Showing posts with label morality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label morality. Show all posts

Cave "Mengele" Johnson

| Monday, August 12, 2013
The other day I wrote about how we as players may casually commit what would in real life be genocide, war crimes, or some other varied form of evil. This led me back to an idea that has been floating around in my head for some time, though I only recently understood it fully: GLaDOS is not the villain of Portal. Nor is Weatley. Instead, the true is evil The Old One, a being who was so profoundly evil that it still permeates all aspects of the institutions and structures that he created. GLaDOS is merely a tool, as is Weatley, and the player. They are also all the victims of this evil.

Think of GLaDOS and her compulsive need to test. She couldn't not test. Yet, what was testing? It was about as scientific as shooting the floor while ordering someone to dance.
This first test involves something the lab-boys call repulsion gel. You're not part of the control group by the way - you get the gel. Last poor son of a gun got blue paint, ha ha ha! All joking aside, that did happen. Broke every bone in his legs - tragic. But informative! Or so I'm told.
This isn't reckless pursuit of knowledge. This isn't a man driven to know, regardless of the consequences. He is instead a man driven by the consequences.
Just a heads up, we're gonna have a super conductor turned up full blast and pointed at you for the duration of this next test. I'll be honest, we're throwing science at the walls here to see what sticks. No idea what it'll do.
Science isn't about why, it's about why not. You ask: why is so much of our science dangerous? I say: why not marry safe science if you love it so much. In fact, why not invent a special safety door that won't hit you in the butt on the way out, because you are fired.
There is nothing to learn here. There is nothing to learn from substitution repulsion gel for blue paint. There is nothing to learn from creating AI that are tortured if they are not torturing.

What we see here is a man creating an institution of evil. He fired all who dissented, who even hinted at the concept of human rights. He created the AI. He forced employees to be both torturers and victims thereof.
Ha! I like your style, you make up your own rules just like me.
No one said that the √úbermensch would be a moral person by any measure that we can comprehend. Yet he is clearly an immoral person by many measures that we can comprehend.

When I stop and think about it, Portal is a profoundly disturbing game series. It feels so light-hearted in its presentation. It is silly. Yet it is a game set in a world with a horribly twisted history. We can set aside the part where Portal takes place in the same alien-occupied world as Half Life; Aperture is terrible enough. I suppose it's true what they say, that comedy is tragedy plus time.

Casual evil in video games

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013
We all know that we can do bad things in games. I'm not referring to people an asshole on xbox live or something like that, but to the actual gameplay. It's not even the obvious stuff that bugs me. Yes, in Grand Theft Auto games you can rob and murder people and that's bad, but what would the game be without that? Without the horrible things you can do the GTA series is really just a bad third person shooter blended with a bad driving simulator. I'm instead concerned about the incidental evil, the bad things you can do that the developers might have not even thought of. Yet it is there.

Take the Elder Scrolls games, for example. As in all fictional worlds, there are no psychiatrists. If you're traumatized, that's it; your mind is done for. Your best option at that point is to just embrace it, join a demonic murder cult, and do what comes naturally. And of course you cannot kill the children. You can, of course, kill their parents. In front of them. And then when the guards come you can kill them too. That kid is done for.

Or in the Civilization series there are the casually-committed war crimes. In Civ III I used to intentionally starve foreign cities I don't know if that actually helped with the cultural conversion, but there were definitely fewer foreigners after I got done with them. I tended to run a thriving slave trade as well. These weren't written into the game to fit some karma meter. There is no karma meter. The closest thing is being a warmongering menace to the world and odds are, whoever is calling you that is himself a warmongering menace to the world. It's the pot calling the can of black paint black.

There's another thing: you can shoot at anything if you're at war with it. Generals, well of course! Admirals, duh. Those are both obvious. And then there are the workers. Guys are just trying to build roads and you're ordering air strikes on then. Maybe a missionary wanders by and what do you do? Open fire!

The best part, at least as I roleplay it, is the reason why: they're bored. There aren't any enemy military units, so they're just firing at anything in sight. Some guy is trying to save souls and they're just lobbing shells at him. Odds are his civilization is some backward dump and he's got this great opportunity to leave and we're just shelling everything in sight. It makes me miss how in Civ IV you could use air strikes against improvements. I'd be doing that constantly. Just shoot up all the farms; get jet fighters with the depleted uranium rounds.

This is all beside the times when I go full Honor and get gold from killing units. At that point I see no reason to ever end a war. Why wouldn't I just keep slaughtering people? It's not costing me anything. I need my army anyway, since I need to defend myself from all the people who are mad that I keep starting wars.

[edit] And since posting this I've destroyed the Zulu empire for the sole purpose of stealing their art.

Do not mistake caste for hatred

| Thursday, May 30, 2013
Quick disclaimer: Caste isn't quite the word I'm going for.  Maybe disdain works better.  Hopefully context will do the trick.

