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Jun 06, 2006



It's worth pointing out that the exception to this is Eve Online, where very real wars for rich territory are waged between alliances (think mega-guilds) that can have over a thousand people per side.

These include negotion stages, formal declarations, skirmishes, rarely major battles, and in the end the side that's most financially hurt (since war is an economic attrition endeavor, really) goes into talks first to cede whatever territory the other side demands.

Look into it, very hyperreal game.


Even in Eve though, fair play is far from the norm. Backstabs, double crosses, and downright dirty tricks are usually at play.


True zabuni... especially within your own corps....


well how do you difine fair play? If you mean playing by the rules of the game then "backstabing, double-crosses, and downright dirty tricks" are within the realm of fair play. if however you are appealing to a higher moral than I don't think that you will find too much of that in these games. They seem to me to be more of an outlet for behavior that would otherwise be considered unethical in the real world.


Yes, but in EVE, where such "dirty tricks" are possible, things like honorable warfare have real meaning. If it's not possible to backstab someone you have a binding contract with (i.e., the contract is enforced by game mechanics), then being honorable about that means nothing, no?


In "A History of Warfare" John Keegan describes the types of warfare a tribe (in New Guinea IIRC) engages in. The vast majority of their battles resemble an archery competition, the armies stand far apart, and take turns to hide behind pallisades and shoot each other all day long. Warriors show their bravery by dancing and dodging the arrows, and all the rest of both villages turn out to watch from further back. Injuries are fairly rare considering what they're doing.

In addition however, there are some battles that are much more serious. A group from a village will sneak up to the others and kill one of their warriors (while he's on his own, perhaps going to the toilet).

Keegan makes the point that at first glance the former is a game or sport and the second closer to real war, but in fact the former is war and the second is murder. As you can't murder anyone in game it's perectly understandable that ony the sporting espects of warfare would show up in the game.

For the vast majority of human history this is what warfare has been. We think of war as being the grinding to death of a million men in world war I and II but thats just not representative.


I've seen more "ruthless PvP" in games where the developers allow characters with vast differences in ability (level/skill/what have you) than in ones that often place the foes at a more even footing.

Initially, I'd expected to see the desperate nature of a more even battlefield lead to more ruthlessness. Instead, perhaps the emphasis on "a fair match" leads to more civil play... its recognized more as a sport than as a war.

It's not perfect, we still have the trash talkers. The devs bowed to player complaints and filtered away cross-faction chat, but gave you the ability to enable it, if you wanted. Most of the time, a foe broadcasts a compliment or a friendly challenge of "next time."

I've found it to be very social gameplay. While the combat mechanic doesn't allow for much chatting in battle, post-battle has enough dialogue to keep battles friendly and collaborative... again, for the most part.

I'm beginning to believe that the "disable dialogue" may be one of the biggest NEGATIVE points in PvP that drives ruthless behavior. When I'm grouped with people who haven't enabled opponent chat, they often assume the worst in their enemy. In the absence of communication, they assume the worst of their enemy, often getting very personal in-chat about a foe, at the same time that the foe is complimenting them for a good match in-game.

When I tried EQ2, with its strictly-regulated "no cross-faction chat" I saw much of the same- alot of hostility that went well beyond role-playing to getting downright personal. A few times, my calls for moderation marked me as a collaborator- perhaps two-boxing, or playing in a room with a player from the other side.

The paranoia was ridiculous- as was the extreme xenophobia.

I'd be interested in seeing a comparison of PvP implementations across games- do certain PvP rulessets seem to encourage "war" over "sport"?


The sports analogy is appropriate. Unless you have permadeath, pvp is nothing but sport. If victory is nothing more than a statistic, that is sport.

On the other hand, with permadeath, the element of risk adds far more value to the victory in pvp, and makes you think twice before pursuing war.


As another commentor has already alluded to, there are so many different kinds of war that this comparison is difficult.

Just offhand, you have the rule-bound "war-as-sport" contests of medieval Europe, the all out push for military domination that was World War 2, the genocidal extermination wars of the post-colonial era, and a war that is ostensibly for the "benefit" of conquered population in Vietnam and Iraq.

Each kind comes with its own expectations and conventions with regard to the taking of life and tactics used.

Furthermore, war simulation has been explored to a much greater degree in offline games than in online games.

