Comments on

The Bell Curve comes to gaming

Original entry posted: Wed Nov 2 15:19:54 2005

Josh @ Wed Nov 2 09:39:54 2005 EST

Nice. As a kid, I personally thought snakes were fascinating. If they didn't bite me, they were definately in more trouble than I was. Heck, I think I spent a weekend racing them.

I'm beginning to think the best thing we can do about women gamers is stop acting like they're yetis. They're not mythical, in fact they're quite common. If male gamers would stop hitting on them every chance they get, we'd probably all be better off :)

Brinstar @ Wed Nov 2 10:04:43 2005 EST

Well said.

Tim from Old Grandma Hardcore ( posted a nice rebuttal to Crawford's article as well. Grandma's reply is amusing.

Thomas @ Wed Nov 2 10:18:22 2005 EST

I saw Grandma's response, actually, and thought about adding a link. Good stuff.

Bonnie of Heroine Sheik also had a conversation about the article with Crawford in her comments. Chris's veiled accusation that Bonnie simply can't bow to the "rationalism" of science and EP is pretty revealing, and I'm surprised no-one took it up.

He's an old man grasping at straws. I just wish the Escapist hadn't punished something so wrong in an otherwise strong issue.

Thomas @ Wed Nov 2 10:19:54 2005 EST

Published, not punished. <grin> They can punish it all they want.

Josh: You could be right. But since my girlfriend is a gamer, I think I'm going to have to keep hitting on one of them.

Josh @ Wed Nov 2 11:33:01 2005 EST

Good point. I will have to keep paying attention to The Girl as well. Course, I don't approach her gaming with any kind of amazement either :)

Though I was astonished when she recognized the X-Com theme music.

Thomas @ Wed Nov 2 14:02:45 2005 EST

I've taken to playing Tanguy Ukulele Orchestra's covers of Zelda and Katamari at shows, just to see who reacts. Sometimes it's surprising.

Patrick Dugan @ Thu Nov 3 20:20:33 2005 EST

Chris is certianly old, and there are some shallow sexisms in the design of his drama engine, but that doesn't detract from the potential quality of his Erasmatron, or his intellectual contribution. Sure, he hasn't produced a game in fifteen years, but thats because he's been going out on his own, self-funded, to research and implement strategies to make a whole new sort of socially oriented gameplay possible. He may not be hip to the postmodern language rules regarding gender, but he is hip to bringing humanity to game design.

That said, you and other detractors have very good points, Evo Psyche is only one way of looking at human otogony and behavior, and not the best IMO.

Thomas @ Thu Nov 3 23:06:51 2005 EST

What do you mean by shallow sexism built into the drama engine? That sounds fascinating, in a sick way.

I don't know anything about Crawford's Erasmatron or his recent (!) research. For all I know it's brilliant. But I have serious doubts that a game founded on the framework from his article would be fun. And Crawford is infamous for his attitude toward "fun" anyway.

That may have been the biggest irony of all from the article, looking back on it. Such a non-commercial developer was giving advice to others on a game that would sell?

Patrick @ Sat Nov 5 01:08:37 2005 EST

Evolutionary Psychology isn't a very good lense on game design, because its deals with the interaction between the genetic and the cultural, while games are cultural objects that interact with the individual. Evo Psych is more pertinent to cognitive science than user inferface, Memetics is a more ideal way of observing games as patterns adapting in a feedback loop between player and software.

So sure, Balance of the Planet wasn't very fun, in the same way that say, I find Mega Man Zero 4, but then again neither is Facade. They're both extrememly important experiements in using algorithms to represent meaningful themes, instead of trying to find something consistenly fun the innovators behind these titles tested a hypothetical form of procedural authorship. Imagine if Maxwell released his equations and the general consensus was "well, those are some neat squiggles, but it doesn't exactly light up my house." Fun comes with time and tuning.

A big idea in Evolutionary Psychology (or was it sociobiology? does it really matter?) is the introduction of the "third ape". The more clever males were able to undestand three party social situations, a mental edge which enabled them to sleep with more women while the moron cuckholds fed the kids. Supposedly this created a selection pressure for bigger brains and more complex "memes", or mental patterns. This was not a politically correct way to evolve the species, but theres strong data suggesting it happened, alot. What does this have to do with game design?

A key concept in Erasmatron is each personality variable (everyone has six personality values between -1.0 and 1.0) has three dimensions, theres the Actor's actual value, their percieved value for everyone they know, and their estimate of what others think about themselves or other people. So theres this whole range of potential gameplay relating to the social dynamics of how that information flows through different members of the cast. Combine this with a whole range of possible verbs (including custom verbs) and theres a wide breadth of gameplay possible to back-up the narrative goings on. This can all be found at Crawford's website.

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