Thursday, January 24, 2008

Semantics, part three

The Evolutionary Motivation (TEM) – TEM is personal achievement, solitary and internal. At first glance TEM might appear as the inverse of TCM, but that is only a small part of what I am trying to define here.

As Humans, we like to learn how to achieve positive feedback when facing a new challenge if we suspect that the challenge has a solution. By creating a structured setting for the challenge, such as a game, we increase our certainty that a solution exists. This positive feedback leads to a conditioning response in us if we can learn the structural framework quickly, and continue to learn what is expected of us to achieve the intended successes.

The reason a toddler enjoys learning to place a square peg into a square hole has the same concept behind it as a teen that completes a model airplane. Translating this biological impulse to learn into why we play games is fairly transparent. Removing the commercial content of games for a second (violence, language, etc.) allows us to rate games into age categories based on the logic and reasoning they demand from their players in order to ‘learn’ their ‘structure’ and thus achieve the intended ‘successes’. Complexity of design and the accumulated wisdom of their players follow a similar upward curve as we climb in intended age. When complexity and accumulated wisdom vary too much, we end up with either frustratingly difficult games, or boring simplicity.

Open-ended video games, complex board games with hundreds of pieces, and convoluted paper-and-pen RPG’s all retain the same internal achievement we all felt as we completed our first jigsaw puzzle. Besides real-world concerns, one reason games were often discarded as previous generations aged was loss of TEM. Once a game relies only on TCM, such as your millionth game of Monopoly, you reduce your chance to learn anything new about the structure and rewards of the game. By revitalizing the TEM in games due to complexity and challenging accumulated wisdom, we are able to appeal to maturing audiences (with little or no TCM in their personalities) in unprecedented numbers.

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