I just finished reading the Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, and he mentions that only social animals regularly fight to the death. The evolutionary justification is that a fight to the death carries some risk even to the dominant party. It is to the combatants advantage to disengage the combat before either party is seriously hurt.

This suggests to me that perhaps sport isn't really surrogate war so much as it is a standalone part of being a sentient creature. That being said, in my opinion, PvP in World of Warcraft is obviously a form of electronic sport. The canonical allusions to war are merely window dressing and are, in fact, of little value to the experience. This is evident to me from the fact that it is possible to "cheat" at a MMOG, whereas it is impossible to "cheat" at warfare.


Another perspective... I can think of a couple of possible reasons why PvP in these games isn't "war."

1. PvP in most games is conceived (and thus designed) as one-on-one dueling, rather than as squad-level tactical combat, battalion-level operational combat, or army-level strategic combat.

One guy whacking another guy with a big stick is not war.

2. This is a little more nebulous, but a feeling I get from listening to people who ask for more large-scale PvP is that when they ask for "war," that's not really what they mean.

War seems to be just the most direct means for obtaining their true end, which is the ever-popular "I want what I do to matter." These players want to be able to make lasting changes to the game world, and view warfare -- territorial control through PvP -- as the blindingly obvious way to implement that capability.

But that just leads to the problem of fairness. Either one group can dominate forever (realism trumps gameplay), or failure is rewarded to artificially insure permanent conflict (gameplay beats realism).

So maybe PvP is best treated as sport, after all.



Nate: Spllchekc is yuor frend. >_<


Ed McGone wrote:

The sports analogy is appropriate. Unless you have permadeath, pvp is nothing but sport. If victory is nothing more than a statistic, that is sport.

Permadeath changes nothing fundamental in the equation. It may, depending on the game design, cost you more than non-permadeath in another game, or it may cost you less than non-permadeath in another game. Losing your character isn't the end of your participation in an MMO "war". You just get a new one. It's easy to imagine a game with such a steep xp curve, for instance, that losing 5% of your character's xp due to death would cost more in terms of time lost than losing your entire character in an easier game.

We use 'war' as a metaphor because it fits with the roleplaying milieu, but I agree that sport is a far more apt analogy.



Perhaps the term "MMORPGs" needs to drop out of these discussions. World of Wacraft, Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, EVE Online, Lineage, PlanetSide -- these are all MMORPGs, but they represent at least three, possibly four or more versions of PvP combat that in some places resembles a virtual version of war and in others is more like a duel or even just an unwanted drubbing. I don't think you can charge "MMORPGs" with the things they're being charged with above. Some yes, some no.

Andrew's example about the decapitated Alliance general, for instance, is something that does happen to a large extent in EVE. One alliance I was a member of there teetered and split apart and eventually dissolved because our commander struck a peace treaty with our sworn enemies. He had fallen, in our eyes, and it was time to move on.

More: People are banished from their homes on pain of death in EVE all the time because they've acted dishonorably or, probably more often, did not show the strength that was demanded of them by the tribe. And it does feel remarkably like having a home when you're a member of an alliance that controls part of the 75 percent of EVE that is policed only by players. Leaving our home when the above-mentioned alliance split up was an emotional experience for many of my corp-members, surprisingly so.

It's worth considering, too, that perhaps honor only exists in the presence of its opposite. . . . ?


Hmm, it seems like we're arguing more over costs rather than realness of virtual "war". After all, it could be argued that sports is highly ritualized warfare where the costs are considerably lower.

If you die in WoW PVP, you waste 3 min... but then you're back.

If you die in real war, you're dead. Your family, town, country, etc. lost you and your contribution. If another replaces you, they have to be trained, etc. This is a BIG cost. especially if you count the potential value of all the things you could have done if you lived.

If we want to find tribal behaviors, maybe we should look at where the costs are greater in the virtual world. I saw a guy get kicked out of our guild because he intentionally went on a raid with another guild and then came on our run -- somehow we ended up "hijacking" the other guild's instance for that week. Our guild leaders quickly issued apologies for the unintended action to the other guild (this is the kind of thing that GMs can sometimes ban players for if done intentionally) and our leaders reiterated to our own guild that anyone engaging in such behavior would be immediately kicked.

Raids are high-cost ventures. You screw up some guild's instance for a week, and you are talking about losing a chance on thousands of gold worth of epics.

