CGD Podcast Episode 28: Responsible Theming for Competitive Games

toxicactor

We obviously don’t want people to be jerks when we play games with them. But to what degree is our game itself kind of being a jerk? To what extent are our competitive games advocating players to be as toxic as possible? And what alternatives do we have to the traditional D&D / war-game based tropes that we rely on?

This podcast episode is sort of a follow-up to my article, “Beyond the Pentakill“, so I’d recommend reading that as well. Enjoy!

I also mentioned Jackson Katz and Jonathan McIntosh in the episode, both of which are people you should check out.

(By the way – I might have said “Draven” in the podcast when I meant to say “Darius”. I often confuse their names, sorry about that!)

(Edit! I also mentioned that I talked about single player being ideal for game design – turns out I also wrote an article on that and forgot about it somehow, haha.)

To support the show, please visit my Patreon page!

  • Peter Siecienski

    I completely agree with your comments on actor removal. I was actually just talking to my friend about that the other day, how board games for the most part have figured out that you don’t want to remove people from play, but video games aren’t quite there yet.

    There is nothing more frustrating in something like Overwatch than dying, waiting to respawn, walking back to the objective, then right when you get back to the action you get hit with someone’s ultimate ability (which of course just does huge amounts of damage) and then you get to start that process all over again.

    That has been my biggest complaint and source of frustration in most competitive games over the past few years (probably my whole life, actually) and I just recently was able to put my finger on it, so it’s cool to hear you talking about it as well.

  • Caleb Gasser

    I started to write a reply but it was getting long so I just decided to throw together a blog and write it as a post. Just covering more boarding my thoughts on the problem with actor removal. Here it is https://calebgasser.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/punishing-your-player/

  • Jimmy Mac

    When I was designing the competive card game I made it was important to me to have a theme that wasn’t muscle dudes fighting. We eventually settled on politics. I think politics is great because it’s competive but non-violent and could be a theme that suits a lot of games.

  • Venom

    I think your right in some respects but wrong for most of this podcast, mainly because you get your biased politics far to deep into it.

    Lets start with the good. That is that sometimes the game can be an obstruction to having a healthy community and other social elements but also things that obstruct teamplay in a team based game. As you pointed out the “pentakill” is a good example of this, as it’s an individual and worthy goal in a game that should be about team play. Why put individual goals into a game when you want people to work together. The logic Riot used seems similar to that of the guys that made the Paranoia pnp RPG, but their use of an individual goal was enforced to undermine the teams cohesiveness (for comedic effects).
    And actor removal in general is simply a very hard punishment, especially in games like Dota, for something that is generally a very mild tactical fuckup. And because it’s a very hard punishment people get quickly angered by it.

    Outside of that you seem to thread deeply into your own politics that is as intellectually sound and on the same level of conspiratorial stuff as the “D&D causes kids to worship satan”, “vaccines cause autism” and other such moral panics.

    That said I’d like to add that theming can be a boon or a flaw in a design. That is if you want to have an game that should be played aggressively (in playstyle) it’s good to have a aggressive theme, and the opposite if you want the opposite. As studies have shown that, in the case of movies, people that watch highly aggressive movies are slightly more aggressive up to 5 minutes after (after which they go back to heir regular level) And after watching a sad movie they are slightly more down beat. etc. etc. But I found it weird that you didn’t mention that.

  • By “biased politics”, you of course mean, “political positions that I do not agree with”.

    Thanks for listening to the show.

  • Venom

    No. I mean biased politics. You let your politics that, again, have a similar basis in reality as “vaccines cause autism” to lead a lot of your decisions when it comes to things that you deem bad.
    (If you don’t want to go into political mumbo jumbo, go to the last part)

    —–

    A low hanging fruit, that you’d need to ignore to accept even the term “toxic masculinity” at leas to some extend, for example is domestic abuse rates. Women are nearly doubly as likely to instigate domestic abuse. Not to mention you’d have to ignore the fact that lesbian couples have a far higher rate of domestic abuse than male same sex couples and heterosexual couples.

    A political position I do not agree with is socialism, mainly because I live in a socialist countries and see first hand how shitty it is and how it punishes success and rewards failure and aims for mediocrity for everybody. But the difference is between my disagreement with socialists and my disagreements with your politics is that one still has merit for some people and the other one simply doesn’t have a basis in reality.
    (although Bernie supporters would generally also fit in the later because he somehow thought a country with +-10% could have the same social fallnet as countries that need 50 to 60% tax in the same GDP level without raising taxes)

    —–

    But I’m not here to talk politics. I wanted to point out that you let your own politics influence your work to such an extend that it’s quite detrimental to it. And at least should rethink it. If you want to ignore that criticism and keep in “yes men” land it’s all fine by me. But at least answer this question for yourself, how much is your expertise in game design worth if it can’t stand on it’s own without the political bagage attached?
    I mainly want you to at least think about that question because I doubt your goal is to make political games and have a design system that only people with a specific ideology find useful. But from the years I’ve followed you slowly went from “just pure game design” to “political advocate that happens to talks about game design”.

    At the end of the day I don’t think any expertise in a skill is worth much of anything if it requires the user of said skill to first align themselves to a certain ideology first. I value general planning over communist planning, I value general biology over National Socialist biology, I value general paleontology over religious motivated paleontology and I value general game design over feminist game design. All mainly, not out of moral reasoning, but out of qualitative reasoning as a political (or other outside motivation) is like putting intentionally putting blinders on you and the works that you make and than ignoring glaring issues that don’t fit in that ideology.

  • >You let your politics that, again, have a similar basis in reality as
    “vaccines cause autism” to lead a lot of your decisions when it comes to
    things that you deem bad.

