[MUD-Dev] Community Relations

Matthew Mihaly diablo at best.com
Thu Feb 3 12:16:48 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000


On Thu, 3 Feb 2000, Geoffrey A. MacDougall wrote:

> Lovecraft wrote:
>   
> > Authoritarianism
> > kills fun for the common man.
> 
> The statement "Authoritarianism kills fun for the common man." is a
> dangerous one.  People who have grown up in western democracies are often
> want to associate freedom with the ability to choose.  The assumption is
> that people can enjoy themselves more if they are free to pursue whatever it
> is they want to do.  There exists, however, a very strong argument to the
> contrary - i.e., people are only free when they are free from the burden of
> choice.  Now, this statement may seem preposterous, but follow it through.
> Who has more freedom - (a) a person who has to decide for themselves, at
> every moment, and without a referential framework, what course of action is
> best, or (b) a person who does not have to concern themselves with what is
> right or wrong, and is able to pursue their own interests within a framework
> that facilitates their decision making?  Who has more freedom, an assembly
> line worker who always knows, without a doubt, what is expected of them at
> every moment, or a plant manager who has to make decisions that could have
> significant repercussions?  Who has more freedom, a person who is handed
> their food at suppertime, or a person who has to decide what to make for
> themselves?  Who has more free time to enjoy themselves?

I don't believe a rock is more free than I am, and it has no burden of
choice at all. Of course, materialism and other rather trivial
philosophies may argue that there is no real difference between myself and
the rock in terms of choice.

> Now the reason I believe this is relevant to MUD development is because it
> provides a counter balance to the impulse to let the players assume control.
> It is a very valid argument to say that the game belongs to the players, not
> the designers, and therefore the decision making power should rest with the
> former group.  At the same time, however, it is a game - or at least a
> leisure time activity - and people come to MUDs to enjoy themselves.  And,
> in accordance with the argument illustrated above, enjoyment does not
> necessarily derive from the ability to do whatever you want.  A certain
> amount of restriction can actually add to the fun, in that it frees the
> players from having to decide if something is right or wrong before they do
> it.  They can just act, without having to think about how to act.  As with
> any system, however, I believe the best solution is one that accommodates
> both desires.  Let those players who want control be allowed to choose, but
> don't force it upon those players (I would argue the majority of players, at
> least in a large-scale commercial MUD) who just want to play.

I think you have a point here. It's not a great analogy perhaps, but
people rabidly play one-player games, and willingly subject themselves to
linear entertainment (tv, movies, books), where they give up all control
and all freedom of choice insofar as the medium is concerned (aside from
the choice to turn it off/close the book/walk out of theatre) and yet they
seem to love it.

I think it's lovely to postulate that users want and should have total
control, but that, to me, is inexperience and idealism talking, not
pragmatism. Control is not without a price, unless that control is
completely irresponsible, in which case I certainly wouldn't advocate
giving said irresponsible types control.
--matt




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