[MUD-Dev] Corruption of the game, profit and ethics

Raph Koster rkoster at verant.com
Wed Jul 12 20:14:17 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

> -----Original Message-----
> From: mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu
> [mailto:mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu]On Behalf Of
> S. Patrick Gallaty
> Sent: Wednesday, July 12, 2000 3:35 PM
> To: mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Subject: [MUD-Dev] Corruption of the game, profit and ethics
> There are some who have mentioned that the game 'everquest' by Verant
> studios manipulates players into compulsive gaming ...[snip]
> It's been mentioned that verant/989 studios has a
> psychologist on staff,

Er, actually, it was one designer who was a pysch major in college. He's on
the list, I believe. (Geoff, you out there?) The implication above that
there's some connection between Skinnerian reinforcement techniques and EQ
game design is IMHO probably bogus. As other posters have already pointed
out, it's contraindicated to reinforce long play sessions and high hours per
week for a flat monthly fee business model.

> 1) Would it be unethical for a game company to engineer an
> online game to
> exploit compulsive/addictive personalities?  If yes, then is
> it a matter of
> degree?

Didn't we just have this debate? I think the answer was "yeah, if you're
doing it consciously and maliciously, not if it happens accidentally." Check
the "Our Player's Keepers?" thread at
http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2000Q2/msg01150.php for some of the
discussion--it also spilled over into the "Birthday Cake" thread. In
general, if you want the "we're not responsible view" click on Matt Mihaly's
posts, and for the "we are!" try Brian Green, J C Lawrence, or me. I was
more troubled by it than most, as I recall. I've spoken out publicly about
it in MMORPG forums as well, there was some discussion on Lum's about it as
I recall.

> 2) How is this differentiated from subliminal ads (1-frame, backwards
> masking) or other deliberately obfuscated influence
> mechanisms designed to
> alter or influence a buyer's decisions?  Note that other such
> influence
> systems have been outlawed and banished as hurtful and manipulative.

It has a lot more in common with slot machines and other forms of "random or
inconstant feedback mechanisms" which have been shown to be the most
addictive sort of feedback loops. Many agree those can be pernicious as
well, of course.


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