Don Daglow Dissects the American Online Gamer

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Don Daglow Dissects the American Online Gamer

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Veteran developer Don Daglow details the differences between European and North American online gamers.

Don Daglow, a pioneering American developer often credited as the founder of the sports, RPG and god-sim genres, offered a humorously scathing breakdown of North American online gamers for the benefit of European developers. In a tongue-in-cheek talk at GDC Europe, Daglow painted his fellow Americans as historically ignorant, self-obsessed, easily-distracted and easily-discouraged by failure. He then went on to explain how developers can create games that account for, or cater to, those traits.

The first point he made is that American schools emphasize the personal growth of students, rather than immediately pit them against an academic assault course. Success is rewarded, but failure isn't punished or noted. Students aren't exposed to the idea of academic failure until they reach 17 and begin applying for colleges. Daglow argues that this inclines American users towards seeing in-game failure as a problem with the game, not a product of their own mistakes. The solution, apparently, is to simplify the gaming experience, show the audience rather than tell them, and reward success constantly.

His second point is that modern Americans are awash in competing information sources, which has shortened their attention spans. The solution is that games need to get their point across as quickly as possible, capturing the user's attention within the first few seconds of play in the same way an advertisement or a movie might.

He then goes on to argue that Americans crave individuality, hence the success of monetized avatar customization options, and that games need to treat players "like a celebrity."
Finally he points out that Americans tend to have a limited knowledge of world history due to the way the subject is taught in US schools. "Americans know who Steve-O is but not Stalin," he remarked.

He then went on to offer a brief tongue-in-cheek summary of the American understanding of world history:

  • Romans Vs. Barbarians.
  • Dark Ages, nothing happened.
  • Renaissance, then we got cars and planes.
  • Stuff was going on in China and Japan, too.
  • US got Independence, had Civil War over slavery.
  • Lots of big wars in the last century.

He then summarized his presentation with six tips on how to sell games to American online gamers:

  • Craft the opening minutes to hold attention.
  • Use a simple, clear interface.
  • Minimize text: show, don't tell in tutorials.
  • The player is a celebrity, give them unique customization.
  • Recognize that we're in the queue and the user is the master.
  • History rarely sells and is often unknown.

Daglow has been making games since the early 1970s. One of his early titles, 1975's Dungeon, is widely credited as the first computer role playing game. He also worked on the original Neverwinter Nights, which was the first graphical MMO. He worked for Intellivision and EA in 1980s, before founding Stormfront Studios in 1998.

Source: Gameindustry.biz

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And thought the "Girlfriend Mode" was patronizing.
At least he got 5 out of 6 tips right.

I have no idea who this guy is, but I like him :D

Sadly, he made the mistake of mixing serious and interesting views with jokes: The perfect recipe for making people feel offended

That title is quite an eye-catcher.

Oh wow, I just don't know what to say about this.
I mean the offensiveness of this guy rivals internet trolls.

Because surly ALL American gamers are drooling idiots who only care about guns and instant gratification, who don't accept failure and don't know who Stalin is despite the fact that quite a few shooters are set during WW2.

The bad part is, most of the points for making the games are actually good (with exception for the last point),
but his reasons to support those points are completely nonsense.

-Craft the opening minutes to hold attention.
-Use a simple, clear interface.
-Minimize text: show, don't tell in tutorials.
-The player is a celebrity, give them unique customization.
-Recognize that we're in the queue and the user is the master.
-History rarely sells and is often unknown.

He doesn't seem to understand that gamers are composed of more than just ten year olds screaming obscenities at each other over Xbox live.

EDIT: I understand this is meant to be a joke, but he's treading dangerous ground, there's a fine line between what can be taken as a joke and what's taken as offensive.

Well, that's not going to piss off anybody at all.

Funny thing is, a lot of those points are actually pretty good advice.

I'm a bit iffy about the idea of games "treating the player like a celebrity" though. That sounds like pandering.

Huh. I'm an American and I went to an American school and I know quite a bit about the things he said we don't, and for the most part his points are completely off target. Maybe he's only talking about dumbass little kids.

But it's possible world history might be a little shaky in general. When you're not surrounded by other countries there seems less need to learn a lot about them.

Also, I've never heard of this person.

Too bad listening to Daglow give advice on how to make games is like listening to Chris Crawford give advice on how to make games

Daglow hasn't been a relevant figure in gaming for over a decade.

Watching him try this pathetically to regain some spotlight for himself is just about as bad as Crawford's Dragon Speech was.

