At a recent game designer retreat (Project Horseshoe) we had a working group trying to understand the psychology ‘comfy games’ like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing. One thing we noticed is that many games focus on the bottom portion of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. They deal with survival, food, shelter and physical threats. Comfy games are instead comfortable spaces where you can work on some higher level human needs. You can dabble with self reflection, little social moments and maybe self expression. Games that treat players like higher order humans instead of twitchy, fear-based animals are a super cool thing!
However, when a design introduces intense lower level needs, it can ruin the atmosphere that makes a comfy game work. Pocket Camp introduces time pressure and responsibility. If you don’t get that stupid sofa crafted before the animal leaves, you’ll miss a chance to progress along the checklist. Even when you do complete the task, it is entirely transactional. What would have been a mysterious quirky nuanced relationship in Animal Crossing is reduced to a meter incrementing so you can earn precious currency. This is not an environment for self actualization. It is a place of rushed, time sensitive labor. Ugh.
Be more explicit than you think is necessary, and you’ll nip misunderstandings in the bud. When everyone’s in the same room, it’s easier to notice an errant gesture that shows we’re not all on the same page. A remote team can only know what you say and type, so get everyone to agree that overexplaining won’t be taken as an insult. Don’t let it slip as the project goes on, either. “So what we’re saying is…” should be a common phrase throughout the life of the product.
– Drew Bell on talking through the “obvious” on remote teams
Not so long ago, in order to dispel the melancholy of some great prince, a noted and ingenious actor constructed an instrument such as this. He took live cats all of different sizes, and shut them up in a kind of box especially made for this business, so that their tails, stuck through the holes, were inserted tightly into certain channels. Under these he put keys fitted with the sharpest points instead of mallets. Then he arranged the cats tonally according to their different sizes, so that each key corresponded to the tail of one cat, and he put the instrument prepared for the relaxation of the prince in a suitable place. Then when it was played, it produced such music as the voices of cats can produce. For when the keys, depressed by the fingers of the organist, pricked the tails of the cats with their points, they, driven to a rage, with miserable voices, howling now low, now high, produced such music made of the voices of the cat as would move men to laughter and even arouse shrews to dance.
– Athanasius Kircher in Musurgia Universalis (1650), as translated by Frederick Baron Crane, as printed on the insert in the last postcard pack from Public Domain Review