[MUD-dev] Fun in Games

Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com
Fri Apr 26 18:00:36 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: Koster, Raph [mailto:rkoster at soe.sony.com]
> From: Sasha Hart

>> 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?

> 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.)

Ah but what you suggest here aren't on the same scale as the worlds
that are currently being created. Of course there's more detail when
you are focused at such a microscopic level. To even the playing
field, lets rescale your first example to being anywhere in the
world, in the midst of WW2. Whoops, where do you even begin?

Furthermore, these examples leverage the emotional resonance of our
recent history and other creative works depicting them. I don't have
a problem with using this resonance, but when fashioning a fantasy
world, its not really an available resource. Would Schindler's list
have worked had it been based on the oppression of dwarfs by ogres? 
I put it to you that people just wouldn't have cared as much,
irrespective of directorial flair.

Whilst one can make corrolaries within a game to try and draw some
of this resonance, it will always be diluted. Sure, you can dress
the evil guards in SS inspired attire, and one would hope that most
of the audience would find them scarey even if they can't put their
finger on why. It is another thing however, to instill the despair
within a player that they might feel whilst watching a film showing
the plight of a Jewish prisoner. Even if we can, do we really want

Personally, I don't enjoy relating to human suffering, it leaves me
emotionally drained and unoptimistic. Nor do I enjoy modern media
constantly manipulating my emotions with stories of plight I'm
powerless to impact. I don't want it in my games. Fortunately its a
lot easier to opt out of them than it is to dodge the media barrage.

Skipping past this issue, films and novels have a lot of tools we
don't in their arsenal. Not least, they can relay events happening
elsewhere to other people in a fashion that doesn't intrusively
impact their level of interactivity (i.e. none). Put yourself in the
position of a character in a film or novel for its duration, and not
in the place of an omnipotent observer, and its obvious why its so
hard to deliver a complete story in a free form world.

How can you relay the suffering of the dwarfs to the players, when
you can't show them the events directly? Obtuse clues just don't cut


MUD-Dev mailing list
MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

More information about the MUD-Dev mailing list