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Sep 13, 2005

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Comments

1.

Not having the same kind of attitude to racial politics here in the UK as you have in the USA, this is probably going to sound like a hopelessly naive question, but I'm going to ask it anyway.

What do you mean by "Chinese"?

Richard

2.

FWIW, I thick that dragging elites into someone else's AE or onto someone else at all may be a bannable offense in WoW. Sometimes the best revenge is a quick page to the GMs through the Help menu. ;)

That said, the social commentary is very interesting... The assumptions we make about the people we encounter in game can be quite staggering, given that we have nothing on which to base our opinion of them other than a few moments of in-game interaction. In the real world, we can form opinions based on what a person looks like or is wearing or carries themselves, and while basing an opinion of someone on such superficial articles is quite nearly a pure definition of prejudice, the fact that we have even less on which to base our opinions in game only makes it all the worse, in my opinion. I tend to assume that most people I meet in game are American, middle-class, teenaged boys, but I'm sure I've misjudged a great number of doctors and lawyers and housewives with that sort of thinking.

3.

I'm not sure if this is really a problem "in this mesh of historical and contemporary racial narratives." While an eloquent phrase, I think the situation you are describing is merely a basic example of resource competition.

Race, it seems, is just a tool for rationalizing an unfavorable economic circumstance: the group of three is better fit to survive.

Chomsky writes of race in South Africa: "[They] have been going through an internal economic transofrmation, from a society based on extractie industry to one based on industrial production... As long as South Africa was primarily a society whose wealth was based on extractivng diamonds, gold, uranium and so on, what you needed were large numbers of slaves... So you needed an illiterate, subdued population of workers. That was traditional South Africa. But as South Africa changes to an industrial society, those needs also are beginning to change: now ... you need a docile, partially educated workforce." (Undestanding Power).

To summarize: Apartheid and its end are the result of economic needs. "Wealth Maximization" as Richard Posner would call it.

In fact, most historical incidences of war can be determined by modern-day climatologists by merely chopping down a tree and observing its rings. In years where the rings are small, there was little rainfall. Years of little rainfall often coincide with a rise in wars. Modern archaeolgists support this theory (see Prehistory of Warfare, journal article by Harvard Archaelogist Steven A. LeBlanc).

To streamline things a bit: if war is a result of resource competition (economics), and racial discrimiation is used as a tool for economic gain, then race is merely part of a larger question concerning intra and extra game economics.

Perhaps these problems of race are best solved through an economic approach. As item-harvesting becomes more intense, it is certainly a notion that needs consideration.

4.

Richard asked: "What do you mean by "Chinese"?"

I mean it as the ethnicity and shared culture/heritage (values, literature, customs, rituals, worldview) of people from China, rather than as the nationality.

Of course, in the 1800s, ethnicity and nationality were always congruent when referring to the "Chinese" (since they couldn't get US citizenship). It's a lot more complicated now, and the term "chinese national" seems to be reserved for denoting nationality in addition to the ethnicity here in the US.

5.

Daniel - While I understand your point, it feels too reductionistic. It's too much like the behaviorists arguing that language is simply a result of conditioning. And that all behavioral problems can be resolved through a system of reward and punishment.

Moreover, it assumes that the product of a social process cannot take on its own dynamic and role and can never be worthy of examination. Also, it ignores the different racial narratives we trope for different groups. For example, the issue of "industriousness" is tied to narratives about Asians and this in turn influences the economic roles they play.

To say that race is simply a by-product of resource competiton ignores the consequences of those racial narratives and how they might shape future interactions.

And finally, it's not the origin of racial categories and racial discrimination I'm interested in, but rather, the particularities of the racial narrative we're telling and most importantly, alternative narratives that might change how we think and talk about gold farming.

There are many levels at which we can explore an issue, and to argue that causal stories are the only valid stories misses the point that I wasn't trying to tell a causal story.

6.

If I worked as a WoW gold farmer, then you'd be perfectly within your rights to say that I shouldn't begrudge others the right to make a living there. But the reality is that this activity (regardless of from where it occurs -- China or some basement in central Wisconsin) infringes upon my lesiure activity that I pay a fee to enjoy.

