Looking back at my wrapup of 2009, it does seem as though, three months in, we’re in danger of repeating ourselves. After all, we have Activision Blizzard’s Bobby Kotick asserting his particular brand of fear and loathing with one of his most popular studios, and now it seems the talk of GDC 2010 was… Farmville. Specifically, how metrics-driven game design (such as what Farmville uses) will destroy fun as we know it.
"You want to make an intrinsically interesting game," he said of game designers at large. "[When] you add extrinsic motivators to make your game better, if these studies do apply to games, you're destroying intrinsic motivation to play your game."
"The game industry used to use no metrics whatsoever," he continued. "Everything was gut and by the seat of our pants. Then metrics came around, and [now] we're addicted to metrics. If I change a value of my purple hat, fourteen more people buy it, and we think we're totally in the zone."
"But that's totally missing the point," he said. "That can lead you down a bad path. Extrinsic motivators will lead you towards dull tasks, and you're totally [cornering] yourself into designing sh***y games that you have to pay people to play" with reward structures.
And that’s not even the most apocalyptic take. Jesse Schell, Carnegie Mellon professor who gave a widely discussed talk about how gaming-style rewards can be used as motivational tools outside of gaming (for good or ill) said, quite literally: ethical game developers are at war with Farmville.
"The 21st century will be a war of attention," Schell said. "We have to choose sides." The world can either be controlled by the designers who only want to make money -- the "persuaders," as Schell labeled them -- or these games can be controlled by the humanitarians, and the artists, and the fulfillers. The persuaders can be beaten, Schell said, but only "if we wake the hell up."
"The war is already here," Schell pleaded. "You're fighting in it right now."
Good wrapup of not just GDC, but the overall state of gaming circa 2010. You should probably read the whole piece by Raph Koster he links to as well.