Friday, September 6, 2013

Musings on Maslow Scale of Needs and Games

During a concept phase last year I mused over the Maslow scale of needs and how we might use it in our game. I just found the monologue in my notes and thought it might be an informative read for folks interested in our design process.

What if the game is about climbing up Maslow’s scale of needs? We provide opportunities to learn and master all levels, from the ground up.

There is not much to write I guess. Fill the page with writing. About what? About everything. About myself. What about me? I have kind of given up thinking about myself. I guess you only think about the problems you have, and when the problems involve yourself, or the things you see wrong in you, then that’s where you spend your thinking time.

A computer game isn’t much about thinking I guess. Well, maybe if you have to figure something out, a problem, a puzzle. What I’m missing is a certain intimacy, a personal relationship with the problem. How can I relate that to a stranger?

My best bet has always been to just focus on the stuff that matters to me, talk about my issues, and then rely on the fact that we are not so different as a species. That on the bottom, we all have similar aspirations. The only thing you can not do is be confusing - unless confusion is your topic.

But now we as a society are in a crisis. We see our personal wealth at stake. What suggestion do I have? To do a leap of faith, or rather: a marathon of faith. A caravan of faith. To get through a hostile desert with the reserves you have brought with you.

I’m trying to avoid destruction and death in my game. As if those factors did not exist. Well they haven’t played a big part in my life yet. I guess I would be telling different stories if I have had a rougher life. But what would I relate? You move on.

Despite many claiming the contrary, a game is highly pedagogical. It teaches. It is zen, too. But when we are selling something, I guess we are also working for evoking pleasure. What is pleasurable to me?

I guess the mirror question is: what is not pleasurable? Hunger. Thirst. Pleasurable is satisfying hunger, quenching thirst. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (look at next page). You need to breathe - asphyxiation is not pleasurable. Reproduction - I guess the game can’t help here (or can it?). Sleeping - you need to sleep, to dream. Homeostasis: temperatures should be not too hot, not too cold. Excretion: not being able to take a dump sure is inconvenient.

Minecraft covers a few of those, but not all of them. I guess most people think physiological needs are annoying; or you’re taking care of those in your real life, so now you’d have to take care double - I guess you want a game to satisfy needs that you are not able to satisfy any other way. So what about the next level?

Safety. Now we’re entering game territory, because all these needs are perfectly covered in real life. The human body still has thirst for action, I guess because it doesn’t pay off to be lethargic. One still has to be aware and prepared, as much as possible. Security of body: armor, privacy. Employment: interesting - not having anything to do, a stable income is not a problem if you are able to be self-reliant - I guess there is no need for employment.
Well, to be of service, I would call it that. To be needed by others. Hero quests are like that. Circumstances require someone who improves a place, and so it’s a job, even if only for a limited time. Resources: you need to be able to accumulate for worse times. To know that you’ll soon have nothing sucks. You naturally accumulate. When it’s too much, it’s hoarding. To protect your family: yeah. Definitely something that all games lack. You’re rarely getting someone to defend or feed. I thought that Minecraft would be a lot better if you could help the villagers there. Health. You don’t want to get sick. And when you’re sick, it’s terrible - so, you want to be sane. You have a need to be sane. Insanity or sickness is a problem - especially when it’s in the way of another need. We could explore that.

Property. I guess they mean shelter - and security of shelter. To know that this shelter is yours, that you own a place, and nobody can take it from you. Man, even we don’t have that. Our home is rented. It could be taken from us as soon as we run out of money. That thought sucks.

Well at least we own everything inside. Credit is bad, when it means that you don’t own anything unless it’s paid. You’re renting your property. You wouldn’t want to have this for long - we could have this in the game: rentable vs. buyable stuff. Make the difference clear.

People have trouble dealing with credit. A game would be a great place to teach someone about the issue of credit. Why can you always only spend what you have? That doesn’t reflect the real world, a world that happens to be eager to enslave you. I don’t think bankers are evil people. They’re just unable to give presents without expecting anything in return. I guess if they would just give their stuff away, it would work better for all of us. ;-)

Then there’s the level of love/belonging. Something games are continuously bad at. Well, not entirely, because we have multiplayer - people can be friends online this way, be companions, have adventures together. I guess on a remote level, family and intimacy suck... I could try putting my wife and I in the same game. Then we could see what needs evoke out of that.

I don’t know. I think this is a single player game, and you’re interacting with a mechanical universe. But I guess it would be more pleasurable to show your inventions to others.

We arrive at the next level: Esteem. In a very nice purple. The need to respect yourself. That was a problem for me, and still is. I think it’s only possible when others respect you and say great things about you. But then again, only out of self respect, you can do great things. You must be able to believe that you can be great; without an AI giving you false credit.

Confidence. To be sure of your abilities. You wouldn’t dabble around in fields you know nothing about - very difficult to bridge a player over to a new ability without ever feeling in-confident. Maybe we should play with that. Achievement - very important. The need to create something that lasts. Also kind of dangerous, because the lasting thing could be terrible. So - confidence is required. Respect by others - that’s a reiteration of “self-esteem”; I think the two are entangled. At least for my wife and me. Respect OF others: indeed, I need to be surrounded by people I respect and honor. You rarely enjoy being with lowly or evil people.

I guess other characters in a game are important. We can’t get around other characters.

Last level: Self-actualization. I guess that’s my deal. Morality: to be an exemplary character - Molyneux dealt with this. You can do good or evil - mainly demonstrating to you, quite pedagogical, that it feels great to be good, and terrible to be evil - including a stigmatization by others, because you have done evil things in a _game_, a game that effectively allows you to do evil - but is not seen as an evil game. Masterful!

Creativity. The urge to make and create. Minecraft has this big time. Lego had this. Any kind of art is a “game” in this sense. Spontaneity: the need to break out of usual habits, to fight boredom. I guess I have a high urge to be spontaneous and creative at the same time. Problem solving. Yeah yeah, right right. Key element. Lack of prejudice: seeing things for what they are, not as a cliché of some sorts - that works only by closer learning, and by experience. Acceptance of facts: the need to accept inconvenient truths - by which I mean empirically sound truth like “you’re going to die” - not nonsense like “you are talentless”. :-) Also a way of problem solving.

I guess only when all these needs are satisfied, you will have a need for self-transcendence, where you leave a stale image of yourself behind. Is that possible? I think yes.

A world in which you act, the world changes, and then you can look back on your actions and judge yourself, laugh about your past mistakes. -- does that make sense? Record the player on his first run and on his last - so he can watch both, compare and look back on his own actions.

I guess that's all I can think for now.