I've run into gold farming teams in both Hearthglen and Tyr's Hand that interfere with normal game activity such as you described: derailing quests, rogues vanish-pulling mobs on to me in an attempt to get me killed, turning on pvp flags and running through AE or attempting to get me to accidentally click on them.

They're defending their economic livelihood in the same way that a marijuana farmer guards his fields... but when I'm taking an innocent walk in the woods, it shouldn't be a surprise that I resent being shot at.

This issue has nothing to do with racism. How could it when I know nothing about the person on the other side than what they do in the game? That's as close to MLK's Dream as you can get: "...not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

7.

Ah, but players assume race based on this set of actions, don't they? What gets bundled along during that assumption is at issue here, rather than the valuation of the actions within the magic circle.

Meh. Play on a PvP server--people are too paranoid about being ganked to focus as much on farmers.

8.

Nick-

I appreciate your thoughtful response. I hope my previous response didn't seem like an attack. (In retrospect, it is written rather forcefully). I was hoping more to raise questions about the influence of in-game economics on the development of racial narrative, but my original intent seems to have been lost in the heat of composition.

Further questions: Do you think character classes/races will become the focus of hate instead of the players behind them? ("Got to hate those elfs!") What effects will the ability to change a character's physical appearance (i.e. in-game haircuts, tattoos, armor...) have on racial perspective? Can economic methodology be used as a tool for shaping and interpreting racial narrative? (While this may seem far off, economic analysis of law is now a hot field).

9.

I'd have to concur with Axecleaver. While we are making a judgement about their race, I wouldn't call it racism per se.

As for the judgement itself, it's a fairly logical one if not a perfectly accurate one. One of the common characteristics of farmers is of course that they come from relatively poor economic areas of the world. Considering China's population and its interesting mix of technology and poverty, it would be reasonable to say that most farmers are Chinese.

Nick, are you wanting to focus on why we attach the race of Chinese to a farmer automatically rather than that of Indian or South American? Or did you have some other focus in mind?

10.

Further questions: Do you think character classes/races will become the focus of hate instead of the players behind them? ("Got to hate those elfs!") What effects will the ability to change a character's physical appearance (i.e. in-game haircuts, tattoos, armor...) have on racial perspective? Can economic methodology be used as a tool for shaping and interpreting racial narrative? (While this may seem far off, economic analysis of law is now a hot field).

Class and race can and has been a basis for group-hatred. But it's fairly weak, mainly, imho, because it's how these two things are used that incite the dislike, and that's a player issue, not purely "within the game" (in the magic circle).

This stigma is not unlike that of "Anyone who has a 40+ level character must be a nerd who rarely sees the light of day". It's an achievement-based assumption, melded with prejudice against the method of achievement. A large group of people owning an area, farming it for adena, gets labelled "Chinese", because everyone knows there are places where large groups of Chinese play L2 to farm adena. People don't like the practice of adena farming, and thus link the prejudice to the Chinese.

11.

Jim asked: Nick, are you wanting to focus on why we attach the race of Chinese to a farmer automatically rather than that of Indian or South American? Or did you have some other focus in mind?

I think I was more interested in turning the accepted narrative on its head by juxtaposing it with the historical one. The accepted narrative frames the Chinese workers as a dangerous tide, but I think the historical parallel of marginalized industrious immigrants being mob lynched is equally compelling.

Although, your question is equally interesting. And the one I also had along those lines was:

- Why is the blame placed so entirely on the foreign workers rather than the affluent, lazy, western buyers or the scheming middle-men? And sure, the gold farmers are clearly the visible tip of this process, but that just reinforces the historical narrative that these industrious immigrant workers are becoming scapegoats of an economy that is ultimately controlled by westerners. The gold farmers slave away for western businesses and in return they get lynched by mobs.

... and that starts to sound a lot like the Chinese railroad story actually ...

I think ultimately I'm most interested in how the accepted racial narrative focuses blame while diverting our attention away from other crucial elements of what's happening.

