Brand Loyalty (was Re: [MUD-Dev] Requirements for MM (wasComplexities of MMOG Servers))

Sasha Hart hart.s at
Wed Jan 22 03:00:52 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


> Abilities go up the longer you play chess. In this case, it's
> learning more strategies. In a mud, it's gaining new skills and
> spells, which gives you more strategies. The difference with chess
> is that the external game doesn't change, it's an internal gain of
> abilities. However, playing through a character, you are lmited by
> the character's skills. Starting skills/abilities are often few
> and limited. Gaining character abilities through play is the first
> step. As you point out, you have to use the abilities moving
> through different sets, or it would still be repetitive and become
> boring.

Well, this is interesting. It may be that much of what is fun is
also learning.

Of course, real learning isn't just abilities going up linearly with
skill use. Quantitatively, with measures like box escape or maze
running, it jumps up, plateaus, is unpredictable, maxes out early,
sometimes never goes anywhere. But that's not a major point
here. You are right that the realm of actions you survey expands
with experience. (Of course, it also can contract: when there is one
just plain optimal strategy in a static game, for example). The
important point (by which I mean, the important point to me!) is
that this change in ability is not constitutive of fun. (Hmm, so
what is, and what gives me the unique authority?)

To us, we are actually doing something, not just watching a skill go
up or being rewarded when we get better. Just doing can be fun: I
used to enjoy very much the invariant rhythym of just running and
placing rockets in Quake (I played bots.) Some (figurative)
janitorial duties can be fun, if they're your janitorial duties, a
principle that underlies the sometimes very motherly genre of the
squad based strategy game. Winning an individual game can be fun
even if it wasn't edifying. "Aha! That old trick! I know just the
thing!"  It is fun to use your knowledge.  As well, we can sometimes
enjoy demonstrating our total mastery, even trashing someone at the

But you know, I agree that learning, discovering new things, getting
the secret to something, these are some of the most important kinds
of fun for me. There is a special kind of case, which is that you
know some general principles, but are just now generalizing to new
situations or computing the solution for the particular case (much
the same process, if you think about it). That can be immensely more
enjoyable than just learning some arbitrary thing, or being dropped
into a bucket of unknown. But this is also exemplary of much of our
real learning, for we approach virtually no problem in our lives
truly afresh and are in a bad way when we seemingly have no leads
whatever. In addition to personal observation, this was* (* = big
anecdotal grain of salt) something I observed in running my thesis.

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