Sunday, August 19, 2007

hill, thrill, bust that grille

Sitting at the coffee shop, I browse a recent issue of Wired (a crucial component of my initial 'nets experiences, along with Juno and Jerry Pournelle). Sept 07 issue. 'S got this midsized article on how Bungie fungeneers Halo3, monitoring playtesters to optimize routes through maps, weapon balance, enemy strength and like that. After a while, Clive Thompson drops the following sidebar atop p145, which I thought might make intersting fodder for DDT's burgeoning work on why games are nearly as good as o'er-caffinated self-touching.

Predictably I've been unable to avoid annotations.



Blood, Guns, and Research

While Bungie is using science to make better games, researchers are learning more and more about gameplay itself. Among the findings so far:

It's just as fun to die. A group of Finnish scientists wired gamers with skin meters, cardiac monitors, and facial electromyographs and found that getting killed in a game produces the same positive emotions as beating an opponent or completing a level.



Okay. This actually sound right to anybody? Look into yr parts, people; even a Finn should know better. T'other night, DDT and I burned thru nearly 60 Soul Calibur matches on his well-loved Dreamcast. Believe me when I tell you that my emotions upon dying were NOT the same as when surviving to fight again.

I concede, tho', that there's something to these Finnish savants: the only thing that makes me want to take up the controller more than a winning streak...is a losing streak. Properly-administered losses feed the habit as well as any other experience, it would seem...



Fellowship matters. Researcher Jonas Heide Smith ran a study with 19 gamers and discovered that even hypercompetitive players tend to help others. Desire for fairness in play, it seems, is as strong as the desire to win.



Yah, sure. Sounds pretty close. Dr Smith needs to sharpen up those categories a little, tho'. Remember this test-site that distinguished nicely between a desire to win and the desire for a robust challenge, and identitfied which is stronger for particular players. Both of these desires would, I suspect, count as Dr Smith's "hypercompetitive" category, but will result in very different styles of play... I should find that site again: there was a little questionaire that pegged me pretty accurately, as I recall.



It's OK to cheat--a little. In 24 interviews with gamers, researcher Mia Consalvo discovered that "a majority of game players cheat"--though they also have strict social codes governing what's acceptable. Consulting a game guide: cool. Using auto-aim software to target opponents: uncool.



Who the holy living FUCK promoted game guides to "cheating" status? Is reading the cunt-lapping MANUAL cheating now? Are my macros cheating at text editing? Is using porn cheating at masturbation?

When I used to fax out Mortal Kombat II move lists, was I vectoring to some vasty arcade-based cheatz0r epidemic? How about discussing equipment optimization and counterattack strategies in Super Robot Taisen? Am I cheating when I spam Ifumi's Wing Layer attack thru the first level, grabbing high scores that'd rate on the high score lists over to shmucks.com?

All that being said, cheaters suck and should be flogged with a hawser.

All that being said, I'd love to be able to cheat at Metroid Prime: Hunters. So very tired of being a headshot magnet...



Games are good practice. A study in the February 2007 issue of Archives of Surgery found that laparoscopic surgeons who excel at videogames make 47 percent fewer errors and work 39 percent faster than their peers.



Sigh. Okay, just for the record, let's have a quick little round of "correlation and causation are not the same thing". The reasonable explanation for this finding is NOT that videogames make people better at surgery. (Trauma Center, a DS surgery game, for example, is wholly awful.) The proper hypothesis is that people who are good at fine motor skills (like surgery) are good at fine motor skills (like [certain] video games).

Even the authors of that study wouldn't be claiming that playing a couple hours of Minesweeper a day makes for good surgeons. Or solitaire. Let's unite against sloppily-formulated premises, mkay? Mkay!!

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