We have not had any game-inspired relationship advice in a long time. Although in this case, the relevant sense of “ping” is “pinging the server” not “pinging the minimap,” so it is more on the “online” side than strictly the “game” side. So here we go, using modern technology to improve your love life.

If you are the stereotypical gamer, you are an introverted male. You may not be verbally expressive of affection, or perhaps not understand why she needs to be reassured that she is pretty or you still love her, when you told her last week. If you are not the stereotype, adjust accordingly, but the principle applies if you are less verbally demonstrative than your partner seems to want.

This is where pinging the server comes in. It is perfectly normal for systems to ping each other occasionally (or frequently) to make sure a connection is still live or available. It says, “I am still here. We are still connected. I am still paying attention to you.” I usually belabor metaphors, but we will let that one stand as it is.

Modern technology even has easy ways for you to do this. You just need to establish an appropriate “ping.” A “<3” text can do it. Facebook Messenger lets you replace its default thumbs-up with a different one-click emoji. You can replace it with a heart. You may feel silly saying, “I love you,” twelve times a day, but you can easily click/tap an emoji button when you think of your partner.

Your relationship may differ, but I can click that button twice an hour without getting a “stop bothering me” response. “I was thinking of you and I still love you” is usually a well-received message, and you can express it with a click. If your relationship differs and your partner does not want digital hearts or flowers or whatever, they will probably say something.

: Zubon

The Defect

Slay the Spire has released its third class. The Defect is a lot of fun, even if I am not very good with it yet.

The name applies in both its meanings. The Defect is a defective robot who has defected to the heroes’ side.

Slay the Spire has three kinds of cards, and each of the classes is built around one. The Ironclad is the attack-based warrior archetype. The Silent is the skill-based rogue archetype. The Defect is the power-based mage archetype. Powers are cards that you play once to gain a combat-long upgrade. I love that kind of ability, so I love powers, so I love the Defect.

The Defect builds on that by having an attack and a skill that both have a similar building effect. Claw is a 0-energy attack that does only 3 damage but also increases the damage of every Claw in your deck by 2 for the rest of the fight. If you have many Claws and/or a quick-cycling deck, you have a lot of damage, as you would with a Rampage Ironclad. The Defect also has several cards that help you get more cards, including an attack that puts every 0-cost card from you discard pile into your hand, so a good combo does a lot of damage very cheaply. There is a similar block skill that can only be used once per fight, but its value increases by 2 every time you use it. I once got it as my very first card pick, and that thing was a wall by the end of the run. And then there are cards that get cheaper as the fight goes on, so they start as expensive and strong then end as free and strong.

But the best part of the Defect is powers that build on powers. There are powers that trigger effects when you play powers. There are powers that give you powers every round. There is a power that doubles the first card(s) you play each round, so you can double those free powers, or double the power that gives you powers so you can get more doublers to double your powers… Boss fights are fun once you get your engine going. Time Eater is usually considered the hardest boss, with the fewest players having defeated him, but he is weakest against power-heavy decks that do a lot with few cards. The Defect smashes him with a song in his RAM.

The Defect also brings a unique mechanic that does not necessarily play well with the mechanics designed for the other classes. The Defect gets orbs, starting with three slots and potentially growing with abilities. Each orb slot can have one of four elements that will passively generate damage, block, energy, or building damage over time. Each orb can be evoked to cause a greater version of that effect. This creates a mini-game of cycling orbs, activating them at the right time, and using your engine to cycle through activations for massive damage and/or block. When I say that these do not play well, I mean that orb activations are not considered cards, attacks, or defenses as such, so they are unaffected by strength, dexterity, or abilities that trigger based on anything else. That is sometimes to your advantage as the player, and sometimes you miss out on advantages because your abilities circumvent them. There are drawbacks to being the defector.

Also, I do not think The Defect really comes into its own until you complete its unlocks. The class-specific relics are in the unlocks, so you do not get relics that synergize with orb effects until you have a few Defect runs. This is unfortunate. Slay the Spire has so little advancement, and what it has does not really create a sense of forward progress so much as a ramp you need to run and jump off. It’s not even that long of a ramp, just an annoyance, and you do not really want your game design to be described as “an annoyance.”