 I'm seeing hatred pop up a lot lately.  Someone hates gay people.  Someone hates women.  It's usually wrong.  The problem is not one of hatred, at least not initially, and so to diagnose it as hatred is to attempt to treat the wrong disease.

The true problem is one of dogs.  Let it be known that I love dogs.  They're a species that co-evolved with humans, evolved to accept us and be accepted.  I do not think dogs should be abused, starved, or even left alone and unloved.  Yet I also do not think that dogs deserve the right to vote.  I believe they should pee outside.  They should stay out of the flowers.  They should not bark excessively.  As much as I love them, I also have rules for them and will attempt to keep them following these rules.  That's not a euphemism for abusing dogs when they break the rules.

Are women so different?  Well, obviously.  In my mind at least.  I'm guessing in yours as well.  But what about in the mind of the supposed hater?  I'm guessing they don't actually hate women.  Instead, they regard women as something somewhat like dogs: beings of varying intelligence that we have the right to order around, and in fact it is the natural order to do such.  The issue here is not hatred, but caste.  Women are placed in an inferior caste and are therefore subject to certain treatment.  They'll be stared at (or worse (much worse)).  They'll be kept out of professions.  They'll be portrayed a certain way and told to fit that portrayal.

Hatred may happen, but when?  Only a select few monsters beat a dog that behaves.  A much wider group of monsters beat a dog that misbehaves.  Here enters the hatred, directed, not against women, but against those women who misbehave.  Few people like to think of themselves as hateful.  Call them hateful and they'll reject the idea and anything that goes along with it.  In their minds they're simply putting dogs in their places.

The problem is the rules.  What are the rules?  Are they reasonable?  Who wrote those rules?  Who enforces them?  Should those rules even exist?  What's so natural about the natural order and even if it is natural, does that make it good?

This isn't a problem just for women, but for gay people, black people, and anyone who doesn't fit the rules, or doesn't want to fit the rules but does out of fear.  Some people hate gay people, but the wider problem is the rule that men must have sex with and marry women.  I used to believe in that rule.  Then I stopped caring much if people broke that rule.  Eventually I wondered why that rule even exists.  Seems like a pointless rule.  Like so many.

Of course, accusing someone of following stupid social rules doesn't have quite the same ring to it.  Maybe it can.  Regnusantiquisphilia is a mouthful and doubtlessly grammatically incorrect, but it's a start.

The Karma Flip

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013
People don't like being misled.  Except when it's part of a mystery or thriller or the surprise twist ending, that sort of thing.  But that's beside the point, which is that people don't like being misled.  Shouldn't misleading people therefore count as a villainous action in games that feature karma meters?

There is lying, of course.  [Speech check] is available at times.  Yet it's rarely more than a single event.  Someone's son died and you lie and say they ran away from home.  And that's it.  It's petty villainy.  It's on par with shooting their dog on the way out.  It shows that you're bad, but it's not quite evil.

What we need is truly evil misleading.  What we need is the Karma Flip.  What is that, you ask?  Well obviously I'm going to explain it.

It's one thing to be an outside enemy.  The other soldier is your enemy, but he's polite enough to wear a uniform and sometimes there's a ceasefire and you have tea together.  He's the visible enemy.  You might not know he's coming, but you know he exists and means you harm.  It's comforting when you know who you have to shoot to make the world a better place, or at least to make the world a place with fewer people trying to kill you.

Then there are the spies, the traitors, the double agents.  They're worrisome.  You suspect they exist, but you're not sure where.  Or who.  They wear uniforms, but often they are your own.  They may even appear to be friends.  These are the people that you don't shoot because that's too quick.

For these spies and traitors, every kind deed leading up to the betrayal is no longer a kind deed.  Rather, it is the opposite: it is the deception that allowed the betrayal.  From the post-betrayal perspective, the kitten you petted wasn't you being nice, rather it was you pretending to be nice.  And for all we know you put poison in its fur to kill the next person to pet the kitten.

That's the Karma Flip: the post-reveal reinterpretation of previous positive karma actions.  With this mechanic the karmic effects are not purely additive.  Saving an orphan may give positive karma, but that doesn't negate your decision to plant a bomb in an orphanage.  Instead, the orphan-saving is now a villainous action, part of your evil plan to infiltrate the orphanage.

Conversely, what seemed to be bad actions may be slightly negated by the revelation of goodness.  Maybe you stole that bottle of water (a capital offense in many games), but you gave it to a dying orphan.  Or maybe a child's parents so he'd not become an orphan.  Maybe you insulted your guests to escape a party, but you were the only one who knew and could stop the truly evil plot to release the insane prisoners while showering the city in fear gas.  Of course in that last example it's of no help, because Batman is a hero while Bruce Wayne is just a douchebag who makes fun of Batman.


