Pages: [1]

Rewards inherent to interactivity?

Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« on: October 19, 2010, 10:51:28 am »

I make a point of never being fanatical -I'm fanatically against fanaticism! Wink. So this is not a big problem.
And I'm currently working on a re-design of an old idea. So it might not be as "pure" as something we'd come up with now.
But I'm finding myself a little bit conflicted with our dogma to reject game elements in our design. Especially the element of reward.

I want our players to feel good about playing. So when they find some important object, I want the game to point that out and congratulate them. Finding these objects is an inherent part of the story. The story is about 8 objects that got lost and need to be found. It's a good story. It makes sense. And all our interactions and mechanics are created around this (and, of course, to express the atmosphere of the world -which is always the most important thing).

Finding this object gives the player a very real in-game reward: a power they can use in their exploration of the world. There's no rewards for using this power (other than aesthetic ones). But it's very cool to have. Again, these powers are an inherent part of the story.

And yet I started feeling a bit "dirty" with respect to my desire to avoid game elements. Oh my God! I'm rewarding the player. Surely that's a sinCheesy

This got me thinking: Maybe rewards are an inherent part of interaction design.

When you design an activity for your player and the player decides to do that activity, the designer in you feels happy. So why not express that happiness through the game?
One could say the activity should be its own reward. And I'm sure it always is. But why reject that little extra something? Eating cake at your birthday is fun. But blowing out the candles and having people sing for you makes the whole thing much more memorable and moving.

I realize rewarding is a bit childish. But what's the harm of a little childishness within an experience that is playful anyway?

And could one not consider not rewarding the player as bad design?
If the player does something interesting, something that makes the little machine that is the game run a little bit better, isn't it bad design to just let such a moment pass as if nothing happened? Imagine the player finds a four leaved clover in the grass. But the avatar is so far away that you can't even see it. What's the point of creating the action of finding a four leaved clover if you won't tell the player when it happens? Maybe there shouldn't be such actions in our work. But why reject simple delights like this?

One of the reasons why rewarding pops up in our current project is that it is in fact a linear design (another sin? Wink ). The basic idea is that 8 objects have been lost and they need to be returned to prevent annihilation of the game world. So even if there's no necessary order in which the objects need to be returned, and there's other things to do, there's still a very simple straight causal chain between beginning and end. So every step towards this end feels like a little victory. Hence the desire to reward the player.

But even in a non-linear context, rewards can add to the joy of the experience. As per the four leaf clover example above.

So is it a sin?  Embarrassed
Logged
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2010, 02:09:22 pm »

This is a tough one and almost an issue of ethics.

Consider rewards like achievements that are so common in games these days. Are these okay awards? In a way, they just tell the player that she did something special like "You did that 3 times in a row! This is worth celebration!". This is not bad in itself, like you say, it simply tells the player that something nice occurred and that you should feel proud/happy/whatnot. The player might not have realized this otherwise and even if they did, it acts as a sort of confirmation that the event really was special.

The problem arise when achievements takes the player away from the actual actions and it becomes a focus on abstract awards. I think that when best thing is getting the achievement, and not doing the action, then it is going into sinterritory.

I think that whenever design is focused on the goal (reward) instead of the present actions, one is entering territory of sin. But this is a bit vague though and it is a bit strange if what matters was the intention behind a mechanic.

I find that rewards do not have to be that concrete either. In both the Penumbra games and Amnesia we have a little piece of music playing when you solve do an important action (like solve a puzzle). I find this gives great sense of reward and hearing some uplifting music can often enhance the feeling of having accomplished something. Still, this is not that clear cut and one could argue that the player is being tricked into feeling something. But then again, that is what all works of art do. When a song makes me sad, it is not because the exact meaning of the lyrics that directly affect, but a mixture of many things. Often the lyrics themselves can have zero meaning (it has happened that songs lost their meaning to me because I knew what they where about, and suddenly much of the emotional power was lost). So I argue that all art is a form of voluntary hypnosis, where the perceiver is "tricked" into certain feelings. So rewards are OK by me, but only to a certain extent.