I am having fun with the new guy. I have started skipping more daily runs, because some of the existing abilities just do not look like as much fun with The Defect due to its lack of synergy with cards designed for the other two classes.

: Zubon

Gitting Gud During Eternal September

Sometimes the problem in a discussion is that one or more of the speakers do not know what they are talking about and apparently do not know what they do not know. There are polite ways to inform someone of this, but the message is rarely well received by the passionately ignorant. With a constant influx of new participants, this becomes a constant that varies only in volume, and communities respond somewhere along a continuum of friendly assimilation to gatekeeping.

Ignorance is normal. We all start in a state of ignorance. Willful ignorance is culpable, but it is normal to enter a subject matter area knowing little about it. That is kind of what “enter” means in this context. When you first join a community of inquiry or practice, you know neither the finer points of the content under discussion nor the discourse norms of the community.

Some people know this when entering and approach it with a mix of active learning, epistemic humility, and either open inquiry or reservation. For example, some people will read everything before commenting on anything, whether that means the founding text of a religion or the actual manual for a video game. Those are often your introverts, while more extroverted newbies will learn by talking to others. These people will come up again later, but they are really not today’s topic. Friendly, well adjusted people do not call for much more conversation than “why can’t more people be like them?”

Many communities implicitly assume that most people will be like that, or at least can be nudged in that direction, or at least it’s not our fault if someone should be like that and refuses to read the FAQ. Some veteran community members respond to even friendly and humble extroverts with some form of “RTFM,” because they but together a long FAQ after getting tired of answering the same questions every week. Others are more polite about explaining that or will even do a bit of spoon-feeding by quoting the FAQ in response to questions. Some people manage to do both, being explicitly helpful with strong overtones of “you should have looked this up yourself,” which can come across as parental and/or top tier passive-aggressiveness.

The enduring feature of Eternal September is that it is eternal. The influx of new people never stops. It takes some mental energy to deal with new people and keep answering the same questions. And those same questions keep trying to intrude on the main discussion, even if there are attempts to create a new players’ forum or something. And the newcomers in question are not the sort to click back two screens of posts to see that someone started exactly the same discussion last week, and the week before that, and…

It is about this point in typing that I am getting insight into people who say they hate children. Children are born every few seconds, every one completely ignorant, and it will take years before they have the brain development to understand that the entire universe does not center on them. If you are a stodgy adult trying to have an in-depth conversation, you may grow annoyed at insistent voices asking and saying things that would take hours to explain, for which neither you nor they have the patience. Witness also jaded professors, talking with yet another class where someone will confidently make the exact statements someone does every semester.

It is not necessarily the case that freshmen are ignorant and overconfident, sure that they already understand the world better than their jaded elders. It is almost certainly the case that someone in the freshman class is exactly the stereotype, and there is a very good chance they will be one of the loudest voices. One of the reason that friendly, humble voices do not need much discussion is that they tend to be quiet voices until they have justified confidence. People who are proudly wrong are often loudly wrong.

Long-established communities have means for dealing with an influx of new members. Indeed, they would not survive to be long-established without those means. Universities have orientation, religious groups have welcoming committees and initiation rituals, major MMOs have newbie areas and forums and helpers, etc.

Game communities are often ephemeral. They come into existence with a game and fade as the game fades in popularity. They were never meant to be “long-established.” They are rarely “meant,” not so much a community as a procedurally created message board that becomes a temporary community. They have no means to deal with newbie influx apart from what is built on the fly or adapted from previous experiences of the same. There are often few to no long-standing members to adopt those sorts of duties.

And this is the internet, where new people just appear. There is not a front door they walk in. There is not much of a registration desk, and indeed one of the functions of online registration is to discourage people from talking unless they are willing to invest minimal effort. Even in physical communities, some people walk past signs to ask people questions written on the signs; online, the sidebar lists the FAQ and basic community guidelines, and some people type out questions that would have an instant answer if they just typed it into a search bar rather than a forum post.

I rarely see “RTFM” these days. The current incarnation is “git gud.” “Git gud” covers several different messages, often leaving off any context that could help you distinguish between them.

