computer games design games design

Bartle explains himself

Richard has often been accused of being “arrogant”, “insane”, and even, simply, “wrong” for his comments along the lines of:

  1. He hasn’t “played” an MMO in decades (possibly “ever”) … because he can’t stop himself from interpreting as he uses them
  2. Surprisingly many MMOs are just WoW by another name
  3. He only needs to play the first few levels of a new MMO to see if it’s really new; he needn’t bother with the rest of it

He’s explained before, in abstract terms, why this is all true *to him*, and pretty much left people to stew if they don’t understand that (while always actively engaging them in conversation to try and explain further).

Now he’s blogged a concrete example of what goes through his head when playing a particular quest-chain / zone: WoW’s STV. If you’ve ever wondered, and/or been confused/horrified/dismayed/insulted by Richard’s statements online and haven’t had the chance to speak to him about it all in person, then I’d highly recommend reading it. I suspect that this concrete analysis will elucidate to a lot more people most of the meaning that the abstract explanations failed to convey. Well, we’ll see…

1 reply on “Bartle explains himself”

It’s certainly illuminating in regards to understanding how Bartle thinks, but I don’t think it necessarily lends any additional credence to his claims. Because it’s mostly just imposing his own cracked narrative on happenstance.

Recall the work that’s gone into setting this up, too: the deliberate starvation in the preceding zone, the context (“jungle” just screams “big game”), the stoking of anticipation, the provision of motive — by the time the players see those yellow !s, they’re chomping at the bit. It’s payback time! But if they thought about what was going on for a moment, they’d see that their own situation is analogous to that of their targets. That irony is just so sweet to the taste — oh wow, is it good! I’m glowing with admiration again just typing this.

So he understands/assumes that there’s some kind of subtle interplay of gameplay elements intentionally designed to produce this glowing symphony of something or other (presumably designed specifically for him, because nobody else is experiencing the orgasm).


I don’t know how much the lead designer for this zone was aware of what was being articulated through it — I’d love to ask, but contrary to what many players seem to think I can’t just phone Blizzard and say I want a chat. In one sense, it doesn’t matter: the aim of artists is to express themselves — it’s the job of others to interpret what has been expressed.

so maybe the subtle crescendo that only he sees wasn’t even designed, it just sort of happened.

In other words, he’s talking to himself through a game. That is of literally no use to anyone else.

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