You are a social engineer [Many, many links]

edited October 2008 in Story Games
When you put incentives and penalties on player actions, and attempt to give people tools to create a social agreement on how to appraoch your game, you are building a biased social platform.

(A big goddamn caveat, here: Note that I am NOT saying now, and have no intent to say, that the fictional material of your game is a significant part of that engineering, that violent fiction does thus-and-so. I don't know such stuff.)

In Matthjis' thread, the Stanford Prison was mentioned, and the Milford thing. Those are pretty extreme examples-in-point. However, I'd like to point out something a little milder; while the extreme examples show a point, they show it "out there".

Take a gander at this wiki article: Broken Windows

The idea is simple. The context in which people operate changes how they act. It changes how they act a whole lot, and it can change the way they act in pretty intense ways.

Sometimes it's about scarcity effects: A little Clay Shirky
Sometimes it's about authority over group intelligence: A little James Surowieki

And these are all thing we tinker with in gaming; Context, Scarcity, Authority, and Collaboration are a big deal in a lot of current game design precisely because they are effective tools for social engineering.

You, game designer, are a small-scale social engineer. And this means a few things - it means that maybe you can learn a whole lot from other discussions on social engineering. It may even mean that gaming will, one day, have something important to share with the world about group coordination (don't bet on it, but hey).

It also means that we, as designers, have some big scary places we could go, inviting others along for the ride. That's likely an exciting thought to some; it's also, likely, a repulsive thought to others. There has been plenty of griefing and vitriol spewed over smacking around the social boundaries of "Is this an RPG?" - imagine the confusion when some of us start pushing regularly and seriously into territory where the question of "Is is safe?" stops being funny.

I'm rambling now, and I'm not sure where to go from here. I'll happily defend this, if desired. Or someone else that's smarter or knows more can pick up right here and keep moving.

(Huh. I thought I'd use more links than that. Ah, well).


  • If I wanted to be a professional roleplaying designer I would start taking courses on small group communications, which they teach in most communications bepartments and business schools. And then maybe I'd look at interface design. And then, finally, maybe I'd look at ludology and most games studies stuff.
  • I'm just kind of wondering if there is such a thing as an unbiased social platform. If there isn't it makes your thingy sound a whole lot doom and gloom and a lot more of what we were doing anyway. That said social engineering stuff could be a good source (God knows I just label the group dynamics in my head as they pop up) and advice to deal with things such as group think may or may not be helpful across boundries.

    That said I think the context of social engineering within the game is a whole lot of a small fry compared to social engineering outside of the game. Compare your game to wow (its on my mind forgive me), chances are your game is less well known and less well respected and if you tell x where x is a person you esteem your much more likely to be looked down upon. Why is that? Because gamers abhore the sunlight and are secreative. Lets start the charge of social engineering not at the designer (who has some cookies in here admittedly) but at the player. This seems to be much more in tune with what the i dont know grassroots of this place is all about. This place isn't really game designers unite, its go play games you like AND IF THEY AREN"T THERE MAKE EM.

    So what can i say players, go play in the street, call it a social engineering experiment :D

    (hope that vibed with what was above)
  • Posted By: Logos7I'm just kind of wondering if there is such a thing as an unbiased social platform.
    (Stinky opinion. I can't back this up.)

    Anonymous opinion marketplaces, maybe. Moving a platforms toward "unbiased" makes it less human-friendly. But you can shift the balance around.

    The point here isn't doom and gloom. It's that "what we're doing anyway" links directly into this other stuff, some of which is heavy, heavy shit. Just because we like to make Fabrege(sp?) eggs doesn't mean that we're not using big damn power tools.
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