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...

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. I suspect Dean frequently wonders often about my little Sims/SimCity/Etc addiction. And I do fully fess up to being addicted to all the little simulation sandbox games where....nothing happens. My theory is some people lead boring lives with no stress. These people have to watch scary television shows like CSI and 24 and Lost to get their thrill. I watch these shows - I love 24 - and it stresses me out. When your job already involves politics, intrigue and high excitement (Granted, I never disarm bombs or chase bad guys at work...) I think there's something relaxing about playing God with little people whose biggest problem in life is whether they can eat, sleep, work, pee, and remember to feed the cat so the animal control people don't take fluffy away. (And my Sims cat DID get taken away after some serious bladder control issue that caused her to get stuck in the litter box. I swear! I didn't kill fluffy! Turns out to be a bug, not my fault!!)
    Its a fine line between making something just hard enough to be a challenge, but not so hard it isn't doable.