[MUD-Dev] players who "take away from the game"

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Thu Nov 11 00:42:11 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


David Bennett wrote:
> sole purpose to slander another player.  They even told us that their only
> purpose in logging on was to slander this particular person and annoy them
> as much as they possibly could.
> 
> This kind of behaviour is just not really possible in a normal society
> since you would have to do it to someone's face.  Either you would end up
> being excluded from society (by people not inviting you to things any more)
> or the other person would.

Uhm... which world do you live in?  I think there is plenty of evidence that
this is very much possible in a normal society...  Go to your average school
and you will see this.  Talk with a police officer, psychologists or people
in the church and they can tell you something about what actually happens in
a normal society.

Why is it that people insists that what happens in a MUD is so much worse
than regular society, and that MUDs afford much worse behaviour? Maybe you
admin types just happens to see it more clearly there because you end up
being responsible for what you allow to happen in your system? What does
that tell you about how responsible we ordinary citizens feel about what
happens around us in the physical world?

Slightly off topic, but I think there is more to this than the "obvious"
facts which often are proclaimed by mud users and admins.

Annoying other players is one of the primary sources for entertainment when
playing MUDs.  It's great FUN to see other people go bananas over nothing! 
What makes these people (myself included) different from the types you refer
to is that we keep it down to a level where you have little formal to
complain about.  The victims may still be hurt by it of course.  An
important point is that it can be part of serious roleplaying.  I'm not
particularly fond of long time out-of-character harassment, but I think
there is some value in short time in-character harassment.  Even if the
target is an out-of-character type.  That might actually make it even more
fun...

What kind of societal function does MUDs cover?  What is the function of
leisure?  In her book "life on the screen", Turkle mentions that not only
teenagers need to challenge boundaries, but adults as well.  They travel in
their holidays among other things.  Quite obviously, MUDs are a fitting
arena for challenging one's own conceptions of what is possible. And I
really don't think having players challenging the boundaries postulated by
some out-of-sight entities, called admins, is a bad condition.  On the
contrary, I think it is healthy. Redefining the entire system is of course
another issue.

This brings me to cheating which another person mentioned.  I somehow admire
the kind of "cheating" that is done within the nontechnical system (that is,
not by attacking the network interface etc).  Except I am not convinced that
it actually is cheating.  When it comes to cheating I think there is a big
difference between a game which rely upon unenforced rules (pen and paper,
roleplaying) and enforced rules (crpg).  In the first case cheating
dismantles the entire system instantaneously.  There is some kind of
implicit agreement to obey the written or informal rules, because if you
don't then there is no system at all.  In the latter (enforced) case what is
possible necessarily becomes the most visible rules, thus it doesn't really
make sense to rely upon unenforced rules.  For a "powergamer" the main goal
is to beat the other players, being best.  You ultimately achieve this by
beating the entire design.  That is, the system.  This ought to be ok.  The
ideal MUD with enforced rules should allow all actions that could have been
enforced technically: "do anything you want, except repeatedly harassing the
same person".  The thought of the possibility of being able to break the
entire system is an appreciable source for motivation that goes beyond the
known capabilities of the existing world. Why make it illegal? *grin*

Is it a good idea to patch up a design with arbitrary rules about cheating?
According to my taste it isn't, provided the system remains usable.  Two
examples of such arbitrary rules in two commercial systems during beta
testing: 1) According to websites and newsgroups they banned people that
exploited server boundaries in the EQ beta.  That is, players invented
techniques which involved using the border zones as safe travelling routes,
or crossed server boundaries in order to get rid of annoying monsters. 2) In
Meridian59 there was a "mana node" which you could gain powers from if you
set some switches right. The easy route was to place one player next to each
switch and then make them toggle their switches rapidly. For some reason
this practice was stamped as illegal.

Although it isn't all that bad to make arbitrary rules during betatesting I
think both of these cases are examples of unreasonable definitions of
cheating. Such arbitrary rules sends out messages such as: "we are the ones
that define your fun", "you have gained more insight about our design than
we have ever had, now please make yourself dumb or leave", "we don't have
the expertise to fix this" (which is a rather bad thing if the players think
they know the ultimate solution), "we don't have time to fix things, so
don't use them". What I dislike most about unenforced rules is that they
destroy the perception of an even playing field by making the unbeatable
admins visible. I like the idea that there are just me, my peers and the
world, and possibly some social workers.  I dislike the idea that there are
me, my peers, the world, a heap of arbitrary rules and a very visible elite
of dictators that will add arbitrary rules when players reinvent the system
within the technical constraints, thus making "the impossible" illegal. I
want to be able to imagine the world as infinite, but admin intervention and
unenforced rules make the finite nature of the world very visible.
--
Ola




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