Factions are the enemy of the character

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013
"Terrible things!"
"Awfulness!"
"And then... a hero!"
"The hero is you, or at least is supposed to be, if you're not bad, but I hope you get my point!"

I'm going to go ahead and say that there are two types of dangerous worlds.  In one type of dangerous world there are bad guys and you will kill them.  Maybe the bad guys are being opposed by good guys and you're breaking a stalemate.  Despite this, it's clear that you're the hero, because you're why the good guys won.  You aren't merely helping people, you're Saving the Day.

In the other time there are two or more factions.  Maybe some are better than others, in the sense that they better fit your own personal code or in the sense that the developers clearly intend for you to think they are the good guys.  Despite this, the plot isn't a clear Good vs. Evil.  Rather, it is a struggle between factions.  They are deadlocked.  Since good always wins, logically this means that the factions are of insufficiently differentiated Goodness or Badness.  They're blue and orange rather than black and white: possibly opposites, but that doesn't make one better than the other.

In the first you may struggle with your own demons, but ultimately you go along the Path of Goodness and Heroism and are Totally Awesome.  Essentially it is about you and your character.  Those demons you struggle with, those are part of the story and they help create complexity and contrast with your eventual Being a Good Hero.  If you prefer, you can flip this over and make everything about Being an Evil Villain, such as if you're playing as a Sith or Austria.  Ultimately, it is about you picking a path and punching anyone who interferes, though not without first being tempted by their ideas and offering to subscribe to their newsletter, before determining that it is filled with lies.

When there are factions, even when one seems a little or a lot better than the other, you're not the hero picking a path, but rather you're just someone signing up for a side.  You may be important to the success of that side, but you're not the hero of the story.  You don't win; the faction wins.  Your struggles are therefore secondary.  At worst, they may just look stupid.  When struggling with evil you expect a struggle.  When picking a faction, any straying just makes you either indecisive or treasonous.  Neither of those are particularly sexy personality flaws.  Those are traits given to annoying side characters and villains, not heroes.

This all leads me to a mystery question: What if there are two (or three) factions, and myself?  I'm thinking of Fallout: New Vegas, which I picked up again recently.  While I'm guessing most Westerners would identify more closely with the NCR than the Caesar's Legion, neither side is unambiguously good or evil.  Mr. House does not strike me as good or evil, but entirely neutral on the concept of morality.  If you pick a faction, what you're doing is picking a faction and supporting it.  You're great and all, but once the faction wins the Big Battle, your story is over.  Maybe that's because it's easier to write an ending slideshow than to rescript the whole world to account for the changes.  Or maybe it's because, despite supposedly being the solitary badass, you're not much of anything without the factions.

Yet there is the fourth option: win.  Not help others win, but win yourself.  Crush your enemies, neutralize challengers, take your land, and declare your independence, backed with the firepower to repel any invaders.  You might take the exact same path the entire way, fight every previous battle just the same way, do every side quest the same way, talk to everyone the same way, and yet at the very end you make a single defining choice to back yourself rather than any faction.  This leads me to wonder if I was wrong at the start of this post.  Maybe the character was always being developed, fighting demons, making decisions, and yet because some join a faction, we ignore their development and focus instead on the faction.

I want even my bad people to be good

| Monday, April 29, 2013
If you've not seen American History X, I recommend seeing it rather than reading this post.

I liked the main character of Derek (the neo-Nazi), even before he renounced racism.  He was racist and a murderer, yet he was not a valueless sociopath.  He was a someone trying to be a good person, to do the right thing, but with a distorted view of what the right thing was.  He wasn't just some punk using violence and hatred to fit in.

I have a few examples.  Decide for yourself if this is merely selective perception.  After the murders he makes no attempt to run away from the police or fight back.  Was it because they were white or because he knew he was caught red-footed?  Either way, he was demonstrating that he wasn't purely a violent individual.

When in prison he reprimanded the other neo-Nazis for smoking pot.  I'm not opposed to the practice, nor do I think his explanation that "weed is for niggers" is sound logic, but he had some idea of right and wrong.  Despite it making him stand out and perhaps even being dangerous, he did not hide or hide from his values.

He was still a bad man, a violent, murdering, racist, but he was a high-quality bad man.

I was reminded, though not in quite the same way, with the character of Buck in Far Cry 3.  He bought slaves.  He was violent and worked for an even more violent person.  He manipulated the main character to get what he wanted.

That was all fine by me.  He was a villain and didn't make any effort to pretend otherwise.  I dislike it when people pretend to be something that they are not.  And thus, I hated him in the end.

It's funny to me what sort of behavior I'll let slide as long as someone is the villain.  Rape.  Murder.  Kidnapping.  Torture.  All in the name of some strange interpretation of capitalism (perhaps he's an Objectivist).

