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Oct 17, 2007

After our last two lighter shows, we're getting into some meatier material as we mull over the concept of ownership. What does it mean to own anything? Has the idea of possession changed as our society has evolved, or is it merely our perception of ownership that has changed? Like so many of our topics that cover the less tangible issues, this one  becomes more complex the harder we look into it. In the end, is ownership even a viable concept?

By the way, forgive the audio quality on my end, I had my mic positioned all wrong and never even noticed it.

Opening Music: "Fire In The Sky" by Dave London
Closing Music: "ET" by Peplab


over twelve years ago

Great show guys. I\\\'ll probably look at ownership in a new way. You navigated the seas of anarchy, liberty, communism, religion, the concept of the soul and the idea of submission to Allah - and I thought you were just going to talk about mp3 files..
(I\\\'m overdue for some smoked pork ribs at the local asador...)

over twelve years ago

In short: a well-balanced and finely polished game with fantastic aesthetics, but I can\'t stand it.

To explain, despite my best efforts I simply can\'t get into highly-specialised role type games, especially those where the classes have different health levels and use weapons that don\'t make any sense beyond pure balance.

To expand upon my first reason, I much prefer games where everyone has the same amount of health. Powerups aside, to my taste a level playing field health-wise promotes a higher reliance on skill and precision. I think Lando said something about TF2 being \"midway between classes and being all about skill\". I would be more inclined to say that RTCW is a better suited to that statement. This is because while it has unique classes that fulfil various roles, each class still has the same amount of health as any other, and therefore is never completely gimped when fighting another class. I would say TF2 is mostly about the classes, although I do understand where you’re coming from.

As to my second point, I can\'t stand when developers design weapons that obviously have their statistics manipulated for class balance. It sounds strange to say that, so here is an example: the ubiquitous shotgun in TF2. This gun is largely ineffective and mainly serves as a method to balance the classes. For instance, if the soldier class had a sub-machinegun weapon a la Counter-Strike, he would clearly be overpowered. The problem I have is that a machinegun would make more sense if the two teams were actually fighting in the real world (I know it’s just a game), and it\'s obvious to me at least that the shotgun is just there to give the soldier some ability to defend himself at close range without overpowering his main weapon, thereby making him the ultimate class in terms of raw power (rockets) and range/accuracy (machinegun).

RTCW\'s system is better in that the classes are either given similar sub-machineguns, or accurate pistols (if the main weapon is a class specific item such as a panzerfaust or flamethrower etc).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I prefer more ‘realistic’ games where the weapon choices actually make sense and everyone has the same amount of health. However, I also like ‘unrealistic’ games that offer a perfectly level playing field, much like any classic deathmatch game (think UT). TF2 fails on both counts for me – the weapons are illogical and serve only to blatantly balance the classes and the game, and the classes are too distinct in their various health levels. On the other hand, I really enjoyed RTCW because all classes have the same amount of health and have access to reasonably similar weapons that make sense in their world. Also, these weapons aren’t painfully nerfed and dictated by a mandate of class balance. For example, you\'d never see an assault rifle from the CS or BF1942 world (to just pick two) because it doesn\'t jive with the style and mechanics of TF2 gameplay. I can’t stand that, and so although TF2 is an excellent game and achieves what it sets out to achieve, it’s definitely not for me.

To change gears, I was interested by your comments about ownership, specifically ownership of your characters in MMO games. To be blunt, I actually find a lot of humour and satisfaction in hearing about people becoming attached to their characters in MMOs and how they subsequently react when they lose them. In fact, I think it says a lot about human psychology, and I can’t help myself from taking the position that if someone is fooled into thinking that they actually own their character, they deserve what is coming to them. I am satisfied by the fact that I’m not being suckered and emotionally manipulated by game companies due to my own human folly Let me clarify that a little before anyone gets too upset.

The truth is that ownership of your characters in the online gaming world isn’t ownership at all, as you both discussed. This false sense of ownership arises because humans tend to obsess over and invest a lot of emotion and into their online personas, and this investment is especially bad in games with social interaction, character levels, persistent item collection, and functioning economies (i.e. MMOs). The player has invested so much of his energy that he thinks he owns the character, even if he doesn’t. So, if someone manages to lull themselves into a false sense of security about their character and doesn’t read the fine print, I have no sympathy at all. As I said earlier, I think it’s actually very funny and a comment on humanity. Of course this *doesn’t* necessarily mean that I agree with the concept of EULAs and game companies having complete power over your digital avatars, but as of right now that’s just how it is. So if you fuck up and lose your character and you happen to be really attached, it sucks to be you. Better luck next time. While I do think there are ownership issues that need to be worked out, for now I’m quite happy to be tickled every time I see a blog post where someone was too carried with their avatar and then lost it all. Wonderful!

Sorry Lando! (What exactly did you do to be banned or suspended anyway?)

PS. I’m a very detached, loner-type gamer anyway, so I’ve never fallen under the spell of MMOs. Although with that being said, I do think I would be pissed off if I lost my persistent character along with all that time and energy invested. However, I would probably suck it up and chide myself for being a pathetic, obsessive and emotional human at the same time, especially if I knew going in what could potentially happen. The key is to remain detached. Don’t get suckered by your humanity. That, or play games with throwaway, one-time use characters that only take on your name each time you join a server (think deathmatch games), or games without a representation of you at all, like the RTS genre.