Quick Post: Prayer

Prayer

Prayer

Only got a little time today, but here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately — Video games are often fairly up front. They try to tell you a lot about your surroundings, even if there’s no good reason for you to know that information. Like how much health you have — people are rarely in tune enough with their own bodies to know how much punishment they can actually take (and let’s not go in to the unusual precision and application of wounds in gaming). In many games you get a precise count of a great deal of information without any justification as to why you should know.

Now, this is a problem we’re seeing less of today; many new games obfuscate or change particular information and how it’s used, like in the Call of Duty games, players lack health, but have red fringes that appear when they take too much damage all at once to warn them that they’ll die if it keeps up. Not necessarily more realistic, but certainly an interesting change.

The thing I’m thinking about however is that players are used to everything being mathematical; even if there’s random deviation, it’s generally narrow. And we’re used to telling them a great deal, partly because the information would be impossible to parse out inside the game’s systems with a limited ability to test and examine things. But what if we had a game where most systems were obfuscated (like Call of Duty’s health) and the rest was invisible?

Specifically, I’d really like to have a game where players could pray, and then study how players use it. Imagine if you will, prayer in a game like prayer in life — there’s no way to be certain what it’s doing; some will tell you it’s important, some will tell you it’s useless — there’d be no clear information on the mechanics but a lot of talk. Maybe it protects and guides you, giving you a bonus you would otherwise have, like luck. Or maybe it has some unique effect at dealing more damage or resisting status effects.  Maybe doing it after combat would earn you more treasure. Or maybe you even you need to do it to get the right ending at the end of the game?

There’d be no real way to tell. And in fact, it may work for some people and not others. What I’d like to know is, how would players react if the didn’t know what it did? Would they ignore it? Try it sporadically? Test it methodically? Or would we see players praying devoutly and regularly? Would people claim it gave them an edge, even if it didn’t, or that it was worthless, even if it wasn’t?

This begs at an underlying series of questions — how do game mechanics effect the behavior of players, and can we in effect control the behavior of a player with careful application of specific mechanics?

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