Yet at the very end he betrayed his word to the protagonist.  That's not right!  Murder me out of nowhere, fine, but don't make a deal and back out on it.  Hell, string me along and leave no ambiguity about your intention to betray me, but don't do this "I'm just a capitalist making a deal" crap and then redefine the terms at the end.  I never want to think that my problems would be better solved with a lawyer than a gun.

Maybe that's why I liked Vaas.  He was a straightforward insane sociopath.  He never told a lie.  If you felt deceived it was entirely due to your own misunderstanding of the situation.  I appreciate a bit of honesty in a villain.

Evil on the other side of the coin (Bioshock spoilers)

| Tuesday, April 16, 2013
This post has Bioshock Infinite spoilers.  You might want to finish the game.  Then wait a while to sort it out in your head a bit.

Booker DeWitt is an evil man.  Or at least he was.  Let's begin at the beginning.

We first know him as a man who appears to be kidnapping a girl to get rid of gambling debts.  Or maybe it's a rescue.  Or a rescue into a worse confinement.  He never asks.  I'm curious what would have happened if he'd managed to fly her to New York.  Or Paris.  But those realities are all destroyed...

He committed atrocities at Wounded Knee.  You could say that he felt bad about it.  But what did he do about it?  Nothing, except one time make it worse.  This is where he splits.

In one split he's Booker DeWitt.  He follows up his Wounded Knee experiences with some violence against workers, so much that even those who employ people like him couldn't tolerate it.  He drinks too much, gambles too much, and eventually sells his daughter to get rid of his debts.  Now you might be thinking about how he regretted it and then rescued her.  He only regretted it.  As for rescuing her, he did not!  When he goes to the other reality, what does he remember?  His daughter vanishes and instead he's a kidnapper.  He rescued his daughter by accident, or at best by the nudging of a trans-reality physicist.  Left to himself he'd probably have just ended up dead by some means or another.  This is the nice version of him.

His other self accepts God.  He is reborn as Zachary Comstock.  This person is evil, but the evil on the other side of the coin.  Rather than destroying himself with self-loathing, he turns it outward.  Rather than hate himself for his atrocities, he revels in them, proclaims them, and furthers them.  He fully embraces, not God, but himself.  It's a wonderful irony that the False Prophet is him.

His daughter is lost, again by his own hand.  He's rendered himself sterile by his abuse of technology.  So what does he do?  He steals her, from himself.  He steals her from the self who had wallowed in his guilt rather than turning it to pride and feeding on it.  That's the split.  While both are evil, one lets it destroy him, while the other takes it as a source of power and turns it against the world.

Despite kidnapping her, he still does not have his daughter.  He cannot, for he is not a man of love.  He cannot nurture her.  Instead he locks her away and makes her only friend her warden as well.  When she gets out he tortures her and turns her into a monster.

In the end it is not sufficient to only kill Zachary Comstock.  He's not the only evil one.  Instead they must both die.  Yet, can we call it a happy ending?  I don't think so.  He is still the man who killed so many at Wounded Knee.  That past was not erased.  He is therefore still the man with the ability to sell his daughter to pay off a debt.  The next time he does it, will he have the benefit of transdimensional physicists and a daughter who can pick and choose reality?

Another Torture Quest

| Monday, August 20, 2012
Maybe Blizzard learned from the torture quest in Borean Tundra.  For context, it was a quest in which you're tasked by some mages, who are themselves not allowed to use torture, with torturing information out of a prisoner.  Some people were not happy with this quest, giving us no choices or options, only requiring us to go ahead with the torture, or abandon the quest and the many that followed.

There is another torture quest, added with Cataclysm in the Northern Barrens.  Though that's not the right term.  It's an interrogation quest.  Note the word choice.  Interrogate. The goal of the quest is to get information and it can be done by means which do not involve the use of a neural needler.

Here are the summaries, if you hate clicking on links:
Librarian Normantis on Amber Ledge wants you to use the Neural Needler on the Imprisoned Beryl Sorcerer until he reveals the location of Lady Evanor.
- Prisoner Interrogated
 Question the nearby Razormane prisoner. If he's not there or unconscious, Togrik can revive him for you.
 - Razormane Prisoner Interrogated


Both use interrogated in the quest completion part, but the brief descriptions have a different way of phrasing it.  The Borean Tundra quest only mentions, specifically mentions, the torture device.  In contrast, the Barrens quest gives the more general word of question.  And it means it.

You get five options at first.  One is the predictably ineffective choice of demanding to know who is leading the Quilboar.  Second and third options are punching and kicking.  Fourth is to give food and the fifth is tickling.  All of these options work.  In fact, the last two options, the non-violent ones, work faster.  Apparently no one can resist tickling or criticizing food.  You even get a buff based on the actions you take, though the 'nice' buff isn't very useful.

