It’s fun when people break the rules

I came across this interesting news late last night, from a blog blogging about another blog. Basically, Greg Lastowka at Terra Nova was blogging about a post from Scott Jennings, who was blogging about David Myers, who was reacting to what players were doing to him in the MMOGs City of Heroes.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell. City of Heroes is a MMOG that lets players choose between a career of a hero or a villain. David Myers is a game researcher who had found a “flaw” in the game design that lets him zap players into another part of the virtual world and kill them off. Myers claims that his avatar, Twixt, has become the scourge of the CoH community, as no one can defeat him. This angered the players so much that they started flaming him, and some even went so far to send him death threats. The media did a piece on this, and here’s an excerpt:

“During the first few sessions, other players gently informed Twixt that his method of play was unwelcome. But Twixt kept on vanquishing villains.

Mobs of villains then ambushed Twixt, hoping to defeat him so often that he would quit. Meanwhile, Twixt’s fellow heroes watched without joining the fray.

One by one, Twixt coolly picked his opponents off. As play sessions passed, popular villains and heroes stepped up their attempts to change him.”

However, the problem is that the players claim that Myers has overstated his claim, that 1) Twixt wasn’t as invincible as he claimed it to be, and 2) that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that players dislike to play with jerks and will act accordingly.

Scott Jennings criticizes Myers for these misleading claims and for having an overinflated ego in his blog, and Greg Lastowka comes to Myers defense (a little) and argues that:

“The rules that are enforced in MMOGs, like the rules enforced in any society, are not limited to the formal rules set forth in writing or coded into the software.  Users decide for themselves how games should be played.”

Myers defends himself in his own blog with:

“The CoH game designers – and other mmo designers — seem to have largely abdicated their responsibility to design a game in favor of providing a sandbox for players to use as they wish.  This may be good for game designer jobs, their blog readers, and their pocketbooks, but it is not particularly good for their games.”

For me, it’s just good to see that social behavior is still interesting. I thought game design has taken over the entire conversation in video game research. In particular, I think it’s good to expect players to break the rules, or at least to bend it a little, because that’s what people do. That’s what people do in real life, and that’s what people do in video games. Heck, that’s what makes video games so interesting.