15 March 2010

[Conf] Applying product attachment theory in the practice of experience design

John Zimmerman gave a talk on March 12th about how product-attachment theory could be applied in design. In my comments [in brackets] I explain how all this could be applied to MMOG.

In a nutshell, attachment theory's main focus is on the bounds a child ties with his/her parents. Product-attachment theory describes how people learn to love certain possessions when they use them. For example, a Mum who read books to her child every night may want to keep the books even after the 30-year old child has left the house. This attachment takes too much time (decades) and marketers want to increase sales now, not in a far future. Hence three factors come into play: identification, attachment and influence. Stars can produce on plebes these three factors [example: George Clooney in Nespresso commercials]. But products can generate this effect by themselves. James in 1890 wrote that people are what they possess. Similarly, in order to be a mother, a woman must "have" a child. The diagram nearby is a summary of what Belk suggested in 1988 (p145): being is determined by having and doing.

Product attachment theory has two focuses: role enhancement and role transition. When a high school student goes to college, he/she will buy products to create his/her identity. This is role transition, while role enhancement would be: a mother may feel better if she buys more expensive things to her children. In our consumption society, the key idea is selling appropriate goods to people to help them build their identity. [These two focuses should be very important to RMT-based F2P MMOG marketers... if they can spot when such transitions happen. Here are a few examples of in-game transitions. When a player creates an avatar, the player may not directly spend a lot (of real money) to customize his/her avatar. However, as the avatar transitions to the virtual world, the player starts to see other avatars and wants to create his/her identity. At that moment, the player is very likely to want to buy more trendy clothes, more cool-looking equipment, a mount/vehicle or even a house. The first reaction of level-15 Human WoW avatars reaching Stormwind for the first time when they saw a paladin on his battle steed is very likely to be "OMFG I want to mount horses as well!". Second Life offers themed private islands for their residents. Undoubtedly, some residents feel like they have a social status to assume and buy a virtual house.]

Once one has become what he/she wanted to be, one does not want to be it anymore. [Here I somehow disagree: there must be a phase when one realizes and enjoys having reached one's goal and status.]

From Q&A: there are two main conflicting theories of aesthetics: novelty and familiarity. [this might explain Braid game design success: the very familiar 2-D platform side-scroller contains the novel idea of using the ability to go back in time to solve puzzles and progress.]

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