277: The Devil Inside

The Devil Inside

If the game designer is God, then it is you, the player, who is the Devil trying to thwart His plans.

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I think a lot of players, given an in-game choice to be an angel or a devil, will choose one, then the other. But it's hard for a designer to give players total freedom. Anything the designer doesn't think of (extorting Lords by killing their peasants, as you used in the article) because they are simply one person- or a few people in committee-designed games, and they may have 10,000 or 100,000 players. They might not think of something that more than a few people will want to do, even in the most open-world game. It's a failure of imagination on the part of the designers.

This would really only be true if we were hackers. Or Gamestop. Gamestop is doing a pretty good job of launching a war against game developers. As most of us don't hack our games to make them easier, we aren't the devil-we are more like a generally obedient disciple who occasionally asks for more than we were initially given. Much like any servant asking God for more, we ask for more, without breaking the rules when more is not given.

Most of us are basically whiny, nagging, but obedient, disciples.

Peter Parrish has been excommunicated.

So have I. It's surprisingly easy to do.

Minecraft would beg to differ.

Interesting article, though the constant references to the bible got old after a while. Also, minecraft would like a word with you.

I disagree with your framework here and think it's problematic in a few ways.

I think your positioning of the game designer as a God figure is problematic. The game designer does indeed make god-like decisions about the world they are creating, but they lack the cohesiveness of the Divinity (what is actually represented as a "Game Designers" choice is actually reflective of a multitude of other people, and might not actually reflect what the Game Designer wants.) Similarly, the game designer must make strategic decisions about the aspects of the game to include, and which ones not to. While you frame the choice to not let the player stand on the horse instead of it as a malicious decision designed to force you into a specific mode of thought, it is reality more likely to be a matter of resources--A God figure would have unlimited time and resources, taking anything strategic out of the equation--which makes all decisions necessarily moral decisions because there are no other considerations. You cannot proscribe morality onto a decision that could just as easily be a strategic/resource driven decision as it could be a morally guided decision. (I'm using morality here in such a way as to imply a deliberate effort on the part of designer to ensure that the game is played in only one way, the way the designer intends.)

Finally, player agency really has nothing to do with being in line or out of line with the designers intentions (or, in other words, their morality). In fact, within the context of an open world, player agency effects designers exactly as much as it does within more structured, rigid worlds -- ultimately, the player can only act according to how the designer dictates and never in any other way.

Within a game, the concept of Free Will is an illusion -- the game can never be anything other than a pre-destined outcome. In essence, you've completed a game as soon as you've purchased because there is no other possible outcome except to win. We often like to think that we can "Lose" a game, but we can't. The best you can do is "Not Win yet," and even implies the eventual outcome of winning the game. Free will within a game is counter-intuitive because by playing the game, you are tacitly agreeing to the rules of engagement - that is, giving up your free will to act in any way that strikes your fancy, and instead decide to act in the way the game proscribes for you.

I think the sole exception to this would be something like SecondLife, where the game is literally defined by the player. The rules of engagement are defined by the player. But even within SecondLife, you can join other games where your free will is essentially stripped. SecondLife itself only provides a greater illusion of free will than other similar games - but never the truth that is free will. Only a game that contains no rules and no guiding principles can let you truly express your will, but then the game, which is essentially a set of behaviors guided by rules, actually ceases to be a game.

ItsAPaul:
Also, minecraft would like a word with you.

The Devil in Minecraft is that dude who launched a denial of service attack at the site.

compares players who blindly follow scripted events to creationists. "If something happens they think it is because of a decision taken by a designer rather than as an effect of the logic of the universe," Steenberg writes

This offends me, I'm sorry but seriously don't any other religous escapists find that just a little offensive?

Still a great article though and yes i admit it i spent the majority of the half-life cutsecnces hiting people with the crowbar.

This is a tad silly, sorry. A game designer, in general, is more of a storyteller than a deity. He creates a world in the same way that I can create a world if I write a sci-fi story. Sure he may give the player freedom to interact with the characters in different ways, but that is not so different from the way it's handled in a less interactive media - it only allows the designer to give much more thought to a particular character without hindering the main narrative.

That one series about RPG games once said that the DM is the devil - he creates a world, but more importantly he constantly antagonizes the players, creating conflict in which games thrive. Sure there are games that can thrive without obvious conflict - Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft, for two - but essentially most gamers will prefer to be lead by their hands to their next objective over wandering around godforsaken wastelands for hours, unless the godforsaken wastelands are particularly interesting.

