PhD defense completed – get ready

Dr Schmith

This Thursday I succesfully defended my PhD thesis entitled Plans and Purposes: How Videogame Goals Shape Player Behaviour (slides / preliminary dissertation final dissertation).

The opponents asked reasonable questions, the technical equipment worked flawlessly, the post-defense red wine was half-decent, and any post-defence tension was relieved through honorable Guitar Hero combat. Thanks to everyone who showed up.

And a warm congratulations to ex-roomie Miguel Sicart who defended his thesis on games and ethics yesterday (Miguel’s preliminary thesis).

I’ll be uploading the final version of my thesis as soon as it’s ready.

Mission completed.

(oh and I love the Germanification of my name on the ITU posters. It has a nice academic ring).

PhD defense
– “Look, players ARE rational. End of story”.

Player rating systems

Peer-2-peer rating systems work quite well in systems like eBay and Slashdot.

But they do so because User A has no real interest in User B’s future. In brief: A has no real reason to be dishonest.

Not so for online gamers. Here a rating can be used strategically. You may get angry with someone, but you may also see a personal advantage (in terms of relative score) in bad-mouthing that person.

Thus, we essentially need a system which can

  • distinguish between fair and unfair ratings OR
  • in which ratings cannot be used strategically

But what on Earth, I ask you, would that look like?

What about (just brainstorming):

  • Limited number of total karma points (you can’t just toss them aroud for the heck of it)
  • A player can only give a limited amount of points to any given player (to minimize the consequence of evil ratings)
  • The rating is given secretively (you can’t trust/threaten someone to be nice if you are)
  • Karma points cannot be given at all until you’re fairly high-level (or whatever) to avoid people making dummy accounts to boost their own rating
  • You only see ratings of your friends (or those you’ve rated positively) so the truthfulness of your rating actually affects your friends

Any good ideas?

If it’s a small thing: Lie through your teeth

I was shopping for shoes recently. The salesman told me that the pair I was examining needed a special treatment before being used. I asked him if he could perform this treatment for me before I left the store, if I chose them. “Of course”, he said without flinching.

“OK then”, I said, “I’ll take them”.

We go the counter and he looks in the back room for the shoe treatment agent (or whatever it was). He comes back out with an apologetic look and says “sorry, we didn’t have the agent after all”. “No big deal”, I say and buy the shoes.

Then last week I went shopping for a washing machine (the horror!). The salesman gives us a wonderful performance, elegantly geared towards steering us towards the most expensive of his machines. The whole thing is a combination of personal anecdotes and daring signals of personal integrity (he went as far as to question whether we should by a new one at all – we might have our old one repaired – it would be more environment friendly – I thought he was brilliant). Anyway, before we made up our minds about which machine to get, I ask him if we can get the machine within one or two days. “Of course”, he says, “they’re all in stock”.

So we go home and think and having made up our minds I call the salesman and tell him we want the expensive model. He says: “Excellent choice. Let me just confirm that we can get it to you right away and get back to you”. He calls back in 10 minutes to inform me that delivery will unfortunately take eight days because the supplier is out of stock. “OK“, I say, “just get it to us as soon as possible”.

Here’s the principle: As long as the customer is contemplating a purchase, tell him that any small request can be met, even if it’s untrue or you simply have no idea. Once the customer has made his choice, informing him that the small auxiliary promises unfortunately cannot be kept is very unlikely to make him change his mind about the purchase itself.