Brienf and uncomplete Game Studies overview on conflicts

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ardesia
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Brienf and uncomplete Game Studies overview on conflicts

Post by ardesia » Tue Aug 09, 2016 7:01 pm

From time to time it happens that I’m asked questions on what I do think about ingame conflicts and wars.
It’s not easy for me to answer that, due to the complexity of the topic and the many interpretation layers I simultaneously think of when considering game-related events. Not to mention the fact that what I do think and how I do react might not coincide with what my characters think or how they react.

In the attempt to outline that, here is a brief, uncomplete and fast Game Studies perspective on the topics of level divario, in-game conflict and players experience, containing some of the things I think of when I consider in-game conflicts and wars, as well as some of the theoretical basis of my relationship with games and play.
I hope you'll find it interesting and it will stimulate positive debate and ideas exange.

First of all, what does it mean to play a game?
A game is a complex and articulated system [1], where one element of main importance is balance.
Balance could be look at in many different ways ([2] presents a good pan of the main balance kinds) and it is usually considered a game designer responsibility, but – expecially in MMORPGs – it might also be conditioned by players behaviour.
I’d like here to focus on the balance between the difficulties a game creates for its players and the ability or possibility they have to face them.
A good game, as stated by a number of authors [1, 3, 4] aims to keep its players in the flow zone [5]. When the difficulty/ability ratio is too high the play experience might result as a stressful and frustrating one, while on the opposite when said ratio is too low players tend to experiment boredom. Players tend also to perceive a game as unsatisfactory when the difficulty/ability balance seems not to be reachable, a feeling that might result in game desertion – by boredom and frustration as well.

On an FT perspective, here is a Point 1: an high level character confronting a low level one often results in a situation of stress for the latter and boredom to the former.

Research demonstrates that difficulties are an essential part of a game, that we play because we voluntarily choose to face obstacles [6].
Failure in game is something we expect and need [7], experiencing play-satisfaction when the game system offers us a failure we can cope with, one we can hope to be able to face and overcome in time.
Positive psychology applied to games shows us how good it is for players to feel that a task is difficult but achievable, and games show themselves in a way able to equalise our human need for that feeling of fulfillment, of being able to reach a goal, that we too often can't find in modern life [8].

And here we have Point 2: an high level character sometimes challenging or killing a low level one leads to a failure that the latter have to endure, that could hardly be seen as a source of fun and might at least be one of learning - but when the challenge becomes a continual hunt it easily mutates in something too big to be faced.

In a strict relationship with the failure topic, the research - as well as our own experience - shows that gameplay can actually occur only when the result is uncertain [9]. When we play, and it is clear that there is no hope to win, to reach a goal, to survive, the game is over. We have no reason to bring it on. When we play, and it is clear that we won, that the opposite force can do nothing effective against us, the game is over. There is no reason to bring it on.
Children sometimes may like to play in a sure-victory condition, as a part of the growing-up process, but those who tend to endlessly overpower the others are often marginalised by their companions and are considered unable to play fairly.

That is Point 3: when high level players take advantage of their power over others, they bring out sense from gameplay for both parts, creating a situation that may not be defined as play nor be considered satisfactory (for neither parts) on long terms.

A level divario among characters is positive for the game environment. Interaction among low and high level ones might induce lower level chars to work-play hard so to reach better goals and they also can find in higher level ones an inspiration somehow. As such, some of the more powerful players seem to feel the responsibility and the pleasure of showing others how to grow better and better enjoy the game.
Unfortunately, some of them take advantage of their enormous power so to hunt and siege lower level ones, creating situations of no escape, no possible victory. My research field is Game Studies, not psychology, thus I can’t give a scientific explanation for the reasons why they act like that, nor can describe which kind of fun they can experiment when slaughtering players ways less powerful. But Game Studies research shows how this might be a very good moment to strengthen resilience, the capability of positively and successfully facing great obstacles.

