Final Hofstadter

This will be my last Gödel, Escher, Bach reference for a while, I promise. This echoes gound that (I think) Raph covered in his Theory of Fun.

This is, it seems to me, a general principle: you get bored with something not when you have exhausted its repertoire of behavior, but when you have mapped out the limits of the space that contains its behavior.

I have cited this previously as sphexishness and piercing the veil. You don’t need to beat the game if you can see how to beat the game. At that point, it is just a series of motions. All mental activity is done, although you might enjoy the physical act of mastering the motions (more so in meatspace than “hitting the buttons in the right order”).

In MMOs, we have the grind: repeat x 5000 times to level. Many single-player games having something to be brute forced, such as perfecting the timing on a dozen jumps in a row (missing one means starting over, maybe a long run away) or randomly mixing together three potions to see what the combinations do. You might as well look up what the right combination is, because there is neither fun nor virtue in trying every combination until you get the right one.

We MMO players are probably too tied to our games. Can there really be enough content in a game to entertain you for years, not months? It is an unreasonable expectation, and we should not leave to bitterly once we have seen what all the game can do for us. The only reason you were sticking around in the end was for the people you played with or against. It is fitting that Mr. Hofstadter continues: “The behavior space of a person is just about complex enough that it can continually surprise other people…”

: Zubon

8 thoughts on “Final Hofstadter”

  1. High brow? Now I feel bad I have a dirty mind. When I read about enjoying pushing buttons in meatspace I had a totally different idea.

    Though I find the premise holds true, once I know what to do I can barely do it again. even single player RPGs that are supposedly replayable, I can’t replay. I always end up using cheats to skip to the parts that are different just to see those parts. If the game has vastly different skills, I’ll try the different skills for a little while, then figure “well i know how the rest of this will go”.

  2. “The behavior space of a person is just about complex enough that it can continually surprise other people…”

    So lets just use that principle for MMOs! Actually they already do that, by offering group content. A group or raid group is more interesting than a solo encounter because already the space of possibilities of X players pushing a button at the same time is much larger, and then the possibilities of something unexpected happening because one of them pressed the wrong button or timed it wrong are nearly endless.

  3. Hmmm
    Why is this being discussed in so many places recently…
    Is it that the “casual” market is finally taking it’s toll, and the “Mountain Dew” generation (all caffeine, no attention span) is the market that the game developers are building for…
    Most of the MMO’s noted now have some type of Casual PvE style of play or just quick game time..
    Myself, I have no life, and have tried recently to up the ante in the “Real World” by lowering my game time..
    I have found that in EQ2, I can hop on…play an hour, and then have time for family, friends, drugs…whatever I feel like.
    And then I have played The Witcher…yet, I have had to put it away, as it makes me feel compelled to play longer than that hour…and is in no way casual…

    What my post boils down to is…yes, a game can be worth a year or more worth of play if played in this light….again, the example being EQ2..I am on 6 months, and just barely level 37…out of 80…yeah…gonna be there a while…


  4. I know EQ1 kept me and the wife busy for years. Why was that? Because it was HARD, and it didnt hold your hand. So you kept pushing forward. And when you level capped it was only the start. I didnt haven any alts I took seriously and I focused because it was too hard to level another toon through all that garbage again.

    To me easy = bad

  5. To me hard = pointless.

    It’s a game. It’s not something I’m going to get paid for, it’s not making me healthier, it’s not something that really improves me in any way, except possibly my ability to make rapid tactical decisions in an artificial environment. I would learn more by watching the Discovery channel than I would from playing the game.

    If I wanted to slam my head against something after the point where improvement of technique ceased to be fun, I’ve got plenty of other options that are better for me. I play games because I want to have a laugh for a bit. It’s why I’m playing Rock Band, not Guitar Hero 3: improvement of a skill solely to improve it, when it is used only in a narrow context is a hugely boring waste of time to me. I understand that it’s not for some folks, but for me, and I think the majority of people that play games, it is. I could not imagine seriously playing a game for more than a couple of years; hell, I couldn’t imagine “seriously” playing a game for more than a few months. I may be a 40-odd month subscriber to CoH, but I’ve only got one 50, a few 30s, and a number of sub-20 alts because I just wanted to play with a variety of powers; after the first 50 and the exploration involved, I just don’t see the point. The time/power availability curve is just too high for me to want to play a character from 26 to 40 in order to get a handful of new powers. I may get a villain to 50, but other than the Abyss, I can go everywhere with the level 50 hero that the 50 villain could go, so possibly not even that.

    Frankly, I’m glad to see that new games are speeding up leveling and starting to kill off rep grinding. For me, mastery of skill to a certain point, along with some level of exploration, is the fun part of the game. Everything else is a good way for the developer to make me spend money on their product, which is good for them but crap for me.

  6. I think we are seeing this and similar topics talked about a lot right now because it is proving to be impossible to fight the content war effectively. The tools are not out there to let developers build endless streams of content to keep users engaged in a game for extended subscription periods. User created content is ugly, simply because most users are not trained professionals. So what does that leave developers to deal with?

    Communities. Socializing. Storytelling.

    It also helps that everyone and their cat is flogging ‘Web 2.0 Socializing’. Serious, my cat has a plan for a web 2.0 social networking site for felines…anyone want to fund it?

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