The "Real" Issue?

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Roger Carbol

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Jul 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/1/96
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Just looking at some of the genre vs. genre posts, the
simulationist vs. storytelling arguments, etc etc, and thought
that perhaps there is another way to look at the underlying
issues that drive these sorts of comparisons.

Some psychologists describe people and behaviours as being
either goal-oriented or process-oriented. It is my thesis here
that the games under discussion can be described as primarily
goal-oriented or process-oriented, and that goal-oriented games
appeal to goal-oriented people, and similarly for process-oriented
games and people.

For those not familiar with the somewhat self-explanatory concepts
of goal-orientation and process-orientation, I'll try to use
a couple of in-context examples:

Goal-Oriented: Examples of goal-oriented games include football,
tic-tac-toe, chess, and Ultima I. The players are motivated by
a desire to achieve the end-result, the goal. This is sometimes
confusing to process-oriented people, since a description of
the process of such a game often sounds like tripe: "So then the
pawn moved ahead and the knight slaughtered it and then a bishop
slaughtered the knight and the king died. The end."

Process-Oriented: Examples of process-oriented games include tag,
Monopoly, the Call of Cthulhu Role-playing game in specific
but also role-playing games in general, and Trinity. The
players are more motivated by the process of playing the game
than any specific goal, although a goal is often present (just
as processes are usually present in goal-oriented games.) A
distinct lack of a clear winning-state is often a good
indicator of a process-oriented game -- the game tag never really
has to end; there is not usually a point where all the players
throw up their hands and declare someone a winner. These
sorts of games can be confusing to goal-oriented people, who
sometimes feel that there is really no point to the games.
When goal-oriented people play process-oriented games, they
often focus very strongly on the arbitrary goals, which
results in what FRPG players have called "munchkins."


Hopefully, this small addition of vocabulary to the IF discussion
will clear things up a little rather than continue to cloud
the issue.

For example, there has been some discussion on the topic of
graphical interfaces, especially in respect to games such as
those in the murder-mystery genre. The graphical interface
essentially reduces the amount of process required to reach
the goal. For goal-oriented people and goal-oriented games
this is great; if there was a big button called "Win the Game"
that'd be even better. But for process-oriented people and
games, it's not good at all. The so-called "tedious" process
of using a text-interface is really the greatest joy within
these types of games, and so reducing the amount of interface
and process is harmful to the game.

Most IF (and really, most games in general) try to appeal
somewhat to both groups of people. This is done, generally, by
making the goals concrete and realizable enough for the
goal-oriented people, and making the process of obtaining these
goals enjoyable enough for the process-oriented people without
being too irritating to the goal-oriented people. For example,
Zork is a game which contains an enjoyable process of achieving
distinct and themselves-enjoyable goals.

Some things are irritating to both sorts of people. A good
example is random death (or really, random anything, but
especially the evil random death.) Goal-oriented people get
bent because they've been unfairly thwarted in their quest
to achieve the goal. Process-oriented people are bent
because things don't happen at random in good stories; there
is no story in "One day our hero travelled out to save the
kingdom but was struck by a meteorite. The End."

A subtle difference, however, is that the process-oriented
person is just as likely to be just as irritated by
random success; the goal-oriented person is likely to see
this as a bonus, and possibly a legitimate way to solve the game.

Anyways, I've rambled on enough about this particular idea
right at the moment...I'd be interested on seeing what
anyone else has to say about this point of view (even if
it is to say I'm way, way out in left field...)


Roger Carbol .. uq...@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA

John Wood

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Jul 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/7/96
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Roger Carbol <uq...@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA> wrote,

>
>Some psychologists describe people and behaviours as being
>either goal-oriented or process-oriented. It is my thesis here
>that the games under discussion can be described as primarily
>goal-oriented or process-oriented, and that goal-oriented games
>appeal to goal-oriented people, and similarly for process-oriented
>games and people.
>
[Explanations snipped]

Reading this, I couldn't help thinking of "SimLife". The introduction
tried to explain the "goals" in playing it:

1. Approach it as a game, and try to win the scenarios provided.
2. Approach it as a laboratory, and decide for yourself.
3. Approach it as a toy, and forget about goals altogether.

