Some Thinking For The Weekend

by on December 15, 2012

‘Tis the season… for serious, deep thought, apparently. Here are a few serious, thoughtful posts to take you into the weekend:

  • Balkoth writes an excellent, highly analytical post arguing it would be a very bad idea to let WoW players raid current content cross-server“Whenever social upheaval occurs in WoW, guilds tend to dissolve and people tend to quit. So how much stability are you willing to give up for fluidity? How much are you willing to sacrifice on the altar of cross-realm raiding?”
  • Doone makes the sure-to-be-controversial statement that much current game design – and almost all MMORPG game design – is highly unethical“I know, this is a really rough indictment, but I think I can show that it’s not an extreme view of things and in fact it’s the normal state of things. This is what makes the problem invisible to us. This is what will make many of you say “I don’t see the problem.””
  • And Saxsy makes an equally controversial – and very interesting – case for allowing RP characters to have extreme levels of power or ability“That, I think, is the key to determining the propriety of the extra power. Is the power something that would be the focus of the RP, or at least an influence for the RP? Or is it something that you have no intention of following through on?”

Have a great weekend!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Doone December 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Sure to be controversial? :) Thanks for reading and I hope it made you think about game design in a different way.


Saxsy December 16, 2012 at 7:15 am

I will be responding to Doone’s article in one way or another on my site because I don’t think it’s right to leave something that toxic out there unchallenged. The biggest problem with it, perhaps, is in the part you quote, or in several other places within the piece. Any counter argument is immediately tarred as someone being trapped within a Skinner box, deluded by their own addiction to an unethical system. It’s a sleazy tactic designed to dismiss ahead of time any criticism of the piece.

And believe me, the piece deserves criticism. It starts with a fundamental misunderstanding of what a Skinner box is and how it works, compounds it with a wildly inaccurate assumption about the motivations of developers, applies it counterfactually to game conditions that do not exist, and then sprinkles in some superficial hypotheticals to distract from the weakness of the core argument in the first place.

So yes, watch my blog. Something like that can’t be left unchallenged.


Doone December 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Wow, Saxsy. I think you have thoroughly misunderstood the intent and the points I’ve made in the article and have gone on the war path. In your response, be sure to point out what my core argument is. I’m not sure you understood it and I apologize if my poor writing style hasn’t made the point well. Believe me, I thought long and hard about every point and nothing was posted wildly or presumptuously on purpose. I don’t understand what you think was “toxic” about my article but I look forward to your thoughts.


Saxsy December 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Your core argument is, as I believe it is applied to Warcraft, that game developers create repetitive daily tasks for people that are not fun at all, but use various psychological techniques to force people to perform those tasks for the point of making money off of those people. Your premise is that we as gamers need to reject those techniques and refuse to play games that somehow manipulate you into playing.

The argument, as I have applied it to Warcraft, is counterfactual. No one is forced to do dailies. And Blizzard certainly isn’t making money off of people who do dailies, as opposed to say sitting around and RPing, or running battlegrounds, or whatever.

The toxic bit about your argument is you state over and over again in your piece that anyone arguing against you is doing so because they are rationalizing the system they play in and their decisions to play the game. You have dismissed ahead of time anything I have had to say about it.

And finally, your article comes across as excessively paternalistic: you are the one who recognizes these evils, and you need to save us poor lemmings from ourselves.


Doone December 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Foremost, any discussion about the article is welcome in the comments of the article where I and other readers can keep track. That’s helpful for ALL readers, including those who might not visit the Melting Pot. So do me that favor if you’re really interested in the topic: leave your comments there.

On paternalism: I don’t know what to say. I vetted this article through several peers and none cried paternalism. It is an argument. Having an argument does not somehow mean that the deliverer believes themselves to be the sole bearer of truth. You can explain that yourself in your article or in the comments of my own article. I hope you actually engage the points I tried to make rather than attacking me.

On toxic: You are referring to my statements about denial being a common reaction. You’re conflating the denial of counter-arguments with the denial of a person who is aware of the ways in which they are manipulating players. They are very different and you should make the distinction. I make a decided difference between the two and you have thoroughly misread the article if that is your stance. I encourage you to revisit it and if you still feel that way add feedback in the comments where I can actually keep track of it. But don’t accuse me wrongly of not being open to other points of view. It is an argument. That is the nature of debate. Don’t dismiss me for that.

As to the core argument: Not quite. I ask that you reread it and give it some thought. If you still feel the same, please leave a comment so I can keep track of the feedback. I am always open to counter-arguments and strongly encourage them, but I’m not really open to personal attacks.

Please don’t unfairly judge me for questioning the ethics of our games, our designers, and ourselves as a community. I think you’re being unfair and highly prejudicial. Instead of just engaging the topic you’re focusing on the writer and what you imagine me to be for daring to bring up ethics and believe in them.

I’m glad you think it’s a worthwhile topic to write a counter-argument against. I look forward to it! But the name-calling and harsh judgements are unnecessary and they do nothing to further conversation, only to add tension and make sure that we talk past each other. Let’s agree to be civil and not judge each other for believing something and arguing for it.


Saxsy December 19, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Doone, your article angered me in many ways. Perhaps this was not intentional on your part, but I felt that you were bandying about the loaded term “Skinnerian” to describe acts that are no more troubling than any effort by anyone to get someone to do something, and then piggy-backing on that term to call for action against unethical practices. I felt that you were presenting hypotheticals and answering them without even considering opposing view points, and constructing those hypotheticals in unfair manners as to lead people to your conclusion in a slippery slope style argument. (For example: if one believes it is right to save a drowning child, then one has a responsibility to save a drowning child. From there, there is a responsibility to take all efforts, even slight, to prevent children from drowning. And so on down to saying you have a responsibility to protect gamers from Skinnerian techniques). This is not the only technique I saw you using; in fact I think your article was absolutely loaded with them.

I have seen these arguments many times before and in my opinion, when used deliberately they are absolutely toxic to discussion. My claim that gamers don’t need to be protected from Skinnerian techniques suddenly becomes a claim that people shouldn’t save drowning children. And what kind of monster does that make me? The only reasonable response to a deliberate use of such techniques is to discredit the technique itself, to discredit the hypotheticals as far-flung, to discredit the use of the terms as bombastic, and to paint the arguer in such a light as to make it clear that he or she is arguing unfairly. The result, as you can see, is not pretty.

It’s possible, though, that you weren’t being deliberate in your use of these techniques, and you weren’t intending to push your view to foreclose any reasonable counter. I did not appreciate that possibility and if indeed you weren’t being deliberate in trying to foreclose argument, I apologize. I encourage you to read my other articles on the subject, which are not directed at you specifically and have a much calmer tone.

As for comments, I don’t find they work well when I have a lot to say.

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