[MUD-Dev] Methods to Foster Relationships?

amanda at alfar.com amanda at alfar.com
Wed Jun 12 15:18:31 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

Jeff Lindsey <Jeff at nextelligence.com> wrote:

> I think a lot of it just comes down to the rift between
> convenience and immersion. There are players who want a drive-thru
> style game with no interest in forming lasting bonds (regardless
> of whether that ends up happening anyways), there are those who
> want the relationships and don't mind the mechanisms used to
> foster them, and then there are players who want something in
> between.

Well, any time "MM" is involved, there will be this continuum,
simply because you will have a wider spectrum of goals as your
population of players increases.

I'd put them roughly on a scale abstraction, from "none" to "very".

  - Space Invaders: the appeal of the game is controlling something
  on the screen, watching everything that moves and trying to stay
  ahead of it.  Many console and FPS games appeal to this style of

  - Puzzle: Tetris, higher-level play in FPS games, most console
  games.  The appeal of the game is figuring out the rules by which
  you can win (or, if there is no "win" condition, play the longest
  without losing).

Many gamers fit into these two playstyles, at least some of the
time.  A game which does not provide at least some way to handle
these playstyles will find that the players will create them
themselves, even if this annoys other players.  "Hey, it's just a
game" and "The fun part is figuring out how it works"works" are
hallmarks of these playstyles.

  - Road Trip: The context is provided by the game, but the real
  purpose is to hang out with friends and trade gossip, wisecrack
  about each others' playing ability or fashion sense, or generally
  blowing off steam.  Many MUD and MMORPG players use this
  playstyle, and view "gameplay" as incidental (aside from a source
  of "no joke, there we were..." stories and the like.

And then things get more abstract:

  - Organizing: The goal is to explicitly build a community in the
  context provided by the game (and often out of it as well), in
  which knowledge and resources can be shared and reinforced.  Some
  MUD/MMORPG play is at this level, as is a lot of real-world
  roleplaying (historical reenactment, clubs and associations,

  - Architecture: The goal is to create the contexts for one or more
  of these styles of gameplay, or different purposes altogether.
  Many game creators, published or not, play at this level.  "How
  can I simulate a self-sustaining ecosystem" is an Architect
  question, not a Space Invaders question.  So are things like the
  FPS mod community.

More abstract than this and things start to integrate with the "real
world" to such a degree that "game" becomes less and less directly
applicable, and "virtual reality" or "augmented reality" may be more
descriptive, for example.

  - Teaching.  Imagine a virtual environment designed to teach you
  about some realm of experience or knowledge.  Military/political
  simulations, history (the virtual tour of Notre Dame written in
  Unreal, for example), philosophy...

These are just examples: we can divide the spectrum up any number of
ways, but many games are designed with only one slice of the
spectrum in mind.  This, I think, gives rise to the "and only six
inches deep" effect.

Reality is polyvalent: it is experienced differently by different
people, and by the same people in different times and circumstances.
Games which provide (or at least facilitate) this appeal to a lot
more people, I suspect.

Amanda Walker
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