Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Q&A: r/K and design

RM wonders if games are becoming more targeted to the r/selected:
Would it be correct to say videogames from the last 10+ years are generally targeted at an r-selected audience?

The first time I noticed a change in videogame mechanic and map design was when I went from playing the multiplayer mode for Modern Warfare 1 (released in 2007) to playing the multiplayer mode for Modern Warfare 2 (released in 2009).

In Modern Warfare 1, the generally larger maps meant more open spaces and sections of the map off the beaten path. The maps were large enough to sneak past the enemy team or attempt flanking maneuvers, even with two teams of 24 players. This map design discouraged running around like a headless chicken, because the snipers on the other team would take you out in seconds if you played that way, and it wasn't fun to spend all your game time doing the same 30 second run from your team's spawn. The game encouraged more investment in each life and a longer time preference. The maps in Modern Warfare 1 encouraged cooperation and thoughtfulness.

In Modern Warfare 2, the generally smaller maps had fewer open spaces and sections of the map off the beaten path. Most maps were crowded with two teams of 9 players, and the maps had pretty direct routes that funneled the teams toward each other. This map design encouraged running around like a headless chicken, because most of the battles were fought inside the 10-yard range. If you used your explosives and took a spray-and-pray approach, you'd probably take somebody out before you died yourself. When you did die, you'd respawn with a full loadout, usually close to the action. Modern Warfare 2's maps discouraged cooperation and thoughtfulness.

I'm interested to know if you think r/K selection applies to videogame design and the games' intended players.
Yes, this is almost certainly true in the broader sense. It is probably not a conscious design decision made by someone conversant with selection theory, it's probably just an attempt to make things more "accessible" and "appealing to the casual player" that reflects the larger cultural shift towards the r/selected population. But the essential effect is the same; one could even build a mathematical model demonstrating this by comparing the average number of player-lives lost in a similar time period in one game versus the other.

In the game that appeals to the r/selected, the number of lives would be higher, the average in-game lifespan would be shorter, and there would be less benefit to being patient and exhibiting longer time preferences.


  1. The question is then, were the original shooter games; Doom, Quake, UT, Duke Nukem, all some sort of aberration? Coming before MW, yet with massively exaggerated "twitch, shoot, die, respawn" mechanics. Compare this to the modern MMO style games that demand hundreds of hours of patient, methodical gameplay with specific goals in mind over the course of weeks and months IRL.

    1. Spoken like somebody who never saw actual high-level duel(where everybody knows how to shoot well) in Quake. It is literally shooter chess with dozens of variables to keep in mind while comnstantly trying to outsmart the opponent doing the same.

      For the same reasons, arena shooter genre is more or less dead for nearly 15 years now.

  2. More likely, players were complaining that they didn't know where the enemy was and it made it boring. Take a look at e.g. Metal Gear Online. half the game is searching for an enemy that has invisibility and a mechanic built around sneaking. It's not fun at all. Contrast that with the other extreme: Titanfall 2 which is all about getting up in each other's faces and moving as fast as possible. It's a much more enjoyable experience.

    Modern Warfare 1 would probably be a much better experience if you had hundreds of players on each side like an actual battle. 24 man teams don't make for epic battles.

  3. Now I see why I never liked that sort of games but my more r selected friends do