[MUD-dev] Fun in Games

Koster Koster
Thu Apr 25 08:35:33 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: Sasha Hart
> [Raph]
>> Which brings me back to the statement, "why don't we fix the fact
>> that comic books do a better job of portraying the human
>> condition than our games do?" There are many ways to provide fun,
>> as you cite, and frankly, we as designers tend to explore only a
>> very small subset of the possible means of doing so.

> I didn't understand this the first time. So, hopefully not to
> resurrect a dead horse, even less to beat it, but...

> Are you making an argument for exploration of the design space
> (and that for this reason someone should try to portray the human
> condition) or that we should try to portray the human condition
> because it is inherently worthwhile?

Er, yes. :)

> Could you please give a hypothetical example (I will not pick on
> it) of how the human condition could be portrayed well in a game?

For example, we have many incidents of real drama, emotion, and so
on brought to the games right now by players. There's no shortage of
"human condition" in online games. It's just that the games do not
recognize it happening. The game is by and large oblivious to
it. And every time that the game has bothered to recognize the human
activity going on (helping players do their wedding, or recognizing
that it exists; making the tools for forming a guild or a town
available; assisting players in the process of mourning; etc.) 
players have responded extremely powerfully.

I'd argue that there are many more examples of ordinary human
activity that we can and should recognize in our games.

I'd also go further and say that there are situations and scenarios
that we fail to even consider because we consider them outside of
the scope of a typical game. Two of my commonest examples are
radically opposed: an online game set in a concentration camp, or an
online game where you live the role of a woman in colonial
Williamsburg in Virginia. Both of these would, I think, take players
somewhere they have not been emotionally in a game before. (And
could they be fun? Yes. Though I also worry about making the role of
concentration camp guard "too" fun. But for example, consider that
game where you must escape--and the game is designed such that a
noble sacrifice is almost certainly required in order to get
out. Being the noble sacrifice may well be fun or at least
fulfilling for the player.)

Right now, the ways which we permit players to act on the world and
have the world actually respond are severely limited. And because of
this, the range of emotions we generate is pretty limited too.

> Or elaborate on what the human condition entails for you? You see,
> I am concerned that if I agree with you, then I am endorsing
> something strange.

That happens often to those who agree with me. ;)

> Such as the beating of ideological drums in a MUD. MUD
> propaganda. Existentialist NPC tableaus (perverse
> idea). MUD-family destroying MUD divorce. MUD suicide following a
> MUD stock market crash. I would love to see these things! But I am
> jaded, perverse and like novelty for its own sake.

A lot of those things have been seen, but by and large not because
the game encouraged it, but because players did it *despite* the

> Let me note two places in which I have seen 'the human condition'
> as I would construe it. One is in the regular, natural
> socialization of players (the potential depth of which I don't
> expect you to deny).  The other is the depth in the acted
> relationships in a good RP game, or tabletop game.  Is it the same
> thing for our games to portray the human condition, and for the
> human condition to be portrayed within our games?

It is not. I would make the analogy of a trellis. A trellis can
shape how a plant grows. Right now, we make very simple
trellises. Often the plants escape the trellis, but that's no credit
to the trellis. It's a credit to the plants.


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