Hurt Yourself to Hurt Others

When not simply whining, many forum posters are engaged in a subtle but effective political tactic: hurting themselves in a way that hurts others more. If I can make it 5% harder for me to win and 10% harder for you to win, I make it easier on myself while making it sound like I am arguing against my own interest. I get to take the moral high ground, screw you over, and win: a trifecta!

You frequently see this in real life business and politics. Understanding how the game is like the economy can shed light on both.

Forum warriors are like Washington lobbyists. They are there to get something. You are not going to see many disinterested parties because the disinterested are frequently uninterested. They have better things to do, especially since neither lobbying nor board camping is cheap. Okay, it costs $0 to get those 5,000 posts on the forums, but it takes a lot of time, and you might rather play the game than complain about it.

Yes, there are people who would rather play the game than complain about it. I have met them. They live happy lives.

The first thing you will note is that since lobbying is expensive, you will only engage in it when you are really invested. Casual players have no reason to hit the forums because it will take more time to read them than they are going to spend playing. I don’t have time to keep watch on a few boards and defend my class’s interests, and I am a pretty serious player. If you play 10 hours a week, spending 5 hours on the boards is absurd; if you play 50 hours a week, 5 hours is not bad.

Actually, if you play 10 hours a week, even 1 hour on the boards may be pointless, since there is a certain minimum threshold to be effective in your advocacy. You need to fight a bit to get your ideas out there, to get yourself noticed, to get your name known. Being effective can require knowing a lot about the assorted classes, game mechanics, standard board arguments, who is just a troll, etc. That 1 hour investment might be totally wasted, but it is not worth it to make the 5 hour investment, so you ignore it entirely.

Therefore, we can expect the majority of forum advocacy to represent hardcore players. Those who have a lot of in-game power are looking for out-of-game ways to increase that in-game power.

This has obvious political parallels. There is almost no one in Washington representing you. There are a variety of groups who call themselves public advocates, and some of them may well be, but most of the folks there represent someone who has the money and the interest to pay for a lobbyist. You usually hide your own profit behind nice rhetoric about benefiting everyone, but your private interest is the reason you are there.

You get a mix of baptists and bootleggers. That phrasing comes from Prohibition. Two groups were really for it: those morally opposed to alcohol and those who stood to profit from making/keeping it illegal. Bootleggers would fund religious groups who sincerely argued that alcohol should be illegal, which kept all the profits in the black market. If you have casinos in your state, they fund anti-gambling groups that fight to make sure no more casinos open up. Eliminate the competition, and you reap excess profits.

A lesser scale is to call for regulations. If you already face a burden, making everyone else face it just makes things easier for you. Several large corporations have lobbied for socialized health care, partly to reduce their own medical costs and partly to make every other employer face the same costs. If Ford makes side air bags standard on all their cars, it makes sense for them to ask NHTSA to require that of every car-maker; it costs them nothing extra and costs all their competitors more.

So the hardcore argue that the game needs to be more hardcore. Barriers to entry need to rise. Do not reward 12 hours of grinding — require some serious catassing to get the big shiny. Sure, making the game more grindy might increase my leveling time by 5 hours, but I was planning to spend 50 hours in-game this week anyway. You are only going to spend 10 hours, so I just cut your leveling rate in half while only slowing myself 10%. I get to be bigger than you, pull away faster every week, and lord it over you while you suffer through. l2p n00b lolz0rz kthxbye

I see this less in PvP, but it tends to be of the form of encouraging steep learning curves. Let’s make a third of the powers function differently in PvP while working under a different ruleset. If you are a dedicated PvP player, you learn it in 10-20 hours, practice under the different rules, and get ready to own. If you only PvP casually, it might take you months to put in that much PvP time to learn enough to be effective. Bonus: while you are trying to learn the differences in the rules, I am exploiting them to crush you. Yeah, try to learn while spending half your time in the graveyard/hospital/whatever. QQ more n00b carebaer lol

New regulations on companies tend to reward large, established companies while preventing new competitors from entering the market. If you are a multi-billion dollar firm, you an afford to have dozens of people who do nothing but deal with government paperwork, forms, data collection, regulations, etc. You spend a percent or two of revenue, which is never fun, but it won’t break you. If you are a entrepreneur with five employees, you cannot afford to have one dealing with extra forms all day.

For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed after the Enron scandal to ensure better corporate financial accountability. If you were a big company, you already had auditors and internal controls in place (although you were cheating on them in Enron’s case). The bigger your company, the smaller a percentage of your overhead these costs are. Many smaller companies just stopped public trading so that they would not face compliance costs. So an immediate effect of legislation meant to punish big corrupt companies was to drive smaller companies off the stock market, while creating full employment for auditors, accountants, and lawyers. Hey, we have accountants in the family, so good for us, but um…oops?

