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Feature: 'Design Language: Design by Darwin'

In this feature, veteran game designer Noah Falstein (Sinistar, Koroni's Rift) commemorates Charles Darwin's birthday with an insightful look at how Darwi
In this feature, veteran game designer Noah Falstein (Sinistar, Koroni's Rift) commemorates Charles Darwin's birthday with an insightful look at how Darwin's evolutionary ideas have influenced game design. Falstein notes that Darwin's evolution theory of natural selection can be seen not only in obvious games like Spore or Illusion of Gaia for the SNES, but also in traditional role-playing games: "Often these games don't follow the literal understanding of how evolution works in the real world, since it is a basic game design principle to adapt reality and make it more fun. For instance, I believe there is a good case for the argument that the process of leveling up in role-playing games owes a lot of its popularity and acceptance to people instinctively feeling it is related to the way the real world works in an abstract sense. Admittedly, the evolution of a horseshoe crab's shell to protect it against predators is a big step from gaining enough strength points to be able to carry plate armor in a standard fantasy RPG, but the parallels are there." The Sinistar designer also argues that the use of "lives" in games key into players' more basic survival instincts to get them to care about the decisions they make in their games: "In fact, an MMORPG like World of Warcraft is just full of elements that would have been familiar to and crucial to survival of our primate ancestors. Elements like life and death struggle, tribal allegiances, division of labor among specialties so your group or tribe can flourish, and wilds to explore filled with dangerous creatures are all things we have been hard-wired by evolution to care about deeply. This sort of understanding of human evolution also helps explain the fascination that children have with animals. For all of human history, learning about which animals can harm us and which ones are friendly or useful is a major survival trait, and it's no surprise that children have evolved to care about those questions. The ones who didn't have the predisposition to learn were probably often eaten before having their own children. But it may be surprising to realize that this is a large factor in the commercial success of games such as Pokémon." You can read the full postmortem, which shares more examples of how Charles Darwin's evolutionary ideas have influenced game design and how players categorize games (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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