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Braid's Blow On World Of Warcraft Vs. Tetris

As part of an in-depth Gamasutra interview, Braid creator Jon Blow has been discussing the concept of "natural rewards versus artificial rewards" in games,

September 12, 2008

4 Min Read

Author: by Simon Parkin, Staff

As part of an in-depth Gamasutra interview, Braid creator Jon Blow has been discussing the concept of "natural rewards versus artificial rewards" in games, suggesting that Tetris falls on the former and WoW falls on the latter of those sides. Blow, who is a former Game Developer magazine columnist and created acclaimed XBLA title Braid (pictured), explained of his idea: "What I feel is that there's some very fuzzy line somewhere, where if you're on one side of the line, players are playing your game because of the natural rewards, because they enjoy playing the game's core mechanics. Tetris is like that. It maybe feels a little addictive, and we feel a little wary of having that addiction, but it's innocent in certain ways. Tetris had little cutscenes in it. It had the little dancing Russian guys in the arcade version. But I think that was maybe more to provide a break so that you don't fucking die from all the intensity of dealing with this. But for the most part, when you're playing Tetris, you're enjoying it because you enjoy fitting the blocks together." However, the designer contrasted, referencing the world's most popular MMO title: "Whereas when you play World of Warcraft -- and what I'm about to say is a generalization, since different players enjoy different things, obviously -- a lot of the appeal of playing World of Warcraft is not in the core gameplay mechanic, because it's boring, a lot of the time. Sometimes when you're on a really good raid with a team and you're getting teamwork going and that's a close call, that can be exciting, but if you graph out what players are doing over the average 12-hour play session or whatever... That's obviously hyperbole, but if you're looking at what activities they're actually performing, there's not that much good gameplay in there. I think what keeps them in there is, at first, the level ding, because it's very addictive to get that. "Okay, I've got more gold. Whatever." And eventually, they've made this huge time investment and they've got a character there and they know what that level ding feels like and the next one is pretty far off, but they can get there! And it's not any better, because this is like number 67. It's got to be better than 66!" Blow concluded his discussion on the subject with a little more analysis about why exactly people play MMO titles such as World Of Warcraft, arguing: "There's many different reasons that people play these games, though. One of the things people have said to me after lectures is, "Well, I play World of Warcraft for the social element," which I think is a little bit true, but again, I think it's magnitude. They're playing World of Warcraft, and aren't on IRC or a forum or talking to people in real life. Social interaction in real life is way better. If you look at how long it takes to communicate to people in World of Warcraft, and the depth and subtlety of the ideas you can get through may be a little bit better on a headset... often it's just typing, but even on a headset, it's not good communication like you have with a person in real life. If what they really cared about was rich, social interaction, they would be out there in the real world. What it's really about is that the social aspect is something that they value in the context of this game, but it's really the game. In fact, what they've said is, "Oh, I like having social interactions when I can go out and kill some monsters with people." I think that's true, but you just look at the whole of it and how diluted all these things are -- how diluted the gameplay and social interactions and all that are -- and it just doesn't make it worth it, I think. It's on the wrong side of the line." Blow's comments came as part of a larger Gamasutra interview, discussing the mechanics and design concepts behind his popular Xbox Live Arcade platform title.

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