One of the fine touches implemented in upcoming customizable PlayStation 3 side-scroller "Little Big Planet" is the ability for players to offer each other rewards. Not only can you build a level; you can build a prize.
Ah, but what kind of prize should you give?
Let's say you've made a level called "Houston, We Have A Problem" and made it available for fellow gamers to play in the "Little Big Planet" beta. This level lets our hero Sackboy take an elevator into a rocketship. It launches the rocket to the stars. The rocket crash-lands amid on a lunar landscape where aliens dwell. A lunar vehicle can drive you to safety and the end of the level. What do you give players?
You give them a photo of former Games for Windows Magazine editor and new EA hire Jeff Green.
Why? I have no idea.
This reminds me of a lesson that was taught in the 1980s comedy "Revenge of the Nerds."
Near the end of that movie, a group of college nerds are trying to find ways to win a university-wide festival. I can't remember why they're doing this, but I do remember one tactic: They sell pies. They manage to sell lots of pies. They do this because at the bottom of each pie tin is a photo of a naked woman. Now I'm not saying that a photo of a smiling Jeff Green has the same allure to the same crowd as the naked female form, but one can see where this is going.
"Houston, We Have A Problem" has been played at least 5,956 times. It's been "hearted" (favorited) 656 times. That makes it one of the most popular levels that I've encountered in the beta. Imagine how much more popular it would be if the creator of that level got a reputation for giving out cool photo prizes, like pictures of Jeff Green or... whoever.
I played a "Final Fantasy VII"-themed level that rewarded me with images from that game. I played a "WipEout"-themed level that automatically took a screenshot of my character finishing a race. I played a dinosaur level that rewarded me with a complex, mechanical-looking dinosaur. All of these items were automatically placed in my inventory. All of them can be placed by me in any level of the game, including levels I make. And all of them are rewards made by other gamers, in levels made by other gamers -- as far as I know all independently of "LBP" development studio Media Molecule.
As games like "Little Big Planet" hit the market, we're going to learn a lot about what kind of things gamers like to make. We're going to learn a lot about how gamers would like to reward each other as well, with Jeff Green now serving as the proverbial naked woman at the bottom of the pie tin.