[MUD-Dev] Reward system for social gaming?

Tom Hunter tchunter3 at comcast.net
Thu Oct 6 04:42:47 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

"Martin Gundtoft" <martingundtoft at itu.dk> wrote:

> We're a small group of students who are interested in examining
> the possibility of creating a system for rewarding "socializers"
> or encouraging people to use social skills in MMORPG games.

> We believe that (MUD) games in general encourage people to
> socialize but that there are no strictly "game mechanical" system
> in any game that actually rewards the player directly. Of course
> one could argue that large raids or certain other actions would be
> impossible without a social game mechanic like the chat box, but
> what we are looking for is a more direct way of rewards than such
> a secondary relation.

> We have been discussing different approaches like a strictly skill
> based system in which the skills your avatar would be able to
> access, and the levels or skill percentage he would obtain, could
> be based on the way he reacts to other people. Maybe this could be
> implemented through some sort of voting system. A lot of other
> things is on the drawing board as well, but like I said we're very
> much in the startup phase. Basically what we're looking for is
> some system that could reward other forms of skillful play (in
> particular social) than merely being a good player in the
> traditional sense (killing monsters, other players etc.).

I am a little more optomistic than Sean and Damion, maybe it's
because I have never tried to design a social system.

I am not optomistic enough to argue with them on the points they
made or thier supporting examples.

Instead I am going to suggest a completely different approach, which
is to read Francis J. Bremer's "John Winthrop: America's Forgotten
Founding Father"

For background Winthrop was one of the founders of the Massachusetts
Bay Colony, an English Purtian settlement centered around Boston.
He was elected Govenor a number of times.

The Puritians were the ultimate socializers, they deeply examined
their own lives and the lives of everyone else in the community and
did pretty much everything by consensus.  This is very much at odds
with our current mythology that depicts them as dower, dogmatic and
unreasoning authoritatians who hated sex, alcohol and all forms of
fun.  The realitiy is that these are people who occasionally walked
into church naked to prove points about theology and equality, I
don't know if they had a few rounds before this or not.

Like you, the Puritains were starting with lots of cultural baggage
but a completly new stage.  Like you, they wanted to build something
better than what came before them.

Thier socializing layed the groundwork for successful towns and
cities, much more successful (in the short term) than the other
colonies that were founded in other parts of what is now the USA.

It took a lot of leadership skills and consensus building to start a
town, get a church built, or get a ship built in early 17th century
New England.  The biography goes into a fair amount of depth about
how they did it and makes it possible to see the cause and effect
relationship between activity that gamers would call socializing,
and changes to the society and environment.

Your taking on a difficult challenge, it's worth taking a close look
at another group of people who took on a difficult challenge for
examples and pitfalls.  The Puritains are more interesting than most
examples because unlike marxists and many untopian efforts they were
quite successful.  Understanding them, and why they succeeded will
help your project.

Of course even if you can create a plausible explaination of the
socializing and the outcomes, you still need to create measures that
can't be manipulated by non-socializing actvity such as bots
spamming, and a reward structure that makes sense.  But one step at
a time.
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