Monday, March 18, 2013

Roleplaying an idiot

I kept calling people who did idiotic things in games "morons and slackers". They kept answering that a game is a game, therefore can be played any way the player wants to, as long as he have fun. At this point the argument died as neither position can be proved. They can't prove that they have fun or they could play properly if they wanted to, I can't prove the opposite.

Now I'm trying a different approach: it is without doubt that from the point of view of the character, their actions is idiotic. Killing random orcs on Arathi Basin bridge instead of capturing a base makes the poor human paladin lose the battle and gain less rewards. Running off to lowsec to PvP in frigates will earn neither ISK nor good killboard for the poor pilot. The character is indeed a moron or slacker.

In the world of an MMO, the player is represented by an avatar. These games are called role-playing for a reason. These players simply roleplay an idiot. They roleplay the dumb paladin who can't understand that bases are more important than killing orcs or lacks the impulse control to do the right thing. They roleplay the combative, juvenile pilot who runs off fighting for no other reason than being mean to some random stranger.

These games are promising us to roleplay heroes. In the EVE Online page there is even a list of what you can be. I've seen "loyalist", "pirate", "manufacturer" there. Yet most people choose to roleplay and idiot.

Let's assume that these players are telling the truth and they are not idiots while roleplaying idiots. Then this situation is the fault of the game developer: their reward structure doesn't reward "proper" roleplaying enough. I mean the "hero" of Arathi Basin isn't rewarded enough to motivate people to roleplay heroes. If you just lol around pointlessly or simply go AFK, you still get more than enough honor points. Similarly, no one is rewarded enough in EVE to roleplay a "proper" pirate, someone who makes a fortune from piracy. The idiot pilot who runs around and shoots stuff randomly isn't much worse off than someone who hunts for a worthy prey. Actually both of them are miles behind the AFK miner.

The problem with this setting is that most people don't want to roleplay idiots. At least in their game time they want to be dragonslaying heroes, fearsome pirates or great warriors. The games must reward good play and punish bad play not because it suits the hardcore, but because only this can create an atmosphere where one can be a "hero". Even if most players won't achieve this status, being a foot soldier of the good cause is something worthy of roleplaying. Just think about how many players join large nullsec alliances despite the reward structure, just to roleplay an F1-bashing footman, or think about the fact that most people are in guilds despite most of the guilds are utterly useless. People want to roleplay belonging to a team, so a structure where they are footmen supporting an army would work.

Games that reward bad play are necessarily penalize roleplaying the hero. It makes playing the way it was advertised pointless and unrewarding. While you still can play that way, you are constantly reminded that it's pointless and dumb by the "lol u r nolifer" crowd. Funnily games without any rewards are better in this sense. I mean in such game all ways of playing are equal. In a badly rewarded game playing well is actively punished and the player have to make up extra roleplaying terms to counter it.

One of these extra terms is "skillz", these players actually play the way it was meant to be: fighting hard enemies. However their efforts are unrewarded as even an AFK miner earns more than the guy who beats a battleship in a frigate. So they make up the imaginary "skillz", an alternative world where their actions gain respect. Too bad that in the real world they are laughed at by those who bash them easily by "blobbing", by those who earn lot more by living in highsec and even by gankers who have much-much better killboard stats.

Fixing the reward structure of games would serve every players, except those who are indeed idiots therefore can't roleplay anything else but idiots.


Anonymous said...

"The problem with this setting is that most people don't want to roleplay idiots."

The "problem" (which is no problem) is that most EVE players don't want to roleplay at all.

Characters are tools that are forged, used and discarded in order to fulfill their human operator's goals.

They are bought, sold, biomassed, ... and your average EVE player probably has 5-10 of them without identifying strongly with a single one.

How pointless is the life of a cyno alt? he sits in some station in the ass-end of nowhere for weeks waiting for the moment that he may light a cyno. Occasionally he gets a bunch of cyno gens and a stack of liquid ozone contracted to him and sometimes he has to fly 30 jumps across the universe to relocate.
He doesn't get any pay, he doesn't get to train any skills (once cyno IV is done), often he doesn't get to leave station for several weeks and sometimes he gets deactivated completely for a month or two.
What kind of idiot am I roleplaying (in your opinion) whenever I log into my cyno alt?

Anonymous said...

Your problem is the way you define success.

