Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Games = Social/Consumer Psychology

are games fun? or is addiction being confused for fun? stuff I was reading today talked about this.

Jonathon Blow developer of Braid talking about the ethics of making games. how farmville is super evil because the developers are using every psych trick they can to milk their users dry and make their users worry about the game while they're not playing (so not just wasting their time, but polluting the non game time as well)
(his 4 parts of good game design practice
1: narrative, a story will pull people along and keep them interested (it's funner to go find a gas can to get the tank to drive to the next level then to look for the arbitrary red key card for the red door)
2: eye candy/ ear candy
3: attainable goals: overall goal might be to defeat the evil guy, but players always have small attainable simple goals (collect this gem) so they know what they need to do to advance)
4: feel of constant improvement: used to be the score, now it's being a better level or getting better armor then for a while you dominate enemies, then enemies get tougher and you have to level up again

Carnegie Mellon University Professor, Jesse Schell on game design ideas flowing into our lives in other context (like the prius telling you how you're doing gas mileage wise)

article by Leigh Alexander about the same thing, using gamer type incentives to trick yourself into doing something (like jogging).

a wired article about by Clive Thompson similar, talking about using game design to cut down useless emails in a corporation

Jane McGonigal is trying to make alternative reality games to help people figure out how to save the world

and another about how to use the psychology that keeps people sucked into games to motivate useful behaviour in real life (like helping people learn)

When I studied social psychology I learned that if you take something intrinsically motivated (you do it because you want to) then make it extrinsically motivated (someone pays you to do it) then you lose the joy in it.

Budhism talks about the human condition being inherently unhappy, the problem is you always want something more or better and as long as you are always clinging to this idea of the next best thing you are going to be hurting from lack of satisfaction. Which when you think about it is exactly what all that grinding in video games is.

I work in games, and I hardly play any. When you're in, you're grinding away and not noticing it, "just one more item, just one more kill" but afterwards when you can think clearheadedly so often I look back and realize it was honestly a somewhat tedious experience, and wind up feeling like I have wasted an hour of my life I'll never get back.

The question seems to me to be wether games can be made in a way that improves us, instead of just simple entertainment... to fill twenty minutes, half an hour, while we're waiting to die (as Alan Moore says). Chess has been claimed to make you mentally sharp, like brain exercise, fine narrative (literature, film) is supposed to expand your mental and emotional landscapes, when will someone create a game that can combine these things? Games also have the potential to bring us together, a powerful factor that currently is only used to bring everyone down to the level of anonymous 14 year old assholes. The potential to use the compulsive ideas games used to help yourself accomplish things you want seems like a useful thing, as long as we are choosing to do it, and are aware that it can become a crutch to make it harder to do the things without the game aspects.

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