Saturday, July 31, 2010


Multi-Linear Narratives: Letting the Player Lead the Game

Entering a city, a house or any other interactive environment, different people have unique desires which the ideal environment both receives and responds to. This is not so with many games, however. In the most interactive of environments, players are often led, railroad style, down a prescribed path toward fixed ends. In this talk, award-winning game designer Brenda Brathwaite explores this problem and offers some solutions through the use of multi-linear narratives and the role of the un-storied mechanic in creating an experience players believe they crafted.
From the description for an upcoming talk being given by legendary game designer Brenda Brathwaite in San Francisco. If you are within range of my voice and San Francisco, you should try and make this talk and report back to me in detail. (From the comments on the blog it does not seem to be as gender-specific as it may first appear.)

What you really need to go watch as well is her talk How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design.

My interests are returning to game-design, the multi/non-linear nature of which was the inspiration for this blog (it started as a notebook of links and ideas about how to create ARG's and other non-linear narratives). I thought it appropriate that this important figure in game design is speaking about multi-linear narratives at the same time I return to that area as a place of intellectual interest.

One of the original figures from this blog:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bacn and Toast in Realtime

I don't have much to add to this at the moment, although given my current involvement with the real-time web obviously I have some thoughts on the matter, but I found this analysis of how social applications are built in contrast to how action-oriented Google applications are built to be rather interesting, particularly this part as it relates to real-time features:
Quora is a dozen people running dozens of experiments in how to optimally use bacn to get people to return to Quora, and how to use toast to keep them there. Bacn is email you want but not right now, and Quora has 40 flavors of it that you can order. Quora's main use of Bacn is to sizzle with something delicious (a new answer to a question you follow, a new Facebook friend has been caught in the Quora lobster trap, etc.) to entice you to come back to Quora. Then, once you're there, the toast starts popping. Quora shifts the content to things you care about and hides things you don't care about in real-time, and subtly pops up notifications while you're playing, to entice you to keep sticking around and clicking around. Some toast is so subtle it doesn't even look like a pop-up notification—it just looks like a link embedded in the page with some breadcrumbs that appear in real-time to take you to some place on Quora it knows you'll find irresistible. For every user's action, bacn's and toast's fly out to others in search of reactions. (Aside: if I were Twitter, I would be worried. Real-time user interfaces are more addictive than pseudo-real-time interfaces; what if Quora took all of its technology and decided to use it to build a better Twitter?) Social apps are action-reaction interaction loops; Google apps are designed just for action.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's All About Meaning

All those other things—authority/fame/money/metanarrative—just validate the meaning (or create meaning where there was none). When someone says something is important, what they really mean is that it has meaning. When people do things that we consider absurd or stupid, those things are creating/validating meaning for those people.

This is a similar structure to Lacan's objet petit a*, but in place of our ideal self is the meaning, and in place of the other is the Meaning Validation Device™.

This is important to remember when thinking about motivation—we are ultimately motivated by the meaning.

This is why stories and empathy are so important.

Jamy Ian Swiss at Gel 2009 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

* There are a lot of definitions of what the objet petit a is, the above is my most simple explanation of the definition that best suites my purposes—we seek out an other who reflects back on us our ideal self.

On shipping

And the next time someone produces an antenna with a weak spot, or a sticky accelerator, you’re more likely to feel their pain, listen to their words and trust their actions than the braying media who have never shipped anything in their lives.
You've either shipped or you haven't. At first this post seemed really pretentious, but its main point (above) is spot on. People who haven't actually finished something are the most likely to criticize those who have.

One of the things that has really been holding me back lately isn't the shipping, it's the fear of what might not happen after I've shipped. Attention is scarse these days. So is decent software.