As you can see, it covers the spectrum from fully goal-oriented to fully
process-oriented (where there is only the "meta-goal" of enjoying
yourself).

>Hopefully, this small addition of vocabulary to the IF discussion
>will clear things up a little rather than continue to cloud
>the issue.

I think so, provided we keep one thing clear. These are not
"pigeonholes" into which people and games are to be placed, but
extremes on an axis (ditto for simulationist-storytelling). Many
people who would be classed as process-oriented like to have some sort
of goal, so long as they can see it as a means to enhance the direction
the process takes.

Another non-IF game that IMHO does a good job of bringing together people
from close to the opposite ends of the axis is "Once Upon A Time".
There is the goal of getting rid of your cards and the process of
telling an interesting fairy story, and the two are so inextricably
linked that I've heard people I would class as very goal-oriented
telling excellent stories in order to win. They are less likely to let
chances to interrupt pass than the more process-oriented, however. 8-)

>For example, there has been some discussion on the topic of
>graphical interfaces, especially in respect to games such as
>those in the murder-mystery genre. The graphical interface
>essentially reduces the amount of process required to reach
>the goal. For goal-oriented people and goal-oriented games
>this is great; if there was a big button called "Win the Game"
>that'd be even better.

I hope this was a joke! If there were no challenge involved in
attaining the goal, pressing the button is just one more process to get
in the way of achieving the goal. There is no satisfaction (the "meta-
goal" I referred to earlier).

I think the image of the big button comes from work processes rather
than leisure. Alan Cooper (a professional UI designer, author of the
excellent book "About Face") uses the image of a big button with the
words "Do What I Mean" printed on it as the holy grail of user interface
design. If your meta-goal is to get a job done as painlessly as
possible, this is a good thing. If it is to fill a few idle hours in an
entertaining fashion, it is useless.

[Apologies for ranting on, but even if it was a joke it's useful to get
this clear. Even if I'm wrong, at least someone will tell me and *I'll*
have learned something. 8-)]

>But for process-oriented people and
>games, it's not good at all. The so-called "tedious" process
>of using a text-interface is really the greatest joy within
>these types of games, and so reducing the amount of interface
>and process is harmful to the game.

The enjoyable process for me is thinking what I could try next; the
typing is merely a way of transmitting those thoughts to the game. The
problem with graphical interfaces (for people like me) lies in that fact
that the interface won't let them indulge that process.

The "graphical vs. text interface" issue seems to me to be somewhat
distinct from "goals vs. process". I am sure that many graphical game
fans enjoy the process of finding all the animation sequences, for
instance. When I played "the Colonel's Bequest", one of the first
things I did was to take a shower to see what would happen.

This isn't the place to continue the "graphics vs text" argument,
however. I just wanted to point out that it was IMHO a different
argument.

>Most IF (and really, most games in general) try to appeal
>somewhat to both groups of people. This is done, generally, by
>making the goals concrete and realizable enough for the
>goal-oriented people, and making the process of obtaining these
>goals enjoyable enough for the process-oriented people without
>being too irritating to the goal-oriented people. For example,
>Zork is a game which contains an enjoyable process of achieving
>distinct and themselves-enjoyable goals.

Another advantage of doing this is that the people in the middle ground
are catered for as well. See my comments on "Once Upon A Time", above.

[Sensible stuff about randomness being bad for both snipped]

>Anyways, I've rambled on enough about this particular idea
>right at the moment...I'd be interested on seeing what
>anyone else has to say about this point of view (even if
>it is to say I'm way, way out in left field...)

Well, that's my opinion, anyway. Note I am not an expert in any of
this! If it's sounded as if I'm saying Process is better than Goal, I
apologise. Such was not my intention.

