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[PATV] Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - Extra Credits Season 5, Ep. 9: Aesthetics of Play



  • naylordnaylord Registered User regular
    He waves his arms in the air a little too much. It discredits him when he's trying to make a point.

  • OdysseyHomeOdysseyHome Registered User regular
    Really distrubed about this 'domination' aesthetic in games as that leads to 'humilation' being a featured design mechanic (e.g. killing blows, death cams, execution cutsences of the loosing teams, loser related awards, etc), and humilation is really bad because it divides the player base and creates antagonism.

    The humilators feel powerful and rightous, superior, but this makes them mad with power and leads to boasting, harrasement, predjudice and discrimination. The humiliated are also made to feel pathetic, weak, and worthless, making them angry, bitter, or spiteful, which is in itself really bad. While humilation can be lessened with humour or other tandem 'revenge' mechanics (making being humilated an opportunity for self-reflective laughter or revenge), humilation is still intrinsicly damaging, and revenge isn't something that should be encouraged as an antidote to humilation either.

    Humilation is frankly a form of bullying and for games to have mechanics that encourage the bullying of others or virtual characters should not be encouraged. Additionally, revenge is just a means of keeping the humilation cycle continuing as the humilated then become the humilators, and the humilators becoem the humilated.

    A counter-arguement to the above statments might be that domination is intrinsic to competition but I'd disagree because competition can be conducted with good sportsmenship, and in a way that encourages revision of strengths and weaknesses; win or lose the outcome is a moment of self reflection and creates goals of self-betterment (i.e. I lose because of x, how can I mitigae x?).

    Competition with humilation is domination, where the winners believe they are superior over the losers, and the competition isn't fair (Pros vs. rookies). The prize of winning is to humilate the losers, or see the losers humilated. The humilated become spiteful and the humilators become bigoted. Again, humilation should not be a mechanic in games unless it is used self-reflectively as a means to communicate a particular message or teach people how to cope with humilation.

  • sloporionsloporion Registered User regular
    @OdysseyHome I get what you are trying for, but I think you are looking far too deeply into it.

    The idea of player vs. player in video games dates back to the very first arcade game that allowed you to put in your initials for a high score. The "humiliation" is a natural order for anything competitive.

    As you said, it makes you want to become better at the game. If someone beats me in a fighting game, why shouldn't they get to perform a finishing move (ala Mortal Kombat)? Every time that's happened to me, I've either played the game more to get better, or quit the game because I hit a skill barrier (everyone has a barrier of games they just aren't as good at as others).

    If I'm doing PvP in WoW, why shouldn't I be ranked lower than a team that destroys me? It just makes me want to work that much harder to get gear and figure out what I can do to combat that the next time. It's happened plenty of times that my arena team has gotten smoked by another group, and the next time we queued we had a plan for it and won.

    This idea that everything is a form of bullying anymore is getting ridiculous. My friend beating me in a fighting game and taunting me isn't a form of bullying. Getting my arse handed to me in PvP or in an FPS doesn't make me feel pathetic/weak/worthless/etc... Nor should winning in a dominating fashion be akin to bigotry (I'm sure those who are actual victims of racial/sexual/religious bigotry in their everyday lives will feel real sorry for people who lose in a video game).

    Dominating doesn't lead to humiliating, nor does humiliating necessarily lead to harassment or discrimination. In fact, it's usually the opposite that is true. It's usually the people who dominate that are targeted by racial/sexual discriminatory harassment by those who lose. I can't count the number of times, playing Call of Duty, that I've heard the losing party drop n-bombs and call people "faggots" simply because they got dominated by good teamwork (or corner camping as the case may be). Or how many times I've been accused of not having a life, being 12 years old, or a fat pimply virgin on WoW because I was able to down a raid boss that others couldn't.

    Your argument is inherently flawed because it is not the act of dominance that leads to people acting like jerks, it is the fact that these people were probably already jerks to begin with and these games gave them a venue to flaunt how much of a jerk they really are. As PA has taught us through the "Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (c)" add a person, the internet, and an audience and you'll get a fuckwad. Add a jerk, the internet, and an audience (even if that audience is simply the other player they are playing against) and you are going to have a grade A fuckwad.

  • cutscuts Registered User new member
    Awesome episode!

    Now please please do one on difficulty vs challenge.
    I've released a game a couple of months ago that managed to be both difficult and not at all challenging and I'm still struggling to figure out what exactly went wrong.

  • RatherDashing89RatherDashing89 Registered User regular
    The problem with your highfalueten idea is that it is bad.

    Mechanics, dynamics, AND aesthetics ALL define end-user experience in important ways, and the idea that somehow, magically, aesthetics are the most important is terribly flawed - its actually a two-way street. While players will viscerally engage with aesthetics, defining genres by aesthetics leads to grouping games together that don't belong together based on just as superficial similarities. Choosing a first person view as opposed to a third person view, for instance, makes a big difference in how the game plays and what can be done with it.

    The truth is that your approach is just as confining and actually far more nonsensical in many ways, and we can see why this is such a big problem when we look at film. Take The Cabin in the Woods and The Host. What genre do they fit into? The Cabin in the Woods uses the aesthetics of a horror movie, but it certainly is NOT a horror movie.

    Indeed, your entire comparison to film is off in the first place because film doesn't have the same underlying structure. You experience a movie, but it is not an interactive experience. The mechanics and dynamics are what seperate games from other sorts of entertainment, so the idea of defining games based on aesthetics is just stupid - its yet another "I wish I was Hollywood" thing. Games aren't actually defined by just aesthetics, so making game genres based on aesthetics is ridiculous.

    The fundamental issue is that mistaking aesthetics for the core content is just as much of a mistake as mistaking mechanics for it. A first person shooter can deliver on a variety of aesthetics, but that doesn't mean that they do not all share a lot of fundamental similarities, and defining them by the end aesthetics will lose a great deal of that.

