Monday, February 20, 2012
Wolves and sheep
Gevlon started playing EVE, promptly got ganked, and is loving it. Now here is a good fit between the character of a game and the character of the player. I do think Gevlon will do very well in EVE. Although I also believe that there are a lot of people who are a lot better at what Gevlon does in EVE. I wonder if he'll still be reporting so honestly once he makes a REAL mistake in this game, like trusting the wrong people. Or when he will get stuck and unable to progress because he trusts no-one.
I do agree with his premise that whether you like EVE or not depends on whether you like games where "good" players can hurt "bad" players. Where he is completely wrong, of course, is making the connection between that preference and real-life intelligence. In many ways EVE is a lot closer to real life than a game like World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic is. WoW and SWTOR are full of guaranteed wins, and protection for the weaker players. It is a lot harder to ruin another player's day in WoW or SWTOR than it is in EVE. Not impossible, but much harder. And I can understand the attraction of a game like EVE to a person like Gevlon, who already thinks of the world as a place of wolves and sheep, and enjoys the opportunity to demonstrate that he is on the wolves side of things.
But do we really want games that work like real life? You don't have to be a sheep to think that it would be nicer if people wouldn't constantly try to hurt each other. In fact the very concept of civilization is based on the premise that we get further if we cooperate instead of bashing each other's head in with a stone club. And the benefits of civilization accrue to the wolves as well as the sheep. And even if you live your life as a wolf, having a day job that constantly puts you in cut-throat competition with others, do you want to continue the same activity in a virtual world in the evening?
On this blog I have repeatedly gotten into trouble with my commenters when I stated that I would prefer to be a winner in real life and a loser in games rather than the other way around. I am not saying that these are the only two possibilities, but I'm pretty certain that there is no correlation between success in games and success in real life. A solid majority of people in the society at large tend to concentrate their efforts on doing well in real life. That is due to Maslow's hierarchy of needs which says that we need to get our basic needs fulfilled before we start worrying about stuff like feeling good about ourselves. If your washing machine breaking down counts as a major financial disaster to you, your success in a video game can at best be escapism.
Once you are doing good in real life, virtual life is full of options. And trying to do well there, to "win", is just one of these options. Playing is about exploring alternatives with consequences that are significantly less serious than in real life. A game is attractive *because* it is not real life, *because* you can try out being a different person, having different goals than in real life. Playing a game differently than you "play" real life broadens your horizon, and is more relaxing than reproducing the same patterns of behavior you already follow in real life. After a long day full of various challenges, I don't blame people for preferring games that are full of easy wins, or where you don't constantly have too look over your shoulder to guard against the wolves. Not everybody who plays a sheep is one in real life too.