“Git gud” sometimes means, “I am a jerk. I am going to be dismissive of you and insulting in the process. I can do that safely on the internet. I am from a species of social primates, and I like to fling poo at primates who look like outsiders or people lower in the social hierarchy, or really anyone when I can get away with it.”

“Git gud” sometimes means, “There is a degree of skill and experience involved here. You lack those, so your opinion is misguided and of little value. Once you better yourself, you will find that the problem you are complaining about is no longer a problem. The real problem is that you are inexperienced.”

“Git gud” sometimes means, “RTFM.”

“Git gud” is sometimes used ironically. In the normal course of memetic mutation, that will gradually flow from ironic use with scare quotes, to dropping the scare quotes, to ironic use under a slightly altered meaning, to unironic use that mixes the original meaning with the altered meaning. I know, right?

A different phrasing of the same concept is “classic rookie mistake.” That seems a politer phrase, as longer phrases often are, because it includes implications that the mistake is born of ignorance and is common, rather than someone particularly wrong with the target, while still allowing the speaker to feel superior. An even politer phrasing would be, “Yes, that is a common difficulty for new players.”

One part of the insulting nature of “git gud” is its brevity. It is not just insulting of your ability, it is dismissive and blatantly so in that you are worth neither proper spelling nor capitalization. No explanation, just six letters. For extra insult, there are places that require a minimum number of characters to post, so you see something like:

git gud

The response is not just dismissive; it went to extra effort to point out how little effort they thought you were worth in replying to.

And here is the dark secret: sometimes, that’s fair.

The person entering a serious conversation without 101 knowledge should be dismissed, and you should not stop the serious discussion for a remedial lesson because there will be another newbie on the next bus. You just point to the 101 course, and if they are loudly indignant about being dismissed, that says more about someone who will not take the time to educate himself but expects you to take the time to educate him. And remember, they think they’re right, so they’re not angry that you won’t educate them, but rather angry both that you think they need to be educated but smugly refuse to explain why. To most people, the personal slight is greater than the factual dispute.

The person asking a question that was just answered, either on a forum or in a meeting where they were distracted by their phone, should be pointed back to the previous discussion. It wastes everyone else’s time to go over it again when there are notes readily available.

The white belt expecting to immediately be treated on par with the black belts should be punched in the face.

Kill Ten Rats was founded as an MMO blog before gradually drifting into online gaming then “online” and “gaming” more generally. In an MMO, it makes perfect sense to say, “You’re not high enough level to do that yet.” Skill-based games may not have that explicit level, but it can still very much be the case that you’re not high enough level to do that yet. The hard fight is hard, and you are not ready for it yet.

And then some people are just jerks.

Just like we mentioned and then set aside people who are polite and considerate, because they tend to take care of themselves without causing noise or trouble, there are also people who respond politely and considerately. They do not cause much noise either. There are people who take reasonable advice and go apply it. There are people with whom you can have reasonable discussions across wide gaps in knowledge and across very differing lived experiences.

It takes some serious community tools and norms to make those people more prominent. Most often, the angriest voices are the loudest ones. Agreement happens quickly and quietly. Arguments are loud and lasting. People who are there to learn learn. People who are there to complain keep complaining. People who are there to help newcomers point them in the right direction. People who are there to mock newcomers want to keep them as ignorant and prominent targets.

For some people, being aggrieved and giving others grief is the goal, not a problem. We have a term for that in gaming. And I just spent 1714 words discussing that conflict, while it takes 4 words to say, “nice people are nice.”

: Zubon

Narrow and Broad

Narrow arguments are more likely to have substance. Broad arguments are more likely to be messes of emotions and status games with murky support.

Again stemming from last week’s discussion, the broader the claim being made, the more likely that it is just howling into the void. People seek varying reactions to those but often do not want to be treated as if they were making a verifiable, factual claim. Narrower claims are more likely to be factual claims about which one can have meaningful discussion.

People often do want discussion on the broader claims, but unless they have plugged in just right, it is probably going to descend into emotive howling very quickly. There will be people making broad claims that are in opposition and orthogonal. Now that I think about it, this sort of angry, team-based hating is probably the main reason many people go to forums. As a Kill Ten Rats reader, you know that I mostly engage in bloodless logical analysis, so of course I consider that useless; if it’s your thing, hey, go to.

