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Game Designers As Social Engineers

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-world-of-tomorrow dept.

The Almighty Buck 22

hapwned writes "In an article from The Escapist, Allen Varney explores a future where a 'simulated reputation economy' will be as valuable our current monetary economy. From the article: 'The game designer today occupies a nebulous social role, a mutant cross of technician, scenarist, entertainer, architect and sometimes even artist. The upcoming reputation economy offers ambitious designers a larger sphere, a chance to change the world and eventually transform the lives of millions. If you're up for it, start planning.'"

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Bah (1)

obeythefist (719316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14152715)

A simulated reputation economy is just a facet of the existing monetary economy. Image economy has been going on since the first invention of the advertisement. Image is everything and we have never seen so much spin as we do today.

I read an interesting comment the other day - have you ever seen a review site that gives reviews lower than 6 out of 10? Not much of a scale if the mean is 7.5 and data never appears below that point!

Bah to Rehetorical Questions. (2, Informative)

Swordsmanus (921213) | more than 8 years ago | (#14154390)

Nice of that article to ask such a question without citing evidence. I've seen a fair amount of reviews in the 4.0 range that contribute to the average-to-poor scores on metacritic. Go ahead, check the site and look at the reviews they include for the more poorly rated games. Even some overall "average" (5.0-7.0) rated games have some really low scores included.

Here, I'll make it easy for you - lots of low scores on games of all systems from various sites contained within these metacritic compilation-reviews. Keep in mind that the majority of these are recent games. There are far, FAR lower score reviews to find in the history of each system (excepting the more recent PSP, DS, and XBOX 360)

PSP: http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/psp/worl dseriesofpoker [metacritic.com]

DS: http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/ds/space invadersrevolution [metacritic.com]

PS2: http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/ps2/beat downfistsofvengeance [metacritic.com] http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/ps2/true crimenewyorkcity [metacritic.com]

NGC: http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/cube/one piecegrandbattle [metacritic.com] http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/cube/gei st [metacritic.com]

XBOX: http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbx/adve ntrising [metacritic.com] http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbx/shad owthehedgehog [metacritic.com]

PC: http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/bigmu thatruckers2 [metacritic.com] http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/beton soldier [metacritic.com]

XBOX 360: http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbox360/ nbalive06 [metacritic.com]

Whoever wrote that article would have better served his/her readers by actually looking into which review sources refuse to give lower end scores and pointing out who the culprits are so that his/her readers can avoid them. Instead, he/she asked a vague rhetorical question that serves only as a broad and baseless generalization. Of course, that would take effort, and ejaculating uneducated opinions into the eyes of the public is so much easier!

Re:Bah to Rehetorical Questions. (1)

obeythefist (719316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14154567)

I think the article was pointing a finger reasonably squarely at the very big review sites that post high scores for the very big game properties.

Enter The Matrix - the game that went along inbetween the second and third movies for instance. If anybody played it could tell you it was a very average game, came out in the 9-10 spots from some big name reviewers, check it out at metacritic. [metacritic.com] It had initially a very high rating that dropped sharply as more "indy" game review sites reviewed it more realistically and bagged it for what it was.

Aggregators are generally a better guide because of course the more reviews you have, the higher the proportion of non-bribed reviews, so the lower the scores.

We live in an era where publishing houses pay developers (in some cases) on the basis of how well the game scores in reviews - and therefore, since the review sites are more and more often demonstrating they're up for sale, review scores are being purchased and journalistic integrity went away a long time ago.

Re:Bah to Rehetorical Questions. (1)

Swordsmanus (921213) | more than 8 years ago | (#14154952)

I think the article was pointing a finger reasonably squarely at the very big review sites that post high scores for the very big game properties.

Enter The Matrix - the game that went along inbetween the second and third movies for instance. If anybody played it could tell you it was a very average game, came out in the 9-10 spots from some big name reviewers, check it out at metacritic. It had initially a very high rating that dropped sharply as more "indy" game review sites reviewed it more realistically and bagged it for what it was.

If by 9-10 spots you mean a score of 9-10, on the link you posted, only the Gamezilla! review gave it a score of 91. There are two low 80 scores following - one is from Play Magazine, with an 83...not a 90+. Entertainment Weekly gave it a 75.

And that's pretty much the end of the noticably above average scores. IGN gave it a 66. Gamespot gave it a 63. PC Gamer, 55. Gamespy gave it a 53. Gamepro, 50. Computer Gaming World, 50. Computer Games Magazine, 40. I'm not sure how big Gamezilla! is, but I'm pretty sure those others that I pointed out that gave the game more average (near 5.0) scores are rather popular and/or are actual gaming magazines, and they far outnumber those that gave the game a score of 7.5 or higher. As far as I can tell, your own evidence presented refutes your claim more than it supports it. Have I missed something? If so, please enlighten me.

