Low-Energy, Easy Fun

Apparently, Halvorson’s latest book “Focus” was not as objective as her prior summary, skewing more heavily towards the advantages of being promotion-focused. So I haven’t bothered to read it yet, preferring to use the ideas in the summary as more of a springboard for my own thoughts.

(Fortunately, I’m not a career psychologist, so I don’t have to substantiate my hypotheses with research and evidence, and can just play around with thought experiments and musings for fun.)

I find myself drawn to the portion on “energy.” To recap:

When your goal is an achievement, a gain, you feel happy—joyful, cheerful, excited, or, in the vernacular of a typical teenager, totally stoked. It’s a high-energy kind of good feeling to reach a promotion goal.

It’s a very different kind of good to reach a prevention goal. When you are trying to be safe and secure, to avoid losing something, and you succeed, you feel relaxed—calm, at ease, peaceful. You breathe the sweet sigh of relief. This is a much more low-energy kind of good feeling, but not any less rewarding.

When you are going for gain, trying to accomplish something important to you, and you fail, you tend to feel sadness—dejected, depressed, despondent. As a teen might put it, totally bummed. It’s the low-energy kind of bad feeling—the kind that makes you want to lay on the couch all day with a bag of chips.

But failing to reach a prevention goal means danger, so in response you feel the high-energy kinds of bad feeling—anxiety, panic, nervousness, and fear. You freak out. Both kinds of feelings are awful, but very differently so.

I wonder if it might not help to explain why some gamers prefer more sedate types of gameplay – be it grinding for progress slowly, or a strategic challenge, or slower overall pacing.

In other words, we’re seeking the low-energy kinds of good feelings. We want to relax, be comfortable and content, be relieved, feel peace.

(Whether this has any correlation with being prevention-focused on a particular goal, or introversion-favoring, I’ll leave it to others to figure out and do the research.)

We -hate- being overstimulated by high energy feelings, especially when they tend to be the bad kind – aka being a fearful, anxious, nervous wreck, and are liable to either run away from the situation (avoiding/escape/flight) or take constructive steps to address said situation producing the bad feelings until the situation or feelings go away. (fight?)

The spot of good news, as mentioned previously, is that one has the high-energy motivation to take action and do either of those.

Other gamers, by contrast, probably loathe the low-energy bad feelings. They feel down, depressed, de-energized, bored. They’re liable to quit if they have *horror of horrors* “nothing to do.”

They’re looking for gameplay that excites them, gives them high-energy good feelings.

Hence the litany of constant demands for moar adrenaline-pumping “hardcore challenges” where they can earn deserved rewards, racking up one gain after another, addicted to the euphoria of achievement.

(I dunno. Sounds a bit like extraversion to me.)

It’s not easy as a game designer if you have to keep both camps happy, huh?

I don’t think they’re necessarily diametrically opposed, though. The perceived level of challenge is likely to prompt different energy levels of feelings.

The trick is, how do you get those looking for low-energy easy-fun to “be better” than those looking for high-energy hard-fun, so that they can look at the same mob and the former feels “okay, I can do this, easy peasy, no sweat, I’m having fun” and the latter feels “wow, this is so hard, this is so fun!”

The nature of practice being what it is, the adrenaline junkies are liable to be more practiced and experienced than the chill hipsters… so you tend to end up in an escalating situation of the former demanding more hits, while the latter stresses right out.

(Hrm, creative suggestions / solutions welcome.)

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Anyway, I find myself having a blast in the new Bloodstone Fen map.

That is, low-energy definitions of a “blast.”

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I trundle around, gliding and bouncing here and there and everywhere (bonus points for recognizing the phrase), collecting and harvesting all the things.

Every so often, an orange dynamic event comes up and I evaluate, “is this node more interesting or is that event more attractive?”

(Usually, the node wins, for the ten seconds it takes to harvest, and then I’m running over to spam 1 and dodge orange circles until the bouncy reward chests pop up.)

Rinse and repeat.

It’s a nice compact map, with high frequency of orange dynamic events, many doable solo or in small loosely assembling groups, and that seem to be less linearly linked to pushing some overall map wide meta.

