Monthly Archives: November 2011

Data and Dating

Yesterday at the Center for Games and Playable Media at UC Santa Cruz we had a speaker, Nic Ducheneaut, come give a talk on social science research in World of Warcraft. I wrote up an overview and will be posting the video and slides soon, but I wanted to zero in on the idea of compatibility and games.

Nic and his team were able to collect a massive amount of data on what gamers were doing, moment to moment, in WoW. They also surveyed a number of players and gave them personality tests. They discovered that you can actually predict fairly well what personality type the player is from reading their in-game actions (along with, it turns out, some demographic characteristics!) So what I want now is for someone to go through the data and look for correlations between personality and group affinity, because I’m curious about whether certain types of personalities that prefer certain play styles get along better with other personalities/play styles.

What you could do with this is help solve the biggest problem of both MMOS and dating sites: matchmaking that actually works! My idea is this: what if you built a dating site that had games on it; and people both played the games and took personality quizzes (a little like OK Cupid, who currently own the dating+data space, but with more actual clinical personality test support). They you start collecting data about which personalities tend to play with which other personalities — and I don’t know if like seeks like or if you can build complementary personality sets or what; and they start building a sophisticated matchmaking algorithm that suggests other players you might enjoy playing with. I would LOVE to build a start up around this idea! Or partner with the OK Cupid guys on this as they seem to really get the playful aspects of dating, and data.

This would, I think, make dating sites both more fun and more effective at helping you find truly compatible friends or potential lovers. Although one piece I don’t know if we can figure out from Nic’s WoW data is whether you can predict the success of a real-life friendship based on an online or in-game friendship. Hm….interesting stuff to think about.

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Romance Novel Challenge: Interactive Fiction

I started by thinking about a traditional Romance novel for my challenge— you know, beginning, middle, wedding, end. But this, after all, is the *digital* romance lab and I grew a bit restless even thinking about how much text 50,000 words is, all strung together in a line like christmas tree lights. So I started looking once again at Inform 7, the streamlined and highly efficient tool for interactive fictions writers, and wondered what it would be like to write, instead of a novel, an IF with 50,000 words (not sure whether that means text displayed or total text written, including the codey bits.) IF uses natural language so it’s great for non-programmers like me, although you still have to think like a programmer (understand logic, order of operations, defining objects, etc.) I’ve played around with it a tiny bit before but my problem is always that I want to do things way beyond my skill level; like wanting to play Chopin while I’m still struggling with Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

My sister and I had talked about working on an IF around the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. We both love that story because it’s one of the few traditional tales that feature female agency and character development: it’s Beauty who has to make the hard choices, it’s Beauty who grows as a character and experiences a true transformation (that the Beast externalizes in his physical transformation.) Beauty is the one with the power to change the world. Beast is her prize. That’s rare. Even in fairy stories that nominally star female characters, the female characters are often just along for the ride — and I’ve always hated that the only reason anything ever happens to them is because they happen, by genetic and cultural accident, to be considered beautiful in their culture. Of course Beauty is (obviously) beautiful too; but at least she is more than that — brave, loyal, thoughtful, and most importantly, able to take action.

Walter Crane, Beauty and the Beast (1874)

But the problem with fairy tales is that you know how they end. How do we subvert the tale in an interesting way and also offer some meaningful choices to the player? I really liked Emily Short’s Alabaster, about Snow White. (Also check out her designer notes about the collaborative authorship aspects of the work — really interesting.) But then Emily is a master pianist and as I mentioned, I’m on Frรจre Jacques.

Well, so far I have succeeded in placing the Manor House north of the Avenue, with the Forest to the east. Wish me luck!

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Nanowrimo Challenge: Write a Romance Novel in a Month

Yesterday I realized that today is November 1st, which means the first day of National Novel Writing Month (although it can totally be practiced internationally as well!) The first or maybe second year of its existence I participated and wrote — although sadly didn’t finish — a novel starring my favorite Roman poet, Catullus. But I haven’t joined since then because frankly, writing is hard and writing 50,000 words in one month seems overwhelming.

But this year I also just finished reading Brian McDonald‘s book on the grammar of drama, Invisible Ink. (You can read the entire book for free at that link, and if you’re interested in storytelling at all I encourage you to check it out. It’s really good.) At the same time, I’m contributing to a game research project at UC Santa Cruz that is aimed at young women aged 18-21 that I decided should use paranormal romance as its theme. All of this is to say, I have decided my Nanowrimo challenge this year is to write 50,0000 words of paranormal romance. Through that I hope to deepen my understanding of the genre, as well as of romance plot development, character interaction, and how to better communicate with an audience — all elements I’m interested in getting games to explore better.

I am debating whether or not to post the dailies here on the site. It would be deeply embarrassing and probably boring for a lot of readers, but it would help keep me on track I think. Perhaps I’ll find another section of the site to do that on.

Here we go!

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