Archive for the ‘psychology’ category

Virtual Characters and Real Emotions

November 16, 2010

Jesse Schell is one of the most articulate, insightful people developing games and talking about their future.    At a recent keynote at a Unity3D conference, he talked about virtual characters  as a crucial part of the future of games and other online experiences.  As usual he makes a lot of excellent points about virtual characters remembering you and conversing with you, but on one — how we interact emotionally with virtual characters — I have to disagree with him:

“Emotions are easily recognized by humans, but computers must be part of that, said Schell. “Once we can do that we can sense your emotions,” said Schell, developers can create “a game where you actually have to act, or feel emotions. A game where someone tells you where there dog just died and if you can’t manage to cry then no, you’re not getting to the next level!”” (as covered by Gamasutra)

First, I appreciate Jesse stepping up with concrete predictions and other musings — as he says, this is a great way to predict (and create) the future.  That said, this one is exactly backwards: the emotional connection with virtual characters doesn’t come because we emote effectively, but because the characters themselves have and display emotions that we then relate to.  Their emotions make them more real to us, and allow us to feel something similar. (more…)

The (Psychological) Development of “Social” Games

April 1, 2010

At GDC this year I saw a slide in a talk that referenced different developmental styles of play (my notes are sadly unclear as to whose talk this was — if you know, please let me know!).  This has had me thinking about the developmental stages of social games.  Not the software development, but the evolution of the styles of gameplay we put in them as we learn more about creating them.

It should be clear to anyone watching this space that game developers are learning as fast as they can about how to create new gameplay in online (putatively) social games; we know a lot less than we still don’t know.  As such, it’s very interesting to me how closely the emergence of types of gameplay in popular social games is following the path of individual psychological development of play — and what this may tell us about the future of the design of social games.   (more…)

Things of Beauty: Osmos and Hemisphere’s Slides

April 1, 2010

At GDC, one of the best presentations I went to was given by Eddy Boxerman and Andy Nealen from Hemisphere Games about their indy game, Osmos.  This game is the only one that I have paid for as a downloadable PC game since Portal, and to me it shares a miraculous feeling of beautiful design with Valve’s hit game.  If you haven’t seen the trailer for this game or played it, go to the link there and get a quick taste.   I’ll wait.


Did Maslow get it wrong? (and why this matters for games)

November 23, 2008

You may be familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (more on this below the cut).  Maslow’s theory has heavily influenced the architecture of our AI technology, which is why I’m attuned to discussions of it or instances that support or undercut it.  Recently I ran across a theory in education known as “CBUPO,” an ungainly acronym for “Comptence, Belonging, Usefulness, Potency, Optimism” designed by Richard Sagor at Washington State University (an accessible introduction can be found here (pdf)). Sagor’s theory suggests some interesting modifications to Maslow that have consequences for how we understand ourselves — as well as the motivations for gamers and AIs.

(Warning: psychological theory leading to AI and game-relevant thoughts below.)