Fun article on Wired that touches on some things that've been on my mind lately (specifically, Leaderboards, Rankings and the motivational/strategic impact they can have on a community's partisans.) Clive Thompson has adopted a 'take no prisoners' suicide strategy in Halo 3 and—suddenly—the motivation behind real-life suicide bombers makes some kinda sense to him:
I, however, have a completely different psychology. I know I'm the underdog; I know I'm probably going to get killed anyway. I am never going to advance up the Halo 3 rankings, because in the political economy of Halo, I'm poor.
Specifically, I'm poor in time. The best players have dozens of free hours a week to hone their talents, and I don't have that luxury. This changes the relative meaning of death for the two of us. For me, dying will not penalize me in the way it penalizes them, because I have almost no chance of improving my state. I might as well take people down with me.
Lately I've been wondering what the effect on gameplay would be on Xbox Live if all Reputation indicators (numerical, statistical, comparative and the like) were to go away altogether.
Also, worth noting: I am in roughly the same set of circumstances as Thompson (time-deprived, new kid, full-time job, etc.) Yet I somehow manage to derive great pleasure from my once-or-twice a week H3 sessions, beyond just adopting a lame 'die with teeth' strategy. I daresay, when the magic strikes, that I can be pretty damn good at the game. Even against a buncha hair-trigger 14-year-olds.
It certainly helps that I never feel as if I'm competing with "the top players" in the game. I'm just tryin' to hold my own. With H3, the addition of a richer per-game incentive system helps a lot here. It's nice to be acknowledged as a game VIP, even if half your team in Big-team Battle quit 3 minutes into the first round.
You hear this argument alot on Halo ~ that good players "have nothing but time on their hands" while my lack of skill? Harrumph… well… "I have a LIFE, loser!" I suppose it's a natural impulse to believe that, but I don't think it entirely holds water. Sometimes, people just suck at things.