So the costs seem to determine the level of honor in play. Honor in the tradition of war is a value that guides a warrior towards the most efficient way overall to complete objectives. Kill too many civilians and it makes your job ultimately harder, not easier. Don't kill unless necessary. Etc. etc.

I think it's possible that "honor codes" developed in the first place because the costs of war are so high that there is considerable pressure to be as efficient as possible.


"I'll claim that what is going on is more like 'sport'"

Are you suggesting that war isn't sport? I think history may prove that premise wrong.


> Eve-Online

Well. Eve-Online is a fine game. Do I feel any greater sense of participating in a 'war' when there than I do in WoW? Yes, I think so, the stakes are larger and the machinery of its universe turn on larger gears. Actions I take there can have an impact (as small as it may be) on the larger system. *But* am I in fact participating in an online 'war' experience? Here is the deal-breaker, the experience there still feels ritualized: I log-on expecting pvp, in fact without it I wouldn't log on at all. Ritualized conflict in a large game sense.

Related, to recast Mark's question, can you have a 'war' without 'no-war'? Perhaps you can't.

> Are you suggesting that war isn't sport? I think history may prove that premise wrong.

Its an interesting point - though perhaps not the one you meant. If I play World in Flames (a boardgame that takes an eternity to play) - am I engaging in 'war' or playing a game about war? The latter surely, non? Grand strategy when it becomes too grand must sometimes seem game-like.


I'll suggest strongly that war isn't sport and that serious historians will never suggest that it is.

War is usually people killing each other, or at least threatening to do so, or, at the very least, using force to do other nasty things. Sport is people kicking and hitting balls. There are some similarities and sometimes people (i.e., hooligans) can get war-like over sport, and other people (i.e., psychotics and sociopaths) can see the act of wholesale slaughter of humans as some kind of game.

Some similar mental processes can be involved in some of the acts surrounding war and sport. OK. The same holds true for fishing and masturbation. And driving a car and watching TV. And about any of a thousand pairs of activities where you can say "X" and "Y" are not completely dissimilar in cognitive, physical, emotional and psychological requirements.

War isn't sport. War is nation states vying for resources and/or proclaiming ideologies by force, often deadly force. Sport is skiing. Sport is polo. Sport is ping pong, tennis, billiards, badminton, etc. etc. Are there some parallels? Only if we want there to be and look for them hard enough. For every parallel between sport and war you can find, I can find anti-parallels that say that war well-fought is not sport, but the antithesis of sport. That smart warriors are not "sportsmen," but assassins, thieves and liars. That war is not a game, but a business. That it is a "way" not a challenge, that it must be taken as seriously as... well... death.

Sport is fun. Or it should usually be. Some people think real war is fun. They are wrong. War is not sport, war is not fun. It should be thought of as testicle surgery without anesthesia; avoided unless absolutely necessary.


In the film version of "Band of Brothers", Lt Welsh consoles a private by telling him it's all just a game. The dialogue seems authentic, so I'll have to disagree that only sociopaths view war as sport.

Many normal citizens not directly involved in war also seem to view war as sport. It's very hard for me to see much difference between a "Support Our Troops" ribbon and a college basketball bumper sticker. People watch the score of a war on the nightly news. People lose interest (and stop sending money) when their side doesn't win.

The main failure in the PvP analogy to war lies in the inability for anyone to affect the virtual world. Little Timmy continues to run blissfully unaware through a warzone. His mom complains about a pig digging up her flowers all while a dozen enemy players tear through her village. Sterile external forces called "scripted events" affect Timmy's life, but not the players.

Character death doesn't matter to the war analogy. Obviously games will never simulate war from the personal perspective -- they will always be sport for the player. Real world societies can sustain wars for years or even decades. Permadeath would shorten the duration of a virtual war and perhaps lessen its impact. You'd end up with a bunch of pissed off players and a meaningless blip on the history of the world.


From an overall gameplay perspective, pvp could be considered war IF something happens when one side wins (i.e. territory is gained, etc.).

However, from the individual player's perspective, if you take a little experience hit in some form, or get some other minor inconvenience, what have you really lost?

In real life, war is an all-or-nothing experience for the individual combatants.

If a game's goal is to duplicate war, then you must also duplicate the stakes: life or death.


One thing that occurred to me after my previous post: It also depends on your target audience.

If you are targeting adults, then pvp requires greater stakes.

