Game Development Reference
Interview with Dallas Snell: Social Networks
and the Power of Tribes—cont'd
Q: So then status updates help people to feel less stressed out?
A: They're closer to neutral. Well-being is more about feeling neutral, bal-
anced, or stabilized. For example, I like to ask people, “Can you feel your
left kneecap right now?” Most people say, “No.” They're not even thinking
about their left kneecap. And they're not thinking about their left kneecap
because it's in a perfect balance of well-being. It's functioning perfectly,
which means none of its pain sensors are going off, and none of its plea-
sure sensors. It's in the state it was meant to be in, and if it's left in that
state it'll actually be the healthiest. Your left kneecap will function best
when none of its neurons are firing in the skin and all the cells are in per-
fect balance. It's in a state of “homeostasis.” If you hooked the brain up
to an MRI scanner and you looked at the amygdala inside of it, which is
the emotional center, when it's not flashing, it is in a state of homeostasis.
When it is flashing, whether from pleasure or pain, then it's no longer in a
state of homeostasis and it's driving a lot of other things in your body.
So what I use as a definition of happiness and well-being is more of
state of homeostasis, as opposed to a state of joy or pleasure. And this
state can be fostered by reading things like status updates; it makes your
emotions feel calmer because you feel connected. That's what I'm trying
to drive with all the gaming systems that we build now.
It's boring for humans to exist in a state of homeostasis all the time, so
I'm not suggesting we be perfectly balanced all the time. We actually have
to go through the ups and downs in order to feel alive at all. But most of
the time, you want to be right in the middle. We design the reward mech-
anisms in our social gaming systems to lead them towards homeostasis by
taking them through the highs of rewards and engagement, and along the
way they'll be building the infrastructure around them that will be their
permanent tribe, permanent friends list, filled with the people they like to
play with. We'll be building that list and setting up the systems that will
allow a lot of information to be flowing between you and the people on
the list that make you feel like you're constantly connected to your tribe,
no matter where they are or what they're doing, so we can keep your
state of homeostasis and well being as stable as possible, every minute of
every day for the rest of your life.
Q: Why are games so important to the success of social networks?
A: Facebook was able to beat MySpace because of the second priority of
human beings. MySpace built a social platform that allowed people to