12.

Me>What do you mean by "Chinese"?
Nick>I mean it as the ethnicity and shared culture/heritage (values, literature, customs, rituals, worldview) of people from China, rather than as the nationality.

Hmm. When I hear terms like "Chinese Adena farmers", I take that to mean that the people doing the Adena farming are resident in China, the nation. The political, economic, technical and cultural conditions of that nation are what drive some of its residents to farm in virtual worlds, in ways that aren't so noticeable elsewhere.

You seem to be referring to the wider body of people who are of Chinese descent. Most of these will live in China, of course, but for the ones who don't then the political, economic and technical conditions will be different; the cultural conditions will probably still have some impact, but probably not as much as the dominant culture of the country in which these individuals are resident.

This may be where the sense of racism comes in. Generally speaking, it's fine to criticise a country on the grounds of its politics, its use of its economic muscle, its technological infrastructure and even its culture (no-one likes a cannibal!). What's unfair is to criticise individuals for being citizens of a country through the accident of birth. What's even more unfair is to criticise individuals for being of the same decent as the dominant racial group of a country that's being criticised.

Thus, in the early 1940s you could legitimately critice Nazism, you could legitimately criticise Nazi Germany, you couldn't legitimately criticise individual Germans merely for being Germans (but if they were Nazi supporters, you could) and you couldn't criticise Milwaukee farmers of German descent (but you could if they were Nazi supporters).

It may be fair to use the word "Chinese" when referring to adena (or whatever) farmers, if you can argue that it's their being from China that prompts their behaviour (something along the lines of "there are millions of them with access to high technology in a business-oriented culture recently freed from years of constraint, who because of the exchange rate can be paid well with what looks to be only a marginal amount to us"). It's more difficult to argue the validity of such a label when applied to someone who is not from China but is of Chinese descent: you'd have to point to some strong cultural or genetic tendency to support your case.

The word "Chinese" is ambiguous, though. Does it refer to the nation or to people descended from the dominant ethnic group(s) of that nation? If the Chinese nation is criticised, it could easily appear that ethnic Chinese are being criticised, too. (Indeed, a racist could actually be criticising ethnic Chinese deliberately).

>Of course, in the 1800s, ethnicity and nationality were always congruent when referring to the "Chinese" (since they couldn't get US citizenship).

Multiculturalism has moved things on. There was much surprise in the Middle East when the pictures of the London bombings in July showed so many non-white faces among the victims.

>It's a lot more complicated now, and the term "chinese national" seems to be reserved for denoting nationality in addition to the ethnicity here in the US.

So when you had your run-in with the elite-farmers, did you think "these are Chinese nationals" or "these are ethnic Chinese"?

Richard

13.

Nick > - Why is the blame placed so entirely on the foreign workers rather than the affluent, lazy, western buyers or the scheming middle-men?

It isn’t. The hatred that I hear most of all is for IGE and the buyers of the goods produced by the farmers. Also, I’ve never particularly associated Farming with Chinese, the one well verified story of farming that I’ve read concerned Eastern Europe.

>the Chinese railroad story
But this is an American story. Is what you are seeing an American thing or a global thing? Do Koreans, Finns or Argentineans share the these views?

14.

Richard Bartle wrote:

"It may be fair to use the word "Chinese" when referring to adena (or whatever) farmers, if you can argue that it's their being from China that prompts their behaviour (something along the lines of "there are millions of them with access to high technology in a business-oriented culture recently freed from years of constraint, who because of the exchange rate can be paid well with what looks to be only a marginal amount to us"). It's more difficult to argue the validity of such a label when applied to someone who is not from China but is of Chinese descent: you'd have to point to some strong cultural or genetic tendency to support your case."

Obviously an ethnic Chinese living in Canada would have no real motive to farm gold, just as a Chinese millionaire living in China would have no motive--other than the obvious one regarding buying a mount of course.

To be fair it's my guess that Chinese nationals do make up a disproportionate percentage of farmers. It may well be that it's the same phenomena respnosible for the domination of niche industries in the United States by certain nationalities/ethnic groups: Cambodians with donut shops, Indians with motels, Koreans and Vietnamese with nail salons, etc.

