[MUD-Dev] Re: Spoofing (Psychopaths)

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Tue Oct 6 16:29:39 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

Richard Bartle wrote:
> Ola  writes:
>  >Bartle is oversimplifying and selling a simple solution to a complex
>  >problem with no apparent support.
>         You don't understand the purpose of that paper.
>         I'm not attempting to "sell" anything, least of all a solution,
> simple or otherwise.

"Sell" was rhetoric. Your writing is fairly normative, and thus a solution
to something is implied.  I have "no serious" problem with the paper if it
is being used in a discussion on the classic mud seen as an organism, that
is in a focused consumer-producer discussion. Within that very limited
context it is a fair _attempt_. It is however used outside that context
quite often.

> I wrote that paper to try to get MUD designers to
> think about what they were designing in terms of how people would play it.
> I would be only too happy if someone with a proper grounding in the social
> sciences were to rip it to pieces, so long as some better alternative were
> presented.

A better alternative is to accept the diffuse situation in which humans
interact and building a larger set of perspectives on it.  It isn't too hard
to weaken quite a few of the claims empirically (empirical research on MUDs
is far from easy though). However, I think it is more common to see if one
can find support first?? I personally don't see much point in spending time
on "hard thinking" about soft systems (have spent too much time on that as
it is).

I did start to rip it to pieces last year (on this list), I got no replies
so I didn't bother to continue.  People with a proper grounding in social
sciences are probably more concerned about central papers in their own field
to write responses to a paper in an exotic field like this :(. I don't have
a proper grounding, I've only read some of the basic works in
psychology/sociology, but I really find that a lot more useful for thinking
about MUDs than most of the MUD research published so far (which I have

> As far as I am concerned, the paper has achieved its objective if
> online game designers now, as a matter of course, look at the kind of
> players they want and think of ways to address their needs. Whether they use
> my paper as a basis for that analysis is beside the point - it's a catalyst,
> not a reagent.

The problem is that I meet people using the paper as an "rock solid" (rigid)
classification of players.  I'm not basically concerned about your motives
for writing the article or what you in fact say in it, but how it is being
used as an argument. That is as a "proof" further cementing existing
stereotypes (which existed prior to the article). The problem (as I see it)
arise when designer starts to think "activity type X == user instance X ==
motivation type X".

Regarding what designers do... Needs analysis (and user centered design)
isn't new to professionals (I hope???).  Hobbyists seem to follow their own
path anyway...

>  >Btw, did you notice how many references he has that has zero to do with
>  >the problem he is writing about?)
>         Well given that there were very few MUD-related papers that had
> anything at all to say about player dynamics, that's hardly surprising. All
> the references were relevant to points I was making, but very few were to do
> with supporting the central thrust of the argument. However, I recognised
> that and stated as much at the very beginning, where I warned that the paper
> was based on my own interpretation of ad hoc data collected over time,
> rather than any formal study.

So why not write two more focused papers? It was a (small) surprise that you
didn't include Farmer's ?1988? classification and that the psychologists
reviewing the paper didn't point you to research on interpersonal needs in
groups. Freud's (1922) terms "need for power" and "need for affiliation"
would have been a reasonable starting point, although too simple.

Appending heaps of references is a classic strategy for making a paper look
convincing. It is rather common, and critics of said practice are equally
common.  The fact that it was written by the legend Bartle also seems to
make it more true to some people...

>  >Great springboard for not-so-great discussions in which that all-important
>  >player motivation/psychology is neglected.
>         It's not neglected; rather, the paper is pitched at a different
> level. It concerns groups of players, rather than individuals.

I take you mean "types of players", I don't remember seeing anything
substantial on groups (aggregates (clans, guilds)).  Besides, I don't refer
to discussions discussing your paper in it's own right, which I haven't seen
happen all that often anyway.

Note: I am not limiting myself to this mailinglist when I refer to how
Bartle's paper pop up as an argument in discussions. (No need to be provoked
on a general basis).

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