A first look at an MRF game move

In my previous post on online games that matter, I described the Myelin Repair Foundation’s research game. That game was mounted in concert with Justine Lam and the Institute for the Future, and was funded by the Pioneer Fund of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  I look forward to continued explorations of online games that matter. Meanwhile,  as part of my thesis research, I began to analyze game moves, starting with one of my own.

In that game, players create game moves by filling in cards, each of a specific type: a question, or several types of answers. The result is a tree structure, not unlike those created with Compendium.  I therefore lifted one of my game moves together with the entire subtree it anchors and copied that into Compendium. The tree’s image is online here (click on it to expand its size), and the report is here.  It’s worth noting that the tree I crafted represents my interpretation of the game moves; it is entirely reasonable to expect there to be other interpretations, as well as errors in my own.

One goal of this analysis is to begin the process of discovering and evolving a set of best practices associated with structured conversation, be it in games or otherwise.  From the nature of each contributed card (node), I look for evidence of issues related the contribution, and seek ways to improve the process.

The simplest observation is that multiple topics made in any given card make it difficult to establish a coherent subtree of responses to that node. Here is a trivial example, not taken from the game:

  • Q: What are the causes of climate change?
    • A: Upper atmosphere carbon dioxide and refrigerator magnets

One should not dwell on the apparent humour in that answer, since there are skilled people who could turn that into a really thoughtful conversational arc around the energetics of making refrigerator magnets and entailed effects on climate. Our interest lies in a suspicion that the subtree that grows from that answer will use a lot of coherence factors to separate out the two topics, then deal with each, separately.

A preference, cast in the light of conversation federation, is to seek simple answers, and use lots of tree (child) nodes to expand on those answers such that each expansion, itself, is an addressable assertion that can, where appropriate, serve as a root for a new subtree.

I think there is room for a large (global) conversation that orbits a well-posed core question that seeks best practices in hypermedia discourse.

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