I wonder what the extra development effort is for this compared to a few jabs of a neural needler.  I suspect it's not a terrible increase in effort.  Enough to not do it for every quest, but I think not so much that it cannot be done more often.  It's only a small change, with no impact on the quest text or rewards.  But small changes, small choices, are important to players, especially when we've got a neural needler and a willfully blind mage.

Intellect is not a rogue stat. Did you know that?

| Friday, July 27, 2012
Imagine that in your group there is a rogue in full heirlooms buy whose damage is terrible.  Upon inspection, he is in all caster gear.  An intellect robe drops.  He rolls need.
If you respond by kicking the rogue, then you're looking a lot like the person who was yelling at me (in the original intro, someone yelled at me)(omg beyond the scenes of the making of Troll Racials are Overpowered)(Original name: Lucas Starkiller)

Here's my pet peeve: Not explaining problems.

Let's look at that rogue again.  Is he a noob?  It certainly looks like it.  Note that he is a noob, not a ninja, at least it does not appear so.  Based on the gear he had and the gear he tried to get, it appears that he does not know that intellect is worthless for rogues.

Either that or he's obsessed with style.

Whichever it is, the important thing is to talk to him, rather than just shoving him off into a new group of victims.  Explain, politely, that intellect is worthless to rogues, that agility is a much more useful stat.  If that is unconvincing, invite him to mouse over his character sheet where it describes the primary stats, with emphasis on the part that says "Intellect: Provides no benefit to your class".

Alternatively, if he insists that he needs it for style or transmog, then explain the problems with that. Transmog is obvious: you can't transmog leather for cloth appearance.  Style, well that's trickier.  You'll need to carefully explain that rogues go for a leather-based style with dark colors and maybe knives, rather than flowing robes.  If he insists on dressing in robes, avoid using homophobic slurs (seriously, not cool) and instead use tribalistic cultural appeals, similar to why your company insists on a dress code and you don't let your children get their eyelids pierces.  The important thing is to talk it over first.

The wrong thing to do, and I don't just mean "impractical" wrong but "you're a sociopathic menace to society" wrong, is to simply kick them.  That puts the burden on another group without solving the problem.  Instead the rogue is likely to think that you're an asshole.  And maybe that everyone is an asshole, "Why do people keep kicking me?  This game is filled with assholes.  Well fuck them, I'm ninjaing everything!  I bet that druid won't like it when I take his agility gear!"

In defense of insanity

| Thursday, December 22, 2011
Blizzard's writers have a standard way of making new bad guys: take some good guys and make them go insane. Violin: bad guys. This method is criticized for being lazy and formulaic. I disagree. The nature of the Warcraft universe requires that any true enemies be either innately evil or have been corrupted/gone insane.

Look at it in context. Within the real world greed is a powerful driver. It pushes people to do stupid or evil things. But how powerful can greed really be, in the Warcraft universe? In the real world, greed can get you killed. That's nothing in Warcraft. In that universe, greed can get you tortured for all eternity, and I don't mean "I read in a book that if I am greedy I'll get tortured for all eternity", I mean that you have literally seen demons and magic and know quite well that eternal torture is a strong possibility.

When there are forces that seek to unmake reality itself, everyone is on the same side. This idea first came to me from the Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card, my number one writer for veiled homophobic writing. In the series the hero is in a fight against the Unmaker, a being who seeks to unmake everything, somewhat reminiscent of the Burning Legion. A wise old man tells Alvin that even Satan, the obvious enemy of God, would on his side in this, because Satan wants to rule something. Even evil hates chaos.

From this perspective, we can see how it makes no sense at all to ally with the Burning Legion. There is no reason to trust the demons. Given their propensity for cruelty, it is not hard to imagine them turning on all their allies and destroying them as well. Any alliance is merely putting off the day of personal horribleness while increasing the chances of it coming. It would be like guaranteeing you won't get cancer today by taking a drug that doubles you risk of cancer tomorrow.

One cannot ally with chaos, one can only join chaos. Think of when you see a protest. The protestors are thinking of a cause, a reason. You may disagree with them, but odds are, they are sane. Now contrast that with a riot, of broken windows and arson and police being attacked. Are those people thinking or considering the costs and benefits of throwing a rock through a window? No. They are chaotic. They are, temporarily, uncontrolled, inhuman, and insane.

Think of Kael'thas, who had once sacrificed everything to protect his people, and who then joined the Legion. It could be nothing less than corruption of his very nature, insanity. There is no future for his people in the Legion. Similarly, the Lich King could not be just an angry prince who went a bit too far. He had to be corrupted because only that would allow him to turn against his father, kingdom, and the very world. Merely being a little less empathetic and a little more fanatical would not do the trick. The Scarlet Crusade is another group which is not merely extremist, but entirely out-of-touch with reality. They would not otherwise attack anyone on sight as Scourge (note that I did not say "possible" or "suspected").