Re:Bah to Rehetorical Questions. (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14157333)

I don't know how those numbers are derived for some review sites - Gamespy actually gave it 2 out of 5 stars [gamespy.com] , a system they've been using for a couple of years. It's possible this game was rated using both the new and old system due to the release date (2003). The new system has a minimum of .5 stars and a maximum of 5 stars, meaning 10 possible values and a 2 is 4/10 (.5, 1, 1.5, 2) or 40%.

The latest reviews of PC games right now go from 2 stars to 3.5 stars, averaging about 3 stars, so that's slightly above average.

Diplomacy got the dreaded .5 stars recently
Civilization IV, Call of Duty 2, and Age of Empires 3 all got 5 stars.

This is A list season (Christmas), so I expect a higher tilt, but Diplomacy is an established board game like Civ was, and yet still only got .5 stars...

Re:Bah (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 8 years ago | (#14160208)

"I read an interesting comment the other day - have you ever seen a review site that gives reviews lower than 6 out of 10? Not much of a scale if the mean is 7.5 and data never appears below that point!"

Yeah but the same thing happens in other "marking" or "rating" systems, take education system where I live in Canada for instance, for some reason they have a out of 100 percent system yet everyone who passes makes %50 or above, and the only meaningful marks are from between 60 and 100, the rest of the 60 marks out of the 100 are pretty much useless, things should be out of 5 / 50 rather then out of 10 because we seem to love to focus on the upper 5 (or 50) half of out of 10 (or 100 if out of 100) it seems pretty inconsistent to me as well and I have no idea why this is as it must be some psychological artifact for wanting to do things in sets or multiples of 10, but it makes little sense if only half of the score really means anything.

Even if this happens... (1)

kaleposhobios (757438) | more than 8 years ago | (#14152755)

...I can't see it being designed so intentionally. If we consider the writer's comparison to the advent of money, we will see that there was no group of "designers" that designed the monetary system. It simply developed as the need arose.

In the same way, I cannot see how anyone could succesfully design any such system and have it successfully adopted. Instead, if anything this this arises, it will arise piecemeal, bit by bit, and various small technologies arise for specific (and much less grand) uses. These parts may eventually form a 'system', but only incidently.

If you really want to see something like this arise (and make money, or 'reputation', off of it) look for something much smaller. Make a livejournal-like system that can be accessed from a cell phone, or something. Don't start planning the "World Reputation Mega Zone!!!" or something silly like that.

Re:Even if this happens... (1)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 8 years ago | (#14154630)

I wrote that article, and in it I make exactly that point: It's an incremental process, likely to take place over centuries. But that doesn't mean there's no place for intentional design; after all, the world of finance is filled with countless rules, and they didn't just sprout like grass. Every rule was designed, by a committee or individual or corporation.

Hilarious Transition... (2, Funny)

Sugar Moose (686011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14152797)

...from page 2 to the ad on page 3:

"Simulation is the abstract modeling of real objects, phenomena, events or relationships. Practiced for centuries in...SECOND LIFE. JOIN NOW AND GET A BASIC SECOND LIFE ACCOUNT ABSOLUTELY FREE!"

Re:Hilarious Transition... - but apropos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14161439)

When I joined Second Life, the Linden Team had just increased the reputation system pricing.

In a nutshell, players rated each other on behavior, architecure, and dress, so a given player would reap up to 3 reputation "points" from others. The ratings cost L1 (1 Linden) each - which, when Lindens were exchanged for money, would equate to something like $0.0004 USD.

The players would be given bonuses weekly, based on the number of positive ratings thay'd gotten.

Rating parties were the rave. At L1 each, you could rate dozens of people without feeling a pinch. And whoever hosted and / or attended the most parties got the most positive ratings, got the best bonuses, which could actually be very lucrative in the long term.

When Linden Labs increased the rating fee to 25 lindens / rating, people pissed and moaned, but the rating situation did level off slightly.

You see rating inflation in Ebay and other websites as well, and there's little that can actually be done to effectively dissuade people from falsely inflating their reputation by nefarious purposes.

Until a rating system is at least as secure as the financial system (which, admittedly, is as tight as a sieve) it will continue to mean something only to those who do not know any better.

"Simulated Reputation Economy" aka... (2, Insightful)

Sugar Moose (686011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14152924)

...your credit score. Way to see the future, Allen. We might even see advertisements for getting credit scores online in as few as 10, maybe 20 years!

This seems like another in a string of Escapist articles that tries too hard to think deep thoughts. There's nothing here that you couldn't have said about the internet 20 years ago, and it's clear the author doesn't understand anything about economics.

Re:"Simulated Reputation Economy" aka... (2, Interesting)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14153148)

> This seems like another in a string of Escapist articles
> that tries too hard to think deep thoughts.

So true. As another fellow here said more eloquently a few days ago, I wish folks would just stick to writing about game experiences rather than trying to make games into a philosophy degree. For example, check out Cedric Otaku's blog entry [beust.com] on fighting hard instances in World of Warcraft. You can tell that (although he's no longer playing) he enjoyed the game and and he knows the issues involved in these monstrous battles. It's cool stuff, and a lot more fun to read than... well, other things.

