Originally posted by Lazarus and the Gimp
Getting academic theories across to an audience can be tricky, but it always helps if you can use something off-the-wall and fun as an example to place things in context. That way, even the most cerebral of works can be firmly grounded in a memorable, earthy context.
Take the works of Maslow, for example. Abraham Maslow was one of life's bright sparks. He could have served up a brain banquet to all the professors in the western world's universities and still have enough grey matter left over to slap out cortex kebabs for them as they lurched out looking for a snog and a fight. He is hailed as the father of humanist psychology, and his best-known work is his "hierarchy of needs". This was an attempt to rationalise and establish precedence in the many aims and ambitions we all have.
At this moment you're probably sitting slack-jawed and making vague "Huh?" noises of bemusement. Don't worry- it's a natural reaction to being deluged in Academo-babble. Let me attempt to place this in a context you'll appreciate.
Think of the start of a civ game- the first few turns. Your lone settler is gawping at the scenery, scratching his arse and starting to wonder if his vital organs will be viewing a barbarian's colon from the inside with 24 hours. He's going to die unless his immediate needs are satisfied. To be blunt, his attitude is "Stuff philosophy. I want some food and somewhere warm to sleep". Who can blame him? Get out there and build him a farm! He's not going to discover the alphabet if his little loincloth is hiding a nasty case of frostbite gangrene and he's eating worms, is he? This, of course, demonstrates that higher goals are impossible dreams if your most basic physiological needs aren't satisfied.
OK- our little settler is now belching contedly and admiring his lovely little hovel. Suddenly he remembers those barbarians, and he starts wondering if he's going to be the next spit-roast in the vicinity. Now his goal becomes safety, so get that mouse clicking and build him a city wall and a barracks. If feeling particularly generous, research Warrior Code. I've never quite worked out what that was, but I think it's the art of waving swords around while wearing a sort of big dress. Like a girl. Your loyal little citizens will be quite happy working on these tasks, but should their basic physiological needs get neglected they'll drop their pointy sticks and run screaming back to the farm with spades in hand.
That's a vital principle- threaten a basic need, and more advanced goals will suffer more. Anyway, assuming that disaster doesn't stike and your Civ game is going fairly smoothly at this point, you can start looking at more advanced goals beyond safety needs. Maslow's next stage was "love and belonging needs". This doesn't mean that you'll be researching waterbeds and love-eggs (unless Sid pays any attention to my suggestions to Civ 4, that is), but you do have an option to build churches and work on your theology- all factors aimed to produce a strong sense of community and "belonging". SMAC had a few obviously pleasure-oriented improvements too, where presumably your drones would be pacified by inter-faction mud-wrestling and mindworm erotica. Neglect these needs and your citizens will start shouting and throwing stuff at you, so avoid grief by getting them entertained and loved-up.
Now we're getting to the highbrow stuff. Your citizens are getting a little jaded by TV and Church, and the fights down at the Colosseum just aren't as entertainingly bloody as they used to be. So they've gone and discovered angst. The backs of their hands are permanently fixed to their brows in slightly camp expressions of theatrical woe as they contemplate their place in your world. We're into the highest stages of Maslow's hierarchy now, the "esteem needs", the need to have aspirations and self-esteem. The sort of urges that make you do dreadful things like taking up correspondence courses or attempting to sit through a Bergman movie. Be a good little despot and build them Universities, Stock Exchanges and Cures for Cancer to bathe their troubled souls in a rosy glow of spiritual well-being. But remember! If the food runs out, or barbarians start breaking down their doors and criticising their curtains, they'll revert back to savagery in a nanosecond.
Finally, at the very apex of the hierarchy are the transcendental needs. In SMAC terms that's easy. Just build "Threashhold of Transcendance" and your people will apparently all end up sat about in floaty robes wearing vague smiles like a bunch of eminently slappable smug gits. Civ doesn't do this sort of thing, but presumably beyond the limits of the gameplay there's a theoretical point where all your citizen's goals are achieved. I like to define that as the moment where your poor beleagured settler finally gets to lay down his hand-plough and gets a job as a quality control inspector in a zero-gravity breast factory.
And that's Maslow's hierarchy of needs. You guessed it- I'm going to be running a training session on Maslow and I'm going to do it by getting them all playing Civ. Expect to hear of my promotion or sacking very soon.