Here is Point 4: lower level chars have many weapons: organizing themselves in groups, shaming abusive behaviours, obstructing their enemies via a silence-campain and so on in all the scenarios they can think of when stop focusing on mere power differences.

We also should not forget that a game is characterised by its being a representation environment in where an artificial conflict may take place under safety conditions [10]. Without the conflict, there would be no play experience.
In FT, as well as in a number of other games, players might experience different kinds of conflict, such as against monsters (fighting them to get xp and drops or access locations); against quests (solving dilemmas, collecting items and gold, ...); against themselves (growing up their personal skills or becoming better monsters or treasures hunters).
They also might experience conflict against each other.
When their characters join a clan, they accept to be involved in clan wars – if/when there is one – as well as to face open conflict with higher level clanned chars.
It is part of the game.
It is a conflict we choose to face. Each of us handle it in a personal way. It is an artificial conflict.
Let' repeat it: it is an artificial conflict we choose to face.

:?: :arrow:
[1] Salen K., Zimmerman E., Rules of Play. Game Design fundamentals, MIT press, 2004
[2] Schell J., The Art of Game Design, CRC Press, 2008
[3] Juul J., Half-real, Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, MIT Press, 2005
[4] Adams E., Fundamentals of Game Design, New Riders, 2010
[5] Csikszentmihalyi M., Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, HarperCollins, 1990
[6] Suits B., The grasshopper, Games, Life and Utopia, Broadview Press, 1978
[7] Juul J., The Art of Failure, MIT Press, 2013
[8] McGonigal J., Reality is broken. Why games make us better and how they can change the world, Penguin, 2011
[9] DeKoven B., The well-played game: A playful path to wholeness, Writers Club Press, 2002
[10] Crawford C., The Art of Computer Game Design, McGraw-Hill/Osborne Media, 1984
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madmaniacal1
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Re: Brienf and uncomplete Game Studies overview on conflicts

Post by madmaniacal1 » Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:17 pm

Amazing in-depth analysis. I'm glad we have someone who can explain this so well. I especially enjoyed the final point made, "ARTIFICIAL CONFLICT."
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Ryaca
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Re: Brienf and uncomplete Game Studies overview on conflicts

Post by Ryaca » Wed Aug 10, 2016 2:15 am

Very well thought out and very well said.Very interesting. Thank you for taking the time to explain this. Best forum post I have ever read.
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Bence
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Re: Brienf and uncomplete Game Studies overview on conflicts

Post by Bence » Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:03 am

this is very useful if we use it, but i think 99% of players dont give a hmmmm.... cat
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The Houstaaja
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Re: Brienf and uncomplete Game Studies overview on conflicts

Post by The Houstaaja » Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:24 am

>"Some of them take advantage of their enormous power so to hunt and siege lower level ones, creating situations of no escape, no possible victory. My research field is Game Studies, not psychology, thus I can’t give a scientific explanation for the reasons why they act like that, nor can describe which kind of fun they can experiment when slaughtering players ways less powerful."

It belongs in a human nature to get excitement for having the control over team/everyone/everything. Usually this kind of behavior occurs as a voluntary leadership (starting a clan/planning raids/making calls for actions etc). Of course there's a darker side of this topic as well. In my opinion, here in FT powerful player thinks that most of the low level/f2p players doesn't deserve success for whatever reason, or they want the feeling for being in charge. Real life problems might also feed the urge to abuse players so that following person gets the upper hand and that glorious feeling to be the best. We humans are very competitive in videogames after all. Especially when game includes PvP and it's major factor for the success.
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Re: Brienf and uncomplete Game Studies overview on conflicts

Post by Dr-Octopus » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:39 pm

Some people play just for fun, some to socialize, some to escape the real world and some to relieve stress from there daily life.Many of the games developed today are more violent, leading players with the tendency to lose control and become more aggressive.Addicted players become aggressive towards other players.When one plays he/she forgets all about the real world and starts to think that he/she is that character.And he/she enters the world of fantasy and the virtual world of fantasy begins.........................
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