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Pavlov's D-Pad on Game and Player

Pavlov's D-Pad

Heather Richtmyre  //  March 30, 2010

How many button-pushes do you really think about?


ecently, I've been reminded of how many habits and terms I'm familiar with in video games may confusing or incomprehensible to new players, and how many of my habits are largely unconscious. Even some of the most basic of these could be misunderstood by those less experienced.

One basic term is that of "dungeon." I saw a low-level player in World of Warcraft who failed to realize that such instances were designed for groups, and thus attempted to run Ragefire Chasm solo, a dungeon which is designed for a group of five players. This led to their character's death, of course.

For habits, there is my near-instantaneous response to quick-time events, usually before I've even read the text related to its effects. While this is helpful when the event is related to escaping an enemy or when a slow response would cause death, I've had some cases where I realized after pressing the button that I just caused something completely unwanted. For example, this reflex is the reason why my Shepard in Mass Effect 2 has a few Renegade points. Reflex is the reason why my Shepard in Mass Effect 2 has a few Renegade points.Even after consciously deciding to not press the button when the option for a Renegade action came up during a cut scene, I still found myself doing so, and doing so repeatedly. But this does bring up the question of how responsive new players might be to these stimuli without the preexisting habit.

Then there is the issue of fire. While not standing in fire is generally a good thing, the habit of immediately avoiding it can be problematic when said fire is not the largest environmental hazard. In some cases, it may even be the least of such hazards. Working on the Firefighter fight in WoW is a prime example of this, as I often went to great lengths to avoid fire, despite the fact that the encounter had many other dangers that would kill my character much more quickly. Still, instinctively running out of fire is a habit that has served me too well to be completely overcome.

Whether it's my comprehension that a certain amount of supplies foreshadow a boss fight, how the timing of an auto-save point means either more enemies or that I've cleared the area, or simply how instinctive button-pressing may save me in some fashion, a newer player may have difficulty with such cues. And then specific terms that are taken for granted simply add to the confusion and complexity.

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