I find it all a bit like the difference between enjoying something and being addicted to something. The normal definition for addiction is when it disrupts normal life. Perhaps a the difference between a good and bad reward is when it disrupts normal (intended?) gameplay?
« Last Edit: October 19, 2010, 02:11:10 pm by Thomas »
Logged
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2010, 12:55:32 am »

Just to be clear, you're suggesting that maybe rewards are not only inherent to videogames specifically, but also inherent to interactivity in general?
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2010, 08:08:34 pm »

Not inherent to the form as such. But to a certain kind of "good" design, perhaps, yes.
I always fall back on Chris Crawford's definition of interactivity as a conversation. Aknowledging what the other person says, is simply polite. This form of politeness can easily be translated to or seen as a reward, in a computer-based interaction.
It's not as extreme as in a game, perhaps, where a player might be motivated only by the reward. In a conversation, it's nice when the person you're talking to nods their head, but you're not talking to them to see them nod their head.
Logged
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2011, 03:00:40 am »

Interaction, by definition, involves some kind of feedback. When that feedback is positive, that's a reward.
Logged

Your daily does of devil's advocacy: "We're largely past the idea that games are solely for children, but many people are consciously trying to give their games more intellectual depth. Works of true brilliance are rarely motivated by insecurity."
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2011, 07:57:47 am »

Rewards (in the ludic sense of the word) do tend to go towards Skinner's Box territory. The problem is that they are so rarely integrated harmonically. Finding one of the lots 8 items yielding a reward is, if you will pardon the crassness, like a disco beat - in a manner it works, but offers little of interest. A reward shows there is a puzzle and that it may be solved. It is very agonistic, artificial and not that interesting to me outside of simple (or at least high-suspension) entertainment.

When I do anything distinctly pleasurable in real life there tend to be rewarding moments, however. Making someone smile or feeling proud of your work being examples. But that is far less simplistic than 'do X and receive Y.'

Ideally, I imagine, you do not want to tell me whether finding a four-leaved clover is important. Make an old lady smile as you help her across the street, make a child nervously thank you as you give him back his ball - make the character respond happy to the clover, if you will. Earlier I passed a woman in the street and my habit of courtly smiling gave me back a thrilling glance which lingered. This was pleasurable and I seek out pleasurable things. I do not wish my life to be gamified to the point where I get a little jingle for getting a smile back. That would ruin my sense of life - it is not about that single smile, it is about me being the kind of person who encounters such smiles. Getting the jingle would make me worry about solving these 'puzzles' and getting just any smile so as to add a point. There is not a single smile which to me feels rewarding (though each still feels pleasurable), but all-together I feel pleased to be myself.

I like the end of Dear Esther when the man starts rambling about circuits because it underlines how far I have travelled. In a sense my perseverance is rewarded - but it feels part of the whole and in-world in that sense. This is a more sophisticated sense of reward - not for an action, but rather as part of the whole. This is more of an harmonic reward.

I think this is my feeling. If you reward me for picking up a clover or finding an object with a jingle it quickly becomes simplistic - and puzzles, being so very artificial, quickly tend to do this to begin with. For a puzzle game this is not bad in the sense that a simple plot is not bad for a ballet. But for more interesting games the realization that the experience is rewarding ought to be more cleverly brought. It should be part of a tune, of a rhythm, or a symphony, not a drum roll at the end of a joke telling me I ought to laugh.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2011, 08:01:23 am by Jeroen D. Stout »
Logged
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2011, 12:58:18 pm »

No, it's not a sin. It's good game design. Or at least, smart game design. It works quite well for casual games. Sparkly sounds and visuals make the experience enjoyable. Letting the player they are doing something right is a good thing. I think you are all over-thinking this just a bit. I always hear this business about "Skinner Boxes." I think people forget that we are animals and that we respond to certain things on a very basic level. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just how we are. What is comes down to is how it's exploited, not whether it's exploited. Arguing against it is like arguing against restaurants because they exploit hunger.