(Then again, a good DM is closer to a real god, compared to a computer game, in which he isn't as limited. If on my medieval campaign you want to go around killing people until the lord pays you to leave him alone, feel free to, I won't force you to be a nice guy. Just keep in mind that while you're improvising ways to fuck up the world I'll be improvising ways for the world to fuck you up.)

(Curiously I guess a world-creating devil would be more similar to the Gnostic concept of an 'evil' god of materia that contrasts to the 'good' god of spirituality, a viewpoint I feel answers several of the spiniest ontological issues of religion. But that's for another time.)

(Fuck, two parenthetical paragraphs. Three now. I think I'm getting an award for this one.)

I see nothing wrong with trying to enjoy a game the way it's 'supposed' to be. I don't see people starting to read books through the middle so that they can skip the intro, or blanking out pages to change how events play it. I guess the analogy to sin works if you think that the 'morality' of the dev is the congruity of the world and you're breaking it, either by having your stoic saviour of the world jump up and down on a desk like a moron or by revealing the ways things don't work how they should in the real world and using that difference to your advantadge. But it's a strenous conclusion.

Formica Archonis:

Peter Parrish has been excommunicated.

So have I. It's surprisingly easy to do.

a person who uses physical force against the Pope;
a priest who uses confession as a pretext to solicit the confessor to break the commandment against adultery
Wait, wait wait. Ezio has been excommunicated?!?!?!?!?!?
And secondly there can't be that many preists left...
OT:This was a good article but there are holes in the logic. Like the guy above me says well, I agree. So my only contribution was that Ezio is excommunicated

I had no idea I'd been excommunicated from a religion I'm not a part of. Wow, it's pretty easy.

This article did seem to drone on about everything that was going on, but I didn't really get much out of it. Oh well, I'm sure I'm guilty of something in at least one of those.

Maybe I'll give minecraft a try.

the argumentation about the player being the devil is a bit stupid.

The metaphor was way too ridiculous and obscure, I'm sorry. I really don't see it. In fact, the attempt to assign religious themes to the act of gaming, particularly equating the player to the Devil, seemed almost deliberately inflamatory. It made me chuckle, anyway.

I believe in spiritual gaming but I will never believe that I'm the devil playing games against God.

I have no idea what this has to do with videogame music.

Although I did think it was fascinating. I was raised Catholic, so all this stuff rang true to the lessons that were shoved down my throat in my formative years.

I have no idea what this has to do with video game music.

But I did think it was fascinating. I was raised Catholic, so all this rang true with the lessons that were shoved down my throat in my youth. I was an insufferable goody-two-shoes when I was younger, just because I knew that I had to follow the rules or the devil would be happy. I certainly didn't want the devil to be happy! But in games, I was never the good girl I was everywhere else. If Slippy annoyed me in Starfox 64, I would give him a few laser shots. In Mario Kart, I wanted to be Bowser. That was really the only place I found to not be the good little Catholic schoolgirl.

Then I went to college and realized that sinning is super fun. I still think of myself as a good person. I'm just not obedient anymore, in games or in life. Rules are made to be broken :)

Serrenitei:
I disagree with your framework here and think it's problematic in a few ways.

I think your positioning of the game designer as a God figure is problematic. The game designer does indeed make god-like decisions about the world they are creating, but they lack the cohesiveness of the Divinity (what is actually represented as a "Game Designers" choice is actually reflective of a multitude of other people, and might not actually reflect what the Game Designer wants.) Similarly, the game designer must make strategic decisions about the aspects of the game to include, and which ones not to. While you frame the choice to not let the player stand on the horse instead of it as a malicious decision designed to force you into a specific mode of thought, it is reality more likely to be a matter of resources--A God figure would have unlimited time and resources, taking anything strategic out of the equation--which makes all decisions necessarily moral decisions because there are no other considerations. You cannot proscribe morality onto a decision that could just as easily be a strategic/resource driven decision as it could be a morally guided decision. (I'm using morality here in such a way as to imply a deliberate effort on the part of designer to ensure that the game is played in only one way, the way the designer intends.)

Finally, player agency really has nothing to do with being in line or out of line with the designers intentions (or, in other words, their morality). In fact, within the context of an open world, player agency effects designers exactly as much as it does within more structured, rigid worlds -- ultimately, the player can only act according to how the designer dictates and never in any other way.

Within a game, the concept of Free Will is an illusion -- the game can never be anything other than a pre-destined outcome. In essence, you've completed a game as soon as you've purchased because there is no other possible outcome except to win. We often like to think that we can "Lose" a game, but we can't. The best you can do is "Not Win yet," and even implies the eventual outcome of winning the game. Free will within a game is counter-intuitive because by playing the game, you are tacitly agreeing to the rules of engagement - that is, giving up your free will to act in any way that strikes your fancy, and instead decide to act in the way the game proscribes for you.