    This is just a way of saying that you disagree with my politics, though. I could look at your politics, and if I disagree with them, I can compare them to other political views that I find similarly wrong.

    >>But at least answer this question for yourself, how much is your
    expertise in game design worth if it can’t stand on it’s own without the
    political bagage attached?

    I think everyone has political “baggage” (less charged term: point of view). You can either acknowledge your point of view and talk about how it influences everything about you, or you can pretend that it doesn’t. I choose to do the former.

  • Venom

    >This is just a way of saying that you disagree with my politics, though. I could look at your politics, and if I disagree with them, I can compare them to other political views that I find similarly wrong.

    No I mean that they have no intellectual basis beyond “that’s how I feel it is”. But I’m not here to talk politics. You could have been a adamant neo-nazi that burns down synagogues and tries to instigate a second final solution or a new-age hippy that doesn’t even dare to clap because it might kill microbes, and I’d still would give you the same criticism. Even if you’d fully align with my political viewpoint I’d still levy that criticism if I noticed that you’d married your politics with a totally unrelated subject. (although granted it would be harder for me to spot due to bias’)

    >I think everyone has political “baggage” (less charged term: point of view). You can either acknowledge your point of view and talk about how it influences everything about you, or you can pretend that it doesn’t. I choose to do the former.

    Yes, everyone has a different political point of view, but I’m not talking about that. But I’m not talking about your person political viewpoint, you could be the worst human being alive I wouldn’t care, I’m talking about your viewpoint that you marry to your work. Work that you at least seem to want to be as useful to any designer, regardless of political leaning.
    That is why I used examples like Nazi biology and communist planning, as they are married to a certain political ideology in the same way. That isn’t that those 2 have brought nothing new to the general fields of both, both have. But that had to extracted from a sea of wrong, for a lack of a better word, as the people that made that had political blinders on while researching.
    That is why I used the term baggage, as your work get more and more reliant on feminism for answers rather than be able to stand on it’s own. As you’d first need to accept all the political views as true that it carries with to even look at a lot of your more recent work.

    And of course it’s hard to completely divorce you work with your political viewpoint especially in cases where they could be easily linked. (the use of aggressive theming for example) But it’s certainly possible by simply removing all the typical political views that you acknowledge are political views and not go deep into them (like “toxic masculinity”).
    But I don’t see you doing that, I see you acknowledging it and than doubling down on the politics rather than try to extract that as much as possible and try being as neutral as possible.

    Tl;Dr
    You’re going from “strategy game design” to becoming “feminist game design with a focus on strategy”.
    And in my view political driven science, research and theory isn’t worth much (And I don’t think it is to anyone that doesn’t agree with those politics). An easy example I reckon we can both agree with is Nazi biology, something that is in quite a few aspects flat out wrong simply because it tries to interject Nazi ideology into biology. And I see you doing the same more and more over time by interjecting feminism into game design rather than letting the game design stand on it’s own without the need to accept feminist politics.

  • >No I mean that they have no intellectual basis beyond “that’s how I feel it is”. But I’m not here to talk politics.

    I’m not gonna let you just drop this super insulting dismissive crap and then just say “but that’s not what I want to talk about.” Why bother with the dismissive characterizations? You’re doing a dishonest thing where you’re trying to pretend that it’s not about what I think, while at the same time trying to paint my political opinion in the worst possible way. Calling my views “ideological” is just a way to dismiss them.

    Why do you assume that I come to my views based on what feminists think/say, and it’s not more that I find that my own independently-developing views just happen to coincide with that of feminists?

    By the way: I don’t actually talk about feminist issues very much at ALL in my podcast. It actually ISN’T a mainstream feminist view that violence in games is a problem; lots of feminists are totally down with extreme violence glorification in games. That’s why I wrote this article: http://keithburgun.net/feministssocial-progressives-stop-making-excuses-for-violence-glorification/

    I agree that the more I say on the more issues, the narrower the band of people who will agree with me gets, if that’s what you’re saying. I do think that politics affects everything, though. And, I think I have a lot to say about violence in games and I am in a good position to do it as a young, white, male person with a competitive games background.

  • Venom

    >I’m not gonna let you just drop this super insulting dismissive crap and then just say “but that’s not what I want to talk about.” Why bother with the dismissive characterizations? You’re doing a dishonest thing where you’re trying to pretend that it’s not about what I think, while at the same time trying to paint my political opinion in the worst possible way.

    Because there is very little scientific basis of that beyond feminist science that supports most feminist claims, which tend to be either very shittily done (small sample sizes and such) or simply don’t follow the scientific method. And don’t get me wrong, I’m attack mainstream feminism not your specific views.
    Although I do think the general feminist notion of “toxic masculinity” is misguided at best in most forms, granted most feminists use definitions of words very loosely (rape being an amazing example of that) and I’m not fully sure how you use the term “toxic masculinity”. As some argue it as “negative thing men do as individuals”, some argue it as “negative stereotypically male traits” and other as “negative things that are inherently male”. Basically a spectrum from “bad things male stereotypes do” to “all men are evil”. And I do not know where you are on that spectrum but the general consensus on the feminists I’ve seen seems to be “typically male things that are bad” which I why assume you use that word as such and why I object to that. Because I have no reason to believe, nor have I found evidence (on the contrary), that state that things like violence, sexism, lack of empathy, etc. are typically male traits.

    >Calling my views “ideological” is just a way to dismiss them.

    Feminism, like any political faction or view is an ideology. Making an action based on your political views ideological. It’s not a dismissal its simply a use of the word “ideological”.
    As for the Nazi references, as I think you referring to that somewhat with this also, that partly because I’m European an are the go to evil ideology and because I think we both can agree Nazism is evil and misguided. Making it a good example on how an ideology can form something unrelated for the worse.

