Better safe than circle


Okay, here’s a little thought. Computer games differ from casually played analogue games in the sense that in the former case the computer processes the game rules while in the latter the processing is performed by human brains and negotiated through language etc. (as I believe Jesper has said somewhere).
This means that when you play a computer games online, say Age of Kings, no matter how you choose to perceive the game (as visual art, as Western mental imperialism etc.) you are still going to lose (or win) in a very concrete sense. In the eyes of the player community, and in the eyes of the game server, you’ve lost or won regardless of the way you perceive the game activity.

The interesting difference here is between players themselves processing the rules and some external system processing the rules (whether a CPU, a team of referees or whatever).
But, some esteemed colleagues object, by drawing this line you (“me” that is) are proposing that computer games are pristine, stable systems while in fact players take great effort to disrupt and “break” the game. I disagree with this objection. First of all, the vast majority of Age of Kings players conform completely to the rules of the game (and even the spirit of the game).
Those who try to break the game are statistical anomalies (and whether we care primarily about anomalies or majorities is a question of taste and disciplinary background).
But even for those players who really do subvert (if you will) the game the rigid nature of computer game rules is still interesting to keep in mind. I find it quite probable that this rigidness inspires deviance. This deviance may be motivated by A) a general dislike of rigid orders and/or B) a feeling that if some autocratic sovereign wants complete un-democratic control of the gamespace then surely anything not directly disallowed by the game code is allowed (or morally defensible). In the latter case the very rigidness of the computer game rules may go a long way towards undermining sportsmanship as opposed to the analogue (non-tournament) game situation where players cannot help but be aware that they are deeply responsible for upholding the game.
Computer game rules disenfranchise the player.

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