I think the sole exception to this would be something like SecondLife, where the game is literally defined by the player. The rules of engagement are defined by the player. But even within SecondLife, you can join other games where your free will is essentially stripped. SecondLife itself only provides a greater illusion of free will than other similar games - but never the truth that is free will. Only a game that contains no rules and no guiding principles can let you truly express your will, but then the game, which is essentially a set of behaviors guided by rules, actually ceases to be a game.

ah yes, but even the Devil can't break ALL the rule. I don't expect to be able to break all of them but I can break them without hacking. I can pick up objects in Morrowind by rotating the camera near them and pick them up while in my inventory screen (because they don't need to be close to the character, they need to be close to the camera, discovered that myself) and survive falls by saving and loading before I hit the ground. even get untakative NPCs to talk to me by undressing so they don't say "leave me alone" and only give me the option to leave, instead they complain about my indecency but we can talk some more. that's just one game.

the designers may have defined the world but there's more to it than what they intended. God doesn't have complete control over the Devil and his advocates/followers and the Devil does what God never (or couldn't) prepared for... metaphorically speaking.

So, what am I if I spent HL2's exposition scenes poking around to find hidden rooms and after being satisfied none were to be found found myself pretending I was a movie director shooting this scene, looking for the best camera angles.

Of course it gets a bit annoying that, despite its name, there's no zoom function to the Freeman model camera.

Also:
To some who replied.
see: "your mileage may vary"
There are many interpretations of the devil, which is why the writer of the article took the pains to stipulate he used the Milton version for this article. Also the role of the exact agency of God is hardly something he was wanting to discuss within this article.

Personally I prefer the Sandman version.

Ahh... the Nostalgia!
I remember the first time I played Half-Life One, and the first NPC's you came accross, you know, those two Scientists, one of which seemed to suffer from post-traumatic stress, and the other one that ever-so-nicely asked you to give that guy a shot of something that looked like tranquilizer.
You could:
a. Be the good boy and give the worthless NPC a piece of what was actually your equivalent to health-potions.
b. the insensitive Jerk and play-dumb or just outright Refuse
or
c. the maniacal Sociopath and start to crow-bar the nutter while his colleague shouts in disbelief "What the hell are you Doing!", then to answer his question you would use your 50-inch completely non-phallic piece of Steel to answer him.

The Problem came when you realized, THEY COULDN'T FUCKING DIE!!!
After you've hit them plenty of times they even stopped Bleeding, and the nutter just curled-up in a "don't hit me" pose whenever you walked at less than a meter from him, while his colleague just sat there complacently with a blank look on his face like some kind of Danish live-mannequin,
both having fallen deathly silent, not squealing so-much as an "ow!" when you hit them anymore ...well, at least they got THAT part Right :D

Excellent read!

I agree that your initial argument is flawed. The Devil was originally an angel, struck down and given a lesser role. Gamers aren't designers and certainly don't work for all the studios whose games they play.

Also, your "Why can't I be a horseback circus rider?" isn't an epistolary question (and made me stop reading). Games are interactive stories, not microcosms of Earth and divine politics. You've spread yourself pretty thin.

gee i only play nice if i have too, fallout 3 drove me quackers , being nice just to get all achievements in the game ,but in gta 4 ... idgas , i'll be so bad even the devil would dry heave ... because doing so in the real world would make fellow gamers mad and get me very dead

How many of you passed the time during Half-Life 2's locked-room exposition scenes by smacking Eli, Alyx or random pieces of scenery/NPCs about the face with a crowbar, shooting mugs around the room or just bouncing up and down on top of a nearby surface like a gibbon?

Am I the only one who didn't do this? Seriously, whenever these scenes popped up, I either listened patiently, or, under certain circumstances, took a closer look at something interesting, like the mini-teleporter in Dr. Kliner's lab.

Interestingly enough, a recent piece by Eskil Steenberg (creator of Love) compares players who blindly follow scripted events to creationists. "If something happens they think it is because of a decision taken by a designer rather than as an effect of the logic of the universe," Steenberg writes. It's up to us, as active players, to take back the power to impact game worlds in unusual ways. We have to struggle out of the straightjacket that we would be placed inside by certain designers. Let's be the Devil we know we can be.

That's a very flaw idea..
If the developers are good enough, the events would draw you into the universe. It will play to the universe's rules, and you will think that it happens precisely because it is an effect of something that happened within the universe.

Wow, I didn't know the escapist was going to start mirroring geocities pages.

 

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