Game Development Reference
Interview with Dallas Snell: Social Networks
and the Power of Tribes—cont'd
emulate that with artificial intelligence in the game. We spent a lot of
money trying to make NPCs as humanlike as possible. We don't have to
work on AI as much anymore because the games are filled with other
Along the way, you can actually start engineering into these games
the things that contribute to people's well-being. Just for example,
making sure they have an adequate-sized friends list. Setting up a sys-
tem where it's easy and painless for them to become engaged by other
players and add those players to their friends list. Even if they don't
add to their friends list, things like remembering that you interacted
with this person, so the next time you're online and they're online the
program can suggest someone you played with last time. It's kind of
like we're keeping a friends list for you without you necessarily need-
ing to be active about it.
Q: Explain ambient awareness and how it relates to social networks.
A: As we're sitting in this room right now, I notice the people behind me,
and I can see people in front of me. I notice people along the side, and
someone sitting at the table on the left. I'm not really paying attention
to them consciously, but the majority of my brain is actually processing
all those signals and giving me a feeling of “okayness” because I feel like
there's a tribe around me. If all that noise were turned off, it would actu-
ally be a little disturbing and disorienting to me.
So this thing called ambient awareness is trying to be duplicated by
technologies such as Twitter. People are typing what other people call
inane, boring, tedious dribble, like “Hey, I just made a cup of tea, and I
put too much sugar in it.” It's like, “Who cares?” they say. And it turns
out that as far as scientists and psychologists have been able to deter-
mine, this boring dribble is some of the single most important information
the human brain was evolved to process. Because it's not so much about
the content. The content that someone made a cup of tea with too much
sugar isn't important. It's not the content; it's the fact that as a group-
ing species, the most important thing is that there are people around us
that are close enough for us to touch and that we have each other's back.
Through a high frequency of these boring, unimportant interactions we
build, we sense our tribe around us and it increases our nonconscious
sense of security and well-being.