    I will also note that Portal is not actually a FPS, whereas Fallout 3 is. While Portal uses an interface which is superficially similar to a FPS interface, it lacks what makes a FPS a FPS - namely, combat, as FPSs are all about shooting enemies to solve your problems. Conversely, Fallout 3, while it adds RPG mechanics, is still fundamentally a FPS as well, as conflict resolution in the game is via violence. Borderlands is even more so than Fallout 3, with "RPG mechanics" without the actual roleplaying part.

    What does this mean? It means that genres are defined by multiple levels of MDA, not just a single level, and mechanics and dynamics play a VERY big role in determining genre. Portal isn't a FPS because, despite its visual similarities, it isn't actually about FPS gameplay at all - you don't resolve your conflicts in the game via violence, which is an integral part of an FPS.

    I don't think you're understanding what they mean by mechanics and aesthetics. Mechanically, Portal is a FPS because you shoot and you are in first person. But Fallout and CoD being considering in the same category shows just how flawed the term is. Aesthetically they are different--and that doesn't mean they "look" different. It means they play different.

    I would say Cabin in the Woods uses the mechanics of a horror movie but lacks the aesthetics. Again, aesthetic in this case does not mean the look. Think of the mechanics as the individual elements. I'm not qualified to comment on horror movies though, so I'll use a different example. Star Wars has the mechanics of a sci-fi, as in it contains the elements of a sci-fi: robots, lasers, space, technology. But Star Wars is certainly not within the same category as Star Trek, though both contain the same ingredients. Aesthetically, Star Wars has more in common with Lord of the Rings. So if we want to categorize, "coming-of-age epic" might be a bit more descriptive. Someone who likes coming-of-age epics has a good chance to like Star Wars. Of course, there are going to be some purists who would throw it out because it has robots instead of elves. So we can call it a sci-fi coming-of-age epic if we want.

    Similarly, categorizing a game by aesthetics will usually give a better chance of predicting whether a given person will like a game or not. For example, God of War and Enslaved may be (superficially) similar in that both are third-person action-adventure, brawlers(?) or whatever you want to call them. But aesthetically they are nothing alike. You play them for different reasons. God of War is about learning the combos and feeling epic and being part of a big, sprawling narrative. Enslaved is about focusing in on two characters and their interactions, with some puzzle solving too. If I knew someone liked Suikoden II, a turn-based JRPG with a big focus on complex characters and emotion, I'd be more likely to recommend Enslaved, which uses completely different mechanics to achieve a similar aesthetic, than I would be to recommend FF13, which uses similar mechanics for a completely different aesthetic.

  • jlwiza1jlwiza1 Registered User regular
    ModelViewController much

  • FrostGiantLibrarianFrostGiantLibrarian Registered User new member
    Thanks for posting the MDA paper. I think the theoretical work is sound but incomplete. Being able to talk about Discovery in a game like Skyrim and Discovery in Super Mario seems a great example: they are fundamentally the same impulse, but finding a hidden 1up block or warp zone seems an order of magnitude less than finding a new cave filled with fat loot, and that's valid as both still have other aesthetic appeals (challenge, for instance). This makes describing the game a matter of describing the aesthetic appeals and their presence, or magnitude in the game. Seems like magnitude is a necessary bit of context to complete the aesthetics idea.
    One other thing I remembered from this post; industry is not totally clueless about this, but doesn't know what to do with it. The example is Club Nintendo; I've been filling out surveys for them all in the pursuit of free games for a while now, and their surveys always ask questions about what drew you to their games, in multiple choice format, with exactly these aesthetics as the choices offered. Going back to review, though, turns up nothing, no means to organize or search games by aesthetics, no hint that these words are being used anywhere. I'm curious if Nintendo is alone in this awareness (lack of awareness?).

  • Iconoclast XVIIIconoclast XVII Registered User new member
    Another example, like FPS, is RPG. Now days, people consider pretty much anything that has a side quest, open world, or craft system (even as minimal as possible) an RPG. Great example of that would be Rage.

  • KilyleKilyle Registered User new member
    One thing I can think of to add is related to, but distinct from, Fantasy. It's stepping into a role that I could perform in real life, but where the game version is inherently more compelling and less annoying than the real-life version. See, for example, the Simpsons children playing Virtual Yard Work.

    I'm not sure what to call this, but I can see links to that "Zen state" of Abnegation as well as a certain type of Challenge, at least in the games I tend to group this way.

    I've described time-management games to my friends before and had the reaction "Ew, that sounds too much like my actual job." But whenever I seek a game like Nanny Mania, where I rush around cleaning up after annoying children, there's something that I'm after that is decidedly not the experience of having to clean up after annoying children. I have enough of that in my real life and it's generally not fun (although it can occasionally be rewarding).

    So what am I after with Nanny Mania? Why do I take time where I should be actually cleaning a house and use it instead to play a game about cleaning a house?

    I've thought about this and have come to only partial conclusions. One is the inherent optional aspect of games: I can walk away at any time without consequences, unlike the stuff that needs cleaning in my real life. Another is that the end (completion of a level, or of the game) is small, fast, manageable, and crystal clear: Either I beat it at Expert level, I beat it at less than Expert (and thus need more practice), or I didn't beat it at all.

    Things are rarely so aesthetically pleasing in real life. It's not on my schedule. It often seems to be outside my appropriate difficulty level (either too difficult, or a boring repetitive grind). It's not compressed into neat little chunks that show clear progress. In the short term, it's not satisfying the way these casual games are.

    So yeah, not Fantasy, but seems to be related to it. Anyone have an idea what to call this?

  • metroidkillahmetroidkillah Local Bunman Free Country, USARegistered User regular
    @Iconoclast_XVII: You've astutely pointed out a lazy application of the system, not an actual flaw.

