Greedy Goblin

Friday, March 17, 2017

Where catering to M&S leads

From the beginning of the blog, the theme was that ingame moronic behavior and slacking reveals not a bad player but a bad person. Someone can have worse reactions or less knowledge about the details of the game. But when someone shows up at a raid in stupidly built gear, with no consumables and without the knowledge that was especially called for and proper guides linked, with the "lol i play 4 fun XD" attitude, we don't see someone who perform bad at a game. We see a dumb or lazy person whose horrible priorities seep into his gaming.

I've said that we must reject these M&S in our teams and must push devs both by our feedback and by our votes with wallet to create meritocratic games where skilled play is rewarded and unskilled play is punished. But it wasn't the way the gaming communities and the industry took. Instead they went for "reward for attendance" and "everyone is a hero" game designs. When I left WoW, I bitterly joked that soon they'll be giving out legendary gear for attendance. Today it is the sad reality. What I didn't see coming is that the gaming communities will become complicit. The community personalities are no longer enthusiasts, but monetizers, making real money from streams, social media following, ad deals with game makers and often RMT. They realized that the lazy punk with access to dad's credit card will get them more money than good play. Awesomeness was replaced by comedy, top raid and cutting edge PvP videos gave way for drunken "ops".

As I've said, this isn't a movement within gaming. The audience of a drunken PvP team or the members of an "everyone is invited, focus is on fun" guild are worthless people who lead their lives the same way. I don't say that gaming was a major cause, but I'm sure many young minds were poisoned by "hav fun lol". Playing games were an educational tool for ages, remember, all sports are games. All the nerfs, all the "didn't want that X anyway", all the "/w darkGnomKilla for inv", all the "you are the hero just for logging in", all the pay-to-win and rigging lead us to this: teachers unable to pass a literacy test. Yes, children being taught by people who can't read. No, not in Africa, in the USA.

As the last hope of the kids who enroll into schools with such teachers would say: "Sad!"

But the question is: where were you when this decline happened. Because it happened right front of our eyes, in the last decade. Just a decade ago it was obvious that if you can't perform in a simple video game with zero real world consequences, you got a "game over, insert coin" or "you are dead" screen. Did you do anything when it went away, or did you just roll with it? Or were you one of the monetizers who are responsible for turning the most important media of teenagers into a bastion of non-performance?

Sure, there is no guarantee that standing up to degrading gaming could save gaming. Even less that saving gaming as an island of meritocracy could affect real world ideology. But we are small and the World is big. Our influence is tiny, yet it's no excuse to not use this tiny for progress. If you ever advocated for "accessible content" or "casual gaming" or inviting non-performing "friends", you don't need to ask who is at fault for the decline of standards that reached literally illiterate teachers. It's you.


Eaten by a Grue said...

What you say has some truth at a very basic level, but feels like you are grabbing for the low hanging fruit. I do not know much about EVE and BDO, but I did play WoW, which you now reject as a game that does not promote skilled play. Yes, there are players who show up to raids unprepared. I am not sure if they are young children or truly hopeless slackers who will perform similarly in real life. You will find a percentage of such players in every game.

Also, yes, WoW hands out free legendaries now just for playing. But I am not sure if these are really "welfare" efforts or just another progression mechanic. The legendary I am referring to is the weapon each class gets in Legion and slowly buffs up. Another way to look at it is they removed a gear slot and replaced it with an alternate progression scheme.

And yes, low effort raiding is allowed and promoted via LFR.

But at the highest level of raiding, mythic, is quite a bit of challenge. Looking at wowprogress, only about top 50 guilds worldwide have cleared all current content on mythic. So the challenge is there if you want it.

Now, I got bored of WoW, and if you are bored of it too, I can certainly understand. But your main objection to it seems to be that there is no point in clearing current content, when you can just wait an expansion or two and solo the old raids with trivial effort. Well, this is true, but that is not the point of the game and that's not what people are playing for. The point is to clear content when it is current.

