Video Games, Real Life, and Goal-Seeking Strategies

Hello, player character, and welcome to the Mazes of Menace! Your goal is to get to the center and defeat the Big Bad. You know this is your goal because you received a message from a very authoritative source that said so. Alas, the maze is filled with guards and traps that make every step dangerous. You have reached an intersection, and there are two doors before you. Door A leads towards the center; it probably takes you to your destination. Door B leads away from the center; it could loop back, but it’s probably a dead end. Which door do you choose?

The correct answer, and the answer which every habitual video game player will instinctively choose, is door B: the probable dead end. Because your goal is not to reach the end quickly, but to search as much of the maze’s area as you can, and by RPG genre convention, dead ends come with treasure. Similarly, if you’re on a quest to save the world, you do side-quests to put it off as long as possible, because you’re optimizing for fraction-of-content-seen, rather than probability-world-is-saved, which is 1.0 from the very beginning.

Permanent choices can be chosen arbitrarily on a whim, or based solely on what you think best matches your style, and you don’t need to research which is better. …
You shouldn’t save gold pieces, because they lose their value quickly to inflation as you level. …
— jimrandomh, Memetic Hazards in Videogames

You may also be interested in the paragraph contrasting cheat books with real life skill manuals.

: Zubon

4 thoughts on “Video Games, Real Life, and Goal-Seeking Strategies”

  1. The comments section to the linked post makes me feel better about writing an MMO blog. Yikes.

    Also, if you ship a game where door A is the right option, we call it linear and boring.

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