    >Why do you assume that I come to my views based on what feminists think/say, and it’s not more that I find that my own independently-developing views just happen to coincide with that of feminists?

    Because you seem to parrot the average feminists ideals without expressing how you came to that point. You talk about how you came to a point with most of your thinking on the podcasts to quite an extend but you don’t do it when it comes to the typical feminist talking points.
    Of course it might be that you came to that conclusion on your own but you don’t express the path to that view like you normally do. Making it highly dubious to me how you came to that conclusion, especially considering some of the game design things you talk about require the listener to believe in that point as well.
    Or to use a saying “why pray when you don’t believe in anything?”

    >I don’t actually talk about feminist issues very much at ALL in my podcast.

    I know you try to avoid it as this obviously isn’t a place that is focused on politics. But it’s very noticeable that is seeps in. Especially in the last half year to year, compared to before that. But that is also because you focus more on violent themes.

    >It actually ISN’T a mainstream feminist view that violence in games is a problem; lots of feminists are totally down with extreme violence glorification in games

    Not the feminists I’ve seen. Granted you are more general in yor being against violence rather than the average feminist, which tends to only object against violence against women but is totally fine with violence against men (in all irony). But they seem to use the same rational as you seem to do.

    >I agree that the more I say on the more issues, the narrower the band of people who will agree with me gets, if that’s what you’re saying.

    I am saying that, although specifically about you incorporating your political views in your game design theory. I don’t think you should compensate for the sake acceptance in the theory that isn’t reliant on some level on feminism if it does hold up to scrutiny. Which most of your non ideologically driven ideas do.

    >I do think that politics affects everything, though.
    I do too but I however do think every person that tries to put something intellectually out that isn’t meant as a political statement (and I don’t think you aim your theories to be political) has to try to minimize the input someones political leanings have to someone’s work.
    Or more directly at you, I think you either don’t try to minimize impact of your political leanings or try but fail at doing so. Which I see as a major issue on the credibility of our work on certain subjects most obviously violence.

    >And, I think I have a lot to say about violence in games and I am in a good position to do it as a young, white, male person with a competitive games background.

    This is somewhat unrelated to the actual conversation but I need to know. Especially considering you’re one of the first self professed feminists that doesn’t directly go to name calling and screaming as I’m the devil for simply disagreeing.
    But as someone that comes from a family that actively fought people that believed someones skin colour and gender meant anything, lives in a country that is still literally branded with the effects of that war and had family that that lived and saw first hand what was done to people based on what they were, why do you think your skincolor, gender and age matter anything to the merit of your argument? Does your view mean less when it comes from an old Asian woman?
    Or would my view mean less or more depending on what I’m born as rather than the merit of my points?

    And why do feminists in general seem so obsessed with the identity of someone rather than their ideas? Doesn’t that contradict the “equality for all” that all feminists seem to at least agree on?
    For god sake, I’ve been yelled at a lot but no group more than feminists often for simply asking things (things like this) and how I should “educate myself” and how evil I am for simply being a man and not directly agreeing. Bloody hell, even the limited amount of Neo-Nazis I’ve talked with have been more respectful and just as rational as the average feminist I’ve dealt with. (And I certainly want to like feminists more than I do Neo-nazis)

    But I’d highly doubt you’d scoop to that level though. You seem the kind of guy that simply would stop talking to me if I’d purposefully would go to far (by say name calling and shit like that).

  • Every group of people has their bad apples. Feminist are obviously no acception. Actual feminist stand up for equal rights across the board. Im digressing though. There is nothing wrong with addressing issues like violence in games or political issues. Objective design choices aside game design is an expressive media. The more views you can take to the design table the more you can express in your games. Fear of approaching an idea (e.g. feminism, politics, act.) because of what people might think would cause the industry to go stale. To get to the point because Im on my phone at work. It really doesn’t matter what Keith addresses on HIS podcast as long as he ties it back to game design. You cannot have too many views on something, objective or subjective. You don’t have to agree with something to listen and grasp an understanding either. No reason to jump his case because you don’t agree with how he does his podcast

  • Jereshroom

    I very much agree with you that non-political game design exists and is superior for achieving non-political goals (making money, making players happy, etc.), but I would strongly disagree about the idea of “general” or “unbiased” versions of fields.

    They aren’t really unbiased, they’re just the status-quo. For exactly, “general” biology in the past was heavily influenced by racism, while modern biology is extremely biased against racism. Current economic theory would likely look absurdly liberal to someone of the past, and biology would look terribly anti-religious. But to us it looks unbiased because the status-quo doesn’t have a name – when Christianity is the norm, creationism is simply “the truth” and evolution is “secular philosophy”. When the situation is reversed, evolution is “regular biology” and creationism is “Christian science” or some such euphemism.

    To bring it back to feminism, 60 years ago saying that women should have every right men do was radical and feminist. Now it’s normal and fairly “unbiased”. Nowadays, disagreeing with feminism makes you an “anti-feminist”, “MRA”, “conservative”, “sexist”, etc. Back then it was the norm. You have no grounds for saying that “feminist” studies are actually more biased than regular studies. They are simply farther from the modern status quo.

  • I do think identity matters, but I also get how not everyone gets this. It can be easily confused for a kind of racism/sexism of its own, but I think it’s actually just considering the context. Based on who you are, it may be easy for you to say some things and very hard to say other things.

    As to “equality for all”, it’s very easy for people on top of the cultural totem-pole (white men) to say “okay, let’s just pretend race doesn’t exist now”. Now that we’ve basically built ourselves into a position of superiority, now we want to pretend race doesn’t exist. The thing is that as long as there is any bias, race exists, so to ignore it is itself a racist action. Ultimately, the goal is equality for all, of course, but to just pretend that we have that now is not the answer.

