Sunday, November 7, 2010

Online Games vs The Rules

I was reading this article by Tomi Walamies, and this line got me thinking: 
[Magic Online] has removed the attitude of "Gamers are supposed to game the rules as well." This makes for a healthier environment.
Have video games, and especially multiplayer online games, trained a whole generation of players to think differently about game rules? Before video games, players had to read rulebooks or more commonly, learn the rules from others. Many board and card games has incomplete rules for some situations. When things like that came up, players had to figure it out for themselves. If your friend was sneakier than you, they could manipulate these situations to their advantage. If they were a bit of a bully or simply had a stronger personality, they could declare the result and you'd go along with it. In some circles the game came to a standstill as players discussed or argued about what should happen.

Compare that to the video game world. The game has to have a solution for every situation (crashing is not really acceptable anymore). Anything that's against the rules can't be done. Also, the systems of punishment are very different. In real life, there are a lot of rules that you can break and nothing will happen. Not immediately, anyway. Only if you are later found out are you punished. In online worlds, you can't break rules, or if you do, the punishment is swift and unavoidable.

So how is this shaping the next generation of players?

For one, this has bred a new kind of "rules bender" player. Because video games have such unbreakable rules, some feel that anything they can do must then be okay. They find all the bugs and exploits they can, and abuse them as much as possible to get ahead. When I see that I feel they're behaving badly - but to some of them it's simply how the world works. If the game doesn't stop you, it must be allowed. Are these the same kids that would manipulate you socially if they were playing a board game?

Are video-game kids more used to "unseen outsiders" making the rules for them? Is it easier for longtime MMO players to feel comfortable in a modern governed society?

Will we have a reduction in the percentage of weasels and cheaters in that generation?

For a game like Magic: The Gathering, which has an online game and real-life game with identical rules, I imagine that more players will feel confident standing up to cheaters in the real world because the online version has taught them the rules. (This is certainly part of what Tomi is referring to.)

I also wonder if online game players are less able to play their opponents. They don't get experience reading people. They also rarely get the verbal acrobatics of trying to confuse, anger, or frustrate your opponent with conversation. I don't know if this is true, but I like to imagine that the online poker champions have to wear hats an sunglasses when they enter real-life events because they haven't trained in hiding their facial cues.

There  is also the other side of this coin. If you're playing an online game, especially with friends, and encounter a rule you don't like you're stuck. In real life, at least for games, you and your friends can agree to change the rules.

As a higher and higher percentage of kids (in a higher and higher percentage of countries) are trained by online games, what changes will we see in the way their generations handle real-world rules?

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