[MUD-Dev] Something in the water

Dave Rickey daver at mythicentertainment.com
Thu Jul 26 16:14:59 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

-----Original Message-----
From: Adam Martin <ya_hoo_com at yahoo.com>

> The way we interact with any suitable interactive virtual
> environment is neatly summed up by some of the research in HCI:
> the area of "mental models". To quote Alan Blackwell's brief
> summary on the topic, "The basic claim of mental models theory is
> that if you know the users' beliefs about the system they are
> using, you can predict their behaviour. The users' mental models
> allow them to make inferences about the results of their actions
> by a process of mental simulation. The user imagines the effect of
> his or her actions before committing to a physical action on the
> device. ...  Where the model is incomplete, and the user
> encounters a situation that cannot be explained by the mental
> model, this inference will usually rely on analogy to other
> devices that the user already knows."

Exactly, and if the actuality contains inconsistencies and
contradictions, no mental model is going to fit.  Counter-intuitive
is fine, as long as the logic is apparent after the fact.

And it neatly explains why we keep coming back to "realism".  In the
absence of established standards, people naturally model things to
behave as they would in the real world.
> The point I'm getting around to :) is that the effect of "they
> succeed because what is important to the players is reflected in
> the game" can be described and analysed using the mental models
> terminologies and processes.  I can't claim to have tried this
> before, since the application of this area of HCI only just
> occurred to me, but - referring back to the conversations on
> building vocab and contexts in which to discuss MUDs - this
> provides a reasonably formal and repeatable set of methods for
> analysis, which could replace the current state of the art
> finger-in-air statements we are forced to make.

I'm going to have to study up on it again, I stopped before they
started calling it HCI, after I quit making user interfaces.  Can
you recommend any books or web-pages on the subject?

--Dave Rickey

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