You define success as having a good killboard, or earning lots of isk. You therefore conclude that anybody who does things contrary to these things "an idiot". Or you conclude they are "role playing idiots".

When I first started out in eve, I was taken back by the immense size and scale of the game. I concluded that I had to see lots of it. So I traveled. I neither saught to earn lots of isk (just enough to replace the odd fast frigate here and there) or to have a good kill board (it would be 4 years before I would finally decide to join a PvP group and learn how to fight).

Yet I managed to see most of the map and a large portion of W-space as well. Of course I got lucky along the way and found interesting things to sell...made a pretty penny but it was hardly my goal or my end game. My goal was to go out and look at everything.

To your mind, I role played the idiot, because I didn't seek wealth or kills. I simply wanted to look around. I spent 12 months looking around. Then, and only then did I settle down and start to trade and do industry work.

You may think me idiotic for doing that but i gained an experience that few in eve bother with - and I satisfied my goals.

Daniel said...

Imagine you are on a pitch playing football with the intent to see the whole field, rather than help your team score goals. You run out there, seeing every corner of the field, taking in the crowd and making the most of your time, while your other team mates struggle to score. Your team loses, in part, because you didn't help with the mission of scoring goals or preventing the other team from scoring goals. But you had a good time, because you saw the field (your personal objective). Success!

I think most would agree that while the individual above had fun and met their objectives, they failed their team mates and the game at large.

At this point I could draw up what I think is the point of Eve. What the objectives and win conditions are. Then use that to label you whatever, and encourage you to participate in the objectives I've drawn out, so that *I* may enjoy the game more.

But the analogy breaks down quickly because there simply isn't a universal, competitive, established objective in Eve like there is in football. And I think that's where the struggle lies between GG and his dissenters.

I you try to apply competition rules to a game where there are none, it can lead to frustration. It pleases me to see GG encourage people (in his style). I am not optimistic it will have the desired effect.

Because is more virtual reality than it is a game.

Anonymous said...

Role playing in Eve is almost nonexistant. Role players don't care about stats and rewards wether they play good guys or bad guys. It's all about acting out the fictional traits they have come up with for their chars. I highly doubt that's the case with the vast majority of Eve players. Their chars are as flat as sheet of paper and they identify themself with their chars and the things that happen to them which is completely detrimental to role playing.
The miner gets pissed off irl if you keep ganking him. If he was a role player he would cry in local that his kids are gonna starve now. The pvp player is annoyed by his stats getting hurt if he loses a lot etc. That's not role playing.
On top of that the game mechanics and rules are detrimental to role playing too. You have to grind isk to do anything in the game. You wait and wait a long time to have the skills to be free to do certain things, multiboxing helps to be more succesful which is completely out of character. And other players are not helpful either because they don't care about your role play char. Role play only makes sense if the other players are also role players.

Gevlon said...

You aren't an EVE player. You are a doctor, an accountant, a factory worker, a student. You don't destroy the cars of people just to extract tears, you don't camp road crossings to rob people.

In EVE you take up these roles. Not speech makes roleplaying but acts.

Johnicholas Hines said...

This post is entirely correct. The only refinement that I can suggest is that people can and will move the boundaries of the "magic circle" wherever it suits them.

The magic circle demarcates the makebelieve world. Inside the magic circle, you're an awesome legendary hero, outside the magic circle, you're a kid swinging wooden stick.

Fans of roleplaying pirates are keen on the bloodthirstyness, the destruction, the tears of their victims, but not so keen on the boring chores like waiting silently for long hours or accurate bookkeeping including value of capital risked.

So they move the boundaries of the magic circle to include the occasions where they are cruising for targets, and step outside of the magic circle (stop roleplaying) and do highsec grinding to support their roleplaying habits.

You cannot legislate that they "play right" and keep the boundaries of the magic circle at logon/logoff or some other particular spot.

Hivemind said...

People play the game to have fun, because they personally get enjoyment from what they're doing, whether that's ganking people to make them angry, camping a gate to kill and loot travellers, hunting down skilled enemies for high-risk PvP engagements or living in highsec shooting red crosses to watch spaceships explode. Actually playing some sort of internally-consistent "role" rather than just having the character act out the player's wishes for the player's enjoyment doesn't really enter into it for most players.

