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AGDC 08: The Importance of Learning Style and Gender in MMOs part 2

An interesting fact: the vast majority of women in MMOs were brought by a friend. They were not interested in a game before their friend explained it to them, how it works, and what value it had.

Concerning how learning is conducted in fighting games: "Secret moves and hidden moves are perfect rewards for explorative learners, and a complete barrier for modeling or imitative learners." The story is related of a girl who learned to play a fighting game so she could challenge her boyfriend for his birthday. He proceeded to wipe the floor with her using moves she'd never seen before. "How'd you learn to do that?" "You just button mash until you figure it out." Fighting games seem to favor explorative learning.

We tend to pack an awful lot of information into our controls. Stuff we're not going to need until later in the game. We need to design our tutorials to use Modeling Learning as well as Explorative models. Players are not likely to stay in an MMO if they're forced to learn in ways that are not natural to them.

Sheri then took questions from the audience:

Q: If you're an Explorative learner, do you just have to sit through text built for Modeling Learners?
A: Once the basics are understood, Modeling Learners do tend to become more Explorative Learners. They do become a little more risk-taking.

Q: Should tutorials be videos?
A: They don't have to be. It helps, but if there's another way to show what happens, like a character that tags along to help you, that's okay too.

Q: Do you think people are self-aware of their own learning styles? Can people choose their own learning styles?
A: No, people are not aware in general. A lot of people say "Hey, that's me" when hearing about different styles. One way to design tutorials for both types of learners is to have the tutorial text/display for Modeling Learners, and add a "skip this" button for Explorative Learners.

Q: How do you implement Modeling Learning tutorials without breaking the "Fourth Wall"?
A: Some breaking is unavoidable.

Q: Is there a point where game play is simple enough for Explorative Learning to be acceptable for everybody?
A: Once the basics are understood, etc. So, yes.

Q: Are there games that provide Thottbot-like help for learners?
A: No, and I wish there were, because if you make players go outside your game to learn about the game, you're giving them the opportunity to not come back.

Q: When is Explorative Learning a good way to learn?
A: There's no real "bad" way to design learning, as long as you understand that by restricting learning to one mode means that you lose the other type learners.

Q: Is there even such a thing as an Explorative tutorial?
A: Many MMOs do have something like this, where newbies get a safe environment to explore and make their mistakes. Moving out from the center it gets harder and harder.

Q: Is there value in saying "Go explore, you can't die!"
A: No amount of exploration is comfortable if you're not an Explorative Learner.

Q: Do women have a tendency toward casual games because they already know how to play them?
A: Yes, the simplicity of the casual game makes those games attractive.

Q: Have tutorials gotten better or worse over time?
A: The biggest problem is that we assume our players play a lot of other MMOs. You have to understand how to attract other players to grow the market.

Thank you to Sheri Graner Ray for the great panel!