Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The Wii Help Cat
With the latest firmware upgrade, my Nintendo Wii seems to have acquired a new feature - this mysterious black cat slinks onto the screen every now and again when the Wii is idle. If you try to grab it, it runs away - unless you sneak up on it with the wiimote very carefully. If you actually manage to pet it, the cat will give you a reward - a useful tip about how to use the Wii Dashboard, or whatever feature you're in.
What a crazy idea - making people work hard for a measly tip! (hang on - that's the whole principle behind the service industry in America...)
And yet, no matter - it's fun! I always try to catch the cat (if I'm lucky enough to have it appear). It dawned on me that if those same tips were presented every time I turned on the Wii, in a boring grey window, that I almost certainly wouldn't read them at all...
Dean and I were discussing yesterday how strange it was that people pay real money to do boring busywork in game worlds, that they wouldn't do in real life. Things like in World of Warcraft ("bring me back my chalice/treasure/pants" or whatever), or the Sims, where people are just managing pretend people's boring lives, instead of their own.
Sometimes seemingly bad design (intentionally making things harder to get at) can make them more attractive, and ultimately have greater impact.
You can read a full analysis of the help cat ,(and see a a video of it in action) over at Lost Garden.
Actually you should really go and do that, it's a good article on usability and design...