15.

Nick Yee wrote:

"I think ultimately I'm most interested in how the accepted racial narrative focuses blame while diverting our attention away from other crucial elements of what's happening."

Certainly the reaction on the part of many gamers towards farmers smacks of racism, (check out the World of Warcraft forums sometime), but the actions of a lot of these farmers often leaves something to be desire. In this post alone there are attempts at training and PK'ing via a technique that borders on exploitation.

Also, while I personally feel no desire to interfere with their gold gathering activities, (their job trumps my play), they are technically breaking the rules of the game.

16.

Like Samantha said, as there is very little info on the players in MMORPGs by design, these environments lend themselves to stereotyping based on available information or what can be observed.

Adding a nationality identifier whether or not the identifier is accurate in my view is derogatory, racism or not. However, I also can understand how easy it is to adopt an adjective, how sticky the adjective can be, and how it becomes pervasive and affects social discourse.

So in the current state of virtual worlds is stereotyping all we got? Is it worth the effort to add enabling functionalities to provide better name calling?

Frank

17.
Obviously an ethnic Chinese living in Canada would have no real motive to farm gold, just as a Chinese millionaire living in China would have no motive--other than the obvious one regarding buying a mount of course.

Buying a mount, buying an epic mount, getting gold for a new weapon, getting components for a free enchant, getting components for potions for raiding, etc...

It is still completely non-obvious to me why any farming activity is attributes to "Chinese Farmers" when regular player are easily capable of composing 80-90% of the farming population. All these same behaviors have taken place on a regular basis for years in EQ, and the end game of WoW essentially reinforces this behavior.

The primary resources for high end crafted items are arcane crystals, thorium, and elemental essences. All of which are very limited in availability. I wouldn't be surprised to find that myself, and one of my good friends at least have been branded as "chinese farmers" as well. Myself being a 60 Rogue Enchanter / Tailor, and him being a 60 Rogue Engineer / Miner. He has spent hours in Silithus trying to get materials for his Arcanite Dragonling, and to help me get a Heartseeker. I've spent hours in Silithus, Felwood, and UnGoro trying to get elemetal essences for enchanting, and for components in getting Stormshroud armor.

If you want high end crafted items you either farm components, or you farm instances for items and for money. I've only met one other player that I truly suspected of having any link to RMT.

18.

--Further questions: Do you think character classes/races will become the focus of hate instead of the players behind them? ("Got to hate those elfs!") What effects will the ability to change a character's physical appearance (i.e. in-game haircuts, tattoos, armor...) have on racial perspective?

Certainly! EQ1, Druids and Necros were for the most part believed to be cheap players without any skill. This didn't help get them a group and since they couldn't group, they soloed. It also didnt help that they were the best soloers out there so they didn't group as much, so when they did group, they weren't good at it and thus were labeled unskilled. (rinse repeat)

Most games out there have a pre-defined "best" race for a certian class, even if they try to balance things out. In EQ1, it was the halfling druid. He had the best stats. In WoW, it is the Undead Rogue. Sure you can play others, but its widely agreed that certain classes better fit certain races. As this is more widely accepted, it begins to become an assumption that when talking about a Rogue jumping you in PvP, that you are referring to an Undead Rogue.

Now this isn't very harmful since there is no undead "race" in real life and there usually aren't equivilant human cultures that directly parellel the hated races of such games. However, when creating next gen games that allow such customization you describe, especially ones that try to mirror earth, not some fantasy land, it will be interesting to see if races are given certain affinities toward certain professions. I can see the shock on peole's faces when they choose their race (Caucasion/Western for example) and they can only choose between the professions of: corporate profession, diplomat, or general service profession. (I'll let you each take it from there so that I dont get flamed for sounding racist)

19.

Ren said: "It isn’t. The hatred that I hear most of all is for IGE and the buyers of the goods produced by the farmers. Also, I’ve never particularly associated Farming with Chinese, the one well verified story of farming that I’ve read concerned Eastern Europe."