Another point I want to raise is that by focusing so much effort on gaming, you are sort of falling into the role of the people who you hate so much. Gaming challenges, let's face reality, are imitations of life challenges. Overcoming them gives us that same bit of satisfaction that real life challenges provide. But they are designed to be easier than real life, hence their draw. So in a way, you are choosing the easier path, the slacker's path. I am not trying to judge, as I have gamed plenty myself, but I have to be honest with myself, and so should you.

JackTheManiac said...

That isn't a very good post.

Prove the causation between games getting more accessible and teachers become more illiterate as a whole please. It's easy to state but you gotta back it up.

That article is NOT about the literacy of teachers in America, but a small subset with a specific literacy test that is not shown in detail. It is not a representative sample to back up your claim. That article has nothing to do with the rest of the post.

Now about games. Games evolved. What used to be a way to test skills became a legitimate way to tell a story. Engaging in a way that is different from a movie or a book.

What you think games should be, your ideal, your vision, is not absolute. People may have other ideas about how games should be played and by who. They are as legitimate as yours.

I concede that competition/performance (aspects/parts)of games should be balanced for merit and player performance.

niconorsk said...

I think you are dramatising what the article actually means.

Here's a sample test

Now, not being able to pass this test to me does not automatically mean that person can not read. That test is pretty challenging and I can see people failing it, especially if they are the type of person that doesn't do well with time-pressure tests.

Now would I like all teachers to be able to pass this test. Sure, because better teachers is a good thing, but I certainly don't think it should be a necessity in order to teach early school classes. And I'm not surprised that you don't get the cream of the crop in a field that is notoriously underpaid.

Esteban said...

...literally illiterate teachers.

Factually incorrect as stated, I'm afraid.

But sure, let's kick back and watch Betsy DeVos fix all this. Those barely accredited charter schools in Michigan are real shining exemplars of uncompromising standards.

Anonymous said...

This is surprisingly naive of you, the answer is simple; Follow the money.

The majority of humankind are M&S, and if you want the majority of humankinds money, who do you have to cater for? Certainly not the 10% "hardcore" gamers.
Don't get me wrong, I think this sucks, and dev teams like CD Projekt (Witcher 3) shows us what someone who cares for the actual game they produce can achieve, while EA, Activison and Ubisoft care about as much as the fast food industry care about their customers health.

Anonymous said...

I think I would pass this, and english is my second language. In hungary at the end of high school we have similar tests, where the text is easier than this but considering that teachers spend 4-5years in university reading and studying, I don't think it is much to ask to understand these texts. These are not even semi-scientific articles.

Gevlon said...

@Eaten by a Grue: I was talking about the legendaries dropping from LFR, I agree that weapon is just a removed slot. No doubt that Mythic raiding needs skill, but it's irrelevant in the game, like pet battles or arenas. The rewards you get are worse than the LFR a two months later. Sure, some people CHOOSE to clear it when it's current, just like there will be teachers in New York, who will CHOOSE to learn to read, just for the challenge or the fun of reading. But it's not required to progress.

I also live a life (otherwise I couldn't afford blogging), but life itself is a bad teaching material, hence children aren't sent to the mines anymore but to schools to do mock tasks. Gaming should be a great teaching method, since the tasks are not to hard and the field is even.

@JackTheManiac: I didn't say that teachers can't read because of games. I'm sure that there were illiterate wannabe teachers every time. The point isn't them. The point is that both in real life and in gaming, the standards are being removed. An illiterate teacher - just like a facerolling M&S - is now acceptable.

I don't question that there is a legitimate place for interactive amateur theaters where you roleplay a story. But just like as sports and tabletop games exist, so should video GAMES where skills are tested, winner and loser selected.

@niconorsk: literacy means more than being able to spell "EXIT" or "OPEN" or write down your name. It means the ability of processing written material and that's what those tests measure. I don't question that there aren't teacher candidates who can only write xxx as their name, but that's not enough. It wasn't enough last year, but it's OK this year, because "everyone is accepted".

