23 May 2008

Since When are Gamers Quitters?

Ok, I started sounding off about this elsewhere, but since the phenomenon has transcended the MMO. I feel it necessary to go into deeper analysis. Cranky Old Gamer mode is ON.

Alas, for the gaming youth of the world. The demise of the game over screen seems to have led them down the path of many of the CEOs of companies. As long as you succeed it does not matter how. As long as your numbers look good who cares if they represent reality. I am talking about the quitters.

We have all known the people who if a game is not going their way, they pitch a fit, stop playing, take their ball and go home. I have always assumed that these people were not true gamers. I may still be correct by my definition of gamer, but it seems not by others'. I have to wonder if that little reset button, or reload or lack of a true sense of losing has lead to this idea that one can always win. I have news for you. You can't.

We have seen the aftermath of result driven people in various companies; Arthur Anderson, Enron, and others too numerous for this old feeble brain to call up at the moment. The mentality of having the numbers, the stats, at whatever cost, even at the cost of lying, cheating and stealing is what led to those fiascoes. Alas, it seems to have begun to pervade the mentality of gamers.

I first encountered the quitters on a large scale in an MMO. The problem with an MMO is that since it IS massive, the likelihood of knowingly running across the same player is lower than on a smaller game. I suspect this makes players feel safe about leaving a party in the middle of a quest or mission because the prospect of failure is looming over the group. Maybe the healer died. Maybe a character or two did. Now there is a death penalty. Be it lost experience, lowered stats whatever, the player leaves without a word to his or her brothers and sisters in arms, thereby ensuring the group's failure.

Of course, the one leaving if confronted - and yes I have been known to hunt them down and ask in tells "WTF is your problem leaving like that without a word?" Usually there is an excuse "I have to go, Mommy is calling." - and they switch to another character (associated friends lists are SO nice) or I hear that the entire party is lame and they are not going to play with so many incompetents. (Ok so I raised the level of the bailers vocabulary a bit I admit)

I wonder what it would be like if a quarterback left the field because the team was losing. Not the same you say? What about team PK or games online. I have seen over half a side bail out when they were losing. THe same excuses prevail. Now, it couldn't possibly be that they other team is better armed, has a better strategy or that they are better prepared or even just got lucky? Nope. It is never that.

Well, it finally got to the point that set my blood boiling. My daughter plays Go. She has been playing for almost a year. One saying about Go we have heard over and over is the Quicker you lose your first 50 games, the better. In other words, the more people and games you play, the better you get through experience. Recently she started looking at online sites that match people. Being new to the sites she has a low rating. So, someone challenges her. Now, she is not a master, but she is not a beginner either. She wins pretty consistently against the people she plays, but she needs new challenges. So she logs into a site as a new player, gets a challenge and the player bails partway through the game as it becomes apparent she is not an easy opponent that will boost the player's stats on the site. SHe tries again, it happens again. She plays a few games, wins some, loses some and logs off. So now she has a rating on THAT site, albeit rather low. She tries another site, same thing. Instead of conceding when they make a mistake, the players just leave the game without a word. Hmm wonder what would happen if Boris Spassky had done that in a chess tournament?

It seems we are becoming quitters of the worst sort. The sort that will leave our compatriots out to dry. The sort that will leave just to preserve the appearance of being good. Never mind that the appearance will be scratched and marred the first time a true challenge arises. Numbers matter more than fun and improvement. Pity. I had always thought that gamers were at least loyal to each other until the game was over and the next begun, except for in Risk and Machiavelli. I guess this is just another example of us old dinosaurs who plod along taking the death penalties or loses on our stats in order to have the personal satisfaction of being able to say I did it. Doing it seems to be less important than looking like you did it. Even to the point that looking like a winner without actually being one is the path that many pursue.