The inverse power of praise

This is a rather unusual article to link here on gmzzz, but please bear with me.

I don’t really stomach most of the books, articles or papers that theorize game design, mainly because they come across as pretentious attempts to make our “craft” look more artsy, just for the sake of it. But there are some books on the subject that are genuinely interesting, like A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster. Part of this book’s success is the fact that it’s main focus is not on game design, but rather on the psychology behind learning and playing (in it’s larger sense), with gaming as a natural medium where you can evolve some of these theories.

There’s something similar about this article I’m linking here. It’s not about games. It focuses on the way parents talk to their kids, and reaches some interesting conclusions about how misplaced praises can affect a kid’s self esteem and openness to effort. It’s a pretty eye opening read but, again, not about games.

So where’s the link?

First of all, here is the same logic (as the one behind the article) applied to RPGs – Awesome By Proxy: Addicted to Fake Achievement. Go have a read (and while you’re at it, check out the other articles as well, as they are all pretty interesting). The conclusion is pretty grim: some game mechanics work just like those misplaced praises, which in turn have a negative effect on us, the players.

Second: Facebook. I’ve been trying many of the games that the uber social network has to offer and I’m more than pissed off about the cheap (but oh so effective) game mechanics that they all use. Don’t get me wrong, these are some of the most basic, beautiful, clean and effective game mechanics but they are used to promote games that are devoid of content and purpose. The only gain that come out of them are the huge financial gains for the developers. Again, I’m happy for those guys but (especially in light of the previous 2 articles) I think we should start thinking about the implications of the games we’re developing. Implications that go way beyond paychecks and popularity.

Ok. Rant mode off. Enjoy the articles!


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