Will Wright on interconnectedness

From a Will Wright interview on gamestudies.org in which he talks about his design philosophies and what he’s learnt from building his various Sim-Everythings:

“At some level I want people to have a deep appreciation for how connected things are at all these different scales, not just through space, but through time. And in doing so I had to build kind of a simple little toy universe and say, here, play with this toy for a while.

My expectations when I hand somebody that toy are that they are going to make their own mental model, which isn’t exactly what I’m presenting them with. But whatever it is, their mental model of the world around them, and above them and below them, will expand.

Hopefully, probably in some unpredictable way, and for me that’s fine. And I don’t want to stamp the same mental model on every player. I’d rather think of this as a catalyst.

You know, it’s a catalytic tool for growing your mental model, and I have no idea which direction it’s going to grow it, but I think just kind of sparking that change is worthwhile unto itself.”

This is exactly where my head is right now. Don’t Make Me Think = Don’t Let Me Play. There are a set of emerging technologies and applications which demand that play be part of their existence. That how the individual flows through the experience is not determined by rigid persona-driven design, but by the feedback loops of both their ongoing behaviour within the system and the socially-generated structure created by their peers within the system. They demand that we construct our own understanding: play with the system in order to understand it and extend their understanding of whatever the digital experience is simulating or augmenting in the real world.

Winnowing down tasks to those that a user can follow on trammels, making language and location unambiguous, communication clear and concise – and all the other good stuff we practice every day when making online experiences have their place for the majority of applications, but not for social-software.

Designing the topography for play, the landscape to enable all these possible flows, all these possible experiences; and making it sustainable, enjoyable and viable to build is something that needs attention in the theory and practice of user-experience design. Maybe those in e-learning field as well as the games industry have much for me to learn from?

I’m slap-bang in the middle of this right now – Just started with a team trying to create a very complex suite of ‘social software’ that supports all sorts of complex experiences. I’ll try and report back on the failures and sucesses of designing in this domain as often as I can.

But while I’m at the beginning, does anyone have any wisdom to share?

  1. Er , sort of tangential but…

    I think you’d like “Don’t make me think” if you read it. It’s not about inducing a mass apathy. It’s about about getting rid of design barriers that stop people understanding and doing (thinking and playing, etc). It’s in no way contrary to the stuff you’re talking about – it sits alongside.

    So go read the book. Betch’a pint you’ll like it.

  2. victor said:

    yeah, what celia said.

    and…persona-driven design doesn’t have to equal predictable products, unless the personas are boring themselves. why not build into the persona what surprises them, what makes them giggle, what ideas and images floor them?

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