This isn't congruent with what I've seen. Also, there have been well-publicized articles that focus on chinese gold farmers. There have also been posts on the official WoW forums with titles such as "Chinese people annoy me". This is also the typical gold farming narrative, such as the one Constance presented at SoP II. I'm glad to hear you don't hold these assumptions, but they are quite pervasive among the rest of the player base.

Richard asked: "So when you had your run-in with the elite-farmers, did you think "these are Chinese nationals" or "these are ethnic Chinese"?"

The question of "what does it mean to be Chinese" and whether chinese nationals or ethnic chinese are being referred to are good questions, but as far as the juxtaposition of narratives is concerned, the chinese workers we're talking about in 1870 and in 2005 are both ethnic chinese and chinese nationals.

It's not the racial prejudice in and of itself that I'm interested in or whether it is intended to apply to all ethnic chinese, but rather I was more interested in reframing the current narrative. And in this story, like the 1870 story, ethnicity and nationality are congruent. The focus is on the immigrant chinese workers.

On the other hand, once this racial stereotype sets in, it's not clear that the player base will be able to objectively distinguish between this nationality/ethnicity difference.

20.

> Samantha LeCraft wrote:
>
> FWIW, I thick that dragging elites into someone
> else's AE or onto someone else at all may be a bannable
> offense in WoW. Sometimes the best revenge is a quick
> page to the GMs through the Help menu. ;)

*coughs and chokes*

Bwahahahahaha. Get a GM in WoW? From a "quick" page?

*continues coughing and choking from laughter*

A good 90% of pages get completely ignored. If you are STUCK in the environment of the game, you'll likely have to wait upwards of 6-24 hours to get fixed (perhaps even more).

Do you really think you can get a GM involved because someone dragged mobs into your AE spell?

Yeah right. Maybe when WoW decides to have more than 1 and a half GMs per server.

21.

> Axecleaver wrote:
>
> They're defending their economic livelihood in
> the same way that a marijuana farmer guards his
> fields... but when I'm taking an innocent walk in
> the woods, it shouldn't be a surprise that I resent
> being shot at.

That's an extremely apt analogy- one of the best I've read.


> Nick Yee wrote:
>
> Why is the blame placed so entirely on the foreign
> workers rather than the affluent, lazy, western
> buyers or the scheming middle-men?

Why isn't the blame placed on the lazy game developers who spend $30 million to make Yet Another Grind Game (YAGG) that involves nothing more than "push button, kill monster, get loot" ?

As for the middle-men, people despise IGE pretty heartily. I do not think the middle-men are being ignored.

And as for the buyers, I think one of the reasons they do not get as much blame is because players can instinctually identify with someone getting so fed up with the crappy grind model that they buy their way out of it.

22.

This issue has nothing to do with racism. How could it when I know nothing about the person on the other side than what they do in the game? That's as close to MLK's Dream as you can get: "...not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Voice comm is ruining that wonder and destroying the illusion, reintroducing all sorts of barriers and prejudices that text leaves behind. Which is yet another illustration of why more and/or new technology is not necessarily better technology.

(yes, of course players can and do implement voice on their own, but it is different when it is built into the game design as an assumption. It changed community dynamics, influences party and guild meeting size considerations, and otherwise mucks things up. Humans can't multitask voice as effectively as text, for one thing. But mostly it destroys the wall of separation between online and physical self.)

23.

Nick>>in this story, like the 1870 story, ethnicity and nationality are congruent. The focus is on the immigrant chinese workers.

I agree that if you see someone farming and they are Chinese nationals, they are most probably ethnic Chinese too (because China is populated overwhelmingly by ethnic Chinese). I would also probably accept, on anecdotal evidence, that if you see someone farming and they are ethnic Chinese, they are most probably Chinese nationals, too. However, I feel it's the "Chinese nationals" part that's important here, not the "ethnic Chinese". They're disliked because of what they're doing, and what they're doing is determined mainly by social, economical, technical and cultural conditions in the country they come from.