    It’s not that the merit of an argument changes based on who you are, but as a white man, for example, I’m in a very bad position to go preaching against, say, affirmative action, for example. Because it could be coming from a self-serving, or racist place. In general I find it’s better to “punch up”, and white men have almost no one “above” them to punch (possibly more-successful white men). So as a white man I think I can be most effective in, at least, “punching across” to my own group. I’m pretty familiar with the identity issues associated with being a white man and so I think I’m in an OK position to criticize it.

    I do think that if I speak up about violence glorification in games – someone who is definitely in the intended audience and in fact has made such games – it kind of means more if an old black woman comes out talking about it, just because I’m seen as more of the “in group” for that kind of thing.

  • Venom

    >As to “equality for all”, it’s very easy for people on top of the cultural totem-pole (white men) to say “okay, let’s just pretend race doesn’t exist now”.

    I don’t think white people or white men specifically are on the top, they are at the bottom considering you can say all kinds of quite frankly evil and untrue things about white people and men and get no flak for that, not even from most people within those groups. But objecting to such things as someone from that group somehow makes you a racist or sexist bigot and so does saying that exact same thing about any other group when you are white and/or male. Or more specifically in a lot of cases, especially those in sociology type spectrum, you are seen as immediately inferior not because the lack of merit of your argument but because the colour of your skin or the genitalia you have.

    >The thing is that as long as there is any bias, race exists, so to ignore it is itself a racist action.

    So racism always exist and is prevalent when there is no evidence to the contrary? If that’s your view you don’t see the issues with that?

    >Ultimately, the goal is equality for all, of course, but to just pretend that we have that now is not the answer.

    Except nobody does pretend racism doesn’t exist. People try to make race not matter when interacting with another human being. But if there is evidence for racism all people that aren’t obviously racists easily want to fight that.
    That is not “Let’s pretend racism doesn’t exist” view rather it’s “there needs to be evidence of racism for there t be racism”.

    >It’s not that the merit of an argument changes based on who you are, but as a white man, for example, I’m in a very bad position to go preaching against, say, affirmative action, for example.

    Why? Because people are racist against you if you’d do so?

    >Because it could be coming from a self-serving, or racist place.

    Yea and that would take away from the merit of your argument for it if it actually proven to be self serving or a racist place. If it doesn’t the merit of the argument doesn’t change. It shouldn’t have to do anything with race of the speaker.

    >In general I find it’s better to “punch up”, and white men have almost no one “above” them to punch (possibly more-successful white men).

    Success now is a inherently bad thing? That aside and ignoring the white men are above everything, as I already addressed that, I think punching up, down or across is always bad. I think someone should only be “punched” if they are wrong. Otherwise someone should just better themselves rather than punching around.
    Also, pardon the Nazi shit again, Nazi’s were punching in their view up to the Jews not down. I just like you to think about that for a moment.

    >So as a white man I think I can be most effective in, at least, “punching across” to my own group. I’m pretty familiar with the identity issues associated with being a white man and so I think I’m in an OK position to criticize it.

    I find it quite disturbing you put so much stock in the colour of your skin and your genitalia.

    >I do think that if I speak up about violence glorification in games – someone who is definitely in the intended audience and in fact has made such games – it kind of means more if an old black woman comes out talking about it, just because I’m seen as more of the “in group” for that kind of thing.

    Pardon the comparison again, but Nazi’s make such an easy example of bad, are Jews arguments against the Nazi’s worse if they aren’t Nazi’s themselves?

  • Venom

    >They aren’t really unbiased, they’re just the status-quo. For exactly, “general” biology in the past was heavily influenced by racism, while modern biology is extremely biased against racism. Current economic theory would likely look absurdly liberal to someone of the past, and biology would look terribly anti-religious. But to us it looks unbiased because the status-quo doesn’t have a name – when Christianity is the norm, creationism is simply “the truth” and evolution is “secular philosophy”. When the situation is reversed, evolution is “regular biology” and creationism is “Christian science” or some such euphemism.

    Difference is that one is based on evidence and the other one isn’t. The general and unbiased versions of fields are based on testable evidence.
    Creationism doesn’t have any evidence for that is testable, but evolution there is quite a lot of testable evidence for.

    So don’t get me wrong, when I say “general” I mean “evidence based” because that is what most scientific fields and fields of research hold up as their baseline. (advocacy research/science/etc. of course fall outside of that)

    >Nowadays, disagreeing with feminism makes you an “anti-feminist”, “MRA”, “conservative”, “sexist”, etc. Back then it was the norm.

    Even though most feminist and mainstream feminism now demands an inequality.
    It’s now a mainstream idea that everyone, regardless on how they are born, should be equally free. And that is pretty much the case these days in the west (beyond some individual cases).
    Difference is with modern feminism is that they now demand equal outcome, which a lot of people simply do not agree with. (and in some cases superior outcome by force, like with custody rights)

    The american military being an amazing example of this. Feminists first lobbied to get women in the military, that worked eventually and all was fine.
    Than, because very little women actually were allowed in due to not being able to finish the intake courses, started advocating for a lower level of intake course for women so more women would be allowed in. Because of the pressure the military caved in and now everybody that has to serve with a women is more often than not worse of. Because at the end of the day who’d you rather help you stay alive? The guy that had to endure the same tough intake course as you did or the woman that had a far easier course (and by extension is less qualified due to that)?

    >You have no grounds for saying that “feminist” studies are actually more biased than regular studies. They are simply farther from the modern status quo.