Since no post is complete without a plug of some sort... here's my book [pmdapplied.com] !

Re:"Simulated Reputation Economy" aka... (1)

Microangelo (883480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14153151)

The thoughts may not be deep because they are based on a rather shallow human desire. Escapism is often preceded by over-thought and brooding self-important introspection.

Re:"Simulated Reputation Economy" aka... (1)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 8 years ago | (#14154658)

Credit scores represent one limited example of the idea, as do eBay feedback ratings and other examples I cite in the article. What's missing as of now, obviously, are interoperability, universal instant access, and what Slashdot would call "user moderation."

We "could have said all that about the Internet 20 years ago"? You mean 20 years ago I could have seen you, a stranger, across the street, and accessed the net to determine instantly whether we had acquaintances in common, or acquaintances of acquaintances, and whether you owed any of them money and how much, and whether you had stolen away someone's girlfriend, and how often you got into traffic accidents? Boy, that 1985 Internet was really something.

It's clear I "don't understand anything about economics"? I guess to prove that you could have summoned up my school records using the magic 1985 Internet, but what specifically makes you say that now?

Re:"Simulated Reputation Economy" aka... (1)

helfire57 (33888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14163380)

What seems to be the most interesting is not the extra "options" or extensability built into what we can access (which we always have) but the speed at which we CAN access the same data.

I could go to the library or perhaps a credit score company to learn more about you for decades now but it took weeks to access the data. 4 years ago I had the internet at home and could have the information in a day or a few hours. Today I turn on my wireless which is hooked automatically to the fastest open connection including the cell lines and can look you up in minutes.

So in a few years, I might be able to look you up (if you allow me to) based off of the RFID card in your wallet and find out more about you in ... what ... a minute? That would change the dynamics of the economic process.

In the later instance, a vendor that I'm walking or driving past could read my "good customer" score and offer me something at a discount that I normally buy elsewhere.

Hmmm...Kind of reminds me of Slashdot... (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14153016)

I'll take fries with that. Here's my +2 karma, please. I keed, I keed...

Fewcher Werld (1)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 8 years ago | (#14153038)

So, in the future life will be like a small high school where everyone has cell phones?

Game designers won't own it. Who is most "popular" in high school? It isn't the teachers or the administrator, or their children. The teachers and administration designed the system (replace "teachers and administration" with "board of education" if you prefer). While the writer in the example gave other writers a higher credit score with Wal-Mart, no matter how much pain is taken by the administration, they have very little measurable influence on their children's (or favored student's) social success. Granted, they can influence academic success or athletic success, but these are not analogous to the reputation upon which the new economy is to be based. I don't think the designers of this new system will be able to make their legacy's lives any easier, either.

I also disagree with the idea tha game designers will be in charge of design; I think it's more likely to be future equivalents of web developers.

Re:Fewcher Werld (1)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 8 years ago | (#14154729)

Who is most "popular" in high school? It isn't the teachers or the administrator, or their children. The teachers and administration designed the system (replace "teachers and administration" with "board of education" if you prefer). While the writer in the example gave other writers a higher credit score with Wal-Mart, no matter how much pain is taken by the administration, they have very little measurable influence on their children's (or favored student's) social success. Granted, they can influence academic success or athletic success, but these are not analogous to the reputation upon which the new economy is to be based.

This presumes the educators were trying to engineer the system to make themselves popular. It seems clear the highest school officials designed the system to give themselves power, and in that they succeeded. Every public school is a top-down autocracy.

A society-wide system might instead grow in any number of directions, to satisfy many purposes a school system doesn't have. Were some central authority in charge, as in a school district, the designers of the system would indeed have no way to leverage the system to benefit themselves. But if the system grows incrementally, through the work of countless agents (as the monetary system did historically), intelligent designers can become familiar with the vagaries of the rules and tune them both to serve the culture better and, incidentally, to benefit themselves.

in the future life will be like a small high school where everyone has cell phones?

Sounds like an excellent way to put it.

Didn't Cory Doctorow already say this? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14153231)

...in "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom"

Re:Didn't Cory Doctorow already say this? (1)

ianmorris (644822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14154350)

damn you beat me to it.

Re:Didn't Cory Doctorow already say this? (3, Informative)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 8 years ago | (#14154677)

...in "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom"

Uh... Yes, indeed he did. Which is why I quoted him early in the article. And this kind of comment gets modded "Informative"?

This is trouble (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14153234)

Well, I refuse to join a guild in Wow, the closest thing to a rank was First Sargent for a week, and the most exposure I've got is one intresting rating from a slashdot post. Guess I'd better become a game developer... Seriously, If anyone could access deep histories and ratings from previous social encounter from thousands of daily interactions it would be the end of society. No one would ever trust anyone again. That or there would be such an over flow of opinions, objective or not, that we would simply make our decisions off nigh baseless accusations, acclamations, and generalities, much like today. On the plus side background checks for bank loans, job applications, and government inspection will really fly!
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