    In most cases, if a game has vague RPG-ish elements (i.e. crafting, side quests, etc.), it is described as "containing RPG elements", not "It's totally an RPG!". Besides, the term "RPG" is far more vague and inclusive than "FPS", which absolutely requires two things:
    1. 1st-person player perspective
    2. The player's character holding/firing something that fulfills the most basic description of a "gun" for the majority of the game.

    "RPG" is not a mechanic, and not easily defined in simple, absolute terms, especially since the phrase "Role-Playing Game" doesn't actually describe what we've come to expect. You could, theoretically, have an RPG that has no experience/leveling system- something traditionally considered a core requirement. This would probably be a tabletop game, but still.

    Also, I never once heard Rage referred to as an "RPG". The only genre description I've seen is "Sandbox FPS"; so whoever told you it was an RPG is a moron.

    I'm not a nice guy, I just play one in real life.
  • sneaky_flutesneaky_flute Registered User regular
    you need to learn the definitions of "aesthetics" and "abnegation." it sounds like you're trying too hard to sound smart. this reminds me of the overwrought essays i was forced to read in college.

  • GrotusqueGrotusque Registered User regular
    It seems to me that what we ought to talk about, when it comes to classification is the dynamics, not the aesthetics.

    Aesthetics describe the experience of the player, right? We go to X game because we want to have X experience.

    But what brings us that experience? The dynamics. The execution of the mechanics, in service to an aesthetic. This is why something like Portal can be called a puzzle game: it's using the mechanics of FPS in order to give people a challenge/exploration/whatever else that aesthetic might be.

    Since this episode says that most games have some of a few aesthetics as their core, that still would leave us with very, very muddied 'classes'. But if broken down into a dynamic, that might actually streamline or at least clarify things. You might play Portal for different reasons, aesthetically, than I do. But the execution of the mechanics (do things to solve puzzles) is still the same.

    I'm still trying to clarify this thought in my brain though, so I could be off base.

  • IshanjiIshanji Registered User regular
    edited October 2012
    @OdysseyHome "A counter-arguement to the above statments might be that domination is intrinsic to competition but I'd disagree because competition can be conducted with good sportsmenship, and in a way that encourages revision of strengths and weaknesses"

    You can disagree, but you'll be wrong. Domination is "exercise of mastery or ruling power" that demonstrates "supremacy or preeminence over another." That's the point of competition at any quasi-serious level: to show your mastery of the game and establish yourself as a better player than your opponent. Every player goes into the game with this goal and the understanding that they could be on the ass end of the exchange.

    Sportsmanship is certainly a more respectful way to go about things, but if someone gets absolutely *crushed* in a competition then their opponent saying "good game" and shaking their hand afterwards won't change the fact that they were outright humiliated. While a winner taunting their opponent after a win might be rude, that minor slight is nothing compared to the humiliation the loser felt by having their skills completely trivialized by their opponent's superior play.

    Displaying your dominance doesn't mean you become a raging asshole, but it's certainly not an "everybody wins" situation either. That's how competition works. It's not bullying, and it's not wrong. Nobody likes to lose but it's an inevitable part of competition, and if you can't handle the fact that you will get dominated and quite possibly humiliated on occasion then you shouldn't try to compete; you'll also be dominating and humiliating people during some of your wins even if you're really nice about it.

    Finally I'd like to say that while I'm a respectful player, I'm most encouraged to revise my play when some dickwad does something flagrantly unsportsmanlike after beating me. I don't get mad, I get even.

    Ishanji on
  • ran88dom99ran88dom99 Registered User regular
    Very good episode. Best this season. Aesthetics do not define genera, dynamics do. Competitive multiplayer in cod or SC2 is Competition, Fellowship, Challenge. I thought aesthetics was the first aesthetic "sense pleasure". Reviewers need to use these 'aesthetics' as criteria for their reviews.
    'Fantasy' is called escapism. 'Competition' is bragging rights but sounds like Challenge. Sense pleasure + narrative = movie. A better example of 'Expression' is every mmorpg that has a huge character customization feature.

  • weeshweesh Registered User new member
    So are you guys suggesting that we continue to use the same words for genres that are currently being used, but attempt to clearly define the core aesthetics of each genre?

  • themocawthemocaw Registered User regular
    I liked it better when you called them "Core Engagements" instead of "Core Aesthetics." That term was much more evocative: it spoke to the reason why a game can attract and engage me.

  • OdysseyHomeOdysseyHome Registered User regular
    @Ishanji & sloporion

    I see the arguments you raise and will try to make my point clearer. I omitted two several arguments I wanted to include since I wanted to keep my post short,but seeing your replies I'll extend my discussion. I do conceed I was a bit emotive saying that 'domination' leads to 'humilation' but rather I should have said 'domination has more proclivity to allow for humilation than competition'.

    Firstly: Everyone enters into competition with the goal to 'win' but this is not the same goal as to 'dominate'.

    Secondly: 'feeling' humilated is different from 'being' humilated.

    To dominate, as you both describe, is to display power over the other but, in an ecological definition, it also means: 'to compete with the goal of defending a status or territory and discouraging future contention'. Think of a beachmaster seal defending his beach against an onslaught of yonger omega seals, soon the beachmaster gets too old and sick to defend his beach and thus is overthrown by a challenger that was lucky enough to have challenged the beachmaster in this sickly state, and then the cycle continues. This is domination, and is not competition. The seals do compete, but this is not competition, as they compete upon intrinsicly biased grounds. The dominators have the benifits of the territory and the challengers do not. A challenger only win when the dominators cannot effectively utilise the resources of the territory, and are replaced.

    To compete in 'competition' is a more ritualistic affair. Both parties (teams or opponents) are of similar station (age, gender, mental and physical ability) and have similar resources available to them to prepare for competition. A tenis match against super star A and super star B is exciting because both super star A and B have trained for this match equally and the winner is decided by who is most prepared for the competition. After the match, they reflect upon the outcome and train for the next competition and the cycle continues with each player or team learning and being invited back to compete cordially. Its an experience for growth as both parties can come back after a period of training and test through competition how effective their training was at preparing them for competition.