Narrower claims are usually more substantive. You can do a lot more with “damage ramps up too quickly in fight X” than “this game is too hard.” Even if the latter is intending to make a factual claim rather than shout, “argh!” the writer may not know how to specify what claim they really want to make.

This is normal, and not necessarily bad! Players or system users are often very good and pointing out that there is a problem, but they lack the training or specialized knowledge to recognize what the problem is or how to fix it. Pain points are legitimately pain points. This is also unfortunate, in that players or system users often do not realize that they lack that knowledge. People often ask for something and then get angry that it is not what they wanted, whether that is ordering the wrong dish at a restaurant or mis-specifying a bug.

I think of patch notes for League of Legends. Grabbing the latest example, you can imagine a scale of complaints from “balance is horrible” to “Anivia is gimped” to “we are changing the cooldown on Anivia’s Q from 12/11/10/9/8 seconds to 10/9.5/9/8.5/8 seconds.” You can scroll through the archive to see lots of 5% or smaller tweaks to lots of abilities. I think many people would struggle to engage thinking at that level of precision.

Shouting and emotional appeals are more popular than bloodless analysis. That makes sense in a species of social primates. They are also more difficult to engage productively. Again back to the first post stemming from this discussion, the sought response is neither an explanation or a solution. “Argh!” seeks more “argh!” and sometimes gets “not argh!” Which is more or less the level of political debate, it seems, with the immediate jump from “this is bad” to “and you are bad for not thinking this is bad” (with the obvious contradictions to both).

Note that this bloodless analysis ends with snarky complaints rather than a productive solution. See, I’m learning. Growth mindset!

: Zubon


In this month’s application of educational theory to gaming, let’s talk about scaffolding. Scaffolding is providing successive levels of support and difficulty to develop capacity and mastery. This should be a familiar concept for gaming, where we have literal levels that usually move from a simple tutorial to greater complexity. Games are increasingly being used as models for education because of this common and successful way of introducing new complexity and skills while remaining engaging. Indeed, our standard A Theory of Fun model of gaming fun is basically learning. But games also provide many counterexamples, where scaffolding is intentionally or unintentionally missing.

Last time, I compared games to assessments, where the game is basically a challenge to be overcome. Games can be better or worse at this, just like you have sat both reasonable and B.S. exams. Scaffolding is part of the connection between the material and the assessment. It is the difference between teaching and lecturing plus tests.

Portal is a great game for demonstrating scaffolding. Portal has gotten some crap for this over the years, but it demonstrates exactly how teaching is supposed to work. Start simple. Introduce new things one at a time. Explain new things. Provide assistance in the face of frustration. Gradually combine simple things to build complexity. Try to find the edge of the player/learner’s competency and ride there, increasing difficulty along with growing competency.

No game is going to do this perfectly for everyone. People have different learning curves, and different curves for different sorts of learning, while a fixed game has only so much wiggle room for that. Different difficulty levels in games are usually changes to the total difficulty, not the rate at which difficulty increases.

Psychonauts is a game like Portal that is known for being mostly tutorials the whole way, followed by a huge difficulty spike at the end. That is a gap in the scaffolding. The game is a bit less tutorial-like than it may seem, but difficulty does tend to remain rather low. Where Portal gradually accumulates complexity, Psychonauts is closer to treating each simple piece individually, then throwing them all together at once with three new things, good luck! Very good scaffolding at the bottom, but it needs to build up. Long after release, there was an update that reduced that late difficulty spike, but it did so by reducing the height of the spike, not providing more scaffolding on the way up there. It is still a spike, just a smaller one. It is a matter of degree, not kind.

Super Mario Brothers is a classic game that does this pretty well. The first level is very simple, but an engaging challenge for a first-time player. It contains most of the building blocks of the full game, but in small pieces and low stakes. It has simple enemies and a chance to learn the basics of the game. It has just a dash of the hidden complexities of the game, with things like invisible blocks and underground paths. Later levels will gradually introduce more elements and then ramp them up. Witness the castle fights, with Bowser gradually getting hammers and fire. Witness levels that are essentially the same thing with a new element, like adding a spinning line of fire to a castle and then a really long line of fire. In terms of scaffolding, many recent games still have much to learn from the oldest Nintendo games.

