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Tutorials: Learning To Play
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Tutorials: Learning To Play

October 6, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Modeling Acquisition

Modeling acquisition players, on the other hand, want to know how something works before they try it. They need to know and understand the risks and ramifications before making the attempt. To do this, modelers want to imitate or "model" their behavior on something or someone they can observe. They want to see what happens when the required activity is done right and they want to see what happens when the required activity is done wrong. Modelers then want to try the activity to ensure they get the same results with the same actions.

Now, let's go back to that arcade. While our first 12 year old is hitting all the buttons on the arcade machine, what is her friend, the modeling learner, doing? He's likely standing and watching. Why? Because he wants to figure out how it works before he tries to play it.

Unfortunately the attract loop on most arcade machines is not designed to "teach" anyone how to play. It is designed to attract players with lots of bright lights and fast movement.

So our modeling acquisition player will move from machine to machine, trying to find one he can figure out before dropping in a token. In the end, the modeling acquisition player may simply walk out with their money still in their pocket.

It is important to understand that modeling acquisition players are not afraid to learn. How many times have you heard someone say, "Oh, my girlfriend will never try a game. She's afraid of the machine" or "My Dad just won't touch that new computer we got for him. He's afraid of it"?

The assumption that modeling acquisition players are "afraid" to learn is a dangerous one as it may cause game developers to assume there is nothing they can do to reach them. However, the modeling acquisition players are not afraid. They simply are not getting the opportunity to understand the risks and ramifications before they are forced to try to learn in the explorative method.

How does this apply to tutorials?

Simply put, the vast majority of our games today have tutorials designed for explorative learners. Usually the players will be given a meager explanation of mechanics (if any) then they will be dropped into an area and told "Go run around and try things! Explore!"

To which the modeling acquisition player will say, "But what will happen when I do this? How bad will it be if I make a mistake?" And then, because it is not comfortable for them to learn in an explorative method, they will simply shut it off.

A classic example of a tutorial designed for explorative learners is from one of the first iterations of the World of Warcraft tutorial.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft, when it was first released, had no formalized tutorial. Instead it had a series of "help" buttons which appeared as "!" icons at the bottom of the screen when the player encountered a new activity. The player only has to click on these "!" to get help with what they had just encountered. Sounds great, right?

If the player is an explorative learner, yes it does -- but not so much, if the player is a modeling learner. I played that game for three days and never clicked on one of those "!"s. In fact, I only did so after someone looked over my shoulder as I was playing and saw the entire line of exclamation points across the bottom of my screen. "Why haven't you clicked on those?" he asked. "Because I wasn't told to!" I responded.

The early WoW tutorial is a classic example of a tutorial that was designed for explorative learners who will click on everything just to see what it does. However, for the modeling learner, the concept of clicking on something without fully understanding what will happen when they do is a distinctly negative experience.

Because I was never explicitly told to click on those icons nor given a chance to see what would happen when I did, I never clicked, and thus the learning process was completely lost to me. I was being expected to learn things in a manner that was not natural to me and was not comfortable.

I recently checked back in with World of Warcraft and noticed that Blizzard has made some changes. The "!" icons are gone, replaced by pop up boxes that have both a textual and graphical representation of what the player needs to do to for the activity they have encountered. This is certainly a better presentation for the modeling learner, but not quite perfect.

Remember, the modeling learner wants to imitate or model their behavior on what they see. They also want to understand fully the ramifications of what they are doing. This means they often want to repeat the action until they are comfortable with it; until they understand what it is they are doing.

Therefore, a tutorial for the modeling learner should allow them to repeat the activity until they say they are ready to move on. If we only allow them to try something one time, it can make them feel rushed and even more uncomfortable than they did before they tried the action. The more uncomfortable a player is with learning a piece of software, the less likely it is they will stick with it or even use it at all.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

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