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Race to the Finish

posted on February 24th, 2009 by christian

Here is a tip for developers.  Whenever you issue a challenge to the gaming masses, don’t make any bets, assessments, or guesses about how long it will take them to complete it, or if they will even complete it at all.  They will simply let out a long cackle, and by the time they take a breath, they will have finished it, perhaps twice over.  Usually these feats are seen in MMO’s like World of Warcraft, but this time it has popped up in the most unlikely of games – Noby Noby Boy.

In case you haven’t been following Keita Takahashi’s newest bit of quirk, Noby Noby Boy is an experience with a passive goal.  As each player plays around with Boy and makes him stretch his body, they can report to their friend Girl, a similar creature who is chilling out in space.  When you report your length stretched to Girl, her own body grows by that distance, allowing her to go farther in space and eventually reach planets in the Solar System.

The first goal was to get to the Moon, which Takahashi predicted would take about two weeks.  Instead, global players joined together and flew to the Moon in just five days. While this could be due to simple brute force, the more likely answer is that clever players have found ways to stretch quickly and efficiently, and are spending huge chunks of time doing so (and thus getting their names higher in the rankings), rather than playing the game as intended.

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Now, the nice thing about Noby Noby Boy is that you don’t have to play at the same pace as everyone else.  You can take a break, fire it up this weekend, and still see yourself arriving at the moon and enjoying all of its content.  But this is not always how people play games that allow a leisurely pace, especially in MMO’s.  Hell, just missing out on the original WoW beta meant you would never see some interesting scenes.

This is quite bothersome, as not all of us have the time or willingness to play with such obsession in the name of gamer street cred.  Of course, much depends on how these live, collaborative events are designed, but I can’t think of many that are as passive as Noby Noby Boy’s.  My only advice in this area would be to restrict the goals by deadline.  If players get so far in a hurry, they have to wait a while longer for new events to trigger.  This would only be feasible when there are actual events to experience (Noby Noby Boy is simply a tally, and nothing gets skipped).

Thinking about this phenomenon a bit, I realized that the cause is not as simple as “Gamers are f-ing obsessive.”  The truth is much more general than that – fans of entertainment, particularly young folk, are f-ing obsessive.  My roommate is capable of polishing off a season of Lost in less than a week.  Harry Potter fans dove through novels longer than an encyclopedia volume in less than a day.  Once we start, we cannot seem to stop.

Is this due to the advent of the Internet – are we are so connected that we must immediately burn through entertainment, knowing we will find like minded people to discuss it with? Or is it something about youthful energy?  Note that if you were a few weeks late in seeing The Dark Night last summer, it likely didn’t cause the end of your water cooler talk around the office.  Perhaps when entertainment becomes one part rather than the only part of life, such rapidity and fervor is prohibitive to other duties.  Whatever it may be, best of luck in the electronic rat race.

1 Comments

  1. AK said on February 24, 2009:

    Nice article. My favorite part was your conclusion.

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