Many complaints about games are not about the game content but rather the way the content is introduced. Often, the content is not introduced, just thrown at the player. That can be intentional, because some people like being thrown into games and made to figure out what is going on, but a large (and loud) number of players do not enjoy that. Advertising “this game has no hand-holding” can reduce the complaints, but the lack of scaffolding is still there. If fumbling around is the goal, there you go, that’s easy to create. If part of the goal is developing player mastery of the game, it might help to look at what helps develop player mastery rather than treating the existence of the challenge as significant.

For example, Monster Slayers does a better job than Slay the Spire of gradually introducing small units of complexity and explaining them as it goes. It has less total complexity, and it does not explain all of it, but you are more likely to get introductions and explanations. Slay the Spire has explanations, but you are expected to pick them up along the way and notice them on your own. Things are clearly labeled, but you need to look for the labels, and you may be dealing with a few new things very quickly.

The penalty for failure factors in here. Permadeath is a frustrating mechanic significantly because of the need to go back through earlier levels. The annoyance is time lost repeating exactly the same thing that you already know, trying to sprint through that scaffolding. This presents the strange paradox that a lack of scaffolding combined with permadeath is in one sense awful, in that you are starting over frequently as you repeatedly run into weakly introduced new things with a high chance of failure, but at least there is a not a lot of scaffolding to run through the second time. Monster Slayers introduces things better, but the first half of the game is faceroll easy once you have learned it and done the initial unlock grind; Slay the Spire ramps up difficulty more quickly and consistently, making the early game a meaningful challenge on every playthrough.

I think many complaints about games, their difficulty, their difficulty curves, etc. come down to poor scaffolding. If we wanted to be thrown into chaotic and difficult situations with few useful explanations in advance, we have our daily lives. Games are crafted experiences, and we expect better. Dropping someone in the deep end and expecting them to swim is lazy design.

You can overcorrect. Some tutorials are awful because of their length and the slowness with which new elements are introduced. You don’t want to treat people like they’re stupid. But you also have very different tutorials needed between genre veterans and someone who might never have played a game like this. The best introductions often explicitly ask give you entry points like, “I have never played tower defense before,” “I am a veteran and just need to know what you’re doing differently here,” and “let me get to it immediately, and give me hardcore mode.”

I think of novels by analogy. Classic sci fi is famous for exposition dumps, laying out at great length the physics, settings, etc. More recent sci fi often goes in the opposite direction, trying to provide a sense of “this is normal here” worldbuilding and either never explicitly explaining or intentionally pushing the exposition later so it is in smaller pieces or less obvious.

Either approach can be done well or badly, and different people will have different thresholds for what they consider “enough” and “too much” explanation. “Not enough” is easy to do in games, and many games treat it as a feature rather than a bug.

: Zubon

The link I wanted for “If all stories were written like science fiction stories” by Mark Rosenfelder (at Shrove Tuesday Observed) seems to have been bought by a spam site, or at least that is the case as I write this, and the Wayback Machine says, “Page cannot be displayed due to robots.txt.” (I suspect that changed since a previous archiving, given the exact link there.) I did find this fun discussion of the story and what it is parodying while looking for links.

Strategic Equivocation

People say things they don’t mean to be literally true, but they want you to treat them as if they were literally true.

This is sometimes done intentionally, but usually not, but often consistently. That is, most people doing this do not realize that they are engaging in a common rhetorical tactic; if you ask them about it directly, they will make explicit that they do not mean to be doing it; and then they will continue doing it, because people talk that way. This is a disadvantage of coming from a species of social primates.

This is, by the way, the second of (probably) four posts arising from last week’s discussion of discussing things online. The specific example under consideration here is someone calling something “impossible,” by which they really mean something closer to “I am finding this very difficult, and I am frustrated, and I wish to locate the cause of my frustration in the object of my frustration.” Implicit in this are claims like “this is not my fault,” “you should empathize with me,” and “it is unreasonable and bad design that this is so challenging.”

