An Analog History of Procedural Content Generation

Gillian Smith. An Analog History of Procedural Content Generation. Proceedings of the 2015 Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG 2015). Monterey, CA, June 22-25, 2015. Nominated for best paper award; nominations given to top 18.9% of papers in conference.


Procedural content generation (PCG) is typically considered a feature of digital games. Commonly cited “first” uses of PCG are usually digital games from the early 1980s: Rogue or Elite. However, when broadly construed, PCG simply means that content is generated following a formal procedure—the agent that enacts this procedure is merely assumed to be a computer. The precursors to what we now call PCG are to be found in games where it is a human who is asked to follow a procedure to generate game content, and the earliest digital uses are crude reproductions of those same games. This paper explores the role that PCG has played in analog games and how it has influenced PCG in digital games. In doing so, we can gain insight into the nature of content generation and can more easily define the boundaries of what we typically consider PCG to encompass.

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