Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Pause for thought - the "Just a game" argument

Ok its been a while since the inital flurry of posts. After posting the analysis up I thought it didn't seem right. It doesn't fit the tone of the other posts and it feels like I am lecturing which is not good. I have been here before really. Many times on the forums in the so called 'metagame' I could see stuff happening that fitted work. I noticed others from a psychology or social science background noticing similar stuff. It was hard to stop commenting and making note at the time and often when comments about the social science of a particular situation where made it was counter productive.

I guess it was a bit like Nikos Kazantzakis and mates in their 'Friendly society' running around handing beggars a cup of tea (See Report to Greco). The beggar isn't too happy with their condescending attitude and tells them to get stuffed. That happened to me quite a few times in the 'metagame'. 'No-one likes a smart arse' (Douglas Adams).

The thing is it wasn't a game it was quite serious at the time. When you see people destroying each others game because they cannot agree on how to accommodate each other then you really have to try and do something surely? Especially if you can see what the issues are. You can tell that in this respect I have a lot to learn still!

I don't know why more often than not I could not help. It felt like it would help if people could see that things could be explained or that something about what was happening could be revealed so people could understand each other better. But it just didn't work. I am getting ahead of myself slightly but the point needs to be made now. The previous post here is a very rough comment on a couple of aspects of the game to show that in fact with time something could be done to understand community interaction better. It is merely a cursory glance and I didn't even get into distinctions (which is the best way to analyse forum interaction by a long shot).

Why is it important?

Ok well take Eve. Right now it is going through a series of crisies associated with bias and feelings that the playing field is not level. The sense that one Alliance is being favoured over others is destroying player trust. Now no matter how crazy the actions from time to time of players (and in some cases here this has been pretty bad). I have seen the "its just a game" argument cited in this respect several times. But is it "just a game"?

The point has been debated in many places other than Eve but it is not surprising to see it happening again at this time in there: Let take a few quotes:
SamuraiJack says People say its just a game. Eve is not. Years of work are buried in here. as a quick example ASCN had 13 outposts in feyth. put up wiht long hours of hauling logistics and group work. Now u can do it with a frieghter or two and a group of mates...
Someone has even started a thread with the title "People: Its just a game...."
Bannion Yes, I agree, "This is just a game.........but, when I pay to play a game I expect to be on the same level as everyone else, only skill and tactics should beat me and they have on many occasions, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I read in lots posts now that Dev's have been helping probably the best Alliance ingame get ahead.
Obviously Ashira Twilight on page two of that thread is upset because it takes time to replace things you lose in Eve.

Yeah, my pvp alt has gotten his butt handed to him every time he's taken them on. He in his harbinger/vengeance/arbitrator, against their pilgrim/curse/ishtar/eos/astart/etc...makes me wonder how they get all those nice toys...
I'm venting too. I lose a tech 1 ship fitted with tech 2 modules, and have to grind for a while to get a new one. I used to think that all bpo owners were just lucky, now I don't know what to think.
Further Nev Clavain says:
Now on many points I absolutely agree with OP. I don't think people should be offensive or really systematically set out to ruin other people's fun, because its just a game. But if they choose to do that it is really their choice how they play the game, and other players must learn not to be offended, or learn how to enforce their own style of play - it is a sandbox afterall.

The one thing that i consider my money is paying for in this game is a Level Playing Field. The game is not fun unless everyone is playing on the same terms. It seems that idea of equal terms has been a myth for quite some time. In which case I have been to a large extent wasting my money. I don't like to throw away money to dishonest crooks. It makes me irritated to say the least.

I have had fun playing the game in the last six months, but that fun was based on an assumption which has turned out to be untrue. Sure its just a game, but the money that paid for it was real, the time spent earning that money was mine, and it was real.
At the end of the day "its a game" idea is a paradox after all games are not to be taken seriously right? Right?

Yeah right...

CCP have a very large investment riding on it. The players have loads of time riding on it. It is simply stupidity to make that claim. An MMO is always more than just a game. Otherwise why would we see Eve cited in the Washington Post? Why do we see people paying real money to have in game money? Why is there a mini sweatshop industry of strip miners in the game?

People who cite that argument obviously don't believe it either. I guess they are trying to calm things down. Whenever people cited that to me in DaoC I would often see red - odd that I never thought that social science could be just as condescending isn't it?

OK summing up this one:
Trying to inject social science into any of these discussions through this medium doesn't really work its as condescending as 'its just a game' arguments.

I did not intend the last post to read like it does but it seems to sound all wrong. Doesn't fit the medium and besides this blog is not meant to be work. I am mindful of Susan Sontag, who is a legend in political essay writing in medical sociology often falling into lecturing in her essays when it doesn't really fit such a medium (the political essay). So time to leave that behind and try to work with the underlying ideas rather than lecturing. After all people are smart enough to get the point and smarter still to make better points.

Apart from this though the main reason why I haven't posted is because I have been working on a new Corporation concept for Eve, that and trying my hand at an Epic poem for that game. Rather than talk about the details you probably can guess where my gaming hobby energy is going to these days. Its not DaoC.

Ok back to the story....


Lieva said...

I wonder, those people who say 'its just a game'. have they put the same time,effort and genuine into their character/ship as the people getting angry.
Of cause its just a game in the begining but you put time and effort into it, it becomes a mini-digital representation of youronlineself.
No wonder people get angry when that 'digital self' gets messed with.

Roz / Zora / Ambera / Ascarii said...

I dunno about it being condescending Shark. If you'd said 'Hey, listen to me, I know social science and it has all the answers', and then applied the science in a reductivist way, that would have been condescending. But you didn't, you always said, 'hey, let's see if we can shed some light on what's happening here' and then brought the social stuff in. At least, that's my understanding of what you did.

In a sense, that's the opposite of saying 'it's just a game'. It's accepting that this can be serious stuff that gets people angry and upset and is worth trying to sort out using whatever tools we have available.

Obviously we're skipping well ahead here but I think the reasons why it didn't help with the Dyvet situation are manifold. Possibly there was no way to help and things were already too far out of hand. Perhaps if you'd been able to present your arguments in a way that more of the playerbase had been able to connect with (many of them being young, having self-avowedly low concentration spans and not speaking English as a first language), there would have been more of a spread of understanding, but I don't know.

I'm sure you know far more than I do about how to approach this sort of question, but in terms of after-the-fact analysis rather than on-the-ground trying to work a situation out, I favour a top-and-bottom approach. Look at what happened and see what patterns strike you. Keep in mind what the established models tell you to expect, and gently see if what's happening fits the models.

You say this blog isn't meant to be work - fair enough, but I for one would be interested to see some interpretation of events as we go along, rather than just a straight history.