Game talkWays to make your virtual space more social

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Jan 282009

I’ve said before that socialization requires downtime, by which I mean that people who are busy pressing a bunch of other buttons or busy watching a dozen different colored bars have pretty much given all their attention to it, and therefore have difficulty having a conversation (or indeed paying attention to anything else, as other people in that person’s house can attest).

This doesn’t mean that you have to force downtime, necessarily. Users can choose to stop doing whatever it is, and choose instead to just hang out. But they often don’t. So why is that, and can we or should we do anything about it?

The short answer is “yes,” and you can just scroll down to the list at the end if you agree and want concrete actionable things you can do to improve the sociability of your game. But if you want to argue, then the next two big blocks of text are for you. 🙂

Continue reading »

Jan 282009

It’s not my headline — it’s from the New Scientist, which reports something that seems obvious — if you condition users to associate certain movements, colors, actions, etc, with particular emotional stimuli, all in a game, the users will react to those things that way even when seeing them in different contexts.

Volunteers who played a simple cycling game learned to favour one team’s jersey and avoid another’s. Days later, most subjects subconsciously avoided the same jersey in a real-world test.

It’s the same logic used as when people use videogames to treat post-traumatic stress. Really, I think the researcher is a little disingenuous when he says

But no-one has shown that video games can train the kind of conditioned responses that underlie much of our behaviour, Fletcher notes.

I think it most certainly had been, and on many levels. I think here of stuff like the Stanford research on how we treat short avatars, for example. But whatever. More studies is good. 🙂

Of course, this will also go into the pot with the studies associated with raised levels of aggression, and someone will try to link the two… sigh.

Jan 282009

Gabe McGrath writes,

Hi Raph,

Found your blog via Technorati, whilst searching for more “retro remakes”. I hit this page. Don’t know if you (or your readers) would be interested, but the RR site was hacked recently, so your link to the downloads *won’t* work. I have compiled all the “off site” links I could find (for each remake author) and put them on one blogpost. So there you go. Sorry if you’ve already “moved on”. (Thought it might be of interest.)

PS: Funny – I stumbled on your page, and couldn’t work out where I knew your name. Then I saw the book cover – OF COURSE! “Theory of Fun” – read about it on Boing Boing ages ago. Alas, it’s still sitting safely in my “amazon to buy list” as the Aussie dollar has tanked against yours. Hopefully it recovers soon, so I can build my game-related library. All the best 🙂

Hacked… that sucks. 🙁 Hopefully they recover quickly, it’s one of my favorite indie projects.

Game talkReading‘Rogue Leaders’ excerpt on Habitat

 Posted by (Visited 5606 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with: ,
Jan 272009

Rogue Leaders

Habitat title screen

Gamasutra is running an excerpt from Rogue Leaders, a new book on the history of LucasArts. The excerpt in question is about Habitat, which is of course one of the seminal virtual worlds. It’s short and worth a read, especially just to marvel at the reason givn for the project’s shelving: fear of success.

Essentially, if 500 users were so committed to playing Habitat that they remained online long enough to eat up 1 percent of the network’s entire system bandwidth, a full-run production that could attract Rabbit Jack’s Casino numbers could boost that bandwidth number to 30 percent. “The way the system was built, the server software wasn’t capable of hosting that population while still being successful,” recalls Arnold.

Ultimately, these business challenges caused Habitat to be cancelled after the launch party, but before it had gone into full production and reached retail shelves. It would simply be too popular, and the necessary server fix would be too expensive to make the project viable. And so this massively original, inventive, and cutting-edge project was shelved for U.S. release.

Jan 262009

I still pay a lot of attention to social networking theory (not the stuff about the sites, but the research around how humans form networks of influence), ever since doing all the research that led up to my 2003 “Small Worlds” presentation. So this Reuters report that scientists have found a genetic component to having tight friend clusters was interesting to me.

To dig into what’s going on here a little bit: social networks are very discontinuous. They “clump.” We know from datamining that some people have many friends and some have few. The ones who have many are often referred to as hubs or connectors. These folks are also often the ones that “bridge clumps.” And when we say they have friends, we mean, like, they have a crazy amount more than ordinary people do. (The distribution of “number of friends” follows a power law, so the folks at the high end are very very very rich with friends, to a radically disproportionate level).

I suppose it isn’t surprising to think that there is likely some genetic component to this aspect of it. Most people are not like those guys. Continue reading »