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Every now and then, a big “world boss” type of event triggers, and then folks are drawn in to a centralized location, naturally congregating into a big zerg to defeat it.

Feels good. Feels like a bit more like Core Tyria (with less NPC settlements or friendly NPC interaction.)

I am greatly reminded of my relationship with City of Heroes’ Incarnate Trials and Dark Astoria zone.

That is, I was deeply uncomfortable with Incarnate Trials (to the point where I canceled my subscription, not being as motivated in CoH as in GW2 to play the raids – my ego is a lot more vested in accomplishments in GW2, whereas I was already getting bored with CoH and not at all tempted by gear-improvement rewards) and only re-subbed and tried out the Trials when Dark Astoria came into the picture.

Dark Astoria was the alternative, the philosophical recognition that people who enjoyed solo content should also have a means to earn Incarnate shards and achieve Incarnate levels of power, albeit at a slower rate than those who played the trials in a group setting.

Now, of course, if you -wanted- to speed up your rate of shard earning and could put up with a raid group, then yeah, go ahead and raid. It becomes an option, not a necessity.

We’re not quite 100% there yet with Bloodstone Fen.

The big thing GW2 is still missing is an alternative means for Legendary Armor.

Given that a normal set of armor apparently takes them 8 months to make (ie. Legendary Armor takes even longer) and that this batch of experimental Envoy armor seems to be inextricably linked to PvE raid progress (and a bit of PvP and WvW) and is still far far away in its arrival, it’s little wonder that they’re keeping very very quiet about any possibility of a second set of Legendary Armor, gained by some other means.

Maybe if we’re lucky, ArenaNet will come up with an elegant solution involving build templates and resolving the rune/sigil problem, and nip the issue of extra functionality with a set of purple-named armor and then the whole lack of an alternative will be moot.

(Raiders having prestige cosmetics is okay, bonus functionality is not okay. To me, anyway. Philosophically. Ideally. Speaking from a better part of me.

In practice, if we wanna be pragmatic about things, up yours. I’m on the side with the shinies. Don’t we love Chinese pragmatism? Embrace the Dark Side, baby.)

But I digress.

Bloodstone Fen is a step in the right direction, a step that was missing and ought to have been there as the raids came into the GW2 picture.

(Too bad the raid team works so damn fast, as compared to the rest. Or so damn slow, if both Bloodstone Fen and the raid wings were -meant- to arrive during HoT launch. If only Anet had slightly better scheduling/project management…

On the other hand, Bloodstone Fen looks like it was cobbled together using a ton of re-used assets and specifically addresses a number of reaction feedback from HoT, so it does also look like a mad iterative stopgap scramble to band-aid fix some issues. All those elder wood nodes and leather/cloth salvage reward drops are no accident, for example.)

It generally functions as the soloer’s alternative, just as Dark Astoria did.

There is stuff to do. Stuff to earn. Aerial combat skills being one of them, and apparently there are now means to get HoT stats that were previously only found in raids (big philosophical no-no, there) in Bloodstone Fen.

It helps the soloer understand the White Mantle storyline, that was previously only being told in raids.

It puts easy-ish world bosses that utilize raid-like mechanics -just less punishing ones- into the open world, so that players have the safety of a zerg (aka people around to rez them) and uses it to introduce/scaffold raid-necessary concepts – like the use of the new special action key, break bars, dodging orange circles, running to specific defined locations aka non-orange circles to achieve some objective, etc.

(It’s a start. Then certain buffed up fractals take over the teaching, by ramping up the necessity for increased group coordination and communication and personal movement/dodging ability. More on fractals in another post later.)

Bloodstone Fen gives me my “easy fun” back.

And I’m happy about that.

In a totally chill, relaxed kind of way.

What Do I Have to Gain, And What Do I Stand to Lose?

With so many goals on my mind lately, it probably comes as no surprise that one of the books I’ve recently been reading is a pop psychology one by Heidi Grant Halvorson, pithily entitled “Succeed – How We Can Reach Our Goals.”