    Except I do, considering the lack of solid evidence for their points. which is mostly because they look at “are men and women different in behaviour? if yes == sexism if no == no sexism” They simply talk about men as if they are defective women in a lot of cases.
    Take the average feminist notion that men are less emotional and less emphatic for example. That is a simply false statement as biology has proven on multiple accounts that men express emotions differently, get emotional for different reasons and express it in different circles than the majority of women.

  • Venom

    >No reason to jump his case because you don’t agree with how he does his podcast.

    He could talk about the life of single celled organisms for all I care, he’s free to do whatever he want with it (considering I ain’t paying for him making his podcast).
    However I’m not talking about his podcast specifically, rather his theories on game design. And him, seemingly, wanting it to a neutral thing that no matter your political affiliation is useful to know. However I criticize him for the lack of neutrality when he talk about certain topics. He’s of course free to do feminist game design, but that is not why I’m here as I’m here for his original outset of talking about strategy game design.
    Or in other words, he shouldn’t be free of criticism for simply being (nor should anyone).

  • Theyrealone

    Other than that you don’t agree with keith, I don’t get you at all.
    Can’t you take what he says and try to put it to use for yourself somehow?
    Even if he were to say nonsense you may still be able to harvest something out.

    I for example disagree with keith, he disgustingly simplify, yet still I rather that the system as a whole have more support “Ally” interaction in “Ally-Betray” game.

  • Venom

    Nothing should be beyond criticism, and the same goes for Keith and myself. I don’t agree with him on some things, and that is fine and having a discussion with him about that makes both him and myself better.
    Echochambers don’t make anyone’s ideas ideas better. The only things that could do is making your more rigid in a belief that can be quite wrong.

    “yet still I rather that the system as a whole have more support “Ally” interaction in “Ally-Betray” game.”
    I don’t understand what you try to say with this. Do you think I feel betrayed? If that’s the case, I don’t. I haven’ payed him to do certain things so I have no reason to feel betrayed. And if he goes full political advocate I’d simply stop consuming the things he makes. Like anyone should in a capitalist system.
    As for support, I assume you mean that with “ally interaction”, I don’t think support should be assumed (which has a tendency to echochamber) I think support of an idea should be earned based on the merit of an idea.

    To put it in a different perspective as an example: Imagine a potato farmer that you, as a restaurant owner, love his potatoes from because the potatoes are of a good quality. When you see the quality go down (for whatever reason) that farmer shouldn’t be beyond criticism of the worse than before potatoes. That quality can go down for all kinds of reasons, from different mulch to planting different kind of potatoes.
    If that quality, after the criticism, keeps declining or stagnates in a unfavorable level than you as a consumer has 2 options. Stop buying his potatoes or keep on buying his potatoes even though they have worse quality.
    I’d personally prefer to stop buying the potatoes in such situation.

  • Theyrealone

    > “Nothing should be beyond criticism, and the same goes for Keith and myself. I don’t agree with him on some things, and that is fine and having a discussion with him about that makes both him and myself better.
    Echochambers don’t make anyone’s ideas ideas better. The only things that could do is making your more rigid in a belief that can be quite wrong.”

    It is nice to read this, yet from all I read what I understood was “I don’t agree” and “I am attacking Keith for becoming more forward with his opinions”. I often fail at understanding those kind of dialogues, so there is high probability I am at fault here even if you were conversing and enriching yourselves. In a sense I guess I am asking “what are you trying to achieve here?” if my read is correct.

    > “”yet still I rather that the system as a whole have more support “Ally” interaction in “Ally-Betray” game.”
    I don’t understand what you try to say with this. Do you think I feel betrayed? If that’s the case, I don’t. I haven’ payed him to do certain things so I have no reason to feel betrayed. And if he goes full political advocate I’d simply stop consuming the things he makes. Like anyone should in a capitalist system.
    As for support, I assume you mean that with “ally interaction”, I don’t think support should be assumed (which has a tendency to echochamber) I think support of an idea should be earned based on the merit of an idea.”

    This response is interesting, I was not expecting this when writing that sentence.
    What I am talking about is that from the perspective of a resource dependent agent all of your interactions can be simplified to either Ally interactions(Interaction where both parties gain resources) and Betray interactions(interaction where only one party gains resources).
    I try to connect this notion to game design and see where it causes frustration, anger, hate,kindness,bonding,trust.
    What I was trying to get at is that it may not be the aggressiveness that the theme support but some kind of interaction that is enforced by the rules that may cause it and could be encouraged by the theme rather than the other way around.

  • Jake Forbes

    Specifics of your rhetoric aside, not every disagreement is an opportunity to win an argument. Opinion bubbles arent popped when you barge into someone else’s “house” (or blog) and insult the host. Similarly, someone expressing that they feel pain (the victim of sexism/racism or other discrimination) isn’t helped by telling them that their pain is invalid or that yours is worse. That shows a lack of empathy. To borrow Keith’s analogy, you come off as chasing the Pentakill when a dialog is a team activity.

  • Jake Forbes

    Thanks, Keith. Great topic and i enjoyed the discussion it inspiredinspired on actor removal. As a designer, it can be really tough to break out of old assumptions about competitive multiplayer. Combat mechanics are big ones. In board game design i also find myself leaning on capitalism as a victory point engine in a vacuum without consequences. Thanks for sharing!

  • I agree! Everyone is due for a little constructive criticism. However, your criticism is lacking on the constructive side. If the podcast doesn’t strike your fancy anymore that doesn’t mean there is a problem with it. Like I said, if he heads away from just doing objective design of strategy games that is wonderful. The more topics and perspectives he covers the better his views and podcast will be. In my opinion.