BoogieManFL:
Huh. I'm an American and I went to an American school and I know quite a bit about the things he said we don't, and for the most part his points are completely off target. Maybe he's only talking about dumbass little kids.

But it's possible world history might be a little shaky in general. When you're not surrounded by other countries there seems less need to learn a lot about them.

Also, I've never heard of this person.

Im kinda with you there. I know more about the dam Gothic age(real name of the dark age)and Renaissance then i care to write about. Yet i cant seem to figure out who the hell this guy is and why i should give a dam what his opinion is.

It's both hilarious and disturbingly accurate. It seems to me that my generation is convinced that they can do absolutely nothing wrong, and when they screw up, something other than themselves is always to blame. I'm sure not all young adults/adolescents are like that, but it seems to be a growing trend.
Perhaps I'm being to cynical. But then again; MTV.
Seriously, turn your television to MTV and you can feel yourself getting stupider.
If you take offence to this, don't. You're one of the good ones. The rest will have stopped reading before getting this far.

It's offensive and untrue about the a good grouping of gamers, but a lot of his points are correct.

That's what you get when your public schools are run by liberals...

bazaalmon:
It's both hilarious and disturbingly accurate. It seems to me that my generation is convinced that they can do absolutely nothing wrong, and when they screw up, something other than themselves is always to blame. I'm sure not all young adults/adolescents are like that, but it seems to be a growing trend.
Perhaps I'm being to cynical. But then again; MTV.
Seriously, turn your television to MTV and you can feel yourself getting stupider.
If you take offence to this, don't. You're one of the good ones. The rest will have stopped reading before getting this far.

Well said.

It annoys and disappoints me a bit that some people here are taking offense and feeling targeted. This isn't directed at you, fools, he's talking about the majority, the big masses, the CoD-360-fag-accusing monkeys. Stop being so self-centered for a second and start looking out instead. Look at how games have changed the past decade. You can't deny that most successful games, with few exceptions, have all basically gone through all those tips of his during development like a checklist, intentionally or otherwise. Just think for a moment of games, some that are even part of a trilogy or series, that have becomes more simplified and more streamlined for every iteration. I'm not saying streamlining or simplicity is necessarily a bad thing, in fact it's often a very good thing, but perhaps it's done for the wrong reasons sometimes; to protect the frail minds of the masses from being too challenged.

Rogue 09:
That's what you get when your public schools are run by liberals...

Or the simple among us who see the world in terms of liberals and conservatives.

CrossLOPER:

Rogue 09:
That's what you get when your public schools are run by liberals...

Or those who see the world in terms of liberals and conservatives.

Oh, there is more than just liberals and conservatives. However, America (not the world) is run by these two groups and the public school systems tend to be propagated by those of a lefty mindset. It is logical to link the two together.

Guys, this is a joke and it's meant to be a joke

BoogieManFL:
Huh. I'm an American and I went to an American school and I know quite a bit about the things he said we don't, and for the most part his points are completely off target. Maybe he's only talking about dumbass little kids.

But it's possible world history might be a little shaky in general. When you're not surrounded by other countries there seems less need to learn a lot about them.

Also, I've never heard of this person.

I'm pretty sure that that's the whole point, he was being absurd and silly for humour value and then hiding decent gameplay advice behind it.

ecoho:
Gothic age(real name of the dark age)

Gothic would be High and Late Middle Age not Early. (Or if I go with my culture classification, would be Lower Middle Age not Upper Middle Age). Since cultural objects classified under Gothic style are from the 12th to 16th century.

bazaalmon:
It's both hilarious and disturbingly accurate. It seems to me that my generation is convinced that they can do absolutely nothing wrong, and when they screw up, something other than themselves is always to blame. I'm sure not all young adults/adolescents are like that, but it seems to be a growing trend.

Also definitely not exclusive to the US - this trend has very much reared its ugly head in Europe already.

iniudan:

ecoho:
Gothic age(real name of the dark age)

Gothic would be High and Late Middle Age not Early. (Or if I go with my culture classification, would be Lower Middle Age not Upper Middle Age). Since cultural objects classified under Gothic style are from the 12th to 16th century.

Not to mention that it's really only a style in architecture (mostly churches), and art (also mostly religious) - not a general designation for a sub-section of the Middle Ages.

Baffled that he thinks these two are anything other than basic good design:

Use a simple, clear interface.
Minimize text: show, don't tell in tutorials.

