if you don't want to try through three.js or draw with shaders, this is your chance!

Live Coding: Bending Light

In this video we'll look at refraction: the bending of light as it moves from one medium to another.

I came across the following channel from a discussion in a Slack channel (Thanks, Piter Pasma). The Art of Code is a learning channel that specializes in writing shaders and talking through his process. The above refraction video (there is a second part, link here).

I made Skynet by hacking Ableton & Pigments - getting started w/ Generative music.

I made Skynet by hacking Ableton & Pigments - getting started w/ Generative music

It's an interesting concept of using a top 5 DAW to generate music. It doesn't use any Max for Live devices or Max programming but uses some of the devices added in Ableton Live, which bring randomness as a MIDI source to create interesting atmospheric textures.

Exploring Emergent Structures Using Cellular Automata

The following lecture was an interesting discovery session of finding new rules-based systems that produce interesting structures. Lior Ben-Gai is a computational artist whose mission is to find simple rule structures (such as cellular automata) and see how they work. It is fascinating, so I would recommend watching it.

Flow Constraint

Just an interesting site to check out and bring images to life.


openFrameworks Tutorial Series

openFrameworks is a C++ creative coding framework that takes some of the complicated concepts of C++ and helps focus the artist to creating art vs. worrying about all of the technical requirements of a low-level language such as C++.

If you are a video tutorial fan, the following series (there are 60ish episodes) in which Lewis Lepton has created tutorials similar to Dan Shiffman's series for processing.


Check out sableraph on Twitch; he streams on Tuesdays and Sundays about the new things in the creative code space and curates weekly creative code news. He also has comprehensive show notes on his site.

Raphaël de Courville - Twitter / Linktree

Please send me your inspirations...