Newbies, Tutorials, and Teaching the Game

I just read Sara Jensen’s post Teaching in the Newbie Experience.  It’s a must-read.

In short, nobody reads the tutorials.  Nobody reads the manual.  Nobody enjoys ambiguity in how things work.  Nobody enjoys stuff that doesn’t work the way they think it should work.

 I read either a forum post or a blog post recently that talked about some now-defunct MUD.  The author seemed to glorify how arcane, non-intuitive, and “brutal” the entire game was.  Also, in some old MMO post mortem, the author mentioned a design decision to require manual editing of a text config file in order to play the game, so that no “stupid people” could play it.

It’s been my experience that, like it or not, there is a slight superiority complex that very “computer people” can easily develop.  On occasion, or more often, I can’t be sure, this frustration with “the masses” at their inability to grasp the simplest of “logical computer concepts”, whatever they may be, squirts out in some aspect of the user interface.  Sometimes it’s a nod to some arcane old-school MUD (just like “literary nerds” drop references to obscure classic literature).  Other times it’s full-blown “normalized database-style” interfaces.

I don’t think it’s any different than how people in any specialized field feels toward “the masses” who continually mess up what seems quite self-evident.  So, that just means any and all game mechanics MUST be designed and revisted over and over and over again with the view of “make it stupid simple and make it stupid obvious how it works”.

Oh, and good job, Sara.  You said it better than I.