  • Venom

    >Specifics of your rhetoric aside, not every disagreement is an opportunity to win an argument.

    I’m not trying to “win” I’m trying to get my view on his work across. As I stated before if he to far strays from what I look for in his work (that is non politically motivated game design theory) I simply stop consuming his work.

    >Someone expressing that they feel pain (the victim of sexism/racism or other discrimination) isn’t helped by telling them that their pain is invalid or that yours is worse. That shows a lack of empathy.

    I honestly couldn’t care less, he isn’t my girlfriend, kid or otherwise family or close friends. For everybody else there needs to be validity to their argument or me having a vested interest. And I don’t think I should be shown empathy if I don’t provide any validity to my claims.
    In the case of opinions, like mine here, you can either accept them or ignore them. And that is fully up to Keith.

    As for your discrimination example, simply give proof. As someone who hired people for (think apple picking and burger flipping level jobs) before I’ve been called a racist by minorities so fucking often yet in all cases they had a bad interview and a shit CV. Even after showing those people why the other guy was chosen (which sometimes fitted the same identity) they still yelled that I was racist. In my experience people that yell racism and sexism without any proof are the same people that can’t look at their own flaws (in case of me hiring, lack of skills) or believe in some grand conspiracy that people are out to get them.

  • Venom

    >It is nice to read this, yet from all I read what I understood was “I don’t agree” and “I am attacking Keith for becoming more forward with his opinions”. I often fail at understanding those kind of dialogues, so there is high probability I am at fault here even if you were conversing and enriching yourselves. In a sense I guess I am asking “what are you trying to achieve here?” if my read is correct.

    What I’m trying to achieve is letting Keith know that I find that he incorporates his political views to much into his theory. And the reasoning why. Beyond that I have no goal as it’s Keith’s thing and he is free to do what he want with it. If he accepts that view of mine and adjust for that or stays on the level he is know I’d keep consuming his content.
    If he doesn’t and goes deeper the proverbial political rabbit hole I’d probably stop consuming his content.

    >This response is interesting, I was not expecting this when writing that sentence.
    What I am talking about is that from the perspective of a resource dependent agent all of your interactions can be simplified to either Ally interactions(Interaction where both parties gain resources) and Betray interactions(interaction where only one party gains resources).
    I try to connect this notion to game design and see where it causes frustration, anger, hate,kindness,bonding,trust.
    What I was trying to get at is that it may not be the aggressiveness that the theme support but some kind of interaction that is enforced by the rules that may cause it and could be encouraged by the theme rather than the other way around.

    Ahh I thought you were talking about my conversation with Keith rather than the content of the podcast. But yes, I think theme does influence the game at least to an extend and there is quite a lot of data to support that notion in biology although I think rules affect play in more obvious matter. Take a imaginary game for example where slow and steady is the most optimal play style having a very aggressive theme means that players might be playing a tad more aggressive but not to them point that it effects the competitive player. However it certainly can pile up and theme can be an amazing tool to give a suggested playstyle.
    However, like I stated before somewhere, I have no reason to think that theming effects anything beyond the game at least I haven’t seen proof from behavioural biology.

  • Venom

    >I agree! Everyone is due for a little constructive criticism. However, your criticism is lacking on the constructive side.

    I think my criticism although in general there is a certain lack of positive comments (outside the first post). As for the some positivity (as in my experience that is what people generally mean with constructive criticism), I have no stake in Keith’s emotions that is fully his own. And I don’t think he should have any stake in mine. He could the biggest asshole alive for all I care to me that doesn’t invalidate the merit of his arguments by default.

    >If the podcast doesn’t strike your fancy anymore that doesn’t mean there is a problem with it.

    Except for me there is, obviously. Why is stated in the next part.

    >The more topics and perspectives he covers the better his views and podcast will be. In my opinion.

    except that is the issue, he doesn’t. He covers a niche political, if he’d tried to cover as much of different political views in certain topics where it might apply evenly (like violence) or non at all, I wouldn’t make these comments.

    To give the same example I gave to Keith and I’d use Nazi’s again because it widely objected to set of ideas making it an obvious show of bad ideas and a great show of the implication of using political ideas that taint subjects. Do you think Nazi Biology is better general biology? If tomorrow all doctors would accept that Jews aren’t really human, would you also call that wonderful?
    I personally don’t think so. Only people that accept Nazi ideals would think that as a positive I think.

  • Jake Forbes

    “I don’t want to win. I just want you to acknowledge that the things you believe are one-step removed from nazism and refrain from including it in your discourse henceforth.”

  • Venom

    WTF.
    I’m not comparing anyone to a nazi or anyones believes to Nazism. I’m using Nazism, as an obviously bad group of idea that I think the vast majority of people would agree with as bad, as an clear example how ideologies can influence theories for the worse (like I used before, Nazi biology). That hold to every ideology from Anarchism to fascism and from the extreme right to the extreme left and anything in between those. But Nazism being an obvious bad one out there.
    My main point don’t push politics where they don’t belong, which is science, non political theories and research.

    To even assume I call peoples believes one step removed from Nazism is to MASSIVELY misunderstand my use of Nazism. I use it as an clear showing of the negative effects of political advocacy in places where they don’t belong (in this case game design). I’m not comparing someones believes here to Nazism.
    Because I think we can both agree that Keith goal isn’t to create a “feminist game design theory” but rather a “game design theory that anyone can use”.