Is there any reason you'd want a complicated, difficult-to-understand interface? Is there any reason you'd want to bury the user under a wall of text in a tutorial? Both of these seem like things that lend themselves to good design regardless of who you're designing for. There are elitists who will claim that the game is too dumbed down if you can figure out the interface in under three hours, but most real people prefer that the focus of the game is on playing it, not finding which button does what you want.

ecoho:
I know more about the dam Gothic age(real name of the dark age)

Eh... No, Dark age is called so because there are lot of "dark" spots in historical records for that era. Gothic is a style of architecture. That is not to say your knowledge is lacking, just that you might be confusing some terms.
And I'm fairly sure Europeans know way more about Middle Ages than citizens of USA, simply by the virtue that most European countries had some moment of glory in that era. Likewise we don't know as much about Civil War in the US or The Warring States era of Japan.

Captcha: I think so
See? Even captcha agrees :)

OT:
Well it was said several times in the article that all he said was "tongue in cheek". That means "don't take what I say completely seriously, just a bit". Therefore I see no reason to be offended. Granted, I em not an american gamer, so I might not take it as much.

I admit it's been a while since I studied world history, but I think I have a bit more understanding than -that- of world history (i.e. Stalin - Soviet Union communist party leader in the mid to late 20th century. Steve-O - some @$$hole who runs a 'reality' show where people deliberately hurt themselves just for the opportunity to get seen on tv). Personally I think Americans at large are a bit more varied in terms of education and maturity, though I'll admit too many of them are on the lower end of the scale.

From what I've heard about the education system today, it's true it does tend to coddle students too much; I wouldn't say failure should be "punished" but it shouldn't be glossed over. Students should be told where they need to work harder and given the proper guidance to improve themselves. They don't need a slap in the head every time they get something wrong, but they do need to hear "That's not right, here, try doing it this way," or "I know its tough, but you need to keep trying because nothing gets better if you quit."

As to this guy's tips on marketing an online game to American gamers, call me stupid, but outside of that last point, I don't see how those other ones are necessarily choices pandering to the ignorant and lazy. Efficient interfaces aren't meant to require little skill, they're meant to allow players to act faster. I personally don't mind reading, but tutorial content is more effective by demonstration sometimes. Craft the opening minutes to hold attention...as opposed to what, telling the gamer "stop playing this, it's crap"? And I don't know about treating the player like a celebrity, but allowing customization appeals to everybody's desire to be an individual with their own, not-so-average (if perhaps not one-of-a-kind) appearance.

As for his tips on developing an online game for the

Falterfire:

Is there any reason you'd want a complicated, difficult-to-understand interface?

One word: depth.

More words: I love cRPGs and I'm fed up with the current trend of simplifying everything to maximize sales. Not everybody wants a complicated game, I understand that. But the trend is to make simplistic games, with one or two layers of gameplay, when in the past players could (or had) to be creative.

I enjoyed having to actually use my brain to choose between two stats because I had to balance the effects they would provide. I also enjoyed having to *read* obscure scrolls to get background information on the dungeon I was exploring, or find a weakness in the end-boss' resistances. There are plenty examples.

I realize that "back in the day" only geeks would play that kind of games and we loved the complex rulesets. Now everybody pretends to be a geek but clearly that's not the case.

Anyway, I don't think it's more a 'rica vs Europe thing, it's more a general trend worldwide. Maybe America pushes it a bit further because it's more money- than culture-oriented than Europe (and that gap is getting smaller by the day) but that's it.

Yeah, guys, stop taking offence to this.
The kind of people he's referring to are most certainly NOT the kind of people that visit The Escapist. By virtue of even reading this article, you have already proved that you are not his target.

Furism:
[SNIP]

No, you don't understand, I'm not talking about simple games, I'm talking about a simple, clear interface. There have been plenty of games that prove that you can build a very complex game with a minimal interface. To use the first example I can think of, Minecraft. It's got a lot of complex, moving parts, and only about three menus. Even if you disagree with that specific example, you should be able to find your own counterexample: A game where you spend more time fighting the interface than whatever the actual opponent is. (Be that opponent a soldier, an army, or world hunger)

When building a game it is important to make sure that the user can understand what's going on. That doesn't mean what's going on has to be simple, but the user should know where to look or click to find the information they want or what button to press to perform the action they want.

So you're saying that a "complex" interface has to be "clunky." I beg to differ. You can have a rich and complex yet effective interface, like Eve Online's.

Whilst I can definitely see the fun in bashing Americans and proclaiming European superiority, after all we are far more civilized and cultured.

This does sound like an old guy bitching about kids these days. Then again, he is American so what did you expect?