@Esteban: charter schools offer choice to parents and competition between teachers. Sure, there will always be those who fail competition and there will be always parents who don't care about the education about kids. Of course DeVos won't be able to provide quality education to every kid from the same money. But she will be able to provide a chance for good parents to educate their kids. Now, if you are in a bad district and aren't rich enough to pay for private school, your kid will be uneducated.

@Anon: I don't question that the easiest way is catering to M&S. I'm just saying that anyone who choose to is a bad person and should be treated as the enemy of the mankind.

Antze said...

Your post is very important, but it went differently.

First the games were created by enthusiasts who wanted players to perform, FOR enthusiasts who wanted to perform. Many teenagers played games and learned to perform, but noone cared to analyze the matter properly, "games are for kids". Any adult person playing games was considered suspicious.

Then the games went global, but, for a while, were still being created by enthusiasts (take a look at the original WoW and maybe other games, some of which should not be named). That was when performing awesome became a big thing on global scale, first kill guilds became memes being referenced in TV shows and so on.

And now the market reached balance. As a developer, you need to compete with other developers to simply survive, and a punk with his dad's credit card brings in more money than a skilled player. I'm sure that many game developers go on with creating stupid games with utter disgust, but once they try to add something actually challenging in the game, they see zeroes on their monthly revenues report, because all the paying players instantly go to play something else which provides "more fun".

Previously there weren't many "fun games" on the market, so paying players didn't have such an option and had to improve instead.

Like I said before, the only chance to find challenge are nonprofit games. Today many of them look ugly and have various issues, because of their low budget, but not all of them - and I expect more good nonprofit games to appear, along with developing technologies which could allow to create good quality with less money investment. Regardless of that, they will never reach mainstream. You, on the other hand, need a mainstream game for your blogging analysis, you explicitly excluded low audience games in your "finding a good game" posts.

A challenging mainstream game will now appear only if there's some big change in the market structure.

Esteban said...


Actually, there lies an interesting side lesson in the comparison between effort in gaming and real world work culture.

The modern MMO (EVE possibly excepted) represents a situation where work is not necessary for success, or at any rate the kind of visible success that's adequate to make many people happy. The developers can bestow laurels on you at whatever point they choose. Such as completing a story without sweating for 200 gruelling hours filled with mental concentration, muscle memory training, obedience to instruction, setbacks, near-misses, a lot of learning of a narrow skillset applicable hardly anywhere else, and all the other elements that justify rewards for the hardcore raiding/PvP crowd.

In real life, we are approaching (quickly or slowly, depending on whom you ask) a point where human labour will no longer be necessary to generate wealth. That old Calvinist distinction of 'deserving' and 'not deserving' will have to be reconsidered from the ground up because of advances we will have made as a species, not individually. Should we reach that point, we may look back on those slacker-catering MMOs for a model of how to arrange a world that overflows with plenty. The idea of Universal Basic Income is a very, very early broaching of that subject.

Skeddar said...

I am not sure if you are not looking at the wrong games / problems here.

If we take games like League of Legends, Starcraft or Rocket League, they are focused on pvp and they usually have a ladder which is skill based AT LEAST at the highest level of play (so top 1% or top 0.1%). And even if the LADDER is rigged (like you kinda prove about League), there is still the competitive scene. There is no rigging in tournaments or cups. There is no match making, you either create or join a team, you choose your teammates willingly, you train together, practise strategies/tactics and compare your skill with other teams. And I am sure WoW has something similar with arenas and stuff.

Yes, most players are casual players who enjoy buying a new skin, or an ingame power item. But that's okay for me, it's actually the reason I can talk with some of my casual friends about the game and they understand what I do on a competitive level to a certain degree.

So... I am not sure what exactly is annoying you. That the average level of play dropped? Yes, it probably dropped. Which should mean you can outperform most people if you try (like your money making in several games or outhealing/tanking). If you cry about people are cheating (using tools, or putting in money, or drinking beer with the devs for ingame assets) or are rewarded for trivial acts, you are playing either the wrong games or at the wrong level (the casual level in comparison to the pro scene level / tournament scene).

