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Armchair Philosophy

Random thoughts about gaming, both online and offline.

Author: Eindrachen

Through The Looking Glass

Posted by Eindrachen Friday December 4 2009 at 2:32AM
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It is very easy for us, as gamers, to sometimes think that people running a game of any kind have some kind of ulterior motive in doing so.  Conspiracy theories seem to actually be more prevalent in the gaming industry than in nearly any other hobby.  And sometimes they have some meat to the argument; we see evidence occasionally of a developer who just can't learn to shut the hell up about their opinions, regardless of whether or not they actually make it into the game.

But most of the theories that there is a great scheme at work against us are bunk.  The truth is that politics among game staff are just about the most cutthroat you can find, for various reasons.  The problem with a bunch of "visionaries" running a game is that just because a person has a vision, that doesn't mean it is one others share the same vision.  One person's good idea is another one's garbage.

So who gets to make the call?  That's where things get sticky.  If the game's honcho is level-headed, they'll let folks debate and then make a decision based on the best case made.  But if they aren't, or if they are friends with someone involved and can't separate business from personal life, then things get ugly.

I bring this up because I recently got to see the ugly side of some related things.  I'm helping to run a play-by-post RPG right now, when in the course of the game being run I suddenly noticed that one of the GMs made a very condescending and snide comment to one of the players.  Basically, the player did something that negatively impacted a "victory" condition (it's a social game, but there are goals people are supposed to attempt to obtain, so there is a rough win/loss ratio there).

When my players make mistakes, first I assume I have miscommunicated in some way, or did something wrong.  A good GM will analyze their own performance, attempt to adjust as needed.  If that doesn't work, they talk with the player(s) about the problem in a calm, educational manner.  Sometimes we have to actually, you know, tell our players the kind of game we are running so they will know.

But one of the GMs in the game I'm helping with didn't opt to do this.  Rather, he insulted the intelligence and/or knowledge of the player, and basically told them they are loosing the game.

Imagine, if you will, someone who submits a GM ticket in an MMO about, say, having a problem with a quest.  The GM finds that the player is, in fact, doing something incorrectly, and the game itself is okay.  If that GM send a message to the player telling them they were stupid for not knowing how to do something and that they need to think better if they want to get through the game, how fast would someone make a formal complaint to the company about it?

Me, I can only do so much.  I've protested, as vigorously and politely as I can, to both the staff and specifically to the honcho, requesting some kind of intervention or retraction before we get a black eye for man-handling a player.

Yet I am one man.  If everyone suddenly likes this one GM who spoke out of turn, what are my options?  Damned few.  I can quit or just try to work through it as best I can.  Neither option helps the players a hell of a lot.  Quitting puts all of them in the hands of a jackhole.  Working through it supports the very system that encourages that behavior.

Think on this the next time you see someone working for a game company who you think steps out of line, and rest assured that some folks on the other side of the looking glass aren't bad people.  It just takes one bad person to ruin the experience for all of us, player or staff. writes:
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