Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Breaking the Rules

This piece about trying to get the lowest possible rank in Overwatch is interesting to me for a few reasons: The Guy With the Lowest Possible Rank in Overwatch.

Here is the part that stuck out to me:
Then again, you might look at what Brown is doing and think he’s kind of a jerk as well, given that his good times often come at the expense of others.
Not that long ago I was watching Grubby play Heroes of the Storm and he encountered a situation where someone got mad at him for not trying hard enough to win. In particular Grubby had picked Sgt. Hammer. Hammer isn't a top tier character to say the least, and presumably at the level Grubby plays at everyone is expected to know that they shouldn't be playing Hammer as she is.

The situations aren't all that analogous - somewhere between making a sub-optimal decision for fun and actually wanting to lose you cross an unmistakable line. But both make me think about our perception of responsibility to others when we play games.

With team games where you are joining a team with random people, I think it seems safe to say that you have agreed by joining the team to really try to win. If you don't try, your fun is definitely coming at the expense of others. On the flip side I think Grubby is clearly within his rights to play whatever character he chooses to play - picking your favourite character is part of the game. Someone might try to argue that at high levels of play you have a responsibility to do better, but part of what hanjo's story reminds us is that people at lower ranks aren't less serious about trying to win. The amount to which you are harming another human being by being worse than you should be is the same at rank 20 as it is at rank 90.

All of this made me think about non-team games, though. If you sit down to play Dominion with me, I'm not going to make optimal plays. I'm going to try to do the funnest thing I can see to do with the cards. If you were playing based on an expectation I would play optimally, you aren't going to predict my movies. If we play Agricola the same might happen. Maybe I'll decide that I just feel like farming sheep that game. Given how taking moves blocks other players in Agricola, this could really mess up people's plans. But did I agree to try my hardest to get a top score when I sat down?

I started playing against real people sometimes in Magic Duels. There is a 20 gold bonus for your first real-person win each day and many quests are locked up in real-person only mode. Unsurprisingly the players on Magic Duels are not top notch players or deck builders, and while I managed to lose a game yesterday, I generally just clean up.

What is really interesting about Magic Duels, though, is that if your opponent concedes or leaves the game, the game brings up a window telling you that happened, and then asking you if you want to continue playing against an AI opponent. You get the rewards for winning whatever happens: whether you leave right away, play on and win, or even play on and lose. Once your opponent leaves you've won your reward for winning the match.

But what Magic Duels recognizes is that Magic is fun to play for the joy of playing Magic. Maybe you got the twin Eldrazi Titans in play and you really want to get the chance to attack with them. Maybe you've got some outrageous combo and you want to finish going off. Maybe your opponent just disconnected and you'd like to see how the rest of the game plays out.

So if I sit down at your Puetro Rico table and start maximizing sum of the score of the players instead of maximizing my own score while trying to minimize yours, am I being a jerk by messing up the game for everyone else, or am I okay having fun my own way?

I feel frustrated and angry at the assumption that we are all sitting down to play a game with the same goals, and that we at the very least ought to be trying to win. If you are practicing for worlds and you want everyone to play under a certain set of assumptions, that's fine. If you don't like the way I play a game and don't want to play with me that's fine. I just don't want to buy into some kind of automatic rule about playing to win. I'm not sure I even like winning.

This is a metaphor for life.