Maybe the problem is you are trying to educate the casuals, but these casuals chose to be casuals, which includes NOT reading long guides or thinking about their ingame behaviour. But in the end the only people who are reading your guides are people who KNOW how important it is to read guides. The casuals just think 'what a nolifer' or 'he's probably more skilled than me' and won't bother.

Just as a random input, I think the 'turning a game more casual' is like the gradually dropping prices for a product to get more buyers (like a tv gets cheaper after being sold for three months). Do you also dislike this process, as it makes a good more accessible for 'casuals' who can't afford the full price?

Anonymous said...

So doing the Goblinish thing makes one enemy of mankind now? Why should one build a competitive, niche, multi million dollar game when he can make more than enoguh money with an idle game that costs fractions in terms of money and resources?

Isn't it requesting welfare to cry for someone to give you something you want?

Isn't it M&S to go around crying at "godlike" corrupt Devs, who are all so evil (just like the government), demanding they give you what you deserve? (just like wellfare?)

It does sound a lot like special snowflaking to me.

Here's an idea: Make the game you want yourself. Stop the whining, do it. Make a solid business plan, design the cornerstones of your dream game and actually create a solid design document.

Then, if your numbers are sound and your concept works, someone might build it. Being a GameDev, it might even be me.

Tithian said...


That sample test looks like something taken out of the Cambridge Proficiency test (is it still a thing?) that I had to take as a foreign speaker. The contents are a bit more adult oriented, sure, but overall the difficulty is a joke to anyone with a working brain.

And you're saying this is something that confuses teachers? This is just a freaking multiple choice test, and supposedly highly educated adults cannot read texts in their native language within a specified timeframe and circle the answer? It's just sad.

Esteban said...

Gevlon, if the long-term Michigan experience (in which DeVos had been instrumental) is any indication, charter schools offer easy money to unscrupulous con artists, and little else. The state as a whole is doing absolutely dreadful in K-12 stats.

The public school system had to (and would have to under any such scheme) continue to exist in parallel with the charter system because a charter school is not obligated to take any particular student in the area just because the parents 'choose' it. The few charter schools that are not complete scams run from a trailer and actually aspire to attract business through excellence are nearly as picky as private schools and usually too expensive for vouchers alone. If the parents are poor, or live in the wrong area, or the kid is special needs, or trips flags for future problems, even if they've got the best intentions, it's back to the public school system (or scam-school) for them. And thanks to funds siphoned off for charter vouchers, that public school system is now a moaning hell-hole deprived of what little money it used to have in the first place.

Hilariously, the fact that those flaming public wrecks are then outperformed by the best charter schools which cherry-picked wealthier/academically better kids to pad their killboards is, of course, touted as proof of the charters' superiority.

You know, I'd even be willing to hope that DeVos learned from the Michigan catastrophe and will actually surprise me by doing something brilliant for American kids. As much as I loathe Trump, I bear no ill will for those children and don't want to see their future compromised under his rule. But there isn't even a hope of that, because she only got into the whole education thing for religious reasons, to boost Christian schools.

That's another great advantage of charters: parents can choose schools that emphasise 'intelligent design' and 'alternative early-universe cosmology'. Good luck with that STEM stuff down the road, kiddos.

You already hold the position that health care cannot be for profit. Have a good, long think about education on similar grounds.

maxim said...

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee"

To me, these trends have become apparent as early as 2008.
Come to think of it, many things became apparent to many people in 2008 :D

As far as i see, the only way to fix games is to come up with an alternative business model. Something that'll switch focus away both from spreading content thin among the masses and hunting whales, and refocus it on catering towards a more sophisticated taste.

Something moderately interesting is happening now in - of all things - adult smut sector, where game developers are increasingly often getting funded not by game sales, but rather by Patreon. However, the scale of these projects so far is mostly laughable. Studio FOW is pretty much the only operation of note so far.

