15 June 2008

The importance of humanising...

I was just thinking about technology - software and robots specifically (though it applies to all appliances) and why we, as a race, humanise the things we create a use. I came to the conclusion that we do it to make ourselves feel better. Let me explain.

Humans face a massive obstacle to being happy in life: life ends, we die. What happens after is a big source of distress or comfort to people depending on what they believe and what they do with that belief. If we believe that there is an afterlife (in whatever form) and that we have a soul then that belief can sustain us throughout life.

In parallel with this thinking we humanise robots in life and fiction. We give them the opportunity to be more than their programming and it is a recurring theme seen throughout science fiction. On a more mundane level we give names to our cars, believe that appliances could have hurt feelings if we upgrade to something else and throw them away. They are just machines or objects - they are without a feelings or desires. In the same way, we could just be described as 'meatbags' with no souls...

Trying to achieve something outside of operational parameters for things that we consider to be below ourselves allows us to achieve something similar for ourselves - immortality. Tending to want to find things that are more than what they seem could be just an artefact of our genetics... increasing the chance of survival for those genes.

It's a sad thought in some respects. On the other hand, it allows us to add this thinking into games. How many gamers end up placing inordinate priority or care into a very minor aspect of a game? The little things make a difference but perhaps designers could begin 'humanising' their games to allow that emotional attachment between gamer and game to form. It's important to remember that rewards are not always of the physical type in life and by primarily focusing on tangible in games we dilute the potential experience.

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