[MUD-Dev] Logical MUD Areas

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Thu May 10 09:23:18 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Wed, 9 May 2001 12:39:35 -0400, "Jon Lambert"
<tychomud at ix.netcom.com> wrote:

> On the one hand, I think it's disturbing when someone is well aware
> their _commercial_ venture would be rated NC-17, or X if it were a
> movie, AND they are also aware that more than half of their target
> audience ranges from 10-17, but performing any actions or attempts
> at age verification might hurt their revenue stream; so they revert
> to free speech uber alles arguments.

It's the right idea, but the wrong argument.

I think it's far more disturbing when people lock intelligent and
rational human beings out of a forum solely on the basis of age. One
of the most brilliant and thought-provoking speakers on Crimson Tide,
my old BBS, was TWELVE. There was a significant contingent of people
in that very 10-17 age range who were smart, well-spoken, and capable
of very mature intellectual and philosophical discourse. As the SysOp,
I conspired with these individuals (and others less deserving of the
consideration) to conceal their ages -- precisely because the *adult*
members of the various fora would never take them seriously if those
ages were known.

Children learn by example. If their examples are not adults, they
effectively cannot become adults. They can only become reflections of
their parents.

Some of our best and brightest people in the industry and elsewhere
would *today* be blocked from resources that could enhance their
development simply because they developed more rapidly than others. I
think there are far too many people today who only take into
consideration the idea that little Johnny might see a violent image or
hear a dirty joke, and don't stop to consider that little Johnny might
*also* learn something.

Games have always been how we learn. We've known for many years that
when we play "Memory" with our children, they develop pattern-matching
and memorisation skills. By playing "Mastermind", they develop logical
skills. By playing "Tic-Tac-Toe" and "Checkers", they learn basic
strategy (which, outside the U.S., is supplemented by "Nine Men's
Morris" -- although Americans tend to skip that and jump straight to
chess, usually separating the genius from the normal by seeing whether
the child can grasp anything beyond "this is how the pieces
move"). Even the silly little plastic games "Ants in the Pants" (or
"Tiddlywinks"), "Don't Spill the Beans", and "Don't Break the Ice"
teach important concepts of how forces interact with one another that
aren't really covered in detail until you get to high school physics.

What you learn from a game is not always obvious from the game itself.
We may look at Quake and say "it's a twitch game, teaching nothing
more than reaction time and hand-eye coordination". But we overlook
the solid-body physics of the grenade launcher. The inertial
anticipation inherent in "leading your target" with the rocket
launcher. The location-by-sound features. Use of the blue spiral from
the railgun to locate a hidden sniper. The pattern matching inherent
in learning the layout of a level. The three-dimensional cognition of
tracking opponents on multiple levels. With clans and CTF variants,
it's actually a TEAM sport. RTS games teach resource management and
small unit tactics in ever-increasing detail as the simulations are
enhanced with each generation. Every "real" RPG (which I define as
being based primarily on communication and teamwork rather than
exploitation of the rules system) teaches a vast array of etiquette
and communications skills. Even the most abused rules-lawyering "fake"
RPG teaches recognition and decomposition of the invisible internal
systems that provide its operational characteristics.

While we may point to the graphics and complain about violence and the
sanctity of human life, all of the above are important lessons, many
of which would also be learned in the military -- which is widely
recognised as an excellent place for our young adults to learn the
skills they need to succeed in their careers! Aren't they the same
skills? Won't they have the same effect? Why do we have to continue to
restrict our children to the lessons *we* think are appropriate?

Children today are not the same as *we* were. They have access to a
vast and powerful array of search engines and informational resources
which I, for one, would have given my right arm to have at that
age. They don't ignore those. They use them daily, for purposes
ranging from finding "pitchers of nekkid ladies" to answering the
question of whether their school librarian has a right to physically
search them when they come in. And the increasing danger of the world
requires us to restrict their activities and their play areas more and
more every day. There just aren't as many play areas to *begin* with
anymore; those there are, furthermore, are constructed for the use of
*small* children.

There aren't a lot of public parks where your children can play
unattended, because they're "full" of perverts and dope addicts
(translation: "I read something in the news once"). Ten and eleven
year old kids are thrown out of community playgrounds by other
children's parents because they're "too old", and just want to "cause
trouble", which I suppose means they should be playing in the
STREET. Do we *believe* their tales of discrimination and exclusion? 
No! We tell them they're overreacting! Who's REALLY overreacting? The
child who's been ordered out of the community playground, or the
parent who thinks a ten year old is too old to use the swing set and
should "act his age"? (I *still* like swing sets. How about you?)

We abandon our children to the tender mercies of a world designed for
the under-six and over-sixteen crowd, and we wonder why they're
wandering around without direction for ten years. If we do not expand
the boundaries in BOTH directions, creating appropriate activities and
games to cover that gap, the problem will simply worsen. And modern
children, by "virtue" of sensationalist news media, are MORE GROWN UP
THAN WE THINK. You can probably expand your lower age limit five years
downward and not shock *them*. You'll only shock those who are NOT
your audience in the first place. Extending your "adult" game to
everyone 12 or older will probably not bother anyone except their
parents... who aren't looking anyway.

The computer industry in general has a problem here. There are three
kinds of people in the world: the beginner, the intermediate, and the
advanced. The industry designs for the beginner and the
advanced. Never the intermediate. This is exactly what is wrong with
our children, who are in that "intermediate" age group and
*completely* unsupported by our society. You would think that at the
very least the GAME industry would recognise that fact and capitalise
on it, but we're too busy trying to grab things like "the emergent
girl-game market", whatever that is.

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