[MUD-Dev] DGN: Reasons for play [was: Emergent Behaviorsspawnedfrom...]

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Sun Nov 13 19:33:33 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


"cruise" <cruise at casual-tempest.net> wrote:

> As Raph Koster points out in Theory of Fun, however, games
> basically involve learning patterns.

Not to step on anyone's toes, but EVERYTHING involves learning
patterns.  It's how we learn; it's how we think. Our brains are just
really excellent pattern recognition tools. However, I don't think
gameplay is innately pattern learning any more than reading a book
is innately pattern recognition.

> And game designers are amazingly good at spotting game
> patterns. Which means most of us on this list immediately ignore
> the interface and presentation and see the underlying patterns of
> gameplay underneath, and see nothing new.

I don't think that's fair. When I did UI for a living, I read
several books on human-computer interaction, and I notice those
patterns as well.  However, I think that ultimately, presentation
doesn't matter much.  Presentation gets you into the conversation
(ie you start talking to the hot blonde first), but it doesn't
sustain it. Would I still be an interesting guy to talk to if I had
"cool beans" shaved into my head?  (assuming I'm an interesting guy
to talk to already :)

> In Rules of Play (Salen & Zimmerman) the point is made that games
> don't exist in a vacuum. While there is a distinction between game
> and not-game, outside culture and expectations do follow players
> into the "magic circle" of a game.

Huh? Now I remember why I never finished reading it. Are you just
saying that people bring external knowledge into a game that affects
how they view it? Or are you saying that players know not to stick a
hamster in a microwave because they know things about hamsters and
microwaves in the real world, and transfer that knowledge to
gameplay? Not really sure what the magic circle means...

> Games can be no more "pure" examples of interactive algorithms
> than cloning research can be purely an attempt to understand
> reproductive biology. While that doesn't have to include marketing
> per se, an awareness of external culture and user experience does
> have a large effect on the appeal of a game.

I won't argue. Heck, I'd even go so far as to say one's wealth,
health, and intelligence affect gaming as well, even when it doesn't
seem like they would. However, these things can be controlled for (a
one legged man won't like Dance Dance Revolution, but we're not
interested in just the one legged man) and what's left is an
abstraction of player interaction.

The abstract player - I'll call him Mr. Proto - exists beyond such
personal inflections. For example, growing up in a violent
neighborhood may cause you to be violent and respond differently to
violent games like Soldier of Fortune. But Mr. Proto didn't grow up
in a particularly violent neighborhood. He comes in an empty shell,
and what the game doesn't put there, doesn't exist.

Mr. Proto is what you get if you stand far enough back. That's where
judgement on games must truly begin. If GTA3 doesn't cause Mr. Proto
to kill hookers, then GTA3 does not cause anyone to kill hookers
that didn't already bring the possibility of that behavior to the
table in the first place.  Mr. Proto didn't grow up grooming My
Little Ponies, so when the My Little Ponies Destroy the Universe
comes out, he will judge the game on criteria outside of childhood
nostalgia. He brings nothing to the game and only takes what the
game offers.

Mr. Proto is the alpha and omega. He is all gamers and he is
none. He is hardcore and he is casual. He has an infinite amount of
patience and he has none. He has all the free time in the world and
he has none. Tall but short. A genius and a moron. An angel and a
devil. He is our gameplay crash test dummy. So, whenever you find
yourself wondering about "good" gameplay, ask yourself, What Would
Mr. Proto Like? (WWMPL?)

- Sean
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