Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
In games, designers can prime players to indirectly influence their
future behavior.
Priming starts before play even begins. The title of the game, the pic-
ture on the cover, and others' opinions about the game are the first prim-
ing factors. And during play, players are constantly being primed with
different ideas. They see a doctor, and they're primed for healing. They see
people conversing, and they're primed for interaction. They see a skeleton,
and they're primed for death. Every impression affects the choices players
make for a few minutes afterward.
Imagine a situation in a shooter where the player is going to meet
with an informant. If the game is nothing but combat up to that point,
many players will shoot the informant on sight because they're primed
for violence. To prevent this, the designers could give direct instructions
not to shoot, or simply disallow shooting, but both of these solutions are
clunky and inelegant. It's better to just prime the player with nonviolence.
This can be achieved in many ways. We could have the player character
lower his gun (while keeping it usable). We could let the player observe
other characters in conversation. We could have a companion say, “Let me
do the talking.” Any combination of these will prime the player for social
interaction instead of violence.
Priming is powerful, but it's not magical. It doesn't fabricate motiva-
tion from nothing. All it does is shift preferences between already-available
options. As the experimenters wrote about their oldness priming study, “It
is doubtful, for example, that the participants in Experiment 2 left our
building to go buy condos in Florida.”
soCial imitation
SOCIAL IMITATION is when the player naturally imitates the actions of
The vast majority of any human's knowledge is acquired secondhand. For
example, you probably didn't invent your own method for tying shoes. You
probably know that black widow spiders are poisonous, even though you've
never been poisoned by one. And you know lots of things about gunfights
and space travel even though you probably have little to no experience
with these topics. This reliance on secondhand learning isn't some human
flaw—it's a necessary adaptation. Someone who had to invent all his own
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