Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Intersection of Cats, Video Games and Conservation

Why is it so difficult to train cats to stop doing something?
As predators, they evolved to deal well with intermittent reinforcement : 9 out of 10 times, it won't catch the mouse, but the 1 time it does is enough to keep it hunting for another day. It it quit every time the mouse escaped it wouldn't be a very good predator.

What do we love about the really addictive video games?
More intermittent rewards for making progress against some goal, spaced just right in time to maintain a sense of progress and recorded for ourselves and others to see how much progress we've made.

Why is conserving resources so hard?
Our predator nature loves intermittent reinforcement but conserving resources is, generally, a slow cumulative, silent process.
  • There are no achievements, trophies or (annoying) progress messages to your friends.
  • No normalizing scoreboard that tells you how well you're doing against "the best" or against "100%."
  • No updates, patches, new weapons, armor, new recipes or new quests. No $5 DLC packs.
  • Replay value is pretty bad. In fact, the first game never ends.
Why would I play *THAT* game?

Whoever can turn conservation and efficiency into a game, a really good, addictive game, will win for all of us.