Uncaring Cruelty

While I am on this kick of complaining about randomness, it is rather frustrating to be in situations where the computer can just decide that you lose. If you are playing Elements or Magic, it can give you no mana sources or only mana sources; you cannot really play, just sit there and watch perverse randomization happen. If you are in a dungeon instance with variation in the number or placement of enemies, you cannot do anything when two elite trolls spawn on either side of your healer and both crit him/her, queuing up the wipe before their spawning animations have stopped. You have all had things spawn literally on top of you the instant you hit the “make me vulnerable so that I can recover quickly” button.

And, given enough trials, you will see that happen several times a night. The degree of frustration is largely a factor of how big the stakes are when the computer sends you to jail without passing Go or collecting $200.

What is really chafing lately is that the anthropomorphizing isn’t true. The computer does not want to win. It does not care if you lose. That is a category error; a computer is not the kind of thing that wants or cares. It is still metaphorical speaking to say “the computer can just decide that you lose.” The computer can be programmed to perform certain behaviors or maximize certain outcomes, but unless the AI revolution happened while I was on break, it is physically incapable of giving a fig what the outcome is. You are not being randomly and perversely struck down for any purpose, or so that anyone else can win. It just happens.

Kind of like in meatspace. And, given enough trials, you will see it happen to every living being.

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “Uncaring Cruelty”

  1. Randomly hard is not always a bad thing, if you are willing to embrace challenge. The games that turned out to be harder than you expected are also the most satisfying and memorable when that challenge is overcome. That Civ game where you started out with no iron or horses but still pulled out a win, or a game of Masters of Orion where a big gap separated your start position from the bulk of the galaxy, but you managed to avoid a council vote loss through clever diplomacy, gobble up a weak neighboring empire to bolster your economy, and eventually dig yourself out of that starting hole… those are the moments some gamers play for.

    The trick is to make randomly easy or randomly hard something that happens in your game only occasionally and not constantly. Preferably giving the player an out if they didn’t feel like playing a harder than expected game that day. In Civ or MOO, if you get a crappy start, you can always just start a new game.


    In all seriousness the Computer cares deeply whether you succeed or fail. Who else will stop the Communist, the Mutant, and the Traitor?

  3. What? You mean no one told you about the monkey who works at your favourite MMO? He sits in front of a monitor that shows him one minute clips of different players’ activities. At a moment of tensions he gives a thumbs up or thumbs down which biases the RNG, and then he watches the outcome with much jubilance.

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