Tag Archive for design

My Other Blogging Life

For the past six months, I’ve been part of a blogging collective over at Gaming as Women. I write on a variety of topics, from the psychology of role-playing to story structures to book reviews. It’s been pointed out to me that I ought to cross-post here when I have a piece go up, so expect to see some of that in the future.

It’s also good timing: our blog is up for an ENnie award, so if you like my writing I suggest you go vote!

Here’s an excerpt from one of my pieces for the site, On Being Left-Handed.

The core action for a pencil is writing. When we pick it up, there are a limited number of grips that allow us to point the tip downwards and give us the necessary control. If we’re using a pencil for something other than writing, there are other ways to hold it! But the pencil-hand relationship in the context of writing leads to a certain set of human behaviors. The way we hold a pencil isn’t fully determined by the pencil itself, nor by the human hand, nor by the goal of writing. It’s an interaction between all three.

Let’s take a step back and apply this to games. We can think about game rules as designed objects, and the human mind as the way we’re engaging with them. Game rules are, one hopes, designed for a specific purpose. Taken together, the rule and the player’s mind produce certain expected behaviors in the context of play. A player feedback mechanic, for example, might be designed to encourage players to be more over-the-top in their in-game actions. If it succeeded, it would do so because of the relationship between the mechanic and some of the ways the human mind works, in the context of the goal of more badass awesomeness.

Read the rest over at Gaming as Women – and don’t forget to vote!

On Building Glitch

Here’s a lovely article on building Glitch, the crafting-based MMO.

The most important line in the whole piece:

“We realized that if we incentivized things that were inherently boring,” Butterfield told me, “people would do them again and again—it showed up in the logs—but that they would secretly hate us.”

I can’t get over that word inherently. What’s boring? To whom? Does the boredom-value of an activity change with context? As a designer, I get what Butterfield means; as a scholar, I want to figure out how to anatomize boring, especially in the context of play.

The real insight, though, is that separation of action and emotion. If an activity is both boring and incentivized, players will both do it and hate you. Brilliant.