If you only read one thing today …

Read this interview with Jenova Chen (designer of Journey). Included in the interview is quite a convincing explanation of why people become griefers and what designers could do to minimise it in games, IF they wanted to.


“I am a competitor,” he says. “I play and love competitive games. You know, I was champion at a fighting game in high school. I was a StarCraft champion in college. I still play DOTA. I love to win. I love to win. When it comes to making games it’s not like I love peaceful games. I make this kind of game because I want to win as well. To me the measure of a human’s greatness is the value they can contribute to society. The game industry doesn’t need another shooter; it needs something to inspire them.ā€


There’s this assumption in video games that if you run into a random player over the Internet, it’s going to be a bad experience. You think that they will be an asshole, right? But listen: none of us was born to be an asshole. I believe that very often it’s not really the player that’s an asshole. It’s the game designer that made them an asshole. If you spend every day killing one another how are you going to be a nice guy? All console games are about killing each other, or killing one another together… Our games make us assholes.


The thing is, everyone is seeking for maximum feedback. If you push someone in the pit then the feedback is huge: the other guy dies, there’s animation, sound, social tension and the opportunity to revive her. These things combine together make pushing another player into a pit much more satisfying than just pushing somebody into the wind.”

“I see,” I say.[ā€¦] “So what happened when you removed collision detection?”

“Players started looking for other ways to get more feedback. Helping each other yielded the most feedback so they began to do that instead. It was fascinating.”

14 thoughts on “If you only read one thing today …

    • That was a great post also.

      Something that stuck in my mind also was a comment from an rpg.net thread about CCP’s WoD game (which I still think is vaporware).

      “But.. it’s interesting to note that EVE was a lot more, hmm.. civil.. five or six years back than it is now, and was that way for a good 4-5 years. As long as the game was niche and the playerbase small, there was incentive for people to conduct themselves more or less decently. Then the big shitty internet communities got involved, SA then Reddit, and since they already have their own community they had no reason to do anything other than troll the existing one. And they had the numbers to make it stick, to change the tone of the entire game.

      EVE was always pretty brutal but there was a fair degree of class to it for a long time.”

      And the way Jester writes about the Burn Jita thing, makes it sound as though Mittani/Goons really just want to go play power games with CCP and are using the high sec players as a proxy. I do also think that if you find yourself motivated by a desire to grief the developers rather than the other players, it’s time to re-evaluate why you are playing the game.

      I don’t really see how devs can stand for that. I suppose as a bystander it will be interesting to see what they do, if anything.

      • The issue with CCP and the Goons et al is that the only reason the game gets as much press and occupies as much internet thoughtspace as it does is because of the things the goons and so on have done. CCP knows this so they have to make a choice as to if they want money or if they want a smaller, different terrible community to the terrible community they have now.

        I played Eve before they showed up and it was a marginal little space trading game that appealed to horrible internet libeterians. I am always going to look askance when people declare there was some golden age before hand.

  1. After reading that interview and then looking up some other reviews I found myself wondering if I could justify buying a PS3 just to play journey. Sadly I can’t but this sounds like an amazing and potentially revolutionary game in large part because of the design ethos behind it. I just hope that it is released on the PC so I can experience it too.

  2. I do wish every MMO designer would read that interview and have a long, hard look at what kind of behaviour their games encourage and whether that’s really what they want to achieve.

    And I’m joining the “hoping Journey will be released for PC” crowd. šŸ™‚

  3. I look forward to a future of more diversity in game design – and more boldness. Ive just played through ‘dear esther’ a second time last night and realized how i want more, I want to see more like this. games had to start somewhere and I believe all the stages we’ve come through were needed, but now that graphical and technical progress has reached such a high level its time they caught up conceptually.

    • Over at “In an Age” we were discussing wants and waht game companies deliver. A game like “Dear Esther” will be done again if enough people bought the first game. If the company didn’t make money on it then don’t expect another one. Even the person making the game of their dreams can only do that for so long till they need to make a living.

  4. Every one on this planet is capable of sociopathic behavior under certain conditions. Anonymity is a big factor in bad behavior along with being with large groups of people. If you take away one of those factors, the penchant for being nasty falls. But there will always be some people who don’t care if their names are revealed or they become pariahs in a small community. The joy for those people is simply the ability to annoy or wound.

    Games can change their tactics to contain maladaptive players in their games. No doubt.

    Interestingly the game I’ve played with the least amount of griefing was Warhammer Online. Most likely because it had a small village like community and everyone knew everyone else.

  5. Is this another take on genetics vs environment? Was Hitler an evil person or did his environment make him that way?

    “none of us was born to be an asshole”

    Based on the responses to the feminist post I’m willing to bet some think I was born that way. But can I counter that I was pushed to be that way?

    The bottom line and reality is that there are both. Some will be evil and aholes regardless and others won’t because of laws and consequences and some other won’t because its not in their nature.

    See that is critical. If we can be naturally good (vs good only because laws force us to be) then we can just as easily be bad.

    What was true was this statement: “The thing is, everyone is seeking for maximum feedback.” That is because human nature requires feedback (postive or negative).

    • Yeah, I thought the feedback ideas were very insightful. Also, you’re allowed to argue without everyone assuming you’re an asshole, don’t worry about that.

  6. If you tie this in with Stephenson’s analysis in Reamde, then you get that the most dramatic conflict is achieved when the game’s feedback mechanisms are balanced such that the griefers and the cooperators are of comparable strengths, giving them memorable antagonists. By the numbers, Eve actually has more cooperators than griefers, but paradoxically the griefers are better at cooperating in order to grief than the cooperators are at cooperating against griefing. Part of this is that many of the high-sec “cooperators” are bots.

    • My experience in sandbox games is that it’s always been much much harder to effectively co-operate to keep the rules in place than to break them. Eventually even the most law abiding of internet police gets bored of being told that they can’t really stop the miscreants from doing it again as soon as they log off (unless staff get involved with bannings) so people lose interest.

      You’d need to actually design a game where in game PC law enforcement was allowed to be effective. It used to be quite trendy in MU* design to be a proponent of player run justice, but in practice it either turns into dev-supported bullying or people lose interest because they aren’t ‘allowed’ to be effective (because there is no in game punishment that will stop a griefer from griefing as soon as they are allowed to do it again) or because breaking the law is just more fun. Anarchy may be the best you can get.

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