[MUD-Dev] Cultural impact on Muds (was: Star Wars Galaxies)

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Thu Jan 9 21:36:27 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Thu 02 Jan, Koster, Raph wrote:
> From: Marian Griffith
>> In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Wed 18 Dec,

>> Of course none of this has anything to do with muds, but it did
>> make me think about how much of current game design is biased by
>> the amer- ican world view.  I know from reading this list that
>> Lineage actually has quite a different playing style than the
>> typical usa mud.

> Actually, no, it doesn't. The cultural barriers are relatively
> small ones, and are ones that are fairly easily surmounted,
> IMHO. The core game engine of Lineage is a hack n slash mud much
> like any other. The mid to elder game, where it becomes driven by
> large-scale king of the hill guild games, is unique and different,
> but not so different that we cannot easily label it as "large
> scale king of the hill guild games."

I think it is easy to qualify any game in generic terms, but I
belief there you have pointed at exactly the cultural differen- ce I
was thinking of. Would that kind of game really be as suc- cessful
in the American market?  From what I have seen of how americans
play, I have strong doubts about that.  The game that I think comes
closest, Dark Age of Camelot, plays quite differ- ent not at the
core mechanics but at the social mechanisms that underly the

The big problem is that the US has such a huge market that it is
easy to overlook, and even ignore, these differences.  Korea
registers exactly because they have this one game that almost
everybody plays fanatically, thus making the game huge by most
standards.  Other countries do not have the necessary internet
connectivity and large population playing one game.  This makes it
easy for the biggest market to dominate the smaller ones, as their
products can not compete quality wise.  If a games indus- try even
develops in a country. However, that does not mean the american
games reflect how people in other countries would LIKE to play if
they had been given the choice.

In many ways the current RPGs define game success in much the same
way that american culture defines achievement.  Highly in-
dividualistic and materialistic. There are many cultures in the
world that do not share this philosophy, or do so to a conside-
rably lesser extent.  I would be very curious how e.g the Dutch or
German system of social-democracy would translate to a mud, or how a
more familiy-oriented culture would.

> The primary differences between the US and the Korean game markets
> are in how the players play, not in the game itself. Specifically,
> the "bangs" or Net cafes/game rooms are the heart of the
> difference. The fact that this difference is invisible to us
> watching here from the States makes us want to label the game
> design itself as (shades of Fu Manchu!) "inscrutable" since we
> cannot see the appeal.

But is not this difference in 'how the players play' reflected in
the game itself?  A more social setting of the playing and a more
group oriented approach to the gameplay? Almost feudal...

> Applicability to game design? Currently the USA is a cultural
> exporter, primarily, not importer. The center of innovation does
> appear to be Japan as far as games go (overall, though in the
> console market predominantly). In terms of purveying
> entertainment, the USA currently doesn't to seem actually need to
> know that much about the cultures it exports to.

Which creates curious blind spots that you should be aware of if you
are making games for a world-wide market.  Of course the reverse is
also true. Those who are not american need to under- stand how the
majority of their players will approach their game and gameplay.

>> Compare e.g. a typical Holywood movie (just a small scale product
>> to make the comparison more fair) to a typical French one, or
>> even bet- ter an Indian movie. They really reflect an entirely
>> different cultu- re. I wonder how this difference would apply to
>> muds.  I do know that some game genres (like e.g. adventures)
>> that do nothing in the usa are still quite popular in Europe.

> Until such time as the thematic variance of the games is
> sufficient to make cultural differences beyond the superficial
> even detectable, I doubt there will be much reflection of
> culture. A hack n slash leveling game is a hack n slash leveling
> game, mechanically, and we have trouble enough rising beyond that
> to worry about whether "Amelie" or "Moulin Rouge" or "Grease" is
> more quintessentially American or European or Australian.

*grin* Trust me. Moulin Rouge had little to do with European Culture
;) Still, I think there is already some differentiation visible in
games, even if it is very slight.  And perhaps the question must not
be if there *is* a difference, but if there *should be* such a

>> Of course Sartre does not translate well to muds :)

>  "Hell is other people..."
>   "Objects should not touch because they are not alive. You use
>   them, put them back in place, you live among them. They are
>   useful nothing more."
>   "People who live in society have learned to see themselves in
>   mirrors as they appear to their friends."

>   "Nothing seemed true; I felt surrounded by cardboard scenery
>   which could quickly be removed."
>   "I was just thinking . that here we sit, all of us, eating and
>   drinking to preserve our precious existence and really there is
>   nothing, nothing absolutely no reason for existing."
>   "I am. I am. I exist, I think, therefore I am; I am because I
>   think that I don't want to be, I think that I . because . ugh! I
>   flee."

> Sartre panics and flees to the north.

Sartre, or Descartes?

Yup. Existentialism is very much something you might want to think
about while playing an online game :) Even if it is a dated
philosophy in reality, it does put ideas about virtual reality in a
certain perspective.

Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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