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Psychology

Let’s talk about: Player-Driven Context; Final Fantasy XV, That Dragon, Cancer and How a player connects to a game

Final Fantasy XV is an interesting game. The first 80% of the game feels endless. You get in the car, Noctis and friends, trying to help Noctis find himself, his purpose and his responsibilities. You take detours exploring caves, hunting for the next big fish, camp under the stars and wish you would find the next town soon so you can get a decent shower. During it all, there’s friendly ribbing, putting each other down as a display of how close you all are, egos blow up or real life seeps in and full out arguments escalate until the cold front  sweeps through the group hindering all conversation but you know that they mean well because the argument only grew from a place of worry, respect and friendship rather than ill will. But everyone works through the bad feelings and it only helps to strengthen their bond in the end. Then the last 20% of the game happens, real life becomes too important and that friendship isn’t enough to stop life from happening causing the inevitable distance between you and your friends to grow.

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Final Fantasy XV is interesting because it made me long for the times when I could just spend the days with my friends not worrying about the distant future and just live in the moment with them. Only having to worry about our next meal or plan our next outing together is a distant memory from the abruptness of real life. But then again, I’m only thinking like this because of where I am in life while I’m playing the game. I’m already past that part of my life where I’ve had the time to waste with my friends where we only spent time building bonds with one another before life got in the way. I’ve brought my own experiences from life and had it color my experience of FFXV, by relating to the motifs of friendship and reminiscing between the banter that only friends that know each other well and are completely comfortable with shitting on each other can do. If this was my first Final Fantasy playing FFXV before having these experiences of bonding with my friends I can see the next generation idolizing the idea of grabbing your closest friends, going on a trip and making an adventure out of it as a means of entertainment and building bonds.

This raises the question: When is the right time to play a game?

More after the break

Continue reading “Let’s talk about: Player-Driven Context; Final Fantasy XV, That Dragon, Cancer and How a player connects to a game”

Bias in Gaming – Learning Patience and Understanding through Cooperative Online Games

How much of life is about learning patience over immediate reaction? Patience in seeing that the hard work that you’re doing now will have some payoff in the future instead of taking seeing a way out now and changing tracks. Patience in dealing with others, taking a situation in and seeing things from another’s viewpoint, instead of letting subconscious reaction take over and responding in the same energy that you’re given. Aggression responding to aggression. Hate responding with hate.

And what happens when you aren’t taught these lessons in life? If you’re never taught to practice patience over immediacy, understanding over reaction? Would it be easy to work well with others knowing that every interaction if brought with the wrong energy will cause a troubling scene? Would it be easy to stay productive and motivated knowing that at the earliest sign of a way out you’d take it instead of staying focused on the task that you have and losing sight of why that you’d working on is important?

A life of immediacy and reaction is probably not the one that leads to the kind of life that you want. Although it feels good to take control in the moment, it’s rare that you don’t burn some bridges when acting on reactions.

When is it a failure of the system that you weren’t taught patience over immediacy, when it’s such a key aspect of social development? Schools try to teach this, but it’s hard to force kids with varying personalities and motivations to see a common end goal. What’s worse is that if you grow up in an environment which instigates immediate reaction over understanding, from the peers you interact with to the adults in the neighborhood, it’s more likely that you’d never learn patience as you’re primed completely to act on reaction.

How you learned reaction over patience is the same way you could to undo the process. The people you interact with set up an expectation for a behavior from you, making you accountable for those expectations to build a sense of responsibility. As long you have a system that makes you accountable for being patient and learning understanding, then you have a means of practicing patiences and understanding.

Have you ever been in a long-term guild in a game before, or even just had a group of friends that you’d meet with regularly in-game and play a game together that required a high degree of cooperation?

Learning the maps, the routing and building expertise in a weapon-set in Counter-Strike, Destiny or Call of Duty.

