Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Information Revolution in Multiplayer Gaming

My latest PopMatters article is now live: The Information Revolution in Multiplayer Gaming

Although the Modern Warfare 3 Elite service cemented some of my thoughts, my original inspiration for this article came from Riot's new Tribunal peer-review system for League of Legends. The idea is relatively simple. Presumably the in-game reporting system used to flag players for harassment, trolling, hate-speech, etc., must have flooded the team with too many complaints to get through at a reasonable pace. Instead of hiring more committed staff to police the game, they opened up the game logs for users to judge their peers themselves, choosing to either punish or pardon them.

Perhaps other games have implemented similar features in the past, but I am unaware of them. Frankly, Riot's faith in their own player base its brave. Not only do they trust their players to actually use the system fairly (there are safeguards put in though), they are willing to let their players see how absolutely terrible their gaming compatriots can be. I have adjudicated roughly fourty cases thus far, and the vast majority of them have been absolutely appalling. I pulled up a few cases just not to pick some quick examples (Warning: Offensive language to come.) In one case Jipplez, who was not actually on trial in that case, lashed his teammate with "eat my dick faggot." In another, Samodael lashes out at his teammate with "be useful and not a ksing asshole you fucking chink." In general, expletives and racist sexist epithets are flung back and forth between players in these cases, are there seem to be thousands of these.

The peer-adjudication system is just one example of developers trusting players with information heretofore kept safely hidden away. It certainly is not as clear-cut as the sort of data offered by Modern Warfare 3, or any of the other games at E3 this year, many of which are showing off ways to interact with information in and out of the game. It does, however, reveal how the developer-player relationship is changing as information becomes more accessible.

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