    And while I certainly think modern feminism is misguided to say the least as they stopped caring about equal opportunity and started caring about an equal outcome. I certainly don’t think it’s purposefully evil, I do think the people calling themselves feminists try to be good but do so in a way that is either unfounded based on “This is how I feel” type believes, bad research (the obvious wage gap 77% comes to mind) or just simply misguided idealism. And due to that do more harm than good. And that comes from someone who considered himself once a feminist 7-ish years or so ago.
    At the end of the day the practical difference between “colored safespaces” and racial segregation and between “gender safespaces” and gender segregation is only that one was government enforced and the other isn’t. Just to give an example that I’ve seen quite a few feminist as well as racial activists advocate for in recent years.

  • Conor

    Wow, I came here the day you released the podcast and the comments were pretty bare. I come back a few days later and it’s a comment section Armageddon and everyone is fighting over canned foods. For my two cents on the actual podcast, I agree that actor removal is a pretty rubbish crutch. I reckon it only exists because developers come up with the theme first and mechanics second and war and combat involve actor removal in real life so it’s gotta be in the game. A further point I was thinking is that any form of “stun” or “turn skip” is basically a lesser form of the same problem. For the stunned player mechanically it removes all choice and thematically it’s disempowering.

  • Ruskul

    Hello,

    First, I wanted to let you know that “Toxic Masculinity” is a new idea for me (at least in terms of labeling and defining such as you have). I am not sure what I think of it, as mostly I am confused. I am hoping to discuss your view points so that I can perhaps understand where you are coming from. I am not meaning to sound as though I am arguing – or attacking your view. I just want clarification.

    Before I start, a good deal of the podcast struck a chord for me because you used a number of my hobbies as analogies (yes, I do fence!). I play sports, I play games, and I often don’t see a big difference between the two.

    I get the feeling that you are projecting a problem you have, and the way you respond to that problem onto all people. I don’t think this is fair. You mention how sportsmanship and conduct is lacking from the game world. I don’t see this. I see poor winners and poor losers in both the game world and the sports world. I think people behave poorly more often online because they are masked, but I still see and believe in sportsmanship and honor in the game world. I play alot of starcraft and because of that I will use it as an analogy. Toxic behavior begins with a poor player and ends the moment it reaches a player rich in spirit. I genuinely wish my opponent glhf and I graciously accept both victory and defeat. I love both. One exemplifies skills and talents realized when pitted against anothers and the other indicates learning and perseverance are still needed. Always needed. But either way, you did your best, and incited the same in your opponent.

    Working together is a nice concept, and humans should do it. But making multiplayer take this route seems to show you don’t value competition and rivalry as a positive thing. Human vs human is the ultimate competition. Coop mode in games are fun but they don’t improove you the way direct competition does. Direct competition isn’t about winning or beating an opponent but challenging and pushing your opponent to do his utmost and their response forces the same from you. The outcome (win/lose) is almost irrelevant. I don’t need to win a 5k to be happy I raced. But one thing is for sure, if I didn’t have someone to chase or to be chased by you could add a minute to my time for sure.

    Coop mode is for goofing around, having fun, etc. Direct competitive play is for pushing you to your limits. They each have a purpose.

    I only meet a poor loser or winner maybe 1 out of 10 games. I’m sorry they get angry when they lose, that’s their problem and they need to work on it, or find a different activity. I’m sorry they get puffed up when they win, like winning is all, but that again is something *they* need to work on. Not me. sc2 multiplayer would change under your vision, so am I and others like me to be punished simply because you feel the environment is toxic and the game is responsible for that? I don’t understand this. I play directly competitive multiplayer because humans are the only challenging opponent. It’s why I don’t like coop for the most part… Why would I waste my talent and time with another person, playing against the same predictable game. I actually used to log both my computers onto starcraft and play 2v2. But… it was really 1v2 because that was an amazing chance to really challenge myself in a unique and asymetric way.

    Also, you talk about player elimination as though it is a bad thing. In itself, it is not. You said that board games figured this out quickly, but I think you forgot that 2 very famous board games (risk, monopoly) eliminate players. The way a player responds to this is their responsibility. They can respond positively or negatively. You mentioned fencing. I sport fence, have done amp/dag, do heavy list in the sca, and would play with any other group if they were around. You know what is important in melees? Elimination. Without it, you just keep wacking each other forever and that would be about as pointless as it would be boring after a while. Also in reference to the above paragraph, I have seen plenty of bad sportsmanship in fenceing, heck it happened at the olympics in Rio this year. Should we rethink fencing to accommodate unacceptable behavior? No. Also, I find no greater pleasure in fencing, especially in heavy combat, where you get unequivocally wrecked. If you are humble, its no big deal, but it certainly shows the self aware their faults if they think they are all that. Its also fun to essentially know that if you were on a battlefield, that one guy over there would have just killed you, your teamate and then tripped over your dead body off of a bridge. I find that amusing. And I think it is totally innocent. Paintball, is much the same way.

    I think it all boils down to how YOU respond to a situation. What needs to change is probably you, in most cases. Marriage, the ultimate coop mode for life, really makes this transparent: Even if it isn’t your fault (so you think), you have a responsibility to make it right. Tho only way to ensure this is to change yourself.

    When I play Overwatch, my teammates are my teammates. I am sorry you can’t play lol and assume the same level of comradery. But I don’t see how your poor view point of your teamates is the games fault. It is your fault and you need to change that. That having been said, I do think that you are right about character dialouge (“Kill, Kill”) and how that is creating glorification of violence. But how does that have to do with multiplayer.

    Also, have you played paintball? Wow, you end up sitting out for like 30 minutes when you get shot. Do some people get pissed, sure, but they are poor of spirit at that moment. It isn’t the games fault. Also, getting wrecked in paintball is amazing! You know you played well, when you are the last player, and you go in marker a blazing, and get shot 20 times before you can raise your hands. The most notable of defeats are as awesome as victory.

