What’s the deal with behavioral conditioning ?

I attended the PARC Open Forum today and heard Nick Yee share some fascinating insights about MMORPGS. Nick gave the presentation that I expected Raph Koster to give – also at PARC – a couple of months ago and he seemed to be really enjoying himself throughout. I know I was.

The talk covered enough topics to keep me blogging for weeks – and his own web site has heaps of good stuff – but there was one thing I wanted to ask before it slipped my mind.

Nick gave a fly-by overview of behavioral conditioning (The Skinner Box and all that) and made a comparison between the kill-the-monster-gain-a-level reward structure of most recent MMOs and the pass-a-test-get-a-certificate education system.

He suggested that the entire education system is centered around this behaviorist model of reward and punishment and that the Real World is not like that. For a lot of people, life after school is unsatisfying because they have been trained to expect continuous feedback and constant rewards for effort but they don’t exist in the 9-5 of shelf-stacking (or lawyering or doctoring). For these people, MMOs are comforting because they provide exactly that kind of feedback. (He also made it clear that people play MMOs for LOTS of different reasons).

My question to Nick is – was the education system designed for a population that thrives on continuous feedback and rewards or do we expect such feedback and rewards because the education system conditioned us to do so?

Just asking.

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

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