    So, humilation comes into play in both domination and competition but in competition the humilation is generated through internal processes. The humilation in competition is through learning that you are not as good as you thought you were, and this then encourages a revision of tactics and training so that you can compete again and see if you have improved. Additionally winners can indeed be rude or polite about winning, but their behavior does not inhibit the losers ability to rechallenge them after training and see if they can win.

    This is not the same as being humilated in a domination context.

    Being humilated in domination context is when the dominator subjects the dominated to abuse with the intent to discourage contention. Rape, mugging, thuggery are intrinsically acts of domination as they seeks to have the victum feel so pathetic and worthless, so incapable of fighting back, that they must submit. I don't think I've ever heard of someone being raped and going 'I got raped because I was not prepared for being raped, I'll train and see if the next time the rapist tries to rape me I'll be able to rape them." This is the vile nature of domination that should be discouraged and indeed it is discouraged like sloporion said. But this was my point to begin with. Games with competition do seek to have people reflect upon their skills and train, but a game with domination as an aesthetic (intentionally or unintentionally) can actually discourage people playing and can be very psychologically damaging.

    An example is gears of war 1 MP where dominating players (a coordinated team) who have played and mastered the maps and movement mechanics would leave the last player (in a uncoordinated team, or a novice player) in down not out and would gang rape them before killing them. This would then make the raped player either rage quite (and add to the dominators rank) or they would stay and try to win spitefully. Ussually, when the rape player wins against their rapists they would then rape their rapists, and thus the spiteful cycle of domination would continue, and spill upon niave players new to the MP environment.

    Additionally, to say that dominators are intrinsicly 'jerks' is called 'attribution error' in psychology. A person may do bad things but this does not make them a bad person. A person can get drunk and beat up their girl friend, but they may be a really nice guy if they don't drink. Equally valid, a person who rapes people in gears of war MP may actually be a really nice person in real life, but its the environment of gears of war that promotes this bad behaviour.

    While this logic sounds weird, the logic stands that behavior is exhibited due stimulus in a particular context. I can say person x is a murderer, but if they murdered someone who tried to rape them as opposed to they murdered someone for the pleasure of it, this would influence a persons perception of their character; and all persepction is inherently flawed due to being subjective.

  • Sonny_69Sonny_69 Registered User regular
    this has been by far one of the more interesting and insightful episodes. Rock. On.

  • metroidkillahmetroidkillah Local Bunman Free Country, USARegistered User regular
    @OdysseyHome: Your contention concerning the term "domination" certainly has merit, but regardless of the "goodness" or "badness" of it, it is a reason people play games. Also, I would say that the problem of people purposefully going out of their way to humiliate their vanquished opponents is less a matter of the game itself, and more a matter of the anonymity they possess when playing online.

    Think of this: While playing, say, Halo: Combat Evolved's multiplayer on the Xbox (which, without modification, could only support Split Screen and LAN games), how likely is the player next to you to act like a complete ass-hat in the event of his victory? It's possible, certainly. He may very well be a socially-oblivious douche. But anyone who isn't such a person is far more likely to restrain himself- if only to avoid being punched in the groin. What's more, in such a scenario, a player could actively refuse to allow the offender to continue, or could refuse to continue himself. If enough people are offended, the offender could eventually find himself with no one to play with. Those are real consequences.

    However, the internet has changed all that. There are absolutely no social or physical consequences for even the most obscene behavior. The worst that could happen is that person's screen name/Gamertag/etc. being banned, at which point, he simply makes another and continues on as if nothing happened. He can always find a match. He can always get into a game. He will always be able to behave how he wants.

    So while I agree that "competition" in gaming has encouraged "dominance", which encourages humiliation rather than sportsmanship, the game itself isn't the core problem. The addition of "humiliation" mechanics (i.e. GoW3's "long executions") doesn't help, but even without them, players easily find ways to humiliate their opponents. And with the power of the internets, they will always be able to finds others to humiliate.

    I'm not a nice guy, I just play one in real life.
  • MikoditeMikodite Registered User regular
    Aren't music genre's defined by 'mechanics'? As in the instruments used and the tempo/tones? Because last I checked Eminim's "Lose Yourself" and Chaos' "Crab Bucket" are both rap songs, even though the themes in both are very different, it involves a guy speaking elaborate slam-poetry as opposed to more lyrical singing.

  • OdysseyHomeOdysseyHome Registered User regular

    Yeah what you say is true and was featured in the 'harrasment' episode previously. People can have proclivity towards certain behaviour due to their genetics, psychological health, age, gender, social status; and people can utilise the internet as a means for harrasment; but a game is like any environment, thus, there has to be a point to which a game can be held responsible for eliciting or encouraging particular behaviors from players, good or bad, solely through player engagment with the game's mechanics.

    I would say the Internet is now becoming more a mechanic of games rather than a means to play them. Journey and Dark Souls are prime examples where fundementally singleplayer games, by using the internet as a mechanic, increases the games' sense of universe, mythos, and discovery. Every player interaction is justified (mechanically, and in the games' mythos) and is controled in such a way to offer the best experience possible, even if the player is sabotaging another player's game (directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally).

    I should also extend mechanics from being an ability in games to the whole design structure: how the gears of the clock ticks so to speak. Domination games are programed like slot machines, they have a chance to give really big rewards but these are balenced by the high frequency of loses. They are also programed to give more big wins early in the game, and lesser wins later on. This is exemplified by the xp and unlocking system in MP games, as the rewards that give the most impact on player opportunity (i.e. statistics or weapons that modify player stats to increase their chances of winning or losing in a particular situation) are unlocked first and quickly, but rewards with less impact on player opportunity are reserved to latent levels and take longer to aquire. Some say this is progression, but the win/lose outcome of a match is used to give bonus xp, which is like winning and losing on a slot machine, and encourages you to slog out those long and frequent sessions where you constantly lose (due to luck) so that you get to a stage where you win a jackpot, and then continue playing with a new level and toy.