At least he didn't whine about liberals ruining the country, but seems another poster here has filled that gap.

ps. If you reply as if this was a serious post I will insult your American upbringing and heritage regardless of you actually being American.

Not enough people in this thread get satire. This was a well written joke and a lot of those who have posted above are taking it too seriously, or rather, seriously for the wrong reasons. Thankfully some people still get satire.

I cannot help but laugh at how many people are taking his remarks seriously. Learn to recognise satire when you see it.

It's a joke guys. Self-depreciation is the first step to find joy in life.

GenGenners:
Yeah, guys, stop taking offence to this.
The kind of people he's referring to are most certainly NOT the kind of people that visit The Escapist. By virtue of even reading this article, you have already proved that you are not his target.

Thank you! I think you are exactly right. BUT... but... I would still agree with most of what he is saying even if it wasn't in a joking manner. And he wouldn't be speaking for all gamers... just a lot of them :)

Furism:

Falterfire:

Is there any reason you'd want a complicated, difficult-to-understand interface?

One word: depth.

More words: I love cRPGs and I'm fed up with the current trend of simplifying everything to maximize sales. Not everybody wants a complicated game, I understand that. But the trend is to make simplistic games, with one or two layers of gameplay, when in the past players could (or had) to be creative.

I enjoyed having to actually use my brain to choose between two stats because I had to balance the effects they would provide. I also enjoyed having to *read* obscure scrolls to get background information on the dungeon I was exploring, or find a weakness in the end-boss' resistances. There are plenty examples.

I realize that "back in the day" only geeks would play that kind of games and we loved the complex rulesets. Now everybody pretends to be a geek but clearly that's not the case.

Anyway, I don't think it's more a 'rica vs Europe thing, it's more a general trend worldwide. Maybe America pushes it a bit further because it's more money- than culture-oriented than Europe (and that gap is getting smaller by the day) but that's it.

But haven't games like Civ long proved that you can achieve depth without having to fight the interface to do it?

I can't find fault in Daglow's Six tips (excepting perhaps the one about history. Good well done history does sell well. It's just there is so much poor history from media makers washing it out. ie AC3)

As far as his understanding of the American youth and the American gamer, ummm, lets just say that the reported ignorance is a two way street.

As an American online gamer, his words sting but only because they have a measure of truth to them. He outlines a very safe game design philosophy.

If the shoe fits, wear it.
Beside, if you have some self-esteem, you can get over everything he said. Stop complaining.

Europeans are stuck-up has-beens who can't get over the fact that their countries have done nothing but suck and kiss the U.S.A's or Stalin's ass since the end of the second world war.

In most online games, they tend to be hypocritical and snobby - usually denoting players they find inferior to them to be "damn yanks" and "stupid Americans" while blaming their own faults on server lag and poor design.

* A good game has minimal lag and server down time while being very well designed.

LOL U GAIS, U LIEK MAI TUNG + CH33K HUMOUR/? If you noticed, I had some "thoughtful" and sensible truism-I mean, "Points" about how to run a good online multiplayer. None of you smart and intelligent gents across the pond should take offense to any of the stuff said prior to it, because it was all obviously just a joke and not meant to be taken personally.

No longer being facetious, I didn't really see the joke. Those are legitimate observations of the giant ignorant mass of angry homophobic preteens on XBoxLive (a user base that is not strictly American, mind you); while I love making fun of said idiot user base, he insults me personally by then labeling this moronic mass as "Americans" in general. This not only covers retarded 10 year-olds, but "Americans" as a whole, which includes me. It would be the same as class-typing every condescending non-american I've played with/against as representative of all "Europeans" when the aforementioned jerkwads are in fact just a small minority.

I know failure, and the pain and humiliation of academic failure, all too well - to the point that the fear of failure has been one of the select fuels that got me through high school and college. I found that him saying that I - by association of being an "American" - did not know this was more insulting than being told I needed to be pandered to and have my hand held like a moron.

Yes, I damn-well took that personally.

'American gamers are self-obsessed, schooled only to praise success.'

*Checks comments*

'I'M NOT LIKE THAT SO NOT ALL GAMERS ARE SELF OBSESSED, ALSO, HERE'S SOME KNOWLEDGE ABOUT HISTORY I LEARNED TO PROVE HOW INDIVIDUALLY CLEVER I AM.'

Huh.

crave individuality, hence the success of monetized avatar customization options, and that games need to treat players "like a celebrity."

this guy....
..

he knows me..

>_>
<_<

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