Jay Crossler Senior Software Engineer Serious Games & Game Design Lecture 2 : Course Book Review - Theory of Fun, Player Archetypes
The Theory of Fun Why is work usually not fun?* *at least, for most people
Kids will play it continuously… and always lose
Victory seems just barely outside their grasp
And then… one day, all games become draws
At this point, they don’t enjoy playing it anymore
Did mastery and understanding come so suddenly?
Do they understand it’s a limited game with an optimal strategy?
Or, do they just see a pattern, and not really understand it?
To us, does it matter if it’s a O(n) problem, O(n 2 ), or O(n!)? Then, do we really understand it?
Games are very multidimensional
Game Development has mostly been an art, not a science
Not many teachers understand them
Even fewer agree that it’s a valid area of study
No one really understands what makes something fun
And, in the US, video game fun is a $10B/year industry
Even more important, games teach values and problem solving skills, both to children and adults
Why are games not fun?
People quit when it’s too hard to win
Why are games not fun?
People quit when it’s too easy to win
How do we think?
Humans take in vast amounts of information and chunk it into smaller pieces
Humans can see up to 72 frames per second (60 is adequate)
Humans can distinguish millions of colors (women 30% more)
Can recognize image (afterblurs) even at 1/220 th of a second
100M neurons in the retina
The eye processes 10 Million point images/sec
Brain holds about 100M Megabytes
Yet, we are always taking mental shortcuts
Brain only notices √ of what we see (estimated at 2000bits/frame)
MIPS/Megabytes program growth
“ The best programmer is a lazy programmer”
To fight this huge onslaught of data, we chunk and create “icons”
Interface standard – Only give 3-7 options
Most people can only make judgments about 4 things at once
Chunking isn’t always good
Discovering patterns is fun
People dislike chaos, they prefer ordered, chunk able patterns
But there is a thrill of delight when you get it , and discover the pattern
“ Grok” – from R. A. Heinlien’s Stranger in a Strange Land
When you understand something so deeply that you become one with it… even love it.
Grokking something is understanding it beyond intuition
Very similar to muscle memory
Brain has three levels of thought
1 – Conscious thought – logical, mathematical, list-based
2 – Intuitive, associative, integrative – chunking, no words
3 – Autonomic nervous system – whole sets of decisions
Practice is building a library of chunked skills and decisions
What is fun?
What are games?
Games are real
They’re just abstracted pictures of reality
A “Magic Circle” of disconnection… a formal system
Their pattern may or may not exist in reality
Games are puzzles to solve
We learn underlying patterns, grok them fully, then file them
Very similar to learning the piano, or learning to drive, or fight
Only real difference is that stakes are usually much lower
Games are concentrated chunks of reality
Abstracted and iconic, already prepared for our brains to use
They are formal systems, and don’t have messy details
Games are very powerful learning tools
Play vs. Game vs. Sport
Iconified representations of human experience that we can practice with and learn patterns from
What’s the difference between a game and a book?
Books offer patterns to the highest level of your brain
Games offer patterns to one level lower
In a book, you can read “weather is important to armies”
In a game, you can get your army beaten and really feel it
You can not practice a pattern or run permutations with a book
Is fun just learning?
Play, Games, Sports
All about recognizing goals and patterns, just usually have different risks and rewards
Why, then, do some people not think learning is fun?
How can a game be fun?
Games are exercise for our brains
As we learn the patterns, more novelty is needed
Practice can keep a game fresh, but soon we’ll grok it
Games are thus disposable, and boredom is inevitable
Formal games are very susceptible to this
They usually don’t have enough variables to be interesting
The pattern is too easily figured out
The more formally constructed a game is, the more limiting it will be
Adding physics, psychology, multiplayer all add variables
Is this fun?
The theory of fun
Fun is about our brain feeling good
Brains release endorphins into our system
Our brains are on drugs all the time
There’s a chemical release when we master a task
Our “moment of triumph” is rewarded by the brain
Notice someone always smiles when they “get it”
Needed for survival of the species
It is the act of solving puzzles that makes a game fun
What is the opposite?
What is boredom, then?
When a game stops teaching us, we feel bored
Boredom is the brain looking for new information
It happens when there are no new patterns to absorb
When a book is dull, it’s failing to show a captivating pattern
Don’t underestimate the brains desire to learn
The brain craves stimuli
Not necessarily new experiences , just new data to make patterns
Experiences force new chunking, and the brain doesn’t like to do more work that it has to (That’s why it chunks in the first place!)
The Theory of Fun in Games
Games must navigate between boredom and overload
Watch out for:
Tic-tac-toe – “Too easy”
Baseball RBI scores for 20 years – “Fun but not worth my time”
Don’t see any patterns – “Too hard”
Patterns shown too slowly – “It’s too repetitive”
Patterns shown too quickly – “It got too hard too fast”
Players mastered the pattern – “I beat it”
Fun is just another word for learning
A successful game is one that teaches everything it has to offer before the player gets bored and stops playing
Is this the same for XML classes, then?
For more… buy the course book “ Theory of Fun ”, by Raph Koster
Are grokers experts?
1. Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices.
2. Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized in ways that reflect a deep understanding of their subject matter.
3. Experts' knowledge cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability: that is, the knowledge is "conditionalized" on a set of circumstances.
4. Experts are able to flexibly retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attentional effort.
5. Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to teach others.
6. Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approach to new situations.
Player Archetypes Why do people play games so differently? also An introduction to Massively Multiplayer Games
How people choose games
Bartle Personality Types
Players give themselves game-related goals, then vigorously set out to achieve them. Build cities, accumulate treasure.
Use communication facilities for role-playing or to converse and interact with others.
Try to find out as much as possible about the game. Search areas and mechanics, fight every monster, do every quest.
♣ Imposer (Killer)
Provide game tools to cause distress on others. Usually involves applying a powerful sword to another players head.
Bartle Personality Types
♦ Achievers Say:
"I'm busy." "Sure, I'll help you. What do I get?" "So how do YOU kill the dragon, then?" "Only 4211 points to go!"
♥ Socializers Say:
"Hi!" "Yeah, well, I'm having trouble with my boyfriend." "What happened? I missed it, I was talking."
♠ Explorers Say:
"Hmm..." "You mean you don't know the shortest route from <obscure room 1> to <2>?" "I haven't tried that, what's it do?"