Does a video game have to force us to make good choices?

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|02.20.12

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Does a video game have to force us to make good choices?
Take a moment and picture this: There's a politician out there, a pretty sleazy politician, who is basically in a position of power to use that power to do whatever suits him or her best -- no regard for anyone that voted him into office, no real sense of caring for those he is supposedly serving. One day, someone comes up to that politician and says, "Hey man, I'll give you $3 million if you start taking an interest in your constituents and doing what is best for them, OK?" The politician agrees, takes the money, and promptly starts doing the right thing.

Is that politician in the wrong? Or is that politician simply learning that if he behaves badly, he'll get a bribe to start behaving correctly? What's to stop him from behaving badly again, if he thinks he's going to get another $3 million out of the deal? More importantly, if all the other politicians out there see this guy get a bribe to behave like a decent politician and all of those politicians decide to start behaving badly in an effort to get that bribe for themselves, are they in the wrong?

Where is the incentive?

Last week, we touched on the bizarre antics of those in the Raid Finder -- specifically those who choose to roll on whatever loot they can get their hands on, regardless of whether or not they already have it, in order to trade it for what they really want. Big Bear Butt discussed the topic in detail, and offered a few solutions to it as well, and I tried to come up with some solutions on my own. But what I ultimately suggested in that post was that people should simply roll need on items that they actually needed and stop rolling on gear that they don't actually need. The comments for that post blew me away -- and not in a good way.

There were a lot of people who suggested there should be some incentive not to roll need on gear, like rewarding gold to players who pass on gear or don't roll need on something. And this is where we go back to the story of the politician. There is a fine line between rewarding someone for a job well done and bribing someone in an effort to get them to act like a decent human being. And maybe it's just an issue of our society, but I don't believe that Blizzard should be responsible for making us act like decent human beings. I don't think we need a video game company to force us to use our innate moral compasses and reward us when we use that moral compass correctly.

... which takes us back to Big Bear Butt again, oddly enough, and a little post he wrote this weekend on motivation. Now, this post isn't so much about loot or rolling on loot as it is on performing to the best of your abilities in a raid or a group. And Big Bear Butt's got some highly entertaining suggestions for motivating those who do less than stellar DPS. While it's not necessarily a bad idea, at the same time, I can't help but wonder -- if you are in a dungeon or a raid and not doing your job, why are you there?

The meaning of progress

Here's the deal with World of Warcraft and how you play the game, OK? You level your character and get better loot so you can continue to level your character and get even better loot. Once you're at the endgame, you do heroics to get better loot to get even better. Once you're better, you can move on to raiding and get even more neat loot so that you get even better and continue to the next tier to get more loot.

It's a cycle. It's a never ending cycle of gearing up to do things to gear up so that you can do more things. The reason you are getting that loot is so that you can DPS better, heal better, tank better -- whatever your particular role is, gear will help you do it better. So if you're simply standing around waiting for the boss to die and not even trying to help kill it, then collecting as much gear as you can ... why are you collecting the gear? Is it for the job you aren't even doing in the first place?

What motivates you to play? Why are you playing the game, and why are you after the gear? I'm a raider. I raid in a guild that is fairly progressive, so one of my main focuses with my character is to squeeze out every last drop of DPS I possibly can. That's why I'm getting my gear. And I know once I have decent gear, I'll be good to go as far as leveling in the next expansion goes, too. But even without the really good raiding gear, I'd be just as fine in whatever purples I could pick up from heroics. Blizzard's pretty good about making sure people aren't left behind when an expansion launches and providing upgrades of every shape and size.

Those are my reasons, though -- and in those reasons is the motivation for why I do what I do. I am perfectly happy to do as much damage as I possibly can, because that's where the fun is. That's why I play. So what's up with the people that stand around and do nothing on boss fights in the Raid Finder or in heroic dungeons? Is it simply that they don't care what they do or that they're really just out to make the lives of everyone else as miserable as possible?

And if it's the latter, why are we putting up with it?

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