Thursday, July 4, 2013

Blaming the Game

I am pretty sure I met a video game conspiracy theorist yesterday. While playing the latest Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers on XBLA, I faced off against another person with a headset. Already it was a strange occurrence. The vast majority of players do not use their mic, and those that do tend to speak very little. This guy was a rambler, immediately going off about his deck, the strategy he was planning around it, and how lame it was Stainless Games allowed forty-card decks instead of the standard sixty. He was already blaming the game for what he considered would be his inevitable loss.

After a few turns, he actually had me on the ropes. I had four health left and he had a massive attacker on the battlefield. Knowing I had limited options, I played a card that left my look through my library and draw Pacify, a card that would neutralize his creature and win me the game. After playing it, I heard him speak over the mic: "That's bullshit. This game gives me shit luck." He was convinced the game kept giving his opponents exactly what they needed, without giving him anything in return, nevermind that I had drawn that card intentionally.

I get it, sometimes we like to blame luck for in-game failure, maybe more so than necessary. It's an easy out form having to take responsible for the simple reality that sometimes we're just bad at video games, or bad at understanding why exactly we fail. And of course readability plays into perceptions of luck and failure, as does actual luck of course.

But then this player started making strange claims. He started raging against the game for putting cards in hid deck he never wanted. In fact, he specifically stated that when he turns the game off and goes to bed, the game sneakily adds in cards at random into his perfectly tuned deck. He was so convinced of this fact that he was thinking of asking for a refund, believing his digital download file were so how corrupted, or maybe possessed by some trickster Djinn.

Why are some people so convinced that the games they play are out to get them? Is there a severe misunderstanding of how games work technically? Sure, I curse luck now and again, but only facetiously. True randomness sometimes seems to have patterns, even unfair patterns; that is the very nature of randomness. But blaming luck and blaming a game are two very different things.When the results of player behavior are construed to create a bizarre theory about a game's design, then a terrible misunderstanding is taking place.

I should have confronted this player. I should have let him know that no, in fact, he probably just forgot to remove the card from his deck, that maybe his finger slipped and he didn't save his actions. Still, I figure if he wasn't going to believe in the immutability of our shared code, then he would never believed a stranger on the internet demanding he take responsibility for his actions.

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