    Domination enters into this setup by the illusion that skill is what determines win or lose. If a team of long term players with access to a large pool of opportunity (buffs, perks, weapons, kit, etc) fights a team of new players who must use default setups then the long term player team has a higher likelihood of winning. This links back into domination having a status or territory, opportunity is that territory. A new player can kill a long term player but the long term player has more opportunity to counter that likelihood, so each are competiting on unfair grounds. It is thus an player error to assume that their K:D or the outcome of the match was due to skill, because it was luck modified by the available opportunity offered to the teams and through play.

  • SSaintSSaint Registered User new member
    edited October 2012
    I agree with OdysseyHome that dominance is not intrinsic to competition. When I saw the list of core aesthetics, I stopped for a moment and thought, "What are the core aesthetics of competition?" I like PvP games, so that was the first question that popped into my head.

    It took no time to figure out the answer: challenge, fellowship, discovery, and expression.

    Competition offers me great challenge because the challenge is always increasing. Players get better, so I always have room to improve. Even if I'm #1 in a given game, I have the challenge of keeping that spot.

    Competition rewards my exploration. If I discover a new strategy in a game, that gives me an edge. I'm constantly exploring the gamespace, trying to find new ways to beat opponents. And other players are doing the same. We are constantly pushing each other to explore more

    Competition fosters playstyle. My playstyle is a result of what I think is optimal and what I find comfortable. It allows me to express myself. People will know me for how I play the game. I've had people identify me without seeing my nametag in a game. They knew it who I was because of how I played.

    It also allows me to understand myself. Why do I think this tactic is optimal while others do not? Why do I find aggression comfortable in one game, yet in another favor defensive play? Answering these questions lets me understand myself better as a player and as a person.

    So, why do I want to win?

    I work hard to explore a game, learn its mechanics, the strategies in it, develop the skills needed to succeed in that game. I come to be defined by and identify with how I play that game. Winning is the goal which challenges me to learn the game. Meeting those challenges, accomplishing that goal, is what validates the effort I have put into the game. I do not win to show others that I am better than them, but to show myself that I am better than I was.


    Some of you may have noticed that I left out fellowship. In fact, I did not entirely leave it out, I just did not give it its own section. I wanted to save it for last because, to me, co-operation within competition is very special.

    See, winning against a truly skilled opponent is the second-most-rewarding thing I can do in a game. Knowing that I am good enough at something to keep pace with the best is a great feeling. But it's not the most rewarding.

    The most rewarding thing for me is to lose to somebody who I had previously beaten. Because that means I taught somebody something. That person learned from their losses; the times I'd beaten them. And now if I want to win, I have to learn how to overcome whatever new strategy my opponent came up with. I am challenged now to learn from my own loss if I want to win.

    That is the fellowship that lies in competition. Players compete to win, but they co-operate to create challenge for each other, to discover the depths of the game with each other, and to define each other. And as winning is a means to validating those skills, competition is only a means to creating that co-operation.

    This co-operative nature is invaluable to competition. It creates a sort of purity of purpose, wherein the most optimal way to challenge yourself is also the most optimal way to improve and the most optimal way to succeed: within the boundaries of a game's rules, try your hardest to win. The harder you try to win, the more you demand of your opponent, and thus the more challenge you create for yourself; in trying your hardest to win, you will force yourself to explore the game as fully as you can, so that you can always have the upper edge; and if you want to succeed, you had ought to try your best, not hold back, not get lazy, and give the game 100%.


    So, can dominance be a part of competition? Yes. It does not have to be, though, and it is no more a part of competition for me than narrative is for Mario. I would prefer that less players play to exert dominance. It is poison. It fosters enmity and fractures communities. It promotes rationalizing failures, inflating successes, belittling players you have beaten, marginalizing those you have lost to, and promoting yourself. It makes you a miserable competitor to be around and is not a healthy way to enjoy a game.

    SSaint on
  • SSaintSSaint Registered User new member
    edited October 2012

    SSaint on
  • SSaintSSaint Registered User new member
    edited October 2012

    How does this happen.

    SSaint on
  • metroidkillahmetroidkillah Local Bunman Free Country, USARegistered User regular
    edited October 2012
    @OdysseyHome: Indeed, the game's environment and mechanics can be held responsible to some small degree (i.e. Gow3, as I mentioned before), but to blame the game in any significant way for a player's behavior that ranges outside of "competitiveness" is misguided. If that were the case, the large majority of, say, GoW3's players would behave like raging, sexist, racist morons. And while I would love to think that's the case, I know from experience it isn't

    And to be clear, I wasn't blaming the internet, either.

    My line of thinking is that how people behave when there are no consequences is how those people are, and the anonymity the internet provides gives people just such an opportunity to express their "true selves". That "true self" may change or mature later, but sending horrifically obnoxious messages to people you don't even know over something as trivial as video game competition gives a pretty clear idea of how a person really is.

    As for your comments on the "unfairness" of some games, I agree (sort of) on one point, and disagree on another.
    1. Games like CoD that give players better equipment as they play is unfair, but that's largely because of the matchmaking... which Infinity Ward apparently forgot about. Seriously, it's bad. The ranking system itself is OK, but it needs something else to go along with it in order to level the playing field.

    2. Despite your assertions, wins and losses are not determined completely (or even largely) by luck. Yes, the best players out there may die occasionally to a "noob", and that is luck; but if it were truly all luck, every player's K/D would be approximately 1.0. It's not. Your argument, while feasible when looking at CoD, is shown to be rather flawed when applied to Halo or Gears of War. In both games, the player receives no equipment, skins, character models, or anything else from leveling that is in any way advantageous in actual gameplay. This means that the playing field is level always, and there are many, many players and teams out there that are publicly known to be extremely good- not because they're lucky, but because they're skilled.

