[MUD-Dev] Mental Nudges (was Pocket PC development)

Paul Schwanz paul.schwanz at east.sun.com
Tue Aug 21 19:09:39 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Dr. Cat wrote:
> From: Paul Schwanz <paul.schwanz at east.sun.com>

>> While I like the idea of using a PDA to stay in touch with a game
>> while away from home, I think that a good intermediate step (and
>> one that would appear to have fewer technical challenges) might
>> be using a web interface to similarly extend the reach of online
>> games.  While many users are precluded from actually playing
>> online games during the day because they are hidden behind
>> proxies and firewalls, most have access to the web.  Also,
>> tracking stocks or researching other investments while at work
>> seems to be quite acceptable in many company cultures, but having
>> 3D fantasy characters cavorting around on your screen...not so
>> much.  It seems to me that a nice, customizable web interface (it
>> could really be very similar in design to My Netscape or My
>> Excite) that would allow the sort of interactions you mention
>> above would be well recieved.  (By gamers, if not by their
>> managers.  I would think that there should be at least the option
>> to choose a display format for the web site that didn't scream,
>> "game!" :P)

> I think what a lot of people want is just a little mental "nudge"
> to stay feeling involved or thinking about the game.  If you
> daydream about the game during your coffee break that's one thing,
> if you actually read a little game news, gossip, etc. on a web
> message board, maybe even post a reply, then it's no longer
> entirely in your own imagination, it's validated and "real".

This is my thought exactly.  I can't think how to say it any better.
Perhaps my original email didn't communicate this well, but I
certainly don't think it is neccessary or desirable to have gamers
spending inordinate amounts of time on a game while at work.  A
little mental nudge that makes the game seem real and keeps the
gamer in touch would be just the thing.

> I think message boards, player-run and/or company run websites
> about the game with frequently updated content, etc. are enough to
> give a lot of people a sufficient "taste" of the game to feel
> involved while they're at work.  While at the same time, they're
> likely to feel less guilty about "I shouldn't be playing games at
> work", because they'll tell themselves "I'm not playing, I'm just
> checking in a little".

Again, I agree wholeheartedly.

> Not that there isn't potential merit (and addictiveness, which
> might be good or bad depending on your goals) to letting people
> access some game elements with an external lightweight interface.
> Certainly people can and would use it at home, too, in times when
> they didn't feel enough motivation or concentration to deal with
> the whole game experience.  But I'm just pointing out that the
> niche is already partially filled by non-game social, news, and
> information pages.

And yet again, I think you make good points.  The niche is partially
filled, but I don't think I find the current methods sufficient to
meet my own desires.  My hunch (perhaps prompted by the recent
discussion of Bartle's types) is that a mental nudge of a social
nature, such as many of the message boards, will be most effective
at helping the socializer feel connected to the game.  Similarly, a
mental nudge in the form of information pages might help the
explorer feel connected to the game.  On the other hand, the
achiever might require a mental nudge that is actually perceived to
move his/her character forward in the game.  I'm not sure what might
make the killer feel involved and connected.

Of the four types, I think it is easiest to cater to the socializer
(with regard to mental nudges, that is), since the required content
sort of creates itself as long as there is a messaging system of
some sort available and interesting things to talk about.  The
explorer is a bit more difficult, since it seems that much of the
current content on information pages is of a "spoiler" nature and
therefore not really sanctioned or supported by the game's
developers.  Also, I'm not sure that the content provided by these
pages will change/grow enough to keep the explorer connected over a
longer period of time.  On the other hand, it seems to me that if
the explorer could tinker with various reagents and set his
character to research spells, etc. while offline, he might be very
interested in checking on the progress from time to time or making
small changes to the testing process.  (Although, I suppose that
this would suffer from the same sort of long term challenges as the
information page it informs.  On the other hand, I think such a
system might make it less likely that gamers will resort to
information pages, preferring to do the research themselves when it
does not require a lot of personal "clicking" time.) The achiever
might get similar satisfaction from monitoring an automated merchant
to watch his cash reserves grow, make slight adjustments to item
prices, or change the way a sword is constructed to maximize
potential profits.

I'm curious to hear the killers on the list speak up as to what kind
of mental nudges might keep them feeling connected to the game.


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