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

cruise cruise at casual-tempest.net
Fri Nov 18 02:11:00 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


Sean Howard spake thusly...

> 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.

Apologies to Raph for explaining his ideas badly :P I think the
point is that games are fundementally more repetitive than many
other forms of activity - which emphasises the pattern-recognition
aspect.

> 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 :)

Which was exactly the point I was making, I think. You might find
the cool beans decoration intriguing the first time. After the
twentieth, you might not even notice it. Either way, as you say, the
person behind it is still the same. The only difference is how long
it takes you to concentrate on the person instead of the beans...

> 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...

The former. To skip between books again, Raph Koster offers the
example of a holocaust simulator, which involves you throwing Jews
of various sizes and shapes into a pit, and if you pack them close
enough they succumb to the gas and die. Such a game would likely,
and quite rightly, engender much offense. Yet the mechanics are
identical to Tetris. Only the presentation differs. (As another data
point, there already exists Sextris, involving combining couples in
anatomically interesting positions. The things you discover working
tech support...).

The "magic circle," the dividing line between game and not game,
while an important element of the enjoyment of a game, is not
inpenetrable. People do bring associations with them, and that is an
aspect that must be considered /at some point/.

> 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?)

But if you've abstracted the player that far back, then you must
also abstract the game similarly, otherwise the question makes no
sense.

I agree entirely, since for most of this discussion I have been
asking for a way in which to abstract games to the same point as
Mr. Proto. It doesn't make sense to ask, "Does Mr. Proto like
Sextris?" But it does make sense to ask, "Does Mr. Proto like
time-limited spatial-manipulation challenges?"

However, at some point we need to come down the abstraction scale
again, since Mr. Proto doesn't actually exist, and "dress up" the
abstract mechanics in some way. At that point, "Will a My Little
Pony game sell?" is a valid question.

Because of my point earlier, designers are close to being Mr. Proto
than the average consumer. It's important not to forget that games
appeal on many levels of reasons, not just the one, and we ignore
/any/ of those levels at our peril.

--
[ cruise / casual-tempest.net / transference.org ]
   "quantam sufficit"
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