Log in

23 April 2014 @ 12:03 am
A thought on playing at the lowest possible difficulty level, and telling other people what's easy  
Sorry for lack of links to general context, but I think anyone who reads this will know what I'm talking about.

I'd like to reference two blog posts.

  1. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
    Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
    John Scalzi, Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

  2. I’ve seen rumblings of people suggesting they’ll put everyone on the Correia/Day slate below “no award” no matter what, but if you’re doing that, you’re making these fellows’ alleged point for them. Again: Why do that? It’s nearly as easy to read a work (or at least, read as far as can) and decide it’s just not for you. And if it is for you, well. Surprise!
    John Scalzi, No, the Hugo Nominations Were not Rigged

Okay now let's imagine we're all playing a massive roleplaying game called The Real World. There's an area of this game, let's call it the "Speculative Fiction community", that has interesting enough storylines and characters that players keep coming back to it, but it also has a number of nasty monsters. Let's call them... trolls.

Now: here is a secret* about the trolls in this region.  They are ridiculously nerfed on the easy setting. When you're playing the game on hard, or gods forbid on multiple-marginalizations, these trolls do a ton of extra damage, and have endless adds, and an "uncomprehending/dismissive" buff that lets them ignore most anything coming their way.

None of this matters on easy mode, mind. They're annoying, but like most things in the game, pretty easy to take on. You don't have to worry much about strategy or conserving resources when you're on easy mode! You just need to run in and wave your sword around! But those of us playing the game on harder settings, we've figured out strategies, and we've figured out where not to go. We know the best approach is to avoid these monsters entirely, and avoid even indirect contact. We know that any item connected to them could be cursed on hard mode, and do further damage. We've figured this out from painful experience. So, when a couple trolls manage to infiltrate a high-status area of the region, and people comment that they're going to avoid them...

...and in comes someone who is playing the game on the easiest fucking mode there is, right, who has set himself up as so sympathetic to people playing on hard. And he uses this platform to tell us that we're playing the game wrong, we mustn't protect ourselves because it's not sportsmanlike.

This person playing on easy, he tells us that this is about "fair play. Game on." Which is accepting the trolls' framing of the situation, that because they exist we must either fight them or let them win, we can't avoid them and do more worthwhile things with our time. We must risk major damage that past experience tells us they will do, or it's not "fair". To the trolls. And to the game. Never mind what's fair for us.

So. Having decided to play their game, and take them on - and without even acknowledging that they are nerfed on his level of difficulty - this person is telling us we have to, too, and that "It's nearly as easy to fight a troll and decide it's just not for you. And if it is for you, well. Surprise!"

...Yeah, that's when we point out, Mr. Scalzi, that by your own logic you are fucking up.


* Secret defined here as: people who play the game on hard have been talking about it for ages, but people who play on easy don't bother reading the forums dedicated to hard modes, so they continue to have no clue and won't actually work to get the game balance improved, they'll just pontificate at us.

EDIT: Second quote source/link fixed, apologies for misattributing to the wrong Scalzi post.

(Comments are closed on this post because I do play on hard mode.)