Friday, March 18, 2005

I woke up this morning thinking about the ideology of games. Since my thoughts on the subject are ill-formed and tenuous, I wanted to put together a set of links to brilliant thought on the subject. However, Google has failed me today, and all I can find is dim-witted Theory blovation and thoughtless leftist twaddle.

What I was thinking about was a friend of mine, who's playing a multiplayer beta called Pardus. It's a sort of war/economic blend of a game, where you can concentrate on war-fighting, or play the economic end of things. People can play at war, but if the economics aren't addressed, they'll be fighting with rocks and sticks, metaphorically speaking.

His alliance had gotten into bad relations with the big bad military machine of the neighborhood, and they couldn't face them militarily. Since the game is still a sort of beta, the designers are still changing the rules here and there, and my friend seized on a nasty new twist which opened up the big bad military machine to an economic vulnerability. He carefully set up a chain of conspiracy to financially eviscerate the big bad military machine through deniable cut-outs, and essentially starved off their economic base. Whoopie! Much celebration.

He was justly proud of his intellectual feat, and was clearly looking to repeat his brilliance again. I offered the example of Edward Thorp, who left Vegas after inventing card-counting, and went off to Wall Street to work on hedge strategy. Zero-sum gaming strategies are ego-boosting, but essentially dangerous. Thorp knew that he'd eventually get the hell beaten out of him, or find himself buried in some nameless pit in the deep desert somewhere. My friend's alliance was tearing itself up with paranoia about spies and the threat of retribution as of the last time I looked in on his gameplay. I told him to find a non-zero-sum strategy as brilliant as his act of economic sabotage. Better to be beloved than hated.

As brilliant as his tactic was, it was, in essence, the act of a griefer. Lots of folks, especially kids, get off on griefer tactics - destroying the hard game-work of others. But I have to wonder about the ideological and moral soundness of such behavior. As I said, the alliance which pulled off my friend's economic coup was tearing itself up. Bad acts breed bad feeling, bad karma.

My friend's literally a genius, and I hope he takes my suggestion to heart. I'm kind of interested by the clever work-arounds they used to get around the absence of true banking in the game-system. They've essentially replicated a crude pre-Renaissance-era financial network by manipulating the price of staples in long transaction-chains and de facto letters of credit. It would be very interesting if they can generate a true banking system from what is essentially a resource-exchange simulation.

Oh, btw - I've decided to ban the word "kerfluffle" from this blog. Kindly remind me of this if I ever use it again.

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