On another hand, i have to point out that i don't feel either the quantity, or the quality of the games have at all slipped. Leaving aside long-term conceptual impact-on-humanity considerations, the REAL problem we are having right now is discovery. Plenty of great games out there with no way to find them. So maybe instead of dreaming big ideas the best way to go about things would be fixing discovery.

One of the direct consequences of better discovery would be a world where all the games that Gevlon has decided not to pursue so far due to lack of playerbase would suddenly become interesting once again.

Gevlon said...

@Antze: the same things should be true about Real World sports and they are not. They remained competitive and skill-driven even at the amateur level. You can't get on the school basketball team without following the instructions of the coach and training properly. If you suck, you'll be booted.

Granted, for school the state or the parent pays and not the player.

@Esteban: as long as there is any work to be done, there will be people who make effort and people who don't. It's true that we don't need hole diggers anymore, but we need digging machine operator and machine repairman and machine designer and machine seller and trucker who can move the machine.

@Skeddar: I disagree. If LoL is ready to rig the ladder, what stops them from rigging world championship by giving lag to one team because the other team's sponsor bribed them?

Finally, you still mix casual with M&S. The casual may not read a complicated boss guide and unaware that you must run to the player with the red mark if you have the blue mark while staying away from the player with the green mark. But he won't stand in the fire, because "fire burns" is obvious to every functioning human. M&S does.

Dropping the price won't change the product. I don't care if idiots access the game. Just like nothing stops an idiot from entering the local chess championship by paying the fee. But he will get his ass kicked in the first game.

@Anonymous: it's tragedy of commons. While it's beneficial to you to send out one more cow, at the end, there will be no field and no cows. I understand that it gets you money to cater to the M&S, but at the end, you end up with illiterate teachers teaching your kids.

@Esteban: there is no doubt that there are con artists. This is why kids should be tested centrally so parents have a feedback on their progress. Like a SAT-equivalent for every semesters. Being "picky" is necessary, you can't teach 30 kids if one of them runs up and down and smears his poop to the wall. Don't be idealist: from the available limited budget you can't teach everyone perfectly. But we should at least give a chance to responsible parents to bring their kids to good schools.

I'm fully aware that "flaming public wrecks are then outperformed by the best charter schools which cherry-picked wealthier/academically better kids" but I at least the kids in these schools get proper education compared to nobody.

Unfortunately my health care idea do not work here. People agree what "healthy" is (just don't know how to reach it), but exactly "intelligent design" shows that people disagree what "educated" is. A kid who grows up in a family that believes in "intelligent design" won't have a chance on STEM field anyway. You can't save those kids. But you can save the rest.

@Maxim: I'm thinking about an alternative business/legal model. I agree that it's possible that there is a good game out there already that I dismiss because of low playerbase and bounce between high profile bad games instead.

Skeddar said...

Well, if you think it's POSSIBLE (and maybe not that unlikely) that Riot riggs the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP by giving teams LAG at an offline event... then I am not sure if you can believe in any game to be fair. Even in a chess tournament someone could stand right behind you and give your opponent per sign language the move of a strong chess AI he simulated on his smartphone. And the referees will overlook it as someone bribed them.

Gevlon said...

@Skeddar: There are three major differences between Riot Championship and Chess championship:
- Chess is transparent to observers. You can go there and actually spot someone using signs. Bridge and poker players sometimes get caught that way, I don't know about Chess, but wouldn't be surprised if some players would try to pull that. I don't have to blindly trust the referee that he won't turn a blind eye, I can go there and see it with my own eyes. With Riot, all systems are controlled by Riot and no outside observer can verify anything.
- Chess championship referees have not (yet) caught in helping cheating. While past performance doesn't guarantee future, I dare to ASSUME that someone who spent decades honestly supporting chess championships won't start cheating. On the other hand I know that Riot rigs MOST games.
- Chess championships are bound by legal contracts and laws. If there was cheating, millions of dollars would be sued and those personally profiting from fixing would go to jail. If Riot would get CAUGHT cheating, they would only lose community goodwill.