Having regular times to meet and work on new content but theory-crafting a skill tree during the off-time so that you can make the most of those group play-sessions instead of stopping every time you gained a level and looking up where you should dump the new skill points that you just earned in Diablo 3.

Spending time outside of play-sessions to get better gear and learning the mechanics of a raid-fight before meeting with friends once a week to try and choreograph 8-people to beat the same boss that you’ve all been working on for a few weeks with incremental progress in World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV.

The few people willing to take up team-chat and coordinate a group of strangers to play a specific set of roles to have a well balanced team-composition when you never know how your teammates react when things go well or poorly in Overwatch or League of Legends.

Having responsibilities to train and come prepared but building the social skills to deal with the differing personality types and viewpoints that you come across. The kind of responsibility for self-development and accountability for positive social interactions that need to be practiced for patience and understanding.

So what are we exploring in this article? We’ll look into how social adaption can get skewed during developmental years, how responsibility can be instilled by building systems of expectations and accountability and how we can mimics these systems outside of IRL and possibly recreate them online.

More after the break.

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming – Learning Patience and Understanding through Cooperative Online Games”

Bias in Gaming: Music as a Frame for Changing Behavior

Music is…

Music is a mood enhancer. The soundtrack to your life, to your experiences current and past. Music highlights the drama in your life, the carefree moments with friends, the intensity of a shootout in a movie or game. Music and sound build off of what we already feel and amplifies it when done correctly to saturate our senses in the mood of the moment.

But music and sound are largely background effects, unnoticed when done correctly and disruptive when done poorly. When done poorly, e.g. there is a large disconnect between the music and actions, there is a large contrast between what the scene is telling us to feel and what the music says to feel. This dissonance affects our experience of the scene but does it also influence our behavior in the moment?

Though music is largely experienced in the background, haven’t you ever felt the accidental change in behavior when that music changes? Take a faster stride when the pace of the music picks up? Taking in your surroundings when the a slower more thoughtful song starts? Remembering an emotion or a moment when a somber or sad song gets played, swelling the wave of emotions from the calm that you once had?

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Don’t you find it peculiar that music can change how you’re acting? We’ll explore this and more below the break

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Music as a Frame for Changing Behavior”

Bias In Gaming – How Brand Trust is Built – Blizzard and Steam, yes. PoGo, no.

PoGo PoGo PoGo

The summer of Pokemon Go is almost completed and it still seems like many are still at it. Walk by a public park and you’ll still find people at all hours of the day with their head down at their phone flicking towards the top of the screen.

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Everybody who tried playing during the first few days knows how poorly made the game is, how clunky the UI and controls are, how fickle the servers can be, but we all still kept at it. Whenever Niantic announced that they were releasing the game to the next wave of countries, the community prepared itself for the outages that would ensue as Niantic worked to scale their for traffic and replicated databases to support the millions of new users.

Game launches rarely ever go well unless you’re used to them not going well and plan for contingencies accordingly, like Blizzard and the release of Overwatch which was only troublesome to login and had spotty connectivity issues for the first day or so. Even on Blizzard’s worst launch days, e.g. most World of Warcraft expansion releases, Diablo 3 etc…, they might get a couple bruises in the gaming press but the gaming community as a whole still views Blizzard as one of the best in the business when it comes to polish in a game and longevity in a multiplayer experience.

But why could a game like Pokemon Go get away with feeling like an alpha/beta public test? Forgoing obvious arguments of nostalgia and novelty, why could Pokemon Go gain this much traction for what was ultimately a broken game? How can we trust Niantic and Pokemon Go as a brand and how does a company like Valve and Blizzard keep their high pedigree of brand trust? We’ll talk about that below the break.

Continue reading “Bias In Gaming – How Brand Trust is Built – Blizzard and Steam, yes. PoGo, no.”

Bias in Gaming – Attention, Rank and Choosing which Games to Buy

Imagine this scenario, you’re on Steam perusing the store and you find your way to one of the multitude of game categories – let’s say Action games. So you start looking through the games to see what you might like.