Back in 1870, "all" ethnic Chinese in the USA were immigrants, whereas now not all of them are. The attitude of the locals forced them into certain particular jobs they didn't necessarily want to do.

Today, not all ethnic Chinese in virtual worlds are immigrants (if virtual words can be said to have a real-world nationality). Also, they are no forced by the locals to fit certain niches. In 1870, if you were Chinese then the openings available to you in the USA were very limited. In 2005, the openings to you in WoW are no more limited than for anyone else. I'm willing to bet that there are people in China who play WoW for fun, without aiming to make a profit from it.

>On the other hand, once this racial stereotype sets >in, it's not clear that the player base will be able >to objectively distinguish between this >nationality/ethnicity difference.

Yes, this is the danger of course. "I hate farmers; all farmers are Chinese nationals; all Chinese nationals are ethnic Chinese; therefore, I hate ethnic Chinese". It's an easy path for the ignorant to take.

Richard

24.

Thabor>It is still completely non-obvious to me why any farming activity is attributes to "Chinese Farmers" when regular player are easily capable of composing 80-90% of the farming population.

Maybe the fact that IGE is HQed in Hong Kong has something to do with it?

Richard

25.

Richard, according to their own site:

IGE maintains administrative offices in Los Angeles, California and Miami, Florida. The Company's market making and currency exchange services are operated by Internet Gaming Entertainment, Ltd., the Company's wholly-owned subsidiary in Hong Kong. The Company's auction exchange services and content network sites are administered by wholly-owned subsidiaries in the United States.

That doesn't sound like they are HQed in Hong Kong to me.

26.

M.Hartman wrote:
"Why isn't the blame placed on the lazy game developers who spend $30 million to make Yet Another Grind Game (YAGG) that involves nothing more than "push button, kill monster, get loot" ?"

...and why isn't the blame placed on players who decided to flock by hundreds thousands into YAGG ?

Just for kicks.

More on topic, the ethnic vs nationality question is interesting, mostly because it doesn't hold up to the facts.
Obviously some of the farmers of a given ethnic group are bound to also share nationality and country of residence, hence are an easy match for either acception of the term, but I guess it all boils down to economic status, down to the individual level.

Every developed country has it share of immigrants, some of which may not have legal resident status, which may hamper (along with language, non-reusable professional specialties, etc.) their ability to compete on a level ground with the locals/natives/nationals.

As the RL wealth distribution in most western-played MMOGs is largely in favor of the westerner userbase, it happens that many farmers (among those playing the Gold for cash game) are non-western, nationality and/or ethnically speaking.

Still, one can figure a sweatshop composed mostly of asian or eastern-europe natives and running from within a western locale, just as you see happening in the clothing trade.

It is not as profitable, obviously, as running a farming operation from a third world locale, due to the higher payroll (for farmers to cope with higher life cost), but since we're talking about people who are usually illegal residents (to keep with the clothing industry sweatshops) you don't have to pay anyone much beyond survival levels, sometimes even down to slave labor rewards (provide food, threaten to turn them over to immigration, and let'em sleep on the floor).

Less likely to happen on a wide scale in current games, due to the immaterial nature of production, hence lower incentive to produce closer to sales point, but just like chinese immigrant doing the laundry for cheaper, accessibility is part of what makes a good deal (no one would have shipped his dirty laundry to china to save on the laundry per-batch cost).

I can foresee western-based sweatshop using exploitable immigrants to turn yummy profits in games where the knowledge of cultural memes and/or language (of the customer base) gives a significant edge in farming.

What about turning the heat a bit and consider english-speaking chinese virtual "cocottes" with female avatars playing the "poor cute gal" game to gather gifts for a profit at an industrial level ?

Cheers,
-- Yaka.

27.

..and why isn't the blame placed on players who decided to flock by hundreds thousands into YAGG ?

Because they are desperate for a virtual world social experience and we haven't offered them alternatives to YAGG. When all the phones come in black, that doesn't mean consumers prefer black phones.

Or, as Buckminster Fuller said, "if you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top."

28.

