[MUD-Dev] Re: WIRED: Kilers have more fun

Koster Koster
Mon Jun 29 10:32:45 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Dr. Cat [SMTP:cat at bga.com]
> Sent:	Friday, June 26, 1998 4:31 PM
> To:	mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Cc:	pixel at bga.com
> Subject:	[MUD-Dev] Re: WIRED: Kilers have more fun
> 
Whee, I didn't expect to get quite so many lengthy replies. Guess I'll
see about spending a chunk of time answering...

> Raph Koster wrote:
> > I think a true roleplaying game can survive and thrive--as long as
> it is
> > small. But to grow beyond a very elite audience, it will have to
> accept
> > the fact that it will need to direct players very firmly along
> > predetermined ethical lines, it will have to shoulder much of the
> burden
> > of organization on either the code or admin side, and it will have
> to
> > sacrifice that sense of complete freedom. A large-scale pure
> roleplay
> > game would basically have to be a fascist state. :(
> 
> I feel like the question of how these issues play out in an
> environment 
> with no combat coded into the system is glossed over or ignored on
> this 
> list.  
> 
As I said before, "to grow beyond a very elite audience, it will need to
direct players very firmly along predetermined ethical lines." Leaving
combat out is exactly that. It is "shouldering the burden of
organization on the code side" to be exact. And it is, yes, a sacrifice
of freedom of action for the player.

> There was some earlier mention of the notion that in games without 
> combat, verbal harrassment, banishing from certain areas in response, 
> etc. serve as the functional equivalent of combat.  So I presume it's 
> implied that the situation and the way it plays out are "pretty much
> the 
> same" in that context.
> I couldn't disagree more.
> 
I am one of the people who has made that statement. They are all forms
of aggression. They differ in degree, in nature, in details, sure. But
they are nonetheless forms of aggression. And If you code away the one,
then you are differentiating by degree, nature, and details, but not, to
my mind, addressing the root issue of "ways to handle aggression."

> To me, that's kind of like waving a hand and saying "Those things over
> 
> there?  Oh they're all pretty much the same thing, they're all just 
> four-wheeled motorized vehicles."  That generalization might be a 
> sufficient level of detail if all you need to know is "what could get
> me 
> across town right now".  But if you're asking "which should I pick to 
> compete in a race" or "which should I use to move all my furniture to
> a 
> new house", then the differences between the members of that class 
> actually ARE highly significant and varied.
> 
I don't dispute this at all.

> I think that the difficulties of accomplishing the kinds of goals 
> mentioned are less in the non-combat games. 
> 
Naturally, you've left out a part of human interaction that, while we
deplore it, is (judging from human history) a significant part of our
makeup. You've reduced the problem set.

>  I agree that people are not totally ready for 
> self-governance anywhere, including in the real world.  But to me that
> 
> says maybe three things, none of them bad.  1) So a game like that
> would 
> be about LEARNING to do that better, rather than coming in and doing 
> something everybody knows how to do great from day one.  2) Since it's
> 
> needed in the real world, there is even more value in creating an
> online 
> space that can help people learn it.  3) If a small minority of people
> 
> have good understanding, skills and/or motivation regarding the
> effective 
> governance of the community, it just means that you'll end up with
> more 
> hierarchal sorts of governments, rather than flatter models - just
> like 
> the vast majority of forms of government tried in the real world.
> 
I strongly agree with all of the above. In fact, I'd argue that #1
suggests we ought to be tackling the issues in an environment that
supports combat. :)

> I spent last night witnessing & participating in the defense of 
> Furcadia's largest-yet player founded community, Sanctuary, against a 
> fellow who set out to deliberately disrupt it.  I deliberately avoided
> 
> using a single iota of the power or knowledge available to me as a
> sysop, 
> I wanted the players to continue learning how to deal with problems
> like 
> this on their own.  And it gave me a chance to see how effective they 
> could be.  I felt like I got a year's worth of education in the 
> development of online communities in one night.  Were I an academic
> type, 
> I could probably write a whole sociology or anthropology thesis on all
> 
> the nuances of interaction that I saw coming into play.
> 
It is indeed wonderful to see this happen. I would be very curious to
hear what methods were used by the guy who was disrupting it, and what
methods were used by the community to defend itself, given the absence
of direct violence. What forms did the aggresion take?