Thanks,

John


Greg Ewing

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Jul 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/8/96
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Roger Carbol wrote:
>
> Goal-Oriented: Examples of goal-oriented games include football,
> tic-tac-toe, chess,

I don't think these are good examples of games with
intrinsically-enjoyable goals. Seems to me that even
for these "goal-oriented" people (assuming they exist)
the enjoyment of a game of chess comes from the
intellectual challenge of figuring out *how* to
achieve the goal.

If you were presented with a chess game set up
one fairly obvious move from winning, would you get
as much satisfaction from making that final move
as you would if you had played the whole game up
to that point from the beginning? Would anyone?

I don't think so, but then maybe I'm too process-
oriented myself to tell?-)

There may be games in which the enjoyment is
predominantly in the goal rather than the process,
but I don't think the games mentioned are examples
of them.

I would also question whether such a
thing could be regarded as a "game" at all! If there
is so little to the process that you can replace it
all by a "Win Game" button without making it any
less interesting, then to my way of thinking, it's
not a game, it's just a recreation, like eating or
sleeping or watching television.

> Roger Carbol .. uq...@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA

Greg

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Jul 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/8/96
to

>Some psychologists describe people and behaviours as being
>either goal-oriented or process-oriented. It is my thesis here
>that the games under discussion can be described as primarily
>goal-oriented or process-oriented, and that goal-oriented games
>appeal to goal-oriented people, and similarly for process-oriented
>games and people.

I would say that you're missing an important angle: there are several
"layers" to a game, each of which may be anywhere on the goal-process
spectrum.

Most simply: there's the interface (the challenge the user faces in
trying to get the game's protagonist to do what he wants) and there's
the puzzles (the challege the protagonist faces in trying to get to
the end of the story.)

The convention is to regard the interface as a goal-oriented thing,
and make it as easy as possible to get to the goal (which is control
of the game's protagonist.) Text interfaces do this with a
standardized vocabulary and syntax; graphical interfaces do this with,
well, standardized "vocabulary" (icons and cursor shapes) and "syntax"
(click to use, or whatever.)

But don't confuse this with the orientation of the game.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

Allison Weaver

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Jul 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/10/96
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On Sun, 7 Jul 1996, John Wood wrote:

> Another non-IF game that IMHO does a good job of bringing together people
> from close to the opposite ends of the axis is "Once Upon A Time".
> There is the goal of getting rid of your cards and the process of
> telling an interesting fairy story, and the two are so inextricably
> linked that I've heard people I would class as very goal-oriented
> telling excellent stories in order to win. They are less likely to let
> chances to interrupt pass than the more process-oriented, however. 8-)

I've never heard of this game and it sounds intriguing. Is it old? New?
Available? Where?

Allison


John Wood

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Jul 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/15/96
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[Sorry for taking so long to reply - I've had no chance to read the
newsgroup for a while]

Allison Weaver <awe...@nova.umuc.edu> writes:
> > from close to the opposite ends of the axis is "Once Upon A Time".
> > There is the goal of getting rid of your cards and the process of
> > telling an interesting fairy story, and the two are so inextricably
> > linked that I've heard people I would class as very goal-oriented
> > telling excellent stories in order to win. They are less likely to let
> > chances to interrupt pass than the more process-oriented, however. 8-)
>

> I've never heard of this game and it sounds intriguing. Is it old? New?
> Available? Where?

It's a (NON-collectable) card game published by Atlas Games. The second
edition is fairly new, and should be available from any good games shop
(the kind that sells Roleplaying and Board games). The last review of it
I read was in Pyramid Magazine #18, which described it as brilliant -
although it also rambled on about how young male gamers should buy the
game because it was popular with women... (!)

I've played it with programmers, teachers, a librarian, and my mother
(who's an ex-nurse now in her 70's), and we've always had fun -
especially after a drink or two. 8-) My main criticism is that the
important info on each card is at the bottom rather than along a side,
so you can't "fan" the cards and still see what you've got.

[This is off-topic now, so it might be best to email any responses.]

John


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