I imagine that some of you are thinking of WoW’s recent reduction of PvP rewards. Were there folks out there calling for that reduction? I have not heard anything positive about it, but I do recall some comments immediately before about WoW “just giving away PvP epics.” Low fixed costs are good for casual players and casual PvPers: they get their shinies. The hardcore PvPers get their shinies too, but if everyone has them, they are not special. If you were going to spend 100 hours PvPing anyway, you want the best rewards to accrue to people who spend 100 hours PvPing.

So this is immediately what I think of whenever I hear someone complain about “easy mode.” “People are leveling too fast” translates to “people can keep up with me.” If you want to say that the game is too easy because combat means pushing “1 2 3 1 6 rest,” then we have something different on the table.

What is your favorite examples of board lobbying?

: Zubon

10 thoughts on “Hurt Yourself to Hurt Others”

  1. “Nerf X class because one beat me once”

    Complaining that some class is overpowered simply because once the stars all aligned for them is a classic one.

  2. If/when I get my game going, the first person that bitches on my boards that players are leveling too fast gets themselves a permaban.

    That said, there have been cases where gamestyles have become “easy mode, ” because developers didn’t think things through. The best example I can think of, with an attendant backlash later, was CoH’s tanks: 90% resistance, 95% defense, improved health regeration, permanent +hp powers, AoE attacks. I used to herd up 8-person maps and kill them, by myself. I would pay newbies in influence to be on my team but not in my missions in order to crank up the number of enemies in the mission. I did the last 10 levels doing almost nothing but this and helping folks through the respec mission. And when I5 came around, I was a strong defender of it, particularly on the livejournal city_of_heroes community. Same thing for ED. The game, played as a tank or a scrapper, was easy mode, and it was boring. There was never a chance of dying, if you had even the teensiest bit of skill. And because there was no chance of dying, there was plenty of incentive to drag your friends around and powerlevel them, since all it was doing was slowing you down a little, whereas letting them level alone slowed them down a lot.

    Nerfing has its place. When one class or skillset far outstrips the others, that needs to be handled. But if it’s the case where no one in the game suffers except for hardcore 31337 players, then, frankly, I think it’s grand to make them suffer. They’ve done enough damage to the genre as it is.

  3. I was just thinking of this exact subject today since Tobold wrote last night about raid loot and an idea about making it more like PVP loot is now: where you can buy it with “raid points”. Which of course any true hardcore player would be against.

    Some are actually honest though. I’ve read in forums people upset about the PvP changes who actually admitted “now i’m not special”.

    I have the “Private” rank displayed on Yunk’s character because she is proud of her previous military service! Hey she’s just a little gnome.

  4. well, I can’t think of anything better than the SWG community forums heatdeath over Jedi. Other than maybe old time Trammel or EQ1 progression discussions. Namely, how Jedi should be unlocked or made more accessible. It literally started before the game was released, and once GM’d it lasted until the class and content was actually added to the game, and then didn’t end until nearly 1.5 years later (at patch09). THe later anger over the NGE was prepped by this unending pro/con lobbying over “make-Jedi-hard-to-get-but-not-for-me” discussions. WoW’s honor points is silly by comparison.

  5. I rarely read boards, so I don’t have any good examples on in-game board lobbying like this. I could be wrong, but I just can’t see any notable percentage of hardcore (read: That South Park WoW Guy) gamers actually having the foresight to think ahead to that degree – most just screams about nerfs done to “their” class and call for nerfs to the classes of others’, in my experience. That is not to say that what you’re referring to (see post title) doesn’t go on – I just don’t think it’s very common.

    An example from real life is the patent system, especially as it relates to software. Note that patent law was designed to protect the “little guy” from the “big guys” – someone could invent a fancy new can opener, patent it, and gain exclusive rights for some fixed amount of time after which the giant corps could start to copy and mass-market your design. But nowadays, the big commercial software giants are practically falling over themselves trying to fund more and more patent laws to apply to their fields, because they know that smaller software developers will not have the funds or manpower to sift through and interpret the thousands upon thousands of patents already granted to see if any of them infringes on the algorithms they’re about to write. The big guys, on the other hand, can have a cadre of patent lawyers at their beck and call to scrutinize any technique used in new, promising software to see if it could be construed to infringe on one of the patents in their existing library. The majority of these cases don’t even go to court – a small software developer will just fold, be engulfed or pay a license fee since the cost would be higher to go through litigation.

  6. You have to admit though that once everyone has GM/HWL gear, PvP is going to look a bit less interesting, just visually. That said, people who are complaining about not being special anymore put too much of their identity in their gear. The people I remember in PvP, I don’t remember their gear, I remember their names, and they were the skilled ones, not the ones I couldn’t kill because their gear was too good.

  7. Well, when everyone has the same (read equivalent) pvp gear, then all that matters is the skill, right?
    If you have the same gear as the other guy, you can’t whine about how he kills youbecause you can’t get access to the same stuff.

  8. Well in games like WoW everyone arent playing same class so even if they have same gear they can always complain on the other class.
    And if that doesnt apply they can usualy always find something else to complain on, “-My spec was wrong.”,”-My skills was on cooldown.”.

    No onw wants to be a looser without a valid reason, who would openly admit that anyone else is better than them in a game?

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