    At any rate, "dominance", as you defined it (which I think is not the sense EC meant it), may not be an inherent part of "competition", but we as human beings tend to make sure it's part, nonetheless. Hell, I hate most online MP, but on the rare occasion I do play, I find myself sweating, my heart racing, practically jumping out of my chair every time I get a kill because "I got that sucka'!".

    But we both know it was a lucky shot.

    metroidkillah on
    I'm not a nice guy, I just play one in real life.
  • Hams ShmacHams Shmac Registered User regular
    For the love of God and all that is holy. someone at EC please take a look at Guild Wars 2, it serves as another GREAT example for manyof the things discussed in this episode. It can fit in as an example in many of the same ways as WoW, but you're not stuck using WoW as an example every time.

  • ran88dom99ran88dom99 Registered User regular
    Maybe these 9 should be called "Core enjoyments." Abnegation is evil! Its better to try a new game. Discovery is the opposite of abnegation. Or maybe its challenge. Sense pleasure is the lowest common denominator. Who likes top of the line graphics? Crab bukkit is a nice ???? song but it's not rap.

    Maybe the thing MDA is missing from being a complete genera definition is the genera's faults and the separation of challenge into planning (mental) and execution. See the competitive FPS vs SC; SC is Planning Competitive with Micromanagement while the FPS is Execution Competitive (with faults i don't know). I myself am a Planning Challenge Discovery which means i like the game to have a lot of systems i can try to get the most out of. This describes just about all the games I play from horribly unbalanced for the sake of content 4X strategy to TCGs, and rogue-likes. Almost every game i play (LoL and Lost Saga etc) has some element of this except maybe two. Ok so MDA can describe a person more than a genera but it also sets which real genera are closest to each other.

    Just use the silence or report button!

  • SkagasmSkagasm Registered User new member
    edited October 2012
    @Hams Shmac: It's fairly likely that they frequently use WoW as an example because literally millions more people have played it so viewers are more likely to understand how that example functions. After the WoW example has been used it's not particularly useful to cite another MMO even if it does something better or in a more interesting way if it's doing essentially the same thing.

    Skagasm on
  • OdysseyHomeOdysseyHome Registered User regular

    I'd argue against the idea of 'true self' and that social environments are constraints to that 'true self'. This begs questions of pre-destination and fate, like (are certain people born to be intrinsicly evil or good?). This eliminates a key component of choice, people in a particular environment chose to act, and this choice is inherently influenced by the environment, not directly caused by the environment.

    For an example, I got sent a message by some player in MW3 once calling me a "F***ing C**t" after stealing their assault jugernaut. I empathise with the player because they had worked so hard to get the 14KS to earn the package, and they were shooting a helicopter that would have killed them before the carrier delivered the package. I just happen to catch him off guard, shoot him, see the crate fall, realize it wasn't a death trap, and won the match from a losing position because I got the jug armour. I chose to steal the package because the game advertised it as increasing my odds of success (and my team won) and it was just coincidence that I was in the right place at the right time, and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was just part of the game, and he decided to act upon his feelings. So both of us are at fault due to the game mechanics. I chose to steal, because the game made it a great offer. He chose to snap, attributing my 'bad' character as the reason I chose to steal the package. Perhaps he wasn't skilled enough to know when to use the package, but no one's a prophet and can tell the future.

    Also, I should have said 'odds' rather than 'luck'. Odds is (prob of happening)/(prob of not happening) thus a player's 'skill' is how consistent they are improving their odds of winning in any given situation. Opportunity links into odds by giving player greater ability of manipulating their odds (customisation options or knowledge of weapons spawn locations and map areas). Consequently, the win/lose of a match is dictated by how efficently players on a team can increase their odds over the others at any given time, so the luck of a match is team assembly and player location on the map. If a team has 10 player who are lucky enough to be very good at modifying their odds in a match, they are more likely to win than a team of 10 players (who maybe be very skilled in modifying their odds), but were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • metroidkillahmetroidkillah Local Bunman Free Country, USARegistered User regular
    edited October 2012
    @OdysseyHome: You make some interesting points, and I hope you don't mind if I respond bullet-point style. It makes it easier to organize my thoughts.

    - What I meant by "true self" was how a person desires to act. What we normally see is behavior modified by outside forces or expectations (i.e. social rules of conduct, fear of consequences). In the consequence-free environment of the internet, people who desire to behave badly will do so, and those that don't won't. In most cases. The internet is a funny place.

    - In your example, if you truly "empathised", you wouldn't have picked it up in the first place. You made the choice. You pushed the buttons. No amount of "environmental influence" made any action on your behalf. You seemed to make a case for personal choice, and yet here you seem to blame the game for making the prize irresistible. You, and only you, decided to "steal" the other player's hard-earned drop.

    I don't mean for this to be a personal attack, but the behavior you describe is one of the few kinds I truly loathe in gaming. And for you to (it seems) make excuses and shift the blame does not set well with me.

    - Odds don't push analog sticks or press buttons. They don't "do" anything, actually. They are merely a predictive tool, and contribute nothing in and of themselves. On a level playing field, to say someone is "more likely" to win or get a kill without attributing anything to that person's skill borders on a lazy excuse.

    On an uneven playing field (as you describe) it's true that the waters get a little more muddied. Certainly, within the chaos of combat, a single player cannot control his environment. Things happen- sometimes lucky, sometimes not. But being able to survive through bad luck and take advantage of good luck are what define "skill". If things are thrown in the mix that make the job of killing easier (better weapons/gear), that's certainly a game-changer. But games like CoD, Battlefield, GoW, or Halo are not random number generators. The characters are controller by human beings who, as you pointed out, are able to make choices- good and bad.

