It came from GDC: Sid Meier is my hero, or player psychology and game design

People who play games are egomaniacs. It says on the box you get to control armies, discover new technology, and create entire civilizations. So, right away, you’re an egomaniac.

-Sid Meier

If there is one law of computer gamers, it is that everybody loves Civilisation. So when the game’s designer, Sid Meier, gives a talk about game design, it’s worth listening to what he has to say.

Kotaku has a good summary of the legendary designer’s keynote speech from GDC. He touches on how he designs around the idea that every player likes to win, and how he views the psychological effects of rewarding or punishing players. This is Venturebeat’s coverage of the same talk.

The other part that caught my eye was the comment on protecting the player from themselves. Or in other words, players tend to be risk averse which doesn’t always help them learn better strategies. For example, when saves are freely available, players often save their progress before every battle and just reload and try again until they win. This can make it harder for them to see where an improved strategy could help them in the bigger picture.

Sid also plays WoW, incidentally. But sadly he doesn’t take the opportunity here to make a few suggestions to Blizzard.

It came from GDC: Are achievements harmful?

Untold Entertainment posts a great roundup of some of the sessions he attended at GDC (Game Developers Conference) yesterday.

I don’t have a lot to add, but I wanted to share this particularly for his coverage of a controversial talk about Achievements. It’s about halfway down the blog post.

Chris Hecker (the speaker) questioned the conventional wisdom that achievements are the future, and wondered whether they’re actually good for games. Or whether it’s just that game developers are leaning too heavily on prodding people into repetitive dull activities via rewards (i.e. Farmville) when they could be using achievements to actually make their games more fun and engaging.

Hecker took on Jesse Schell’s oft-blogged talk from DICE 2010, where he imagined a world where everything around you gave you points – your toothbrush gave you points for brushing, the government gave you points or money for raising your kids well, etc. Hecker suggested that Schell and two other respected colleagues were talking out of their collective asses, because they haven’t looked at the research, which says (among other things) that when you pay a kid for getting good grades, the kid’s grades subsequently drop.

So if you get people into the mindset of doing an activity just to get a reward, they’re less likely to do it afterwards without the reward, or when the reward gets deprecated.

I thought it was a fascinating read, and I bet it was a cool talk also. This is a link to Gamasutra’s coverage of the same talk.