Reflecting on Outcomes

We frequently pick what to do in-game based on the rewards available rather than on what would be most fun. Stumbling on Happiness suggests that this might not be a horrible idea in terms of remembered enjoyment.

The two things you remember most about an experience are the most extreme event and the last one. Take the biggest emotional peak or trough, take your last thoughts, and those will stick with you long after the details have faded. If the best part of a movie is the ending, you will likely remember it fondly, even if an inventory of the moments finds it lacking.

This suggests the game design wisdom of giving out candy at the end of every quest/dungeon. If the experience ends with your receiving a shiny, you will remember it more fondly. (This also argues against making looting take less time, because you want the player to dwell on that shiny moment at the end.) This is an evolutionarily powerful meme that designers do not even need to pursue intentionally; all things being equal, games that give out candy at the end of each unit will be more popular just because human brains place emotional weight on that.

This also suggests the game design folly of risking disappointment. When faced with a loot slot machine, human brains will tend to value the high of winning more than the expected value suggests, but you are still having quite a few people end the dungeon with disappointment. Maybe they will take the boss kill as “ending on a high note,” or they will be happy for the loot roll winner, but that loot roll at the end will not be a high note for most. This suggests the rise of tokenization as a strong meme, because everyone gets a unit of candy.

It should also suggest that the common model of wiping on bosses for days/weeks before passing them is a horrible design. Multiple tries in a night could still mean ending on a win (high note), but every night that ends in a wipe is a raid full of disappointed people, except for those who take solace in “we’re making good progress.” Perhaps this falls under the loot slot machine principle, whereby the occasional wins are valued more than the frequent losses.

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Reflecting on Outcomes”

  1. Sadly, I think that a lot of content simply isn’t engaging enough to get people to sit up straight and take notice. There are some quests in some games that I remember because of the CONTENT, and not because of the goods. There was a low level quest in Vanguard that I remember because it involved kidnapping (by me) for a necromancer who was trying to make servants, and wanted to perform his experiments on different races. When they didn’t work out, _I_ had to dump the bodies off the edge of a bridge. THAT was an engaging quest. Same with the STO feature episodes. I don’t think I’ll EVER forget the Devidians now, with their creepy atmosphere. Sure, the rewards are good, but items are replaced over time.

    It’s also the design of the games that focus on gear acquisition and upgrades that drive this. Games designed on the “slot machine” principle seem to be a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: when they assume people only care about the gear rewards, they don’t make any overt attempt to make the content itself engaging and memorable.

  2. This fits my memories of raiding at level 60 in WoW to a T. I will always remember the one Nefarian kill where I personally was the hero, but overall I remember that the majority of nights were non-fun from start to finish, and that I did not enjoy having to plan my life around being online at specific times to have non-fun nights of raiding.

  3. Man, your last paragraph perfectly summarizes my mindset re: MMO raiding/dungeons.

    And yet time and again (on forums anyway) there will always be the voices crying out in favor of precisely that sort of “challenge”.

    So… /shrug.

  4. Basically it all depends on the “need structure” of the players:

    -some will want instant gratification and cry like little babies when they don`t make it from the first try, or if someone else gets the candy before they do;

    -others will thrive on the teamwork and they will happy to see the team working good together or just by having some fun with their friends;

    -then there are the ones live for the challenge and they will be happy just knowing they did better this time;

    -then there are some that want to know for sure that they will get the candy and they will have a low tolerance for RNG (see aion)

    In the end it will be the game or dungeon who makes the fulfilling of these needs simultaneously possible that will take the cake and win the heart of most players.

  5. George Lucas listen to this guy… made a few bucks

    In Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation, a book drawn from Joseph Campbell’s late lectures and workshops, he says about artists and the monomyth:
    “ Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives. […]

    The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco. But there’s also the possibility of bliss.”

    1. @Angry Gamer – I really enjoyed ready your reply. I guess we gamers are lucky to be in direct contact with these myths or to even create them ourselves.

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