    Please understand, I really do see where you're coming from. It seems pretty obvious that a player with better gear should win more and die less. But the problem lies in what you attribute that likelihood to. Better gear increases the chances of surviving longer? Absolutely. But if you put a "noob" in that position, he won't be able to perform at the same level as the one who earned it. If the game is basically determined by math, player skill (or lack thereof) should make little difference. But it makes a massive difference. "Good" players and teams are regularly able to overcome the odds through careful teamwork, strategy, and, yes, luck; and Youtube is packed with examples.

    Also, I would concede that players with really good gear can easily think themselves better than they actually are.

    metroidkillah on
    I'm not a nice guy, I just play one in real life.
  • OdysseyHomeOdysseyHome Registered User regular
    @ metroidkillah

    -- I didn't mean that the game's 'environment influence' is what compelled me to steal (that the game made me steal), but rather the 'environmental infleunce' is, in fact, the actual opportunity for the choice to steal, and the rewards given to stealing and not stealing.

    I was in a senario where the game offered the action of stealing or not stealing (I must chose), the reward for stealing was the killstreak, the reward not for stealing was nothing. Sure I could generate a personal reward for not stealing ("I stuck to my morals, good for me") but the game didn't reward that pious honor.

    So I evaluated cost and benefit and decided that that the benefit of stealing was superior to not stealing. Now if the game had a punishment for stealing, like say I am flagged on the enemy teams' radar for the duration of the stolen killstreak, suddenly I must consider the risk of stealing, and see if stealing the killstreak is worth the penalty. I can still chose either way, but my decicion is influenced by the infomation available to me.

    -- I also didn't mean to give the impression that odds are a concrete number for the entire match or player, rather, every second the odds change depending upon the choices you make, like you describe.

    The choice to go left or right, to move, to hide, to crouch, all influence your odds because it may lead to opportunity. Consequently, players can never know their odds but 'feel' them, that gut instinct that goes 'this area is dangerous for me due my equipment and the equipment of my enemies'. The player can choose to dash through and perhaps get killed, or perhaps be rewarded for the risk and recieve an opportunity to increase their odds in particular situations. Indeed to say that a person has a 'odd' to win a match is incorrect, rather, its a player who consistently make choices that improves their 'odds to win/second', that is transfered into a quality of 'skill'. And sometimes this consistency is frowned upon by others, such as camping, and other tried and true tactics.

    So in competiton games like CounterStrike, opportunity is fair for all players, every player has the capacity to use any weapon or any equipment but they chose what they have at any time. Thus the odds/second are determined by strategy and tactics, how to best exploit the opportunities available.

    In games like COD, BF3, Halo4, etc, opportunity is distributed unevenly with low level players having less opportunity than high level players. Opportunity is just a way to improve odds, like say a lvl20 COD player can use a shotgun and the helicopter KS, but the lvl1 have to use a sightless M16 and have not kill streaks. It's incorrect to say that the lvl 20 has greater odds of winning, but rather the level 20 has more opportunity to influence their odds than the lvl1 player, and thus has more opportunities to infleunce their odds at any given time. Say a lvl1 kills the lvl20 seven times, they should get the helicopter KS, but because the opportunity is unavailable to them they don't get it.

    Thanks for picking me up on those points. I too steer away from these sort of games as I get very anxious playing. I'm a paranoid player, thinking "there's ussually a guy around the corner here", and most of the time this allow a opportunistic guy to stab me in the back, tea bag me, and think that I was a noob for being prone in the grass :)

  • metroidkillahmetroidkillah Local Bunman Free Country, USARegistered User regular
    edited October 2012
    @OdysseyHome: I think I get what you're saying about the "odds", but I still contend that the player is the far more important factor than anything else. At any rate, interesting thoughts.

    Also, I think it may be unfair of me to demand others "stay honest" when, as you say, the game doesn't reward "honesty". The point is to win, and so long as you can do that, just about anything is fair. Your comment made me think about "Kill stealing" in team-based games, and how so many people cry foul; when in reality, the point is to win, not garnish your K/D.

    However, I would point out that there was a real consequence to you action: a pissed-off teammate. This could be insignificant in subsequent games, or it could mean he would then stop at nothing to make every following match a nightmare for you- thus negatively influencing your odds of winning.

    metroidkillah on
    I'm not a nice guy, I just play one in real life.
  • shoeboxjeddyshoeboxjeddy Registered User regular
    @metroidkillah, I'm a little confused as to why you're saying Odyssey did something wrong in the game scenario. Odyssey and the player he stole from were on opposing teams. Odyssey is SUPPOSED TO frustrate and defeat the efforts of the opposite team at every juncture by the rules and goals of the game. Stealing their powerups is a GREAT TACTIC, not a moral failing. Please tell me you're not one of those "fairplay" guys. And by that I mean guys who say "no throwing" in Street Fighter or "no snipers" in Battlefield or whatever. This sort of reductive thinking retards skill growth and suggests an unwillingness to grow with the game's challenge, instead hiding from things that seem unapproachable. It's possible you're nothing of the kind and instead misunderstood the scenario to mean that Odyssey stole from his teammate to boost his personal score? If so, I would agree that's a less palatable scenario, but still allowable by the rules of the game.

    @odysseyHome, I would suggest using "humiliation" moves in games is a moral neutral until you push it further. For example, if a guy kills me in Gears 3 and then wrenches my head off with the sawed off shotgun, the second part doesn't make me any more angry. Any upset feelings are triggered from dying in the first place, being gruesomely executed occasionally makes me laugh or refocuses me on the match. It's only when the player decides to start flinging insults or griefing (REFUSING to execute until the last second of the timer) or things of that nature that I get annoyed.

  • FinalFantazCFinalFantazC Registered User new member
    I feel like Resident Evil 6 is a prime example of a game changing itself to conform to action shooter genre. I still enjoyed the game though, but this is the main reason there is so much hate for the game.

