Weekly Learning: The Gaming Edition

A Game That Plays People

A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon is a mind-blowing dissection of the notorious QAnon phenomenon.

At the core is the idea of “apophenia”:

Apophenia is : “the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)”

And what happens in the QAnon world is exactly what happens elsewhere, while maybe especially on social media:

It’s like a Darwinian fiction lab, where the best stories and the most engaging and satisfying misinterpretations rise to the top and are then elaborated upon for the next version.

The insight from a game design perspective is deeply resonant:

A game helps the people who play build an internal world that best serves them. Q helps players develop an internal world that best serves Q’s initiatives.

And the tactics are extremely effective and erosive, not because of science, but of feeling:

It’s not that strange actually. In fact, the difference between apophenia and science is just the scientific process and the reliance on proof. People make the connection before they know for a fact if it’s real or not. Maybe it is apophenia, maybe not. It’s a hypothesis. THEN YOU TEST IT. The facts determine the outcome and then, whether it feels good or not, you accept them. Even scientists may not want to let go of a good theory that just isn’t panning out. The feeling of correctness is over-powering. This is why people need to have peer-reviews. Colleagues need to be able to replicate results. Solutions need to be tested and the facts harnessed.

And reinforcing the feeling is the weapon:

In Q, the proof is more apophenia! […] It has to because there is no truth. The answer is whatever feels the best, makes the most sense, and helps the story. Any truth is just fuel for the propaganda and reinforces the conclusions of the apophenia and central narrative.

Do yourself a big favour by reading thoroughly this brilliant article. You’re welcome.

Spammy by Design

YouTube’s Spammy Sex Bots Make a Ton of Money tells yet another fascinating story of elaborate design prompted by inappropriately placed incentives.

I’m not going to spoil the fun of the story, but one thing worth emphasizing:

My only remaining question is why YouTube continues to allow this.

My guess? They’re profiting. While it’s annoying for me, the end user, to receive these spammy comments on my video, the end goal for both the owner of those spam accounts and YouTube is the same: ad revenue.

The author also offers a video explanation, by the way.

NFT Art 101

This absolutely hilarious Twitter thread also doubles as an NFT Art 101.

If you don’t quite know what NFT is about, there you go.

The damning conclusion:

NFT art as it is right now is just a new way for rich people to again speculate on rare lottery winner artists’ work and flaunt their wealth while reifying scarcity as the core quality of art. Except with a bunch of new stupid wrinkles and needless overhead.

NFT as a pure concept for selling unique ownership of losslessly duplicable binary data is only solving a problem if the problem is “I want to create scarcity so that I can exploit that scarcity for money.” Which is artists trying to get paid, which, I feel you! But, look:

That market scarcity has never been to art or artists’ benefit. It’s something the art MARKET loves, because it’s what the art market is, but NFT as a new way to fight over the scraps is just trying to arbitrage the sick system, not a way to break out of it. It’s not good.

Look, you don’t have to agree with the opinion, but it sure will provoke your thoughts.

The Art of Game Making

Amazon Wants to ‘Win at Games.’ So Why Hasn’t It? is a brilliant portrait of Amazon’s (mis)adventure in the video game industry.

Success or not, we have to admire Amazon’s unrelenting aim at the long term, which is propagated by a unique leadership culture.

Maybe some things can indeed be made in a heartless way, and some others just can’t be made in a loveless way:

…the strange alchemy required to make that rarest of things—a title that earns not only billions of dollars but also the allegiance of millions of discerning players. As one former Amazon employee told me, “There is some magic in making games. It’s not a science. No matter how big your pockets are, unless you’re building games because you want to build games, you’re not going to have success.”

How Not to Change Anyone’s Mind

Get a glimpse of what you could learn from Adam Grant’s worthy book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, by reading this article.

I really love the takeaway:

It’s worth remembering that the means are a measure of our character. If we succeed in opening minds, the question is not only whether we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. We should also ask whether we’re proud of how we’ve achieved it.

I no longer believe it’s my place to change anyone’s mind. All I can do is try to understand their thinking and ask if they’re open to some rethinking. The rest is up to them.

Guess how rare that is in organizational leadership.

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