What I do like about it is that it’s an easy reading, almost-conversational-blog sprinkled-with-humor style summary of what appear to be fairly crunchy concepts in research, just distilled without having to wade through pages of jargon down to a level where a layperson can grasp the surface and make use of.

One of the more interesting summarized concepts was that a person can have a promotion or a prevention focus when it comes down to chasing goals.

Promotion-focused goals are thought about in terms of achievement and accomplishment. They are about doing something you would ideally like to do. In the language of economics, they are about maximizing gains (and avoiding missed opportunities).

Prevention-focused goals are thought about in terms of safety and danger. They are about fulfilling responsibilities, doing the things you feel you ought to do. In economic terms, they are about minimizing losses, trying to hang on to what you’ve got.

This goes a long way towards explaining my puzzlement at the odd sense of relief I get when successfully completing a raid boss, as contrasted by the elation I see other people experience.

When you set a goal for yourself and reach it, you feel good. That much is obvious. But what does “good” feel like?

When your goal is an achievement, a gain, you feel happy—joyful, cheerful, excited, or, in the vernacular of a typical teenager, totally stoked. It’s a high-energy kind of good feeling to reach a promotion goal.

It’s a very different kind of good to reach a prevention goal. When you are trying to be safe and secure, to avoid losing something, and you succeed, you feel relaxed—calm, at ease, peaceful. You breathe the sweet sigh of relief. This is a much more low-energy kind of good feeling, but not any less rewarding.

When I read the above paragraphs, I was amazed at just how right on the money it sounded.

Some of this subconscious choice of focus might be due to personality, or culture, or upbringing, but evidently I skew a lot more towards prevention where this is concerned.

(East Asians are enmeshed in a culture that revolves around saving face, it rubs off, even if you’d like to be optimistic and gain-focused. Singaporeans have the terms “kiasu” and “kiasi” – the Hokkien root word “kia” literally means “fear” or “afraid.”)

We could share the same goal of wanting to down the raid boss, but where someone else might be focused on the -gain-, on the prize and rewards and prestige and glory and satisfaction of a successful kill, my focus tends to end up on:

  • “I hope I’m not screwing up too badly, to the point that they kick me, cos that will mean more difficulty and obstacles in the path of Legendary armor collection” or;
  • “This group is not doing so well, we’re missing something, what are we missing, where is the flaw in the team that stands in our path of success, how can this flaw be fixed, either by the person responsible -is it possible to communicate this flaw without a drama blowout- or by me covering what’s missing.”
  • “What else can I be doing to ensure success? Am I making mistakes that I need to avoid or not do so much of? Am I fulfilling my roles and responsibilities in a raid without slipping up?”

Little wonder by the time a group I’m in first successfully downs a boss, I’m exhausted and relieved.

As for the opposite feeling, Halvorson had this to say:

The focus of your goal also determines the particular kind of bad you feel when things go wrong. In fact, Higgins first discovered the difference between promotion and prevention when he was trying to explain why some people reacted to their failures with anxiety, while others reacted by sinking into depression.

When you are going for gain, trying to accomplish something important to you, and you fail, you tend to feel sadness—dejected, depressed, despondent. As a teen might put it, totally bummed. It’s the low-energy kind of bad feeling—the kind that makes you want to lay on the couch all day with a bag of chips.

But failing to reach a prevention goal means danger, so in response you feel the high-energy kinds of bad feeling—anxiety, panic, nervousness, and fear. You freak out. Both kinds of feelings are awful, but very differently so.

Suddenly I understand why I ended up keyed up in a ball of nervous thwarted frustration in the early days, without the safety of a static group to fall back on.

I needed that safety, that ego defence of:

a) you have successfully killed all the bosses, ergo you do not suck,

b) you have a static group that can successfully kill all the bosses weekly, ergo your achievement plans are not threatened,

c) you have a respectable amount of face-saving legendary insights, sufficient to make Legendary Armor even if your raid group crumbles overnight (notice the urge to catastrophize)

From afar, it’s a little bit sad that my initial motivation seemed to stem more from a place of fear, of danger avoidance, rather than “fun” or gain-seeking.