    Target shooting is boreing…. shooting each other is amazing fun. (archery, airsoft, paintball, rubberband guns).
    Fencing with a fence is stupid… Fencing with a human is great!
    Getting a lance through a loop is meh… Then there is jousting.
    Chess anyone?

  • >I am sorry you can’t play lol and assume the same level of comradery.
    But I don’t see how your poor view point of your teamates is the games
    fault.

    Actually I have no problem having a super high level of comradery and sportsmanship – I’m almost comically positive and sportsman-like while playing League. I am basing what I’m saying about toxicity on how I observe *others* behaving. So that really puts a strain on your “projection” argument.

  • Ruskul

    Not necessarily, What you perceive to be happening could still be a result of projection. It is a question you have to sincerely ask yourself, and if you find it not to be the case after careful self evaluation, then you are the better authority over the two of us for how you are thinking. lol. But you observations don’t strain a “projection” argument.

    At that point I can simply say, “I see lots of very positive interactions.” or “Well, that”s not what I can see” and that’s that. That isn’t even an argument- but simply looking at the same situation and seeing two different things.

    But really, my argument is that bad behavior is the players responsibility, regardless of what the game is or does. If you have issue with a game, then it is also your responsibility to not play that game (I won’t touch gta, for example, simply because I feel the game is shallow mechanically and revels in the fantasy of being able to blow peoples heads off when they are deemed a frustration to your goals…).

    Do you value human vs human competition? Fencing, paintball, football, halo, you name it, etc…

    Or do you more highly value human interaction through cooperation?

    I understand you said you don’t have a solution to the problem but you do make recommendations and it was those recommendations that I seemed most affronted by and seem that you favor the idea of cooperative gaming over competitive gaming. You seem to advocate changing multiplayer in a way that completely undermines true competition in an effort to deal with the negative aspects of human pride (which is all toxic masculinity is, as far as I can see.. In much the same was as feminism is simply an equality issue but narrowly focused and lacking a broader scope).

  • Ruskul

    Venom, You have painstakingly attempted to get your idea across. You have meticulously responded, abstract in fashion, and with clear logic, to many points of contention. But alas, your opponents self investment of their identities in their, as you call it, “politics”. makes it impossible for them to understand your logic and ideas, whether they agree or not. Their biases are clear especially when resorting to fallacy: “You don’t agree with me, so you attack me” lines of though.. They painted you as simply determined to “win” an argument (as if you can “win” an argument- such a stupid, self invested, prideful, ego centric idea, corrupteing the ability for two people to have a good discussion of things.). I understand what you are saying, but I am convinced it is beyond them to do so. They can of course disagree, as they are want to do, but disagreement is not indicative of fact.

    Your argument abstactification, properly exposes special thinking. The irony of it all is that no matter how good your points are, special thinkers, probably can’t grasp that.

    I would love to have an in depth conversation with about you about this, and probably anything else, perhaps when I am not at work. I am not ego stroking, nor am I saying I agree with you (though alot of your broader, more abstract ideas make more sense than the narrowly focused ideas you are critiquing. . I just think your ability to discuss and critique an idea in this case is quite commendable.

  • Venom

    Thanks!

  • Venom

    Love to have a conversation with you too.

  • I don’t specifically value EITHER “human vs. human competition” OR “interaction through cooperation”. What I am interested in is creating interactive systems that, when used by humans, force them to make interesting, difficult decisions that require creative solutions. I don’t care whether that manifests in human vs human, humans vs a system, or any other arrangement. All of that stuff is not important to me at all. From a game design perspective, all that I care about is: “are the players playing the game making interesting decisions?”

    More broadly, as a human being, I also do care that the art we are making is trying to appeal to the better parts of human nature, and not perpetuating bad moral errors that we need to advance from.

  • Ruskul

    I understand, in part, and I agree wholly with the idea of art being a conduit for improving good rather than reinforcing the bad. Everything you said makes sense… But I feel your podcast came less across as such. Perhaps I didn’t listen well.

  • Ruskul

    When I am fencing and grapple with my opponent, either trapping his blade, inhibiting movement, etc… I am limiting choice and “dis-empowering”. Nobody I know freaks out like a rage machine and cries about how the game makes the community toxic… because it doesn’t. The community does that all on its own, if it is going to. I don’t think option removal is inherently bad. Throughout history, strategic gaming revolves around limiting your opponent while providing yourself with more options. Even soccer and american football do this. Again, Isn’t it the player, who responds to such a game in a negative way, responsible for bad behavior? I think what I am getting at, is how do you have high level strategic play without one player “disempowering” the other. If it matters, thats what you are fighting over (resources, abilities, etc). If a resource matters, then it will be fundamentally “disempowering” if it is removed. If it doesn’t matter to lose something, then the player won’t care and it will be irrelevant to game play: At that point you have a single player game with lots of people… swimming, track and field, etc… They all have something in common: they have little dynamic strategy. Fencing has much more dynamic strategy.

    Strategic play ceases to exist when the stakes don’t matter. If the stakes matter, poor winners and losers will be there to boast and cry. The gaming community would be better if they were removed. Why change a game to accommodate people who don’t understand how to play a game. or live at life.

  • Conor

    You can maintain high amounts of strategic play without limiting choice, in fact the two are almost completely unrelated. If we imagine a tree that models all possible choices from every game state the aim of strategy is, from a given start game state, choose a child of that game state that has the highest proportion of leaf nodes in which you win. Choice from a certain game state in this tree is the number of children that game state has. “Removing choice” means moving from a game state to a child game state which has fewer children. The number of children a game state has doesn’t dictate the proportion of winning descendants of that state. There is only one child of a state in which someone is stunned or removed from the game and that is to just wait.