Beside the enemies, think of our own actions. When the world is at risk of ceasing to exist, are we going to quibble over small matters? We may argue strategy or tactics, but when there is a demonic army coming, it's not so important whether there is a troll standing over there. We're not going to go raid Stormwind just because Varian talked some smack while Deathwing is cataclysmizing the world.

On the other hand, there is also the "really stupid, short-minded idiot" method, of making someone a threat to the world not because they are evil or in league with evil, but because their sheer stupidity is threatening survival: for example, Garrosh and other orcs who kept picking fights during the campaign in Icecrown. I wouldn't call them evil, but we'd definitely have been better off killing them before they could do any more damage.

Either way, we're not likely to be flying off to a raid against a reasonable person with whom we have a legitimate disagreement.

What's so gay about gay marriage?

| Tuesday, November 1, 2011
I'm not sure who this post is aimed at, maybe social conservatives, but I don't think many read my blog. So let's classify this like most posts of this sort: someone shouting into the void and wondering if it hears.

I'm trying to puzzle through opposition to gay marriage. I suppose the root of it is the belief that gay sex is an abomination. Fine, let's run with that and say that we want to stop gay sex. Does blocking gay marriage stop gay sex?

Well let's see, do single people have sex? Yes. Straight and gay, single people have sex. Marriage is an ineffective abstinence-enforcer.

But maybe if we all just firmly believed in the sanctity of marriage and purity and all accepted a moral framework that says no sex until marriage, then it might work. But if we're going to create an imaginary world where everyone believes in the exact same code of behavior, then why not just imagine a world with no gay people, like they do in Iran (true story, there are no gay people in Iran.)

Unfortunately for you, social conservatives, people have sex outside of marriage, so blocking gay marriage does not stop their abominable activity.

Or is the sex a lost cause and the goal is just to not legitimize gay sex? Legitimize it for whom? The gay people don't seem to have much problem with it either way. You won't accept it either way. So who is going to think "oh hey, they're married now, I guess all that gay sex they've been having is okay; maybe I'll have some too"?

Maybe the goal is to stop the spread of gayness? Marriage is a strong argument for adoption, and if gay people start adopting children, they might convert them. I'm not quite sure how that happens. Maybe gay people have gay bedtime stories. It couldn't be some sort of sexual act, since there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia, unless they're just really good at hiding it, but given that you've already caught one sexual deviation, they probably aren't.

It seems to come down to this: gay marriage must be stopped because gay people might adopt and read theoretical gay stories to their children, thereby causing there to be more gay people, until one day straight people are a minority and are forced to breed just to make more gay babies, all the while being mocked for their sexual deviance. I'd hate to live in a world where straight people are attacked and oppressed for having the wrong kind of sex.

Running with the gay bedtime stories theory of gayness, I must wonder, where did all the gay people come from in the first place? Some studies put the number around 10%. That's a lot of gay bedtime stories. Surely we'd have noticed 10% of children being forced to read gay bedtime stories, especially since those children were all raised by straight parents. Are gay people sneaking into their rooms after the parents leave and reading them two gay stories to cancel out the presumably straight one read by the straight parents? That is a terrifying thought.

Maybe these sneaky gays are responsible for other events as well. Maybe they steal socks out of the dryer and unzip our flies right before we present at meetings. Maybe they are the reason bottles empty so quickly and checks bounce. Clearly gay people are not mere homosexual humans, but are actually poltergeists.

Let me go on the record and say that I am against poltergeist marriage.

My point is that I find opposition to gay marriage to be absurd.

Morality doesn't all win the same way

| Monday, August 15, 2011
They have always connected the two which lead to players having to decide whether they want to roleplay or win the game; an interesting, but completely unfun decision.
- Nils commenting at Procrastination Amplification

Why is winning separate from roleplay? Or if you don't like that term, try choice of play or style of play. It doesn't make much sense. Would a Light character win the same way as a Dark character? Of course not. But beyond that, they'd define winning differently. For Palpatine it was dominance over the galaxy while for Luke it was freedom and protecting his friends.

Perhaps win isn't even the right word. Success. Goal completion. Different people have different goals. President Obama and Speaker Boener have a conflicting goal regarding the 2012 election. They have a shared goal in economic recovery, but their methods will be very different. So even for the same goal, the same winning condition, we see significantly different methods.

The win condition should not be a single absolute in a game with morality or other types of choice, but should instead be based on how the player plays. This could be done in a sandbox way, by allowing greedy players to get rich and murderous players to kill while altruistic players protect everyone. But sometimes people like their credit roll or victory screen. At the least it confirms that they've done what they thought they had, which in the specific case of "kill everyone" can be difficult to determine if the victims move around a lot.

Let's try the example of the Civilization series. There are definite winning conditions, all of which give a win (duh), but in different ways. The key part is that you win by playing well in the way you choose to play. Science victories come from technological progress while cultural victories come from cultural gain. You wouldn't get a conquest victory from either method, but instead from a different way: killing everyone.

