[MUD-Dev] Logical MUD Areas

Paul Schwanz - Enterprise Services Paul.Schwanz at Sun.COM
Tue May 8 15:20:32 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Brad Triem wrote:
>John Buehler wrote:
>> Brad Triem writes:
>>> John Buehler wrote:

>>>> While I completely agree that goblins should be defending their
>>>> homes or actively trying to push away competing populations, I
>>>> disagree about the whole empathy thing.  I believe that things
>>>> that we kill must either be non-sentient or they must be
>>>> inherently and immutably evil.  That means that they are not
>>>> misguided beings just doing their thing and that works out to be
>>>> something that the player characters don't like.  It means that
>>>> they are soulless beings that exist in order to destroy that
>>>> which is good.

>>> One could easily start the discussion on the philosophy of what is
>>> evil to whom.  Oops, I think I just started it.

>> If you want to talk about relative moralism, feel free to contact
>> me directly.

>No thanks.  No one is right, and everyone is wrong.

>> I do not want to encourage players - particularly our younger
>> players - to be killing authority figures in their own social
>> structure (e.g. the mayor or his guards).  In EverQuest, there is a
>> quest to kill a corrupt guard of Freeport (I believe that's the
>> theory).  Corrupt or not, it's the wrong message to send to kids.
>> There's also a quest where a Paladin's three daughters should be
>> killed - at the father's behest, I believe.  Again, a bad idea.

>> Keep the cannon fodder restricted to evil races that have no
>> overlap with the player races or the player social structure.  In a
>> technological world, I'd make all the bad guys robots.  Battlestar
>> Galactica had the right idea until they started to investigate the
>> Cylon mindset and we found that they could be good guys after all.
>> Then why are we slaughtering them right and left?

>> We need immutable bad guys because we need something that can be
>> killed without any downside to our conscience.  And if you're not
>> worried about yours, consider the kids' consciences.

> I was a kid once...I think so anyway, less I was spawned in some
> atypical fashion.  But if my memory serves me correctly, I grew up
> with the same thoughtless slaughter(hack n slash) games that
> everyone else did.  It's an electronic game.  In most likelyhood I
> am killing things that are merely only in my imagination and not
> something I can even relate to being real.  It hasn't affected my
> psych in a negative way.  Do games really have that much affect on
> our children?

I think that the level of abstraction is very important here.  Yes,
these are just electronic games, but we are always looking for ways to
make them more real and immersive.  When we talk about being able to
"empathize" with what we are killing, we are discussing exactly how to
help players "relate [what they are killing] to being real."

As an extreme example, if we had the technology to actually tap into a
brain so that a player could experience all the sensations of a
virtual world as if it were reality, should we allow someone to
roleplay Hannibal Lechter in that world?  To feel what it is like to
hold a knife and stab someone?  To even taste (yeach!) human flesh? 
(Maybe we'd also then let them feel what it is like to die in an
electric chair?)

Out one side of our mouth, we talk about all the things we are doing
to make our experience seem more real to our users.  Out the other
side, we are quick to say these are just games so we are free of any
sort of moral constraints or obligations.  Can we really have it both

Dibbell writes in "A Rape in Cyberspace:"

  "Months later, the woman in Seattle would confide to me that as she
  wrote those words posttraumatic tears were streaming down her
  face--a real-life fact that should suffice to prove that the words'
  emotional content was no mere playacting. The precise tenor of that
  content, however, its mingling of murderous rage and eyeball-rolling
  annoyance, was a curious amalgam that neither the RL nor the VR
  facts alone can quite account for. Where virtual reality and its
  conventions would have us believe that legba and Starsinger were
  brutally raped in their own living room, here was the victim legba
  scolding Mr. Bungle for a breach of ``civility.'' Where real life,
  on the other hand, insists the incident was only an episode in a
  free-form version of Dungeons and Dragons, confined to the realm of
  the symbolic and at no point threatening any player's life, limb, or
  material well-being, here now was the player legba issuing aggrieved
  and heartfelt calls for Mr. Bungle's dismemberment. Ludicrously
  excessive by RL's lights, woefully understated by VR's, the tone of
  legba's response made sense only in the buzzing, dissonant gap
  between them.

  Which is to say it made the only kind of sense that _can_ be made of
  mudly phenomena. For while the _facts_ attached to any event born of
  a mud's strange, ethereal universe may march in straight, tandem
  lines separated neatly into the virtual and the real, its meaning
  lies always in that gap."

I think that claiming that these are just electronic games is too
close to claiming Mr. Bungle was just typing on a keyboard.  To do so
only recognizes RL and ignores VR.  On the other hand, VR is *not*
reality either.  So once again, we seem to be struggling with
something that falls into Dibbell's 'gap.'


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