> Anyway, overall the level of unity, coordination, and effectiveness of
> 
> the entire group were very impressive, heartening, and surprisingly 
> effective.  This kind of stuff can be made to work.  When I have more
> of 
> the planned support features in the server, it'll be even easier for
> them 
> to do, and work even better.
> 
I too believe they can be made to work; that belief is part of why I do
what I do. I just don't think that we are there yet. I don't think the
field as a whole quite has an idea of what support features are needed,
particularly in a full environment as opposed to one which leaves out
aspects of behavior.

> I do think it's interesting to note that the founder & leader of 
> Sanctuary is a woman who runs a day care center.  There's a lot of 
> carryover of those skills and experience to the work she chooses to do
> on 
> Furcadia - particularly with our especially young demographics.  It
> also 
> suggests another point in favor of the theory that non-violent muds
> have 
> a better chance at effective self governance... 
> 
I wouldn't call your average day care attendee "self-governing." :) In
fact, I'd also call your average day care a highly restrictive
enviroment in which you are allowed to play freely in a very very
limited playspace, without access to numerous freedoms. Of course, in a
day care we are talking about children (though I also believe that
children deserve more credit than they are usually given for their
ability to analyze and evaluate). In any case, I agree that many of the
skills are very similar.

> I'll offer the 
> opinion here that the more combat-oriented games are inherently going
> to 
> attract higher concentrations of the types of people that are the
> LEAST 
> conducive to developing effective self-government.  
> 
Right. Just like the real world. :) 

> Whereas a less 
> combat-oriented game has a better chance to attract a player base that
> is 
> more representative of the average human being, rather than the most 
> ungovernable extremes.
> 
I think we are in opposition here. I feel that the "sandbox" is not
actually the environment representative of the average human being. Our
"safe areas" in the real world are ones that we struggled quite hard
throughout history to set aside in a generally hostile environment. For
that matter, our safe areas aren't all that safe either.

>   Or, depending on the style and focus of the game, 
> in some cases you could get a playership that is MORE conducive to
> good 
> self-government than a random samplying of average human beings would
> be.
> 
Naturally.

> That's what we're shooting for with Furcadia, by the way.  :X)
> 
I guess that what I'd wonder is, do we feel that the models for
self-governance that we arrive at from such a self-selected, highly
civilized, non-violent group will hold up when applied to anything else
than said elite? My gut feeling says "no," and that if we want to really
advance the state of the art with our work, then we need to address the
full problem, not the subset only.   (Not saying that tackling the
subset isn't a valuable endeavor--it is, of course, and as you know, I
have the utmost respect for you and you work, Dr Cat).

> The question of scale that Raph mentions is a seperate issue, by the 
> way. 
> 
Yes, it is, though I think that the scalability of the community depends
a great deal on the makeup of the playerbase as discussed above.

>  Communities inherently can only scale to certain sizes while 
> maintaining certain levels of cohesiveness.  For each level of 
> cohesiveness, there's a certain size-range that's about the maximum
> you 
> can hope for while still maintaining it.  The important thing is to
> have 
> a structure and setting that naturally allows people to keep breaking
> off 
> into sub-communities and sub-sub-communities as the population keeps 
> growing.  If you do that, you can still have very high cohesiveness on
> 
> local levels, hopefully overlayed with a less strong but still
> positive 
> feeling of "nationalism" towards the game as a whole.  Which is useful
> for 
> branding purposes for those few of us doing this commercially.  :X)
> 
A very well-known factor in community building and governance. Athenians
discussed the optimum size for a democracy. And one of the interesting
fallacies behind the whole idea of the Internet as permitting vast
electronic democracies is that these constraints of awareness of "local
issues" and engagement with "local community" do not go away. Ten
million Netters voting is not going to be any more informed a voting
populace than a million TV voters...

> If you have too much homogeneity in your system, and no natural sorts
> of 
> dividing mechanisms and seed points to let groups gather,
> differentiate 
> themselves, and then split off and isolate themselves to whatever
> extent 
> they desire, then yes, there will be a huge problem with maintaining
> the 
> character of the place once you get a huge number of players in.
> 
Yep. Of course, I'd argue that leaving out combat is a sure way to get
said homogeneity. :)

On to the next email...

-Raph




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