  • BeetBeet Registered User new member
    The whole MDA concept is based on a complete lack of understanding of what games are and how gameplay works. The “aesthetics” are extremely vague, subjective and have little to do with gameplay and it seems pretty arbitrary how you decide what the “core aesthetics” of a game are. Visuals, music and story have specific roles in games in terms of how they aid gameplay in expressing the underlying system. They aren’t just there to look nice or give the player the fantasy of being a soldier or whatever.

    Genres in all other mediums aren't defined by the “underlying emotive reasons” we go to that genre, nor is that even a good way to categorize since it is entirely subjective. You can break any medium into genres based on whatever criteria you wish. Just because all games don't fit snugly into one genre doesn't mean the genres we have are useless.

    The genres we have now do just fine at informing players of what to expect in terms of gameplay. For example, I know when I am told something is an FPS it is most likely a game based in a system of 3 dimensional space, time, gravity and hit points with primary mechanics of move and shoot and an emphasis on real-time skills over knowledge based skills. With any categorization you come up with, there will always be games that don’t quite fit a genre and games that could apply to multiple.

  • metroidkillahmetroidkillah Local Bunman Free Country, USARegistered User regular
    @shoeboxjeddy: You're right. I missed that part. In my defense, I've seen so much selfish ass-hattedness that the "it was an enemy" part didn't register. I used to frequent the official Gears or War forums, and one of the most common complaints was the "wasting" of various expensive fortifications (in Horde Mode) by inexperienced players or trolls. Legitimate complaints, but nothing could be done.

    I didn't read properly, and made an assumption- my most egregious bad. Believe me, unless an item or optional mechanic completely breaks the game (i.e. the sniper in Counter-Strike), I don't complain.

    @Beet: I think, in terms of using the aesthetics as labels, it's less important what we get out of the game, and more important what the developer was trying to give. In the example of movies, someone may go into Cloverfield (which is meant to be a serious horror/suspense), and come away thinking it was a romantic comedy. But you are correct,, the MDA labels are no more descriptive than what we already have- they merely describe a different facet of the game itself.

    I'm not a nice guy, I just play one in real life.
  • AngelHedgieAngelHedgie Registered User regular
    discrider wrote: »
    I'm not sure why you added Competition to the list. It's simply Challenge but where the content is provided by another player.

    For example, take any multiplayer game with AI. A game against the AI would be designed with Challenge at the core, but if we substitute the AI with similar skilled humans it suddenly becomes Competition. Even if you're replaying a demo of humans as the AI in the first instance, so for all intents and purposes the gameplay is the same, we still have this strange dichotomy. This makes me feel that the two aesthetics are fulfilling the same need through the same means and are actually the same aesthetic.

    Competition provides Challenge and is merely a subset of it.

    Edit: Regretting the use of 'merely' above, since if we consider mastery of any Challenge as beating the Game Designer/Dungeon Master (at his own game), then all Challenge is Competition as well.

    Not really - competition hits certain notes and has its own dynamics as compared to challenge. The main point of competition is that it is inherently dynamic, with you having to keep pace not with a static set of tasks, but with other competitors who are evolving and improving with you. Concepts such as the Red Queen's Gambit are key points of competition, but are not applicable to challenge in many cases.

    XBL: Nox Aeternum / PSN: NoxAeternum / NN:NoxAeternum / Steam: noxaeternum
  • R3DT1D3R3DT1D3 Registered User regular
    Call of Duty (particularly the recent titles) does NOT have challenge as a core aesthetic and I'm confused as to why you would mention it along with games like Ikaruga or Mario. I would argue that current Call of Duty is based more on Sensation, Fantasy, and Abnegation.

    What really depresses me is that so many games over the past decade have been built up mostly on Abnegation and Sensation. I look at the biggest releases and highest reviewed games and they're mostly popcorn games with decent visuals/sound design. It's very hard to find games that are built on Mastery (an aspect of challenge), Discovery, or Narrative. It's so incredibly hard to find many games that covey anything beyond the immediate objective.

    I miss games that punished blind impulse, required effort, and left me feeling like I didn't just waste time pressing buttons to a meaningless sequence.

  • shoeboxjeddyshoeboxjeddy Registered User regular
    R3DT1D3 wrote: »
    I look at the biggest releases and highest reviewed games and they're mostly popcorn games with decent visuals/sound design. It's very hard to find games that are built on Mastery (an aspect of challenge), Discovery, or Narrative. It's so incredibly hard to find many games that covey anything beyond the immediate objective.

    I miss games that punished blind impulse, required effort, and left me feeling like I didn't just waste time pressing buttons to a meaningless sequence.

    Mastery games from recent memory:
    -Demon Souls/Dark Souls
    -Any Ninja Gaiden game on a high difficulty
    -All rhythm games
    -Super Meat Boy
    -Mark of the Ninja
    -All fighting games
    -Donkey Kong Country Returns
    -Mega Man 9 and 10
    -All FPS in multiplayer

    -Far Cry 2
    -Fallout 3
    -Animal Crossing (to some extent mind you)
    -Pokemon (again to some extent)
    -Also FTL
    -Etrain Odyssey 1-4

    You're uhh joking right?

    I feel like your complaint isn't really warranted. You don't like 'blockbuster' FPS titles, that's fine. Doesn't mean what you like isn't also being created. Because it totally is.

  • rrhrrh Registered User regular
    Interesting way to look at it.

    Genre is tricky in any medium, I think. Yes, comedy, drama, action, horror, can all be seen as defined by core aesthetics, but then there are genres like western, heist film or science-fiction, so I don't think games are alone in getting categorized by surface-level elements.

    And with game mechanics, that often ties into the skills the player will use to play the game, which I think underlies why it's a popular way to categorize games. If you describe a game as a RTS, then someone who has played an RTS before has an expectation of what skills the game requires.

    99% of consumers are going to stick with the easiest to define superficial categories, so I doubt those genres are going away any time soon. But this is a good perspective for designers to think about games and genre.

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