If you are targeting children, then you may have to limit the stakes. A permakill to a child would be far more frustrating. They put all this time into a character, only to lose it all. That would be an excuse to leave the game.

Adults would understand the risk factor better, and would appreciate getting the rewards better as a result.


I think that too many people are forgetting that MMORPG's are designed to allow players freedom of expression in a world at war setting. I can see why some people would consider any MMO a sport and not really a "war" and so they feel as if good sportsmanship should come into play. The dictionary defines war as A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties. WOW's PVP servers are designed to be just that, a prolonged series of conflicts where everyone must look out for themselves as well as each other to stay "alive". I myself feel that PVP servers should not have safe noob zones; everywhere should be open game, simply because by creating safe zones, the realism is diminished. Think about it like this, if Osama bin laden held a public funeral in the middle of Iraq-a contested area- for one of his fallen comrades, his whole group would be bombed into the stone age; rightfully so. If the point of a PVP server is to create a realistic at war feel, then the way I see it, the members who held that funeral were irresponsible and deserved to get owned the way that they did. Just because it is a game does not give funeral organizers the right to throw common sense out the window and expect everyone to shed one tear for the departed thus taking off their pvp gloves for a day of mourning.
Morally speaking, we have no way of knowing just what kind of player the girl who died was. She could have been a ruthless PVP mage who noob camped and ganked chests regularly. Every group in history that has felt victimized portraits their martyr as a moral champion worthy of respect, and this situation is no different.
Let's not forget one important aspect of the funeral situation: noone suffered any real loss except to their pride; no exp was lost, no items, and no gold, case closed.
Some people would like to think that good sportsman ship should be the maxim when it comes to MMO's but we all know from real world experience that it is the person who rises to the occasion that gets ahead. If you are the type of player who expects to receive respect from your enemies, then join a PVE server and play battlegrounds. If you are like me, and fully expect your enemies to exploit any weakness you have, then be prepared at all times.
In conclusion, I think that it is wrong for the guild that got wasted to turn that situation into a Blizzard issue; it was their own fault; they got sloppy, and paid the price for it. My heart goes out to the immediate family of the deceased, as what they experienced was a real life loss, but as far as the deceased guild is concerned, what they did was flat out irresponsible and I hope that whoever decided to host the funeral was demoted to initiate for the lack of leadership.


One of the problems with the settings of current MMOG when dealing with issues like war is scale. The scale of current games in both time and space is way too small to support a feeling of prolonged conflict.

Restrictions such as safe zones can be tied to scale problems. In a more realistic world a safe zone would be an area that an enemy was unable to reach because of travel time or geography. Since players dont like to spend large amounts of their play time just getting from place to place such artificial rules are going to have to be tolerated.

Persistant MMORPG worlds having a war setting are for the most part in a state of stalemate. This is the kind of situation where battles are likely to change into something more like a sport. If there is no way to win then why pay the cost.


War is about effecting change through force. Sport is about proving that you're better than the other guy. I think that in the real world, honor becomes a factor in war for a few reasons, including: 1) It's easier to rationalize killing someone if you believe he had a fair chance to defend themselves, and that it was either you or him; and 2) Soldiers often need to believe that they're superior to the enemy, and engaging them in a "cowardly" manner works against that feeling. People don't naturally like to kill one another, and an awful lot of military constructs exist to help soldiers overcome this. Killing and dying with honor, I think, are among them.

In most MMOs, there really is no way to wage war because there's no way to effect meaningful change. Designers are getting more and more reluctant to ever take anything away from a player (and are being rewarded for this in the marketplace), and there especially aren't many ways for players to change the game for other players (note: barring a major breakthrough in game design, this is probably a good thing for now). What's left is basically a big bunch of contests to see who's better than whom at one thing or another. Since success is defined in terms of measurement, not whether or a particular state of the world was induced, the fairness of the conflict resolution method matters.

Most of the counterexamples to this occur in games where change is possible, and players accept any means necessary to cause it: Camelot's relic raids, Shadowbane's town razings, etc. Sportsmanship mattered in these games during small engagements, but once relics were at stake in Camelot no holds were barred. The end result wasn't "we're better than them", but rather "we got the relic".


Here's the similarity, imo. In any contest -- game, sport, or war -- you have to measure what you are willing to sacrifice vs. what you hope to gain. In war, countries and people put up huge stakes on both sides of that balance. In games and sports, a bit less.