There are two levels of rhetoric here. Hyperbole is the first and obvious one. Even if they say, “literally impossible,” they are using “literally” as an intensifier rather than meaning “literally,” which is annoying because English has already lost that fight on “really” and “truly,” and pretty much any word that can have a literal meaning will immediately be used figuratively. So you are expected to understand that they don’t really mean what they say.

Except sometimes they do, and they want to be treated as if they do, except where there are consequences. The second level of rhetoric is strategic equivocation, making a large, weak claim and acting as if it were true while only defending a much smaller claim. That is, they will explicitly agree that it is not literally literally impossible, then immediately going back to speaking as if it were literally impossible and needs to be changed, or at the very least expecting an sympathetic response as if they were dealing with something literally impossible rather than being treated as if it is their fault that they are having difficulty. This is trying to get away with a connotation unsupported by denotation.

And then because many people are on the internet, the discussion thread will be a mix of people making the smaller claim (“this is very difficult”), people making the larger claim literally (“this is impossible”), and people engaging in strategic equivocation, along with people making no factual claim and just engaging in verbal expression of emotions. And then there will be people arguing for and against all of these in the same thread, with arguments crossing over each other and no clarity on who is responding to whom or even realizing that there are different people making different but somewhat similar arguments, because three people have the same anime character as their icon.

It is around this point I remember that clear and reasonable discussion may be too much to ask for in a video game forum, but occasionally you hit a gold mine of actually useful conversation rather than angry emoting and status competition. Also, I love my friends on the autistic spectrum who get crap for being overly literal but can be better trusted to mean what they say.

I am not sure that I have much point here except the bit that people say things they don’t mean, except that they do mean them, but not in that sense. People say things that sound like factual claims, and they expect to be treated as if they said something true, except they don’t want to defend a factual claim because they were making an emotive statement. They will react badly if you treat them as if they made a factual claim, or if you point out that their emotional state makes little sense if the factual claim is not true (and sometimes very far from true). Their basic point is that something is wrong with the world because they did not get what they want, and if you do not agree on all points then you are part of that wrongness.

That is uncharitable, but of course you should not take it literally. You should just act as if it were literally true and agree with what I am wanting to express, while not calling upon me to defend the claim or clarify/narrow what I am expressing.

: Zubon

Different Discussions

There were several fun comments to yesterday’s post, and it will take me several days of posts to address things. Let’s start with some “unknown knowns,” things we all know if we are reminded of them but often forget or forget to apply. People go into different discussions wanting different things, and all those different things are present at once on the internet.

For example, some people discuss a problem because they want solutions and some people want empathy. These can be in conflict, particularly when the speaker and listener are opposite ends of that scale. In yesterday’s post, I described people having trouble with a game going to the game forum, where people will probably explain what you are doing wrong rather than providing moral support that it is the game’s fault. They might empathize with the difficulty and the learning curve, but regular players frequenting a game’s discussion board probably know the game well and will have that perspective, versus a game with lots of churn where there will be more new players to sympathize. Kind of like if you go on a discussion board about car repairs and complain about difficulties with car repair, people will provide suggestions on fixing your car. In both cases, they can empathize with your problem, and you will almost certainly find a few people agreeing that you should just throw the whole thing away, but the nature of the board and what would make someone a regular there leads to more solutions than empathy.

There are lots of good places to find empathy. I might read part of a book or watch an episode of a show and think, “This is kind of crap. Is it worth continuing?” And then I will go online and find reviews agreeing that it was kind of crap, and maybe I will actively seek out opinions from folks who read/saw the whole thing and agree that it was all kind of crap and not worth finishing. It can be validating to have your opinions echoed back at you.

But on the internet, more or less every possible opinion will be expressed. By the nature of holding the discussion in a public forum, anyone can participate, and if you are looking for Response A, you will get some mix of A and B. If you respond badly to B, they will respond in kind (and if you don’t, others on the A side may), and the discussion can easily descend into vitriol. It is very unlikely you will get all of one kind of response unless you go somewhere you know to be heavily filtered for that sort of thing.

As a related example, sometimes you want agreement and sometimes you want counterarguments. Maybe you want validation that the show was kind of crap, or maybe you want encouragement to carry on until it gets good. When you complain about your significant other, sometimes you want a friend to cool you down and remind you of the reasons you are together, and sometimes you want a friend to add fuel to the fire about how they don’t deserve you.