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What do you think you’d click on? There are 600+ pages of Action games, is it likely that you’d click on all of them? Probably not.

But would you have at least clicked on the first few? Do you even know if they’re good? What about the first 10? Maybe. First 20? Less likely.

For me, I’d probably at least look at Batman – Telltale and Abzu, but I’d have hoped that I would’ve noticed Abzu on the second page and not abandoned my browsing already.

I bring this up because making choices is always tricky. You’re are presented with options, some of which are influenced by our immediate wants and some by your distant ones, and you’re asked to pick one of those options. But if you’re told to answer now then you might give a different answer than if you’re given a half hour or a half day to answer. The person asking you the question is giving you pressure, your immediate wants are clouding your judgement and you just might give an answer that you might regret because you’re forced to answer it at this moment.

The reason why I bring this up is because most (if not all) Bias In Gaming posts are about the choices we make and the situations in which we make them, inside and outside of gaming. Those choices are affected by when and how we’re asked and how those choices are presented which influences how and what we’ll choose to do. The context of which we make a choice is typically called a Frame (as in how do we frame our choices) and talking about frames is bringing to light the many ways that those frames influence our choices, intentionally and unintentionally for better or worse.

Frames can be thought of some category that we filter out options. When purchasing something like a TV, we might first Frame our options based on brand like Sony or Samsung, then Frame out options based on TV definition 1080p or 4k, then on Price, then on number of HDMI ports, etc…

But what is it about the Steam store, Playstation Network, Xbox Live Marketplace, etc… that influence how we decide what to look at and what to play? It’s all about availability and rank.

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming – Attention, Rank and Choosing which Games to Buy”

Bias in Gaming – Coop Fights and the Not-Invented Here

Problem solving can be difficult. You sit there, consuming yourself with a problem, viewing it from as many angles as possible to come up with what you think is a masterful solution, something to be marveled. Sometimes the solution comes quickly and intuitively, but sometimes you sit there for hours trying to make connections from phantom memories that you only partially remember. Even if it were intuitive, it might not be easy to implement. Your solution might mean spending hours doing the a simple task repetitively because your easy to think-up solution requires the most effort, ala the brute force method – minimal thought but maximal energy to complete. With a bit of preplanning, you might’ve been able to think up not so easy solution but requiring far less work to implement.

Whatever solution you come up with, best or not, you try it because it was what you thought was best at the time.

What about if it were you and few others trying to solve the same problem at once? Working collaboratively on a group project for school, or a presentation that goes up in-front of a lot of very important people. If this were Factorio, then you and you group only have a limited amount of space and resources at any given time and many different approaches to making the next great automated machine to generate more Science, collect coal, and protect your area.

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You all probably won’t have the same solution as one-another, but how do you know which solution to use? If this was, say, a math problem then there might be an empirically determined way to distinguish who’s solution works best. Or given the fact that someone’s solution works, then we don’t have to dig deeper to see whose solution works better, as long as they both produce the correct answer. If this were a business design problem, on the other hand, we have a lot of unknowns to worry about. User-retention, market penetration, year-over-year growth, revenue growth, etc… The grayness of whose solution would work best makes it hard to pick which solution to move forward with.

Whose solution do you support the most?

Substitute all that I said about business design and math with gaming and the problem still stands. If you and your friends are trying to come up with a solution to a boss or a dungeon, all solutions sounding equal, whose solution do you try first? Whose plans for what to do with your hard-earned resources and limited space would you focus on? Should we focus on Defenses, Offenses or Infrastructure right now? How do you think you’re group would settle on an idea?

If you’ve ever worked in a group, you know that if someone proposes an idea, they aren’t likely to backdown until they try their solution or until the problem is solved. Whichever comes first. Once you put up a solution, you’ve invested a bit of your ego into the fight and now have a small chip in the fight to prove that your solution works. Your solution may need a few tweaks but the core of your solution works, or so you want to believe.