For games, it's up to the designers to decide where the "sweet spot" of sacrifice vs. gain lies. If there is nothing at stake, you will, very likely, have no interest in continuing the game (and paying for it). And online version of rock-paper-scissors wouldn't have 6 million people lining up to pay $15/month for it, I don't think.

What do people "risk" with RPGs? I'd suggest that we put in time, money, ego, interest, friendship and creativity. Any chance the publishers give us to "gain" these things constitutues a "win." If we play PvE, we can gain them against the game itself; that's been going on as long as there have been solitairy entertainments and solo games. The question about PvP becomes, what *more* can we gain in any of those areas when playing against other humans?


Boiled down, it seems that the main differences between war and sport has been the risks, and scale. But even then, the line between war as War and war as simply a game seems to be in a grey area.

In later medieval Europe, the heavy cavalry (more commonly known as knights) had a lower chance of dying compared to the infantry and competed mainly with what they saw as disposable income. Peasants clashed violently, and then the knights would ride in to finish the job; practically analogous to captains of football teams.

In the novel Ender’s Game, young Ender eliminates an entire species in an interstellar war, all the while thinking he’s playing a very realistic RTS.

So the question is what resources risked constitute a war. Is it human lives or is it things like time, money and emotional investment?


I am troubled by this one. Why are we reifying these games in this way. These games are not war nor do they simulate war all that well. sure if you look at it simply from a strategic or tacticle perspective it might resemble an intense game of chess (wich has long been used to train officers) but if you want a realistic experience of war than I suggest you go find a real one and tell me how you like it. These games are just games they are not war? war cost real human lives not toons on a screen it is a real human experience not a simulation lets not forget that.


I guess I'm with Todd. I've been to countries that had recently (within 6 months of my arrival) experienced war. It's nothing like a game. Of course the experience of 'war' in a game is ritualized. I'm not sure I see how the comparison can even be made. What are the underlying assumptions we're dealing with here? Are you looking, Nate, for something that "feels like" war, or for something that "is" war? No game is war, by definition. Do games feel like war? Only to a limited extent, and in different ways. Much depends on your frame of reference, I suppose. If you consider a game-war in terms of its world, it's going to feel more real, isn't it? But in terms of what we know of the real world, it's never going to compare. I'm not clear on what you're looking for.

Although: I'm interested in the war/no-war question. Perhaps what's really missing isn't 'war', but 'peace'. What if there were a game-world that was mostly at peace, but in which wars cropped up occasionally and could make a real difference in the fabric of the world. Would that be more "real," more "warlike?" Perhaps it would.


@ Todd and Mark: My point exactly. War is real and real bad. Sports are real, but generally not real bad. Games are... games. Fun distractions from the real. At least that's why I play ;)

When Sid Meier's original, fantastic "Civilization" first came out (and we played it for days/weeks straight), a friend of mine commented that politicians should be required to play the game before holding major public office, because it made the long-term bad consequences of bad choices so painfully clear. "Winning" at Civ by peaceful means, without polluting the entire planet was incredibly hard. The effects of war, especially during later, industrialized periods, were incredibly devestating.

Games can probably teach us things about ourselves. And, maybe, about war. But they should never be confused *with* real war.


I have noticed that there are two "Todd"s on this blog so I will now mark all my entries with my initials. (TWB)

Well if you are talking about using games such as Civilization to teach basic resource management, long-term planning, and strategy then yes there are real world applications to these games. (After all the game of Chess has long been used to train both political and military leader’s strategy in a very abstract sense.) However, the purpose of these games is not to simulate war per say, but instead to help the player develop the analytical tools needed to govern or lead in a relatively safe environment but at no time should the player assume that what he or she is experiencing is anything similar to the real world events they are training for. With Virtual worlds and games the technology has allowed the visual and auditory simulations to obtain a level of hyper-realism which often tricks the player into assuming that what he is experiencing is "real." This hyper-realism is something that a game like Chess never had. The danger comes in assuming that the game experience is real (much less a close approximation) which diminishes the seriousness that individuals assign to real life wars and violent conflicts. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that these games should be banned, outlawed, or censored in any way. Instead I am saying that if one should play you should always keep in mind what you are experiencing is nothing even remotely resembling real "war" but is akin to a hyper-real version of Chess.



