Gossip (computer game)

Gossip (computer game)

Infobox VG| title = Gossip

developer = Atari
publisher = Atari
designer = Chris Crawford
engine =
released = 1983
genre = miscellaneous
modes =
ratings = N/A
platforms = Atari 400/800/XL/XE
media = cartridge
requirements =
input = Joystick

"Gossip" was an experimental game created for the Atari 400 by Chris Crawford. Crawford wished for games that would simulate aspects of human social interaction, thus creating games with “social challenges” that would broaden the universe of computer and video game genres. He hoped people-games would also appeal to different audiences from the then-prevalent combat-based and sports games. He especially hoped to appeal to women.

Although the interaction involved was relatively simple, he considered it to be to “people games” what "Pong" was to video games in general. He contends that social interaction modelling in The Sims is equally simple. [Since Crawford made this statement, "" has introduced a much more detailed social model; "The Sims 2" and its expansions have expanded it even further.]


The screen at right is a mock-up that Crawford contributed. In "" (ISBN 0-07-222428-2), an actual screen shot appears with different colours and eight characters: You, Val, Jim, Liz, Amy, Dan, Sue and Tom.

The player would use a joystick cursor to select a character to telephone. That person’s phone would ring with a jiggling animation and ringing sound effect. He or she would pick up the phone and say, “Air-oh?” The player would select a person to gossip about, and then one of five expressive animations (strong positive, slight positive, neutral, slight negative, strong negative). The listener would then respond with his or her own opinion of the person.

ocial model

The social interactions he chose for this experimental simulation were declarations of affinity (e.g. “I like Fred,” “I hate Jane”). The theory behind the simulation was that people liked those who shared their opinions of others, and were also influenced positively by their friends’ opinions and negatively by their enemies’ opinions. Such declarations, Crawford said, were implicit in many pieces of gossip. He produced the following mathematical model:

Delta x_{l,s}=frac{x_{l,o} x'_{s,o{k_1}

Delta x_{l,o}=frac{x_{l,s} x'_{s,o{k_2}

where "xa,b" is "a"’s actual opinion of "b","x'a,b" is "a"’s declared opinion of "b", "l" is the listener, "s" is the speaker, "o" is the object (the person being gossiped about), k1 and k2 are constants greater than 1 (Crawford gave the hypothetical value of 10, but did not specify the actual values used in the game).

The AI characters did not perform discrete interactions with each other. They instead acted as nodes in a web of springs, trying to reduce the tension around them.

One issue that was not addressed was sincerity (the relationship between actual and declared opinion). Also, it did not account for the fact that repeating the same statement too many times would eventually reduce its effect.

Commercial results

Although Crawford was particularly proud of this game, he never developed a structure of goals (making it, by his definition, a toy rather than a game) and never published it. Only a few cartridges were produced, and fewer still (the exact number is uncertain) ever sold, and they are now rare collector’s items. Nonetheless, he applied this experimental system in Excalibur, for the management of the Knights of the Round Table and diplomacy with the other kings of England. In the former case, affinity was declared by giving gold, bestowing honours that would diminish the value of other honours, and banishing a knight. In the latter case, it was by demanding tithes, paying them and attacking. He also took the idea of social challenge into a different mechanic with .



cite book
title=Chris Crawford on Game Design
id=ISBN 0-88134-117-7
authorlink=Chris Crawford
publisher=New Riders
chapter=Chapter 19: Gossip

External links

* [http://www.atariarchives.org/APX/showinfo.php?cat=unknown_gos atariarchive.org] Gossip info

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