Excited Anticipation

There is a notion about the Permanent Income Hypothesis. It states that people smooth their consumption so as to maximise their lifetime utility; as opposed to current period utility. I was wondering to myself: perhaps that is also the story of excited anticipation.

I have always been wary of excitement. It seemed to me to be writing a cheque that you couldn’t be sure you could cash-in. It might be, funnily enough, my surface pessimism and lack of excitement that has me realising this metaphor; looking for an explanation of the awful behaviour of my peers. Of course, with the right assumptions, a person who has many dashed ideas is maximising lifetime utility  by lacking hope – a self-fulfilling prophecy?

My reasons for writing this post was simply to celebrate my epiphany; connecting two areas that I hadn’t viewed as connected before. But, what light does it shed on area such as the computer game experience.

Warnings dull the pain of negative outcomes. An obvious statement, but one that that doesn’t use the standard reasoning. Rather than it making the game fairer, it instead has the player pay in advance for their suffering. This means that false warnings are rather bad, but also means that good things that come before the warned advice can be felt after the advanced warnings. For example, if you begin with super-duper weapons, and armour, and all that jazz, you will feel some pain in anticipation of losing it, before you’ve even used it.

If people remember the highs, or if people spread the word of mouth based on the highs, then your desire for it to be remembered and talked about is at conflict with the player. The player want to be able to anticipate and spread his high utility around, while to developer wants it to be a fantastic shock. Of course, if recommendation are given on general quality that is not so. Which case is true is not one of human nature, but about what the systems of communication in place are.

If players act slow and steady in response to a negative warning then we would call that cautious. However, my hypothesis suggests that they will also react slow and steady before getting an upgrade – in order to savour it. It also gives a similar reason for why people actually act slow to inevitable negatives. These predictions offer many lessons and warnings for level design – especially if a player is acting slow because they’ve got to something good, that would likely be a poor time to take them away from it.

I expect there are many other things one could say about this one observation, but those are three good points. I expect there are more possible ideas of player psyche that could be useful, but hopefully the post has included stuff you can put into the attic of your mind when you need it.

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