Applying this to a gear-centric, or even just gear-using, MMO is not as easy. If you're +3 Light and your decisions tend to keep you there and there is a nice +4 Light cloak, the game would have to somehow not cause you to want the +4 Light cloak. Otherwise there is incentive to play away from the character's personality in return for reward, which is often not much fun.

The different Shades (Light-Dark) of gear could boost stats or behaviors related to actions which cause that Shade. For example, maybe a player does a little too much theft to be +4 Light, so the +3 Light cloak helps with theft, but less than a +2, and much less than a -4 Dark. But this carries many problems. For one, there are multiple reasons for a Shade and not all of them are stats to be boosted. Maybe a player has a murder but no theft, so the +3 Light cloak with added theft is useless.

Light-Dark power costs could be one source, with a Light Side and a Dark Side energy pool, each supplemented by gear. A +4 Light player would have little to gain from a +3 cloak that mixes mostly Light with a little Dark, while the +3 Light player would not want to lose the bit of Dark energy, and the flexibility, from going to a +4 Light cloak. Unfortunately this solution lends itself heavily toward gear/stat-obsession, but even worse, is really damn boring.

P.S. Yes, this is tagged Star Wars Galaxies. That's the tag I have and I'm sticking with it, search engines be damned.

Killing as a political tool or Watering the Tree of Liberty

| Sunday, January 9, 2011
Now and then I hear references to 'watering the tree of liberty with blood', meaning that freedom has a price and we must remove corruption. Exorcise it. It makes me laugh, and sigh, and cry, to hear it.

This was originally a much longer post. I decided to trim most of it and just go with my point, with no distracting tangents, except one that I think must stay, or maybes or well but also thises.

There will always be politicians with whom we disagree, or I disagree, or you disagree. How we handle that inevitability is important.

I'm slowly making a list of factors which make some countries inevitably better than others: richer, more advanced, more free, safer. One of these is treatment of women. As a general rule, the better women are treated, the better a country will be. Any intelligent person whose mind isn't poisoned can see that suppressing 50% of a population doesn't just make us lose potential from them, but from the other 50% as well. Slavery has similar corrupting effects.

Another factor is not killing people with whom we disagree. It sounds almost trivial. What do you mean, we don't kill people just for having other opinions? It sounds like basic civility, doesn't it? Yes! Exactly!

Violence is mutually assured destruction of ideas and civilization. It's not a beautiful idea, but mediocre stability beats anarchy and chaos.

Would you rather live in America or Ivory Coast? Britain or Sudan? Canada or Iraq? There are many factors that separate those countries, but one of the biggest is government stability, and there is no stability when there is murder. Even our chaotic, constantly turning over and flipping Congress and Executive are solid rock compared to the second countries on those lists.

I'm not saying I don't wish that the Hitlers of the world weren't all dead, but we need to recognize that Hitlers are pretty hard to identify. How many people even saw Hitler coming? What we can do is damage control. We can limit power, debate, argue, march, yell and scream and throw back the tear gas canisters, but killing fixes very few problems compared to the number it creates.

Or in short form: Political killing gets us nowhere.

The Morality of Cooking

| Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Why do we have recipes? Why don't we all make up entirely new recipes? Why do we blindly accept the recipes of our parents with only a few changes here and there to suit new ingredients? Why do some never change recipes?

Who cares, let's talk about morality.

Our favorite social said this today
"Dangerous", "counterproductive" are measurable. "Moral" is not. It's merely a rephrasing of "my mum/teacher/priest thought it's right and told me when I was a kid and I never had the brains or time to question it".


As you can see, what we have here is someone who cannot see that morality comes in three flavors: shit someone made up, practicality that you can't yet see, and outdated ideas. This is a slight oversimplification, since these can blend and merge; an outdated idea may be resurrected and combined with shit someone made up to create a hybrid idea of unique uselessness.

Shit someone made up can covers things like religious justifications for racism. It's not a useful idea and it never was. Instead it's just shit that someone made up.

Outdated ideas are moral codes which were useful at a time but are no longer needed. For example, food restrictions, such as avoiding pork or certain seafood, can help avoid disease which was not always easily prevented or treated. These days we know how to cook properly, thanks to recipes, fire, and not wandering in a desert for 40 years or 40 generations or 40 generations of 40 years. 40 something.

Then there is practical morality. This I define as prevention for actions which trigger harmful or wasteful results. That made no sense, did it? Let's try theft for an obvious one to demonstrate the principle. Why should I not steal? Well first off, the theft may involve property damage, a harmful or wasteful result. But I can steal without causing damage, so that's insufficient. Instead the problem is that theft encourages wasteful responses: barbed wire fences, bars over windows, and rental cops. These are entirely worthless except for stopping thieves, so the thieves have not merely taken what was not theirs, they have also triggered a wasteful response.