So the proper comparison is: "a poker championship behind closed doors, unknown to any authorities, ran by guys who get most of their income scamming casual poker players with fixed cards"

Smokeman said...

I can't disagree with Gevlon on the difficulty thing. But this is the nature of the beast, without a hard check to stop people from playing a game, the field will be thrown open by market forces. This is Human Nature, this is how we ride.

So: "The average skill level of game players is directly proportional to the entry barrier of the game."

And: "For profit games strive to reduce the entry barrier to garner more paying customers."

And finally: "The sophistication of market forces in extracting profit from for profit games will only increase over time."

Note: The third rule doesn't differentiate between "legal profit" as in WoW selling gold directly, or RMT, where a third party collects and sells gold by illicit RMT. (Or any other RMT scheme.)

tldr; If you want challenge, look to indy and single player games.

Anonymous said...

In the 80s/90s there was a big movement around self-esteem, that enabling a child's self-esteem was the most important thing, which fostered a mass narcissism in that population. A decade ago that generation entered the economy so no surprise companies began to cater to them with the same attitude. When product commercials openly proclaim "because you're worth it" without irony then the battle is truly lost.

Anonymous said...

Why do you want to save gaming? Clearly, this is what the market demands, there is no need for saving anything.

maxim said...

Your logic is backwards. People don't want to save (a certain kind of) gaming because market demands it. People want to save it so that the market would demand it.

Antze said...

@Gevlon: "the same things should be true about Real World sports and they are not"

To start with, many of the sports were created ages before capitalism, so profit... probably played weaker role there. That stayed in the culture, so it's common knowledge that "one enters sports to compete". Similarly, it's common knowledge that "one enters video games to have fun". While it was factually untrue ten years before (a lot of competition was going on), only enthusiasts knew it, and the majority of the world was thinking "those teenagers and nerds are just pressing buttons and having fun".

Then, "if you don't perform, you're kicked from the team" is "guild" level, and I was explaining "game design" level. Even now, in MMOs for masses, there are guilds who require performance and kick members who don't perform. Even now, in real life sports, there are probably baseball teams who keep unskilled slackers either because there isn't better replacements right now, or that person is someone's "important friend". Here we go to "game design" level: real life sports are designed in a way to encourage meritocratic approach; modern video gaming is not. But one doesn't simply change the game design of chess to encourage slacking, that would have to overcome strong cultural stigma, which seriously raises entry costs for such "business idea". Why bother with that if you can just make a video game for slackers? But nothing is impossible. I suppose you heard of wrestling, which is not about honest competition.

Still, I admit that I struggle to draw a decisive line between sports and video games to explain their differences with a single and obvious key factor. It's rather like there are several factors in effect - cultural paradigms; fixed game design for sports but very flexible one for video games; the ability to verify fairness of the game for sports (to some extent: less watched matches often have some forms of cheating); the ability of video game designers to hide (and even protect by copyright!) ways their systems work; and of course, "who is the payer".

vv said...

It's all market. Games "you screwed, insert coin" existed only because short sessions and retention. Game must be hard so player can screw up early and fair so player will return. And session must be short so arcade cabinets could serve more sessions and make more money.

Then things changed. Games like Sims, Bejeweled, Facebook games, Candy Crush and so on showed that traditional gamers are tiny miniority and you shouldn't make games for them if you want money. So developers did what any proper goblin would do. It isn't their job to teach anybody and there's no written laws against it.

You can only make small niche games for them because you just can't afford AAA standarts.

maxim said...

The recently released Nier: Automata ticks all the right traditional gaming boxes and is also pretty AAA. The new Zelda has made Nintendo's new console an overnight success, while Horizon: Zero Dawn is tearin' the open world scene up on the PC side.

The notion that you can only make small niche games for traditional gaming crowd is false.