The modern gaming landscape is defined by choice, or at least the illusion of choice. Even though some games do gymnastics to make it seem like it isn’t so, all of this choice is binary. Crucially, this choice is something the player is always explicitly aware of and as such may not take into account how they are really feeling or would really act in that situation. They are usually given infinite time to consider their options and what the consequences may be. This is something that Paddy wrote about a few weeks ago and I recommend that you read through that article before this one, because it couches perfectly the incredibly interesting work being done by 2paperdolls.
I met with Andrea Ravenet and Paddy Murphy of 2paperdolls to chat about the possibilities offered by the technology driving the Twitter discovery game Mind of Man, a game that could drastically change the notion of choice in games. As Andrea puts it “the world far too engaging and exciting to be limited to thumbs up or thumbs down. If you can step beyond polarity you have a richness of emotion and data behind an experience that you can then use.”
At the moment, the way 2paperdolls will do this is through interaction with a users twitter account. Combing through data that can influence a game through people’s subconscious actions, as Andrea says “no division between your personality online and the game experience.” Currently the game simply tells you about who you are online but the applications are obvious. Games driven by unconscious decisions driven by who you actually are, not the gameplay benefits or how you like to think of yourself.
She confronts the core issue that some people might want disaffection or not want to learn difficult truths, but swats it away curtly by saying that the notion is “so last decade! A core value people now have is just shoot straight with me, don’t keep me in the dark!”
Paddy says that testing of the technology has already revealed that “younger people seem so less concerned with sharing things and being open to the entire world” – before Andrea adds that “a whole generation of people have been raised not believing in politicians and what they are being told.” Once one hears these statements and gets a look a the playfully Orwellian imagery used on the Mind of Man site, you get the distinct impression that 2PaperDolls think people will get a rush from the subversive thrill and perhaps risk that comes with learning things about oneself.
So, the concept is undeniably an interesting one and has obvious applications to both gaming and other technological spheres, but what about the Mind of Man? The place where the technology is already growing. Andrea explains it thusly: “If you are on twitter you are already on the Mind of Man. Who you are on twitter is being unveiled to you. Did you know that this is where you lie when it comes to one issue or another? It will even show you your evil twin or a celebrity that is like you. You can unveil the information that is already there but there are real world rewards.”
These rewards will be based on cards you obtain by playing the Mind of Man. For instance I earned a card that noted that I tweeted frequently but other players may find that they are Saints or Sinners. Andrea gives the example that these particular cards could entitle someone to freebies at a café or bar. Crucially, to unlock these cards you must earn points and to earn points you essentially do task for the Mind of Man and in turn do data-gathering for the program. This will ultimately strengthen the system and make it more accurate and powerful.
The 2paperdoll’s team was eager to impress upon me the importance that the “Mindprint” has to Mind of Man. It is a unique online identification system that is currently indecipherable to people outside of 2paperdolls, although the decryption method will be made available. Paddy describes the Mindprint as an “online fingerprint. You can condense someone’s online identity into something completely unique”, adding that his experience with the Mindprint allows him to “read people and know how they are feeling. I can tell if someone is happy or a little bit spiky!”
Though putting your personality out into the world could strike some as being the antithesis of privacy, Andrea explains it as being simultaneously open and more private than other online profile images or avatars. “(Mindprint) Is really a different kind of avatar, a greater reflection of who you are. It also does privacy. You are looking at something that is a unique representation of me that I can throw out there that is not an actual photo of yourself.”
One of the real questions I had about the technology was if it would be seen as robbing the player of choice, in one way by essentially doing things without their permission. Paddy cited the example of the recent Walking Dead game published by Telltale Games. He said that a player could “play through a game once making your own choices in the usual way and then through with pre-determined choices based on your personal data from Mind of Man.” If you think of Mass Effect 3′s RPG and action modes then you can see that this isn’t a far-fetched proposition.
It is hard not to disagree with this assessment considering how conditioned many of us already are with the idea of playing through games to see all the content. I would certainly be more interested in narrative rewards for playing through something twice rather than an additional weapon or character skin.
Paddy left me with the tantalising prospect of technology such as MOM applied into the real world. He posed a hypothetical situation in which “you get into your car and it says ‘you like your seat like this and this station on.’ The future is having the things you like and having them prepped for you.”
The game is also an addictive thing and though has much in common with other social-media based games has a far more rewarding outcome. I found that my tweets portray me as a genial and friendly person. Considering that I’ve been making an effort to appear nicer on twitter over the past several months it is eerily accurate. In my brief time with the game I feverishly hunted for points in an effort to reach my next landmark and find out that other part of information. The formula certainly works, it just remains to be seen whether it gets that crucial break that propels this kind of social game into the stratosphere.
The game won’t see an official release until June when everything about the project will be revealed. However, you can experience what Mind of Man is all about by downloading the app from the Apple App store or pointing your browser to the MoM website.