When it is you and one other person, in person, that is easy enough to tune. Online, you will get lengthy arguments in either direction or both, without your signals for what sort of response you are seeking. And almost certainly both, because it is an open forum. I presume every advice column has comments along the lines of “you can fix this up,” “you should dump him,” and “he should dump you.”

That last leads to my last point here: sometimes you are the problem. You are just flat out, completely wrong, using some weird assumption that mostly comes from you rather than whatever you are talking about. This can lead to very unsatisfactory responses. And even if you are not in the wrong, people can just show up on the internet and accuse you of being wrong! If you are entering a discussion about whether or not you should leave him, and someone says he should leave you, they are outside the sphere of what you even considered reasonably wrong. You were prepared to argue one way or another but not to defend yourself. Which leads back around to the first point, that someone has managed to interject advice into what you saw as clearly an empathy situation.

But you’re on the internet, having the argument in a public forum, so anyone can wander by and give you opinions and advice that you don’t want. You want opinions and advice, but only certain ones, and it is very wrongheaded for people not to see that.

It is also very wrongheaded for people to complain that you gave them advice when they were just looking for empathy, or that you were sending useless hopes and prayers while they wanted solutions. Can’t they see that they literally asked for it?

It turns out that having discussions with people can be difficult, especially when you can potentially be having discussions with everyone and anyone at once, especially when the people most likely to respond are the ones who most vehemently disagree.

: Zubon

Previously: Stop Agreeing with Me and Me-Tooism. I am not finding the old post about a tradition against posting “me too,” so most responses will be arguments. [Link added, thanks Ethic! I have thoughts about how I would update that post today.]

Resistance to Evidence

Reading Slay the Spire discussions on Steam has given me insight on resistance to updating based on evidence. I am used to this in political discussions, where people often double down when presented with counter-evidence, but seeing it in the microcosm is remarkable.

At any given time, there are usually threads on the front page arguing that (1) some element of the game is too difficult and/or impossible and (2) that the game as a whole is too difficult and/or impossible. Continue reading Resistance to Evidence

Online Censorship

[Update: Steam said, “nevermind.”]

There are numerous reports of Steam contacting publishers of games with sexual content about de-listing their games. Folks in my social media feeds are describing it as “the war on anime tiddies,” which seems fair, given that most of the targets seem to be visual novels and other, apparently mild hentai content of the sort that had been approved for Steam before. (I have not wanted to throw off my future search results by checking, but I was under the impression that Steam games might have some titillation but not exactly hardcore porn.) HuniePop has shot up in popularity under the heading of “get it while you can,” along with a Humble sale.

Meanwhile, games where you slaughter by the hundred are being advertised, including this weekend’s free play of Shadow of War, with its fatality system that gives you a variety of ways to have lovingly rendered, slow motion, close up kills. Boobs and dating sims: risky. Mass murder: fun for all ages. I live in the United States.

It is hard not to see this in relation to FOSTA, a law theoretically about fighting human trafficking that has the main effect of making it more dangerous to engage in sex work or anything close to it. FOSTA reduced the Section 230 safe harbor for websites, which kept the sites from being responsible for things commenters/posters might say, for example escorts using dating classifieds to advertise their services. You may remember news stories earlier this year about cracking down on Backpage, but the effect has been much larger, because you don’t want to be the site where sex work advertisements go under thin euphemisms, which tends to mean blocking out anything kinda like sex work. This strays well off topic for Kill Ten Rats, so I will not pursue it just now, but any form of censorship leads to chilling effects and broad collateral damage. Once you are on a moral crusade, you can’t stop just because you eliminated your original target.

Steam is a private publisher and of course is entitled to decide what sort of content they want to make available. If they have decided that games showing female nipples are beyond the pale, while games where you literally play terrorists trying to overthrow society are fine, those are lines they are allowed to draw. Those lines even make sense when you are selling to a predominantly American audience, given that elements of the American right and left are united in sex negativity (from different but aligning moral purity notions). But it seems unnecessary, inconsistent with past precedent, and incoherent as a moral line to draw.

: Zubon