It does help to explain why other people seem to get a lot more positive kicks out of raiding than me, though.

(That’s not to say I’m incapable of promotion-focused goals. I find I’m more able to focus on that kind of stuff -now-, after the “safety”/”avoid danger” bits are already resolved.

I’m more able to relax and look for gains and “fun” now that a lot less is “at stake” – even if the stakes only really existed in my head.)

The silver lining to this ever-so-slightly neurotic cloud is that prevention-minded pessimists like me are apparently very good at self-monitoring and future improvement. We can’t help but keep thinking of “what can be done better next time” and picking apart our mistakes like it’s the end of the world to commit one.

Optimists, on the other hand, are more liable to say, “well, it could have been worse if I had done this, or if that happened…” in order to make themselves feel better, which according to Halvorson, means they tend to blind themselves more to their own faults to protect their ego, and thus improve at a slower pace than worry-wart pessimists, if at all.

True, all the above is a simplification and a generalization. Optimists vs Pessismists or Promotion vs Prevention dichotomies don’t exist only in black or white terms.

In reality, a person can vary between being pessimistic and optimistic from one moment to another, or choose to be promotion-focused for goal A and prevention-focused for goal B, and it’s probably useful to be aware and consciously decide to do so.

But as a high-level concept, I thought it was fairly interesting to be able to categorize our tendencies to think along two major paths that way.

Short Format Experiments

Oh look, a post!

Such a crazy, elusive, rare sighting it has become.

The good news is, I kinda miss blogging and want to get back into the swing of things.

The bad news is, I don’t think I actually have the time for it, given the immense spread of projects I have on my plate lately.

This is not a To Do list.

imightforgetlist

This is merely a list of Routine Things I’d Like to Get Done Every Night But am Most Liable to Forget if Not Written Down.

There are plenty of other individual project-related things (eg. scan books, work on a Minecraft goal), non-routine things (eg. explore new patch content from GW2, or actually blog) and really-obvious-routine things (eg. shower and eat dinner) that fight for attention.

Still, it’s a three-day-in experiment into trying to cope with the rather ridiculous propensity of ALL games these days to over-utilize dailies of some kind or another.

Obviously, if I’m not actively playing the game, I don’t give a hoot. (Sorry, Dragonvale, Trove, Cooking Fever, Marvel Heroes, other games I am not interested in and thus have entirely erased any offhand memory as to the existence of daily log-ins, quests, challenges, to-dos.)

But GW2 alone, at the level I want to play at, in order to progress on certain arbitrarily self-chosen goals, is enough to require a bloody reference list.

Anyhow, the other piece of good news, such that it is, is that reading about the impending (chill) Blaugust has got me thinking about attempting another kind of experiment into scheduling and habit-setting and juggling routines.

While not actually officially participating in Blaugust (because that implies a level of commitment I don’t have the confidence for -right now-) it occurs to me that I have, once upon a time, wanted to experiment with shorter format posts.

It is quite unthinkable -currently- to find the time daily to write said short format posts.

It is, however, -potentially- possible that I might be able to find time on a weekend to write a -couple- of short format posts.

Which then get scheduled out and posted daily the following week.

In theory.

Maybe.

I might try.

Worth giving a shot, at any rate.

superherofeels

And in a complete non-sequitur, I would like to state for the record that I had an epic City of Heroes moment, a vibe that sent nostalgic superhero chills running down my spine, recalling Eden trials and Hamidon raids, in the latest map to hit GW2.

Some fifty to a hundred heroes in flight. Check.

Gaudy colors and costumes. Check.

Gliding -together-, towards a map-wide boss fight. Check.

That moment of shared experience, attention and focus funneled in one direction. Priceless.

The current zerg size somewhat obscures the potential right now, I think, overpowering the encounter via brute force, but in time, as the crowd dissipates somewhat, there might be something pretty cool here.

P.S. My non-spoilery first impression thoughts on the story bits of the first episode of Living Story Season 3 can be found in a quick comment on Bhagpuss’ well-covered non-spoilery patch summary.