It’s that overwhelming belief in the ideas that you come up with and its abilities to cloud the consideration of others ideas that we’ll be talking about in this article.

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming – Coop Fights and the Not-Invented Here”

Bias in Gaming: Pre-Orders, DLC, Valuation and Pain of Paying 

Big Boss’s Dismembered Arm. Jacob’s Hidden Stabby Knife. Pipboy Wristband for a phone that won’t fit inside. A statue of a dragon that will never see the light of day. Another year goes by and more toys begin collecting dust, trying to match the shade of grey as the collectables next to them. A Street Fighter 4 duffle bag, with matching 4gb USB stick. Travel Chest housing a Nathan Drake Statue. A lie of reselling at mark-up that will never be true. Things that I’ll never use, nor had any intention of using.

Books filled with in-game pre-order bonuses that will never be redeemed. Enough digital bow and arrows to build a small log cabin. A digital black market of goods that will never be offloaded. Ships whose cargo never reaching their destined port.

Why do we fall for preorder bonuses every time when we know they are money sinkholes? Are these toys really that enticing? Do we feel like we’ll be missing out on some grand revelation by not getting the ultimate collector’s definitive edition boxset? (super turbo world champions)

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Pre-Orders, DLC, Valuation and Pain of Paying “

Bias in Gaming: Defaults and False Choice. 

Legend of Zelda has always had some interesting design choices; from its gameplay, to its level design, to its enemy creation and how it chose to inform the player of how to progress. Oversimplifying its weapons to make sure that they are intuitive to use and easily instinctual in recognizing when to use it. Enemies with only a single mechanic to perform makes them easy to deduce means of dispatching them; and the difficulty comes when mixing placement with variety with terrain forcing you to take into account more variables and manage more moving parts. It shows that they put at least some attention to how they create the experience in their games.

That doesn’t mean that the Legend of Zelda is a perfect fleet and even its best ships have a few holes in them. The one that comes up time and time again is how they handle dialog.

Paragraphs of dialogue being spit at you. Line after line, given 10 words at a time. You sit there hitting the “next” button for minutes at-a-time. At the end of it you’re asked “Did you get all that?”

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And the default placement of the cursor is on the “No.”

You hit “next” and you scream and storm away from the TV, incredulous to wasting your time for twice the length.

A game actively keeping you away from the action by forcing you, the player, to slow down and pay attention. Why would the cursor be set to “No”?

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Defaults and False Choice. “

Cultural Context and Impact on Perception

The ending to Braid has always been a surprise when new players pick it up. The story is obstuse, given in disjoint bursts so there is already varying amounts confusion to the understanding of what’s going on in the game already. Some sort of story about being obsessed and about the longing for someone, the sleepless nights and the wasted time. Then you go through the puzzles about controlling and manipulating time to find yourself at the game’s ending.

Your obsession leads you to finding a princess, whom the player may automatically assume (as one typically does) that they’re their savior, helping her try to escape from the knight once clutching her. You help her by clearing a path of escape, using the pulleys and switches to move  obstructions hindering her path of escape. Then you’re forced to hit the rewind.

You watch your actions play out with a different narrative. You’re actually the one in pursuit of the princess, trying to hinder her escape by blocking her path, chasing her away with your obsessiveness into the arms of another.

The moral lesson was the dangers of obsession and control, but the storytelling lesson is one of context. The learned context from many years of gaming, that you always assume that you’re the hero of the story and that princess always needs saving by you alone. The shallow context given to you in the story that doesn’t explicitly tell you that you are the hero of the story but it does little in dissuading you from this belief. You come into Braid, like many games, with these preconceptions and the story plays on them, making the reveal even more impactful.

What’s worth exploring is how much context the player brings with them into a game, and how that changes the impact of the game for the player.

Continue reading “Cultural Context and Impact on Perception”

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