Games and computer interaction in general are a new language. Why not revel in it instead of obscuring and denying it? I have some thought on that but I don't want to derail the thread so I'll make a new one.
Logged

Irony is for cowards.
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2011, 05:21:28 pm »

You both have a valid point. There is nothing wrong in rewarding the player but current game mechanics don't do that very well. An anonymous old woman smiling at you in the street is, in my opinion, a far more rewarding experience than some abstract number going up or a short jingle playing. A reward should consist of an engaging experience, rather than an abstract number or "loot".
Logged
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2011, 10:53:01 pm »

Interaction, by definition, involves some kind of feedback. When that feedback is positive, that's a reward.

But that's just a single interaction. I don't really think of interactivity as a string of interactions. It's a far more organic, multi-layered and non-linear process for me. I always liked how Chris Crawford likened interactivity to a conversation. You could say that saying "I'm fine. How are you." is a reward for saying "Hello, my friend, it's been a long time. How have you been?" but you would be missing a lot of the potential richness of such an exchange.
Logged
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2011, 11:03:55 pm »

An anonymous old woman smiling at you in the street is, in my opinion, a far more rewarding experience than some abstract number going up or a short jingle playing. A reward should consist of an engaging experience, rather than an abstract number or "loot".

Yes. But it's often very difficult to create the circumstance in which a player will actually experience this smiling woman effect. In a non-linear game world where the player has agency, there's a big chance that they will miss it. We could use cinematic means to point it out (close up of the woman's face) or we could use a game-like way (playing a pleasant sound, showing some pretty sparkles). I think as long as the "reward" is not to far removed from the narrative situation, it can work. The main thing to avoid is that people start playing for the reward, that receiving a reward becomes the goal of the playing. That is where you get into Skinner Box territory.

I agree with ghostwheel that part of the pleasure we get out of games is the feeling of reward. And the reference to a restaurant is to the point. Fast Food restaurants would then be the Skinner Box version of a restaurant by offering a simple and direct way to satisfy hunger instead of offering more albeit less directly, as a more sophisticated restaurant might.
Logged
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2011, 05:48:34 am »

I wouldn't say that "rewards are an inherent part of interaction design", rather I would say that interaction is inherently rewarding.  Interaction is, in essence, a process of exploration and discovery.  Exploration, conversation, discovery, and the scientific method are all just different ways of saying "learning": a process of question, response, idea, question, etc.  The human brain is wired to find this process inherently enjoyable; we like discovering new things for their own sake, we enjoy solving puzzles for the simple satisfaction of having solved them.  Rather than worrying about rewarding the player, I would suggest you ask instead whether the rewards you're giving them are intrinsic (valuable for their own sake, because the player likes finding new things and solving problems) or extrinsic (valuable because they allow the player access to something else they find valuable).  Without knowing more about your game, I can't really say anything intelligent about which it is, but maybe this is helpful to you.
Logged
Re: Rewards inherent to interactivity?
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2011, 09:06:11 am »

I think whether an interaction is intrinsically rewarding, or how much the reward pleases the player, is highly subjective. For instance, I remember fondly a friend expressing how much she enjoyed the fact that her deer avatar in The Endless Forest got flowers on its head after her making him lower his head into a patch of flowers (without knowing what would happen). For her this experience was a delight. It was extremely rewarding. Other players, however, may not think much of it.

But I think we can manipulate the emotional response of the player by, in some way, expressing that what just happened is delightful and should feel rewarding. Perhaps, for instance, by making the avatar express this delight. Maybe the player will empathize with the feeling expressed by the avatar and copy it to some extent. Or simply feel happy because his avatar is happy.
Logged
Pages: [1]
Jump to: