Caveat emptor II

I’m uncertain how to feel about the response to my recent Soapbox column on Massively. It was meant as a mix of ideas — a refutation of parts of a past article and comments, a demand to game developers to stop passing off free-for-all PvP as anything but a cop-out of a game system, and a suggestion that tweaks to FFA PvP would improve the sandbox MMO genre. I borrowed heavily from my original Caveat emptor is lazy game design article because the ideas are very similar — just like bald is not a hairstyle, anarchy is not a ruleset. It is many things, but it is not a system for which a developer can say, “I designed this!” It’s a blank slate. The players do all the heavy lifting.

What I learned is that many gamers are terribly insulated, incapable of seeing the wider scope of game design beyond their own pet games, unable to objectify or hypothesize about game systems for the purposes of theory-talk. I’m not used to this, personally, since both my circle of friends and my work colleagues play a variety of games and debate them critically. Diving into a community that has the perspective of merely one or two games is an unsettling experience. How do you explain rulesets to someone who knows the rules to only one game? How do you analyze the genre of card games with someone who’s played only Uno? With such a limited frame of reference, he can’t really offer much to the discussion.

But he’ll probably pipe up anyway, adding extra noise to a comment thread teeming with reading-comprehension-challenged folks who prefer to debate strawmen, seize upon superficial contradictions or cherry-picked statements, and refuse to recognize that the topic is much more complicated and shaded than “u r carebear.” It’s the internet; that’s just what trolls do. No biggie. But as the author herself, I’m finding that writing for such a broad audience as Massively’s is a double-edged sword — the bigger the audience, the less I’m truly heard.

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