Sunday, February 11, 2007

Are we really killing?

So, the lovely and talented Lauren over at Mystic Worlds has started a noob experiment of her own with one of her friends. She's introducing her to WoW and then maybe later to EQ2 I believe. I love these kinds of things. Anything that gets people into gaming is alright with me. Anyway, her friend wrote about her experiences with her first day over at her site...go take a look.

She brings up a point about killing in the game....she goes on to say this:

The graphics aren't nearly as bad as I thought they would be in this respect. My concern was that I was going to see the levels of macabre and unsettlingly realistic gore that I've seen in other games. WOW isn't anywhere near as graphic in it's depiction of death, so I was able to enjoy the playing more than I thought. I still am not totally comfortable with the idea of killing my way to the top of a game, especially when I know there are millions of other people out to kill ME to get to where they want to go.

I can't help but wonder why, when you think of the most popular games across all platforms, nearly all come down to killing and causing harm to as many people as possible, in the most graphic terms available. Just gives me something to think about. Anyway, I'm in Rome now, and shall do as the Romans. So if I see you, and you're trying to kill me, know that me and my shadow bolt are gonna bring the PAIN!

Its a valid concern to be sure...and it this is the very sentiment that we see politicians and opportunistic lawyers taking advantage of today. Its really a valid question I guess: Are we really killing in an MMO?

I'm obviously going to take the 'No' side on this. I'm an Electrical Engineer by training, so I work with digital ones and zeros everyday. Thats how I see the virtual worlds that I adventure in. When I "kill" a wolf, a deer, a goblin what I'm really doing is deleting a visual representation of an instanced object in some line of code. This object does not meet any of the scientific definitions of life....not even close. So when its health parameter reaches "dies", only to be respawned 2 minutes later to be "killed" by another player. Is this really killing? No...if it were, I'd have the SWAT team at my door every time I formated my hard drive. Now, obviously some people don't see things this way. If is walks and talks like a wolf, then it is a wolf....always, virtual or not.

What about player characters? Surely, when I do PvP and I "kill" someone else's character, this must condone violence of some sort? doesn't. We have lots of games today in which the main goal is to destroy or kill another players representation in the game. Chess comes to mind. Checkers, Sorry, Battleship. We don't get massive protests just because you sunk my battleship. All those poor sailors....oh the humanity!!

Now we see other games with lots of blood in them and very graphic actions of violence either against NPCs as well as other players....some of them are over the top, but they...are...not...real. Yes, there are some ages which these aren't appropriate and I leave it to parents to make that decision. We have lots of real life stuff such as hockey, football, rugby, soccer... all real games that can have blood and violence in them.

She does bring up very valid point...why do we need to "kill" in games in order to climb the ladder? This is a core game play element in MMOs, but why? I think it comes from our own lore and history. Everything in history points to the fact that heroes are born out of a life and death struggle between good and evil. In this struggle the hero wins by killing the bad guy/creature...or looses, only to be slain himself. Heroes are born out of the fire of combat and conflict. Sure...there are a few non-combat heroes out there; volunteers that help a kid learn in school, a man who helps an old lady change a tire, a person who donates $100 to charity. Granted....but history does not remember those people, as great as they are. History remembers the battle hero. Lets face it, the majority of us will never be in those historical situations in our lives. These games give people a chance to write a heroic history for themselves...and all they have to do is delete one's and zeros to do it.

D out.


Saylah said...

Hi Darren,

My friend and I talk about this topic a lot. I've been gaming for several years now so it always comes up. When we sit down and try to come up with another mechanism for advancement, nothing readily comes to mind - especially not in a fantasy setting.

She prefers real-world type games likes Sims or Habbo but the online versions or so one-dimensional. We've never been able to come up with something that would be engaging to people other than the social gamers.

It seems to be killing or empire building, and typically the people who like one aren't that interested in the other :-(

Thanks for the kind words byt the way. :-)

KingMob said...

Last time my wife paid any attention to WoW it was to object to the sound the wolves make - kind of a sad 'yelp' when they die. Being desensitized to video game violence I hadn't even noticed how realistic it sounded...

Personally I enjoy the experience of killing and being killed, adventuring and advancing through combat. But there are a ton of other ways to do it, some of which you could use in a graphical MUD.

For one thing you could dispense with advancement entirely. Why do you have to put time in to be a hero? Give people heroic, epic things to do from the get-go.

For another - why is the focus on combat instead of survival? In many fantasy books the focus of the story is not on how many wargs the protagonist has killed but on whether the protagonist or their culture has survived. There are so many more things that happen in fantasy - crafting an epic weapon, mystery, exploration, diplomacy - and combat isn't really a necessary part of the conflict in these stories.

ps. Great blogs, both of you.

darrenl said...

Thanks for the thoughts and the compliment Kingmob.

Funny you should mention all of the things that happen in fantasy. Given that list, are you playing certainly has most of those aspects.