I don't think I can think of an MMORPG as an analogy for chess. It seems more like... paintball. When you're shot, you're out. Maybe MMORPGs could learn from that by having PvP wars such that if you got killed by an opponent you lost your PvP flag until the next war was declared...


What I mean by my analogy to Chess, is that the analytical skills that are trained by these games (i.e. strategic and tacticle analysis) are the same ones that Chess exercises. This is where the maximum amount of bennfit can be gained from these games is in their ability to train individuals how to think stategicaly. the same political skills used in game are the same skill used in the real world. The difference of course is that the game is not real (very important to remember) and has no practical value past its ability to train an individual for the real world.


I love this talkback and the subject matter of this particular discussion. I agree that PVP is more of a sport than actual war. The time may come where you have the choice to raid a village, slaughter the masses, and the recompressions of your actions hurt you with both factions. But that is far, far, far away in a magical locked genie lamp that may never see the light.
Another problem exists with the notion that not everyone agrees with their side’s ideologies and reasons for going to war. When can we move to the other side? What if I decide the Horde is wrong in its reasons for war and I would rather fight for the Alliance? Or when can I break off into my own faction and take on both sides because both are wrong in their reason sings. Of course it is easy to state these claims then create them.
Sport is what it is now. When I que up to pwnage Alliance in WSG, I root for my team to capture the flag. It’s a game, hardly a war. But know one claimed these GAMES to be realistic impersonations of war times. (As far as my own ignorance is concerned. ) They’re created for fun and enjoyment with the idea and culture of “war” surrounding them.


"When Sid Meier's original, fantastic "Civilization" first came out (and we played it for days/weeks straight), a friend of mine commented that politicians should be required to play the game before holding major public office, because it made the long-term bad consequences of bad choices so painfully clear. "Winning" at Civ by peaceful means, without polluting the entire planet was incredibly hard. The effects of war, especially during later, industrialized periods, were incredibly devestating"

Yes, but that's an editorial decision on Sid Meier's part. I could just as easily make a game where peaceful means of "winning" were innately inferior to the more violent ones.

Games are simulation of reality, and I'd be wary about putting the model before the real thing.


"It's very hard for me to see much difference between a "Support Our Troops" ribbon and a college basketball bumper sticker. People watch the score of a war on the nightly news. People lose interest (and stop sending money) when their side doesn't win."

That depends entirely on the war in question. Citizens of Germany or Japan in 1945 didn't have the luxury of being able to lost interest in their wars--they were too busy being bombed. In the US compare the effort on the home front during WWII to the present day. What makes the current indifference possible is that what's going on now in Iraq is more of a police action than a war. The conflict there directly involves only a small cadre of volunteers and their immediate friends and family.


"For the vast majority of human history this is what warfare has been. We think of war as being the grinding to death of a million men in world war I and II but thats just not representative."

That's true if you view human history in its entirety, but total war is not exactly a new development. Genghis Khan, for one, famously depopulated entire cities in order to intimidate his enemies.


To anonymous: RE the "Civilization" model being an editorial decision; yes. That's true. To a degree. Civ, and many other strategy games, operate on very complex versions of rock-paper-scissors. I wouldn't object to another model being the one used to train or expose politicos. I also wouldn't object to politicians being exposed to a couple other countries' models of economics, beauracracy, education, etc. What you learn when playing Civ is that there is no easy "Rock beats everything" answer. Along comes "Paper," and... well, "Rock" gets covered.

What good, complex, well designed games that stand various tests of time, popularity, discourse, review, etc. show us -- be they Civ, chess, WoW, capture-the-flag, poker, whatever -- are the affects that nuanced actions have upon effects.

The more complex the game, the more opportunities for learning. A very simple game only really provides for what I'd call "operational" or "craft level" play; you get better at doing the things necessary for playing just that game. More sophisticated sports/games allow for "tactics;" knowledge which can be, to some level, transferred to the play of other games and, perhaps, even other non-game situations. At the most complex level, "strategy" can often be picked up that translates into some kind of useable wisdom in many other areas of life.

Hence the popularity of "Sun Tzu's Art of War" for business people. Sun Tzu's commentary on war is made at the strategic level and is often metaphorically translatable into business situations.

