"The Organism Will Do Whatever It Damn Well Pleases"

[Matti Kolu (2012.12.01.1550 CET)]

One of the first online role-playing games -- "Habitat" -- was created by
Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar in the mid-eighties while they were
working as developers at Lucasfilm Games.[1] In the early 90s they published
a paper titled "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat".[2] Some quotes from
this paper were recently highlighted by Jeff Atwood, the founder of the
"Question and Answer" site stackexchange.com:

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/12/the-organism-will-do-what-it-damn-
well-pleases.html

"Again and again we found that activities based on often unconscious
assumptions about player behavior had completely unexpected outcomes (when
they were not simply outright failures). It was clear that we were not in
control. The more people we involved in something, the less in control we
were. We could influence things, we could set up interesting situations, we
could provide opportunities for things to happen, but we could not predict
nor dictate the outcome. Social engineering is, at best, an inexact science,
even in proto-cyberspaces. Or, as some wag once said, "in the most carefully
constructed experiment under the most carefully controlled conditions, the
organism will do whatever it damn well pleases."

Propelled by these experiences, we shifted into a style of operations in
which we let the players themselves drive the direction of the design. This
proved far more effective. Instead of trying to push the community in the
direction we thought it should go, an exercise rather like herding mice, we
tried to observe what people were doing and aid them in it. We became
facilitators as much as designers and implementors. This often meant adding
new features and new regions to the system at a frantic pace, but almost all
of what we added was used and appreciated, since it was well matched to
people's needs and desires. As the experts on how the system worked, we
could often suggest new activities for people to try or ways of doing things
that people might not have thought of. In this way we were able to have
considerable influence on the system's development in spite of the fact that
we didn't really hold the steering wheel -- more influence, in fact, than we
had had when we were operating under the delusion that we controlled
everything."

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat_(video_game)
2. http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html

[From Fred Nickols (2012.12.01.0822)]

Matti:

Many, many thanks for this! I love it!

Regards,

Fred Nickols, CPT
Managing Partner
Distance Consulting LLC
The Knowledge Worker's Tool Room
Blog: Knowledge Worker Tools
www.nickols.us | fred@nickols.us

From: Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet)
[mailto:CSGNET@LISTSERV.ILLINOIS.EDU] On Behalf Of Matti Kolu
Sent: Saturday, December 01, 2012 7:49 AM
To: CSGNET@LISTSERV.ILLINOIS.EDU
Subject: "The Organism Will Do Whatever It Damn Well Pleases"

[Matti Kolu (2012.12.01.1550 CET)]

One of the first online role-playing games -- "Habitat" -- was created by
Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar in the mid-eighties while they were
working as developers at Lucasfilm Games.[1] In the early 90s they

published

a paper titled "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat".[2] Some quotes from

this

paper were recently highlighted by Jeff Atwood, the founder of the
"Question and Answer" site stackexchange.com:

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/12/the-organism-will-do-what-it-
damn-
well-pleases.html

"Again and again we found that activities based on often unconscious
assumptions about player behavior had completely unexpected outcomes
(when they were not simply outright failures). It was clear that we were

not

in control. The more people we involved in something, the less in control

we

were. We could influence things, we could set up interesting situations,

we

could provide opportunities for things to happen, but we could not predict
nor dictate the outcome. Social engineering is, at best, an inexact

science,

even in proto-cyberspaces. Or, as some wag once said, "in the most

carefully

constructed experiment under the most carefully controlled conditions, the
organism will do whatever it damn well pleases."

Propelled by these experiences, we shifted into a style of operations in
which we let the players themselves drive the direction of the design.

This

proved far more effective. Instead of trying to push the community in the
direction we thought it should go, an exercise rather like herding mice,

we

tried to observe what people were doing and aid them in it. We became
facilitators as much as designers and implementors. This often meant

adding

new features and new regions to the system at a frantic pace, but almost

all

of what we added was used and appreciated, since it was well matched to
people's needs and desires. As the experts on how the system worked, we
could often suggest new activities for people to try or ways of doing

things

that people might not have thought of. In this way we were able to have
considerable influence on the system's development in spite of the fact

that

we didn't really hold the steering wheel -- more influence, in fact, than

we

ยทยทยท

-----Original Message-----
had had when we were operating under the delusion that we controlled
everything."

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat_(video_game)
2. http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html