The power of the 'unknown' on virtual worlds

I am not particularly a religious man; in fact, the idea of ​​randomness and casual standardization sounds much more interesting and exciting than a maktub vision or an autocratic regulation of the world.

This, however, does not prevent me from referring to the concept of god; but not represented as an omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent mythical being, but rather as the endless ignorance about what surrounds us, the illustrious ignorance of the functioning of many aspects of our (our) universe.

Nonetheless, the objective of this text is not the individual questioning of what is accepted as true, but to draw parallels between these social models and the construction of immersive virtual environments.

Everyone needs the unexpected

Even in simulators (metaverses), there will be more involvement when external situations breaks user control. Otherwise, omnipotence about the results of all actions would make living in this environment too tedious.

Moving away from philosophical discussions, the existence of the inexplicable seems to be fundamental to our acceptance of reality, after all, from the earliest human consciousness, we have evolved our knowledge in the quest for answers to what we can not explain in an infinite race that extrapolates an individual existence, but determines new horizons for the human species.

In real life, Thor and Chac are replaced by electricity movements; Ra and Mithra lose their thrones for nuclear fusion; in a constant filling of Henry Drummond 'god of the gaps'.

On a gamification course, I was introduced to the game "Aye, Dark Overlord!” a “Storytelling Card Game”.

Rigor Mortis is not happy… but he's waiting for your excuses…

To make a long story short, at the game one of the players, promoted to the position of Rigor Mortis, the Dark Master, questions his servants (other players) about a particular task they should have executed. As expected, the task was not successfully acomplished, so, the servants must explain to the Dark Master the reasons behind their unforgiven failure.

The purpose of the game is to be able to think of well-formulated excuses using cards with elements that must be incorporated into the story (the excuse) and pass on the problem to some other servant until someone succumbs to the lack of creativity and The Dark Master condemns him with a “glare” — of course the game could also be called “Aye, boss!” In many companies.

In this case, the acceptance of a pair as a superior being (the master) is premise for the mechanics of that ludic narrative, after all, the game starts from this collective accepted scenario to move on. But this agreement only occurs because all experience in that universe has it as a basis.

In a virtual immersive collective environment (virtual world, multiplayer game), however, more than accepting the “divine” intervention, the live there seem to really need the intervention of the unknown to be motivated to continue existing (in that environment). Even in “Aye, Dark Master” the set of cards drawn to each user adds the uncertainty component, from the unknown, to the dynamic of the game.

To fight enemies is the simplest engagement narrative tool

The consequent investigation into the origin of an unknown element or event (which may be the trigger for a narrative / adventure), the search for the solution of some intemperance that this event caused or simply the feeling of subjugation, acclaiming it as a superior-being, push the individuals into their virtual existences. And, in this scenario, events of unknown origin are even better accepted than those derived from a pair, except when this pair is their declared enemy.

As survival machines, the use of antagonism as a motivational element is rather simpleton, though effective. After all, ensuring the own perpetuation or dominance, even in virtual environments, remains a strong driving force.

But, when there are no enemies, the rise of a pair to an autocratic position can cause the abandonment of that environment by other individuals who do not accept this hierarchical movement, since they have the freedom to choose between being in the environment and are not necessarily emotionally linked with the individual who has ascended to the higher position (dealing with a collective virtual environment) and, therefore, confident of his decisions. This bastard leader, then, is seen as an enemy (falling into the simplistic mechanics, quoted above) or causes the exodus of the population to another environment.

Thus, occurrences whose point of origin can not be explained, even negative ones, motivate these individuals in the virtual immersive environment in the opposite way, responding exactly as we would do in our “real” world: try to understand where it came from (focus on the past), seek to solve the problem caused by this unknown event (focus on the future) or the conformed prostration that that force is much greater than him.

In other cases, however, the mere existence of a greater force that alters the environment, is enough to increase the credibility of that universe.

This is the reason, for example, why game developers worry about reliable climate retraction in their environments; that's an appeal to the oldest divine model: the call to Zeus, to Tlaloc, to Tsui, to Oxumarê, or, rain.

If the meaning of life is having problems to fix, in an immersive virtual environment, challenges are better accepted when created by an intangible, inexplicable entity .. let’s call it ‘destiny’, ‘god’, ‘maktub’, ‘administrator’, ‘great architect’ or any nomenclature that identifies the illustrious, the necessary and feared, unknown.

JC Rodrigues has a degree in Advertising and Marketing (ESPM), a Graduate Specialization Gamification (PUC), a post-grad in e-Business (UFRJ) and a MBA in Digital Marketing Management (ESPM). Former professor at ESPM University and Miami Ad School. Has started his career in 1996, working for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Ford, Euro, JWT, among others; besides being the Director of Disney Interactive operation at The Walt Disney Company for over 7 years. Is an expert on digital marketing and interactive communication; and author of the book “Playing god — Creating Virtual Worlds and Digital Immersive Experiences”.