This is probably why we get into these discussions in the first place. We know that games aren't war and vice versa. What we mean (when spelled out literally) is that some of the operational/craft requirements, tactics and strategies of some games/sports have overlaps or similarities with some aspects of combat and warfare. Which is, of course, true. We may even mean that this area (games/sports) has *more* overlap than most other types of civilian life, like politics, teaching, entertainment or cooking. And if that is the case, hyperbolic statements like, "War is a game," or "Sports is a battle," are simply that; hyperbole used for emphasis.

Where the hyperbole is useful, is where it can point out areas for comparison that can be either eliminated or emphasized further in order to further the goals of game publishers and audiences. What aspects, for example, of the true nature of "warfare" are we most inclined to model in games? What aspects have we done the best so far at modeling acurately? Which do we completely fictionalize, either to the detriment or to the increase of the pleasure of the game? Where have we completely ignored elements of warfare that could be modeled well in a game in order to produce good fodder?

Where the hyperbole is NOT useful, is where it confuses gaming with life without providing data, or looking at the mediation aspects of the game. Chess, for example, will NOT make you a good soldier. What it will do, over time, is help you think about thinking about things two, three, four steps ahead; think about the relationships of power between types of resources; think about the expendability of resources in the short-term vs. long-term; think about beginning, middle and end-game scenario issues when aiming for a final goal. All of these are "nice-ta-haves" for a military mind. But they should not be confused with real military training.

So... the question remains; what do you want your game to train you to do? What do you want to learn or experience from it? And, if it is relative, in any way, to warfare, what should those parallels be?


Another problem exists with the notion that not everyone agrees with their side’s ideologies and reasons for going to war. When can we move to the other side? What if I decide the Horde is wrong in its reasons for war and I would rather fight for the Alliance? Or when can I break off into my own faction and take on both sides because both are wrong in their reason sings. Of course it is easy to state these claims then create them.

Sounds like you need to try Eve Online :) Once you get bored of the static NPC factions, you can join one of the player factions in claiming space and fighting whoever you choose for whatever reasons you deem sufficient.


The vast majority of PvP that I have seen has tended to devolve into dueling competitions between players to see who is more effective at utilizing the game mechanics (and in many instances the various exploits/bugs in game) to achieve a victory over their opponents. Because so few games are willing to offer overall strategic goals and to require cooperative efforts to achieve those goals - there is relatively little real "warfare" per se.

DAOC was a bit different. To take a keep, or even more so to take a Relic, usually required the combined efforts of hundreds of players, it required strategic cooperation and elaborate planning. When exploited ways were found to snag a relic using only a small team they were usually decried on the boards as "unfair" or "dishonorable" etc. Very few people got to play the strategic level of the game broadly speaking, usually only a few realm leaders who did most of the planning and organization. That game was entirely abstract and not defined by the system, it was the result of the conditions set by the game mechanics and design, and that combinatronic effect is what made it challenging. Thats what gave it some real life and lasting entertainment value. When the game devolved to 8vs8 ganking primarily, it lost something (including much of its playerbase).

Look at SWG. The game designers have continuously failed to provide longterm strategic goals and gameplay. The Galactic Civil War is not the core of the game, and as a result most PvP is reduced to dueling by the starports. SOEs failure to make the GCW the core of the entire game has lead to a failure in the overal PvP design of the game in my opinion.

When I played DAOC RvR, I did so for the overall good of my realm. When I led (very seldomly mind you, as I wasn't that well known), it was for the overall good of my realm. When you took relics it affected every player in your realm to some degree, similarly when you lost them. To be a simulation of warfare, I think an MMORPG has to have that overall influence on every player. SWG lacks that effect completely and as a result fails as a model of a civil war.

EVE sounds like it has that. It sounds like warfare can affect everyone involved directly or indirectly, and thus I am sure is a better example of a warfare simulation.

Sports are to my mind, the equivalent of the 8v8 ganking, or dueling PvP - nothing more than proving who is better than the other guy so to speak. Any overall strategic goals are missing, and the impact on those not involved is minimal at best. Its not a simulation of warfare so much as a simulation of morale boosting activities and healthy competition.

I think we won't see a decent simulation of strategic warfare and its consequences, until we see someone develop a "generational" MMORPG where you play not an individual character but a series of them generation after generation, ie where you play members of a family. At that point you can have permadeath as a feature and it merely means that you lose whatever knowledge and abilities your character lost and must start again with their heirs. Then you can have long term consequences to a conflict that go beyond merely who beat who in the shortterm. Until then all you can have is p***ing matches effectively.

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