That being said, there's no reason to look at a character who's not acting in an economically rational manner and assume "clearly they are being roleplayed as an idiot" any more than you would look at someone with a high income IRL who spends a lot of that income to maintain a lavish lifestyle and call them an idiot. EVE's background lore states that capsuleers are immortal via cloning and their skills alone (less than 0.00001% of the population are able to be capsuleers - a few million in a universe of hundreds of billions) guarantee that they will never go hungry. I forget the exact source but I believe that CCP devs have said that 1 ISK is comparable to a lifetime's earning in a minimum wage job for a planetside laborer; if a capsuleer ever wished to retire a mere 1,000 ISK would keep them in comfort for several lifetimes. Given that the usual hand-to-mouth necessities no longer apply and with no need to fear death or permanent injury or prepare for infirmity, capsuleers are free to do whatever they want regardless of it's economic rationality - if they want to live in lowsec camping gates for terrible ISK/time returns and occasional violent deaths because they like the idea of being some kind of dread pirate, there's no reason for them not to do so. Again, in EVE lore non-capsuleers regard capsuleers as capricious gods for exactly this reason.

Anonymous said...

"Gevlon said...

You aren't an EVE player. You are a doctor, an accountant, a factory worker, a student. You don't destroy the cars of people just to extract tears, you don't camp road crossings to rob people.

In EVE you take up these roles. Not speech makes roleplaying but acts."

What you mention there makes you a player not a role player. You talk about professions within the game. But role playing is to invent a fictional character with traits and quirks that are not your own. You play out the character based on what you think this character would do in this situation not what your real self would do in this situation. The satifaction comes from getting immersed in a fictional world with other fictional characters and the interactions that emerge from it. It's like improvising a theater piece on the fly.

Perhaps you are confused because Eve is called a role playing game. This refers to the game mechanics that allow people to role play if they want to. I mean you are not completely off in your blog post about what role playing is but you assume that people actualy do role play based on some misconceptions. But the fact is in Eve almost nobody is a role player. There are only a few exceptions like some of the more notorious scammers who stick to their quirky ingame personality, James perhaps and maybe a hand full more who play out their chars as patriotic as possible in FW. All in all a tiny minority of Eve's players. Most players don't play, talk and act in character. They are just themselfes and their char is like an avatar in the comment section of this blog.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy said...

You seem to be trying to zero in on a very specific issue, but doing it in a very roundabout way.

To you, games seem to be a bit more than just a way to entertain oneself and kill time. You seem to think that people who treat games as simply ways to entertain themselves and kill time are, at best, missing out and, at worst, dead wrong, wasting their precious time on stupid things.

So you try to get through to them by showing why what they are doing is bad. But you are trying to do it in game terms, telling them why their actions don't make sense within a game. Obviously, you are not getting through.

The reason you are not getting through is that the issue you are trying to tackle does not lie within the game. It lies within the real-life player, playing a game in a way that reinforces unproductive behaviour patterns. Moron and slacker is not an in-game behaviour. It is a state of a real person's mind, which is then conveyed and reinforced through in-game behaviour.

Below is a link to a talk by a reasonably well known game developer on a similar subject. The talk is long and is quite poorly executed (which goes to show that even game developers themselves don't really understand this topic), but does eventually succeed (even if in absolutely un-fun way) to point out a few useful analogies.

TLDR: "roleplaying an idiot" is a symptom of a real-life mindstate. Fighting against it like trying to cure cough in a lung cancer patient.

w_p said...

I disagree strongly with your point of view.
You basically take your aims (playing the game efficiently) and declare everyone who doesn't agree with you an idiot. Furthermore you seem to misunderstand roleplaying. Take your WoW example: Say you're roleplaying the paladin - a proud warrior of the Alliance, experienced in war and a true knight. What will be more likely for you - turning a flag from red to blue to get some number to count higher then the number of your enemy (assuming that there's some magical way to tell your char about that number) or slaying the Horde member that you just encountered on your way to the front? The answer is quite obvious.

Another thing: Humans are human. They don't always strive for a bigger goal with all their strenght and will. Take yourself as an example - are you trying to get rich? Probably not, you are playing Eve (to have fun, I assume). By your own definition, you are a moron and slacker.

I don't feel that you tried to do a different approach, because a discussion about the way you are playing a game and the way you are roleplaying is basically the same.

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