M.Hartman wrote:
"Why isn't the blame placed on the lazy game developers who spend $30 million to make Yet Another Grind Game (YAGG) that involves nothing more than "push button, kill monster, get loot" ?"

Yaka wrote:
"...and why isn't the blame placed on players who decided to flock by hundreds thousands into YAGG ?"

Galiel wrote:
"Because they are desperate for a virtual world social experience and we haven't offered them alternatives to YAGG. When all the phones come in black, that doesn't mean consumers prefer black phones."

I write:
I think we are all to blame: developers, players, industry experts, the peanut gallery, etc. We all helped to make the nationality/ethnicity-base online "gold farmer" label stickly and helped the term enter into the mainstream netspeak.

Frank

29.

Oh I want to qualify the above by say that we're to blame mostly be our inactions :)

It is interesting how easy it is on the net to scapegoat or sterotype.

Frank

30.

think we are all to blame: developers, players, industry experts, the peanut gallery, etc.

Developers make the worlds and create the rules. No current MMOs are democracies, so to suggest that developers, publishers, and the whole industry is somehow just one of many variables responsible for how things happen in the games we create is somewhat disingenuous.

31.

In fact, akin to the "we don't make anybody smoke, it's an individual decision" argument by cigarette manufacturers.

32.

Galiel wrote:
"In fact, akin to the "we don't make anybody smoke, it's an individual decision" argument by cigarette manufacturers."

I'm of two minds about this:

- obviously the dominant exposure a few big-name titles that share a lot in terms of design enjoy allows those to shape the expectations of players, possibly to the extent of restricting (indirectly) their freedom of choice, which is congruent with the piano-top-as-lifeboat and all-phones-come-in-black examplified earlier ;

- otoh, not all online worlds are useless-over-the-counter-drugs-that-make-you-stink, while some indusputably are... hence there's room for players to choose among worlds and experiences much more diverse than tobacco brands (while more variety would be good indeed).

Then I honestly find some of the responsibility falling on the players who are too lazy to look beyond EQ2 and WoW and favor bemoaning the state of these games over going out and try something else.

Not to say the blame is not to be shared with devs, publishers, investors, media, politic and academics, and mice, of course, yet my original comment about "Who's to blame, now ?" was also intended as a - possibly thought-provoking - joke.

So yeah some of the online worlds available today aren't great experiences, some may even prove toxic, just like restaurants, and I can see motives to blame a specific game/dev/chef for that, but it's indeed an individual choice of the customer to return to a joint where the food is poisonous when there are 20 others places (not all awful) around the block.

Plus the specific core addictiveness of online worlds remains to be assessed, judging by how many people simply quit playing lousy games by themselves and out of boredom (as opposed to saved byinterventionist detox) on a daily basis.

Cheers,
-- Yaka.

33.

I was thinking more about the way the industries work to influence behavior, so that it is not just a neutral choice for consumers nor merely a competition between brands.

I was not making a qualitative comparison, nor claiming that games are inherently either physically addictive nor cause lung cancer. I'm a game developer and player. Surely we can have an intelligent discussion on this blog about the choices we make, voluntarily, as developers, without pulling out the old Lieberman bogeyman.

In fact, one of the main differences between tobacco and MMOGs is that, while it is hard to imagine a commercially successful non-addictive, non-toxic cigarette, since very few people actually enjoy the sensation of pulling hot smoke into their lungs in and of itself and most smokers say they would like to quit; but it is perfectly possible to create compelling, competitive MMOGs that are neither deliberately addicting nor socially destructive. We (meaning developers and publishers) simply don't choose to bother.

Mainly, I was comparing the tobacco industry's evasion of responsibility by blaming the consumer with the sentiment I heard here.

We determine what happens in the MMOGs we design. We determine what wins and what loses, what is advantageous behavior and what is disadvantageous; we determine what is possible and what is difficult if not impossible.

So far, we primarily want people to kill others and loot the corpses. That may or may not be fine, it may or may not damage people, it may or may not have socio-political consequences, but to blame players for doing what we force them to do in the worlds we design is disingenuous.

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