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August 15, 2008



Hmm. The happiness question is more interesting. (It also relates quite closely to what Jane McGonigal was saying at GDC, I think, about wanting to use games to change the world).

I'm not sure there's a game out there that would track what appears to be one of the most important criteria for happiness - accurately being able to set goals that correspond with end states that a) are feasible and b) would make you happier. How would one design that, I wonder?

Other predictors for happiness - several commentators (notably Jonathan Haidt in "Happiness Hypothesis") have pointed out that humans seem to have a more-or-less fixed "happiness set point", which they will tend to return to regardless of circumstances. Again, I'm not sure there's a game which would accurately measure that set point. Oddly, you'd have to simply measure current happiness levels over a period of time in order to get an accurate reading. No idea how to build that into a game, though.

Enrique Saul Gonzalez

The "goal conditions" for happiness vary wildly from person to person. For some it is raising a healthy family. For others it is cultivating solid friendships. For yet others it is a rewarding professional career. And of course many more examples exist.
Since all these goals require completely different skills, it is impossible to have a game that "points the way" to universal happiness. At least not if we can't agree on a set of conditions that grant happiness to everyone.


While trying to prove that good at chess = bad at life, IMHO, you would prove the opposite.

I think that because good at chess = good at IQ = successful

It can be statistically proven combining chess games results with IQ tests results and with the income (there are some studies saying that IQ is well correlated with income, but you seem to like better the ones with the opposite result).

To answer your questions, we could map the results of any game with the income (success) to see which game is best to predict success at life.

IMO, IQ tests are already little games giving quickly the answer to success at life (admitedly with a large error percentage).

If you can provide an empirical definition of happiness, we could also determine if intelligence (or success at chess for instance) is well suited for happiness.

Best regards.


Life is a non-deterministic finite state machine. I don't know of any games that are like that.

That's kind of the inverse of what you asked for, but it's also an interesting turn, I think.

Also, CDriK, you're trying to apply statistics to the problem, and I think that's cheating in a thought experiment. :)


I'd probably not put any MMO that I can think of offhand on that first list. Real life is a delicate balance with one side being an equal playing field for all, and the other a complex mix of class and social hierarchy. So, I got no clue how that one would work.

And I wouldn't be so quick to say 'high IQ' == success. I've often heard it tossed around that smart people are more likely to face depression and even commit suicide, though I definitely don't have any numbers to back that up off hand. (I suppose I could check The Wiki...)

But the bonus question? Happiness? Easily Tetris (for me.) Tetris is my meditation. I begin slowly with intent to reach an enlightened state. Before I know it, I'm in a mad dash and nothing else matters but the moment I'm in. With my cognitive and reactionary abilities focused tightly and 'just' above those required of me, I guide a steady flow of challenges with a mental dance. The feeling is like I can't be overcome in that moment... That's me in my state of Zen.

Nick Doran

A friend of mine has a PhD in Organizational Psychology (or something like that), and he was taught that the best predictor of how someone will perform at a job (ANY job) is intelligence. All things being equal, the more intelligent person will even dig better ditches. In my experience, being slightly above average in intelligence, and giving a shit will go a long way.

Christian Mogensen

Check out the difference between Finite and Infinite Games - by James Carse

Finite games have are closed - they have set rules, with winners, losers, and a defined end state. e.g Chess, Poker.

Infinte games are open - the rules are part of the game, the point of the game is to keep playing. e.g Life, Career.

Happiness could be expressed by a willingness to continue participating in the game. WoW's renewal rate can be read as an expresison of the number of happy WoW players.


I'd echo what people are saying about the openness/ nondeterministicness of life not being possible to really capture in games...

but there is also another bit, I think success in life, no matter what your metric is, is about managing and taking and handling risks of all kinds. life risks are so much greater and deeper and categorically different from risks that can be taken in games.

On the other hand, the minirisks and challenges that confront players in games could be used as a metaphor (and can even be successfully transferred into real life action) for the similar degree of success in real life. Even though the game might do a horrible job at training one specifically for the skill needed to be successful (at whatever), it at least primes the mind on an emotional level of the pattern of attempt, failure, preserverence, and finally success.

In which case I would say one's game playing habits in general could very closely mirror their life success- however they define it.


"If you want to train for a 100m race then running is the best practice for it - NOT jogging" (para-phrased from Bruce Lee's book Tao of JKD). This however is a bit of a cyclic reasoning in this case. Since all games are simulations of a sort, best would be to to simulate a game called shall we say "LIFE"... :-) with options to observe and learn the different styles/approaches to a situation. This is getting purely into behavioural psychology however so you'd have IQ-based, EQ-based approaches and so forth. Which by the way brings us back to the way people handle things in the real world!! The difference would be that you could learn the different approaches as you go.

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