This could be extended further, to cover things like fraud, lying, murder, war. All of these trigger unproductive responses as we try to protect ourselves from these actions. We might even venture into the production world and regulate toasters to ensure that they do not frequently catch fire, since such an object would trigger the otherwise unproductive response of men in rubber suits spraying water on houses.

This leaves out something important: what is productivity? In response I shall wave my hand, say "something about happiness", and claim that's for another day.

Short version: there's more to morality than blind adherence to pointless rules taught by the previous generation.

Now to tie in the cooking. We use recipes because previous generations have figured out practical ways to organize and cook foods. If we looked we could see all manner of practicalities behind the recipes; the way adding an oil to this otherwise fat-free food helps with absorption of vitamins in it, how a mix of beans and corn provides a better protein mix than either by itself, how cooking foods in certain ways will remove poisons and add nutritional value. These are old lessons which are useful. But ingredients change, so sometimes we need to tweak recipes. Maybe we don't have enough wheat flour, but oats in a blender can help substitute. And maybe the recipe for fried lard dipped in lard can be thrown out.

Right doesn't make Right

| Monday, November 8, 2010
Dear readers,
Reading skills are important. For example, you look like a total ass if you can't even read the name of who wrote what you're quoting in your post. I'm going to leave the error there, so as to not cause any confusion with the comments. Also because I don't believe that just because I can change my posts and comments to hide stupid carelessness, doesn't mean I should.

Tamarind, this was stupid and you know it.
As long as you remain within the terms of service, you have the right do do anything in the game which you are capable of doing within the game.


I'd like to introduce what I call "you get arrested by time-traveling police".

We've all heard the "might makes right" concept and most people can at least accept that this isn't true, even if in practical terms might tends to win. Less explicitly stated is the "legal makes right" concept, or in fitting with my title "right makes right". If you can do it, it must be okay.

With that kind of thinking we'd never have any laws. If X action is not illegal, then X action must be moral. All we have to do is go back to before laws, and X action can be anything. In other words, once upon a time "right makes right" would have justified an entirely law-free world. If you think you like this idea, keep in mind this gives anyone the right to kill you, rob you, rape you, torture you. Get the idea? Then let's try something that seems sensible: if something is moral, it shouldn't be illegal.

See where we're going? Yep, it's the good old circular logic. It's not illegal so it must be moral and because it's moral we shouldn't make it illegal.

But obviously we've not used this standard forever. At some point someone recognized that a legal action is possible immoral or dangerous to others (at the very least murder laws are practical, regardless of morality). So they made it illegal. Deviating from murder, which has always been considered bad except during war or religion, meaning never, but setting aside that contradiction, let's look at slavery. Slavery was once legal, and even considered by some to be moral, since Negros need a master or else they'd never see Jesus. But thankfully, someone, many people actually, saw that legality does not define morality, nor the reverse, and that therefore while slavery was legal, it was likely not moral. So eventually slavery became illegal and we renamed it capitalism. Joking. Maybe.

Along this line we can see that what we call legal now may be illegal in the future. And so come the time-traveling police. Their job is to arrest people for what is immoral but not yet illegal.

And to loop it all back around: just because you can do something doesn't mean you should and it doesn't justify it either. I can throw this teapot (it's next to my monitor) out my window and it will likely break. It is legal. It's also stupid and counterproductive. If someone needs the law to defend their actions, lacking any other defense, they're using quicksand as their foundation.

P.S. I acknowledge that morality is a vague, slippery thing on which people are unlikely to agree absolutely. That's not my main purpose here. Instead I wanted to address the idea that once something is legal, anything goes.

P.S.S. "I would really have thought the title being “Chas’ Take on Frostgate” would have given the game away…" - Tamarind

Virtual Morality and NPCs

| Sunday, June 27, 2010
Is it possible to be immoral in a virtual world?

Can we be immoral to a NPC?

What is a NPC? It is essentially a physical object in the virtual world. It acts and we interact with it, but it is ultimately a scripted object which exists for a purpose. Morality is hard to define, but in the case of NPCs, let's define immorality as violation or denial of purpose.

Taken strictly this would imply that it is immoral to not complete the quests of a quest NPC. But maybe the NPC exists to offer the quest and rewards, not necessarily to give the quest. That suggests that not talking to a quest NPC is immoral, which seems ridiculous. However morality rarely rests on a foundation of "don't be ridiculous", because if it did, then I'd be getting hit by lightning often enough to give America energy independence.

Let's rewind a bit: who is defining purpose? The developers define the purpose of a NPC, so logically it would seem that they could define the related morality. This is a big assumption, but I assume that the developer-gods wouldn't define an immoral action and have no punishment for it. However there is punishment for ignoring NPCs: loss of income, items, and reputation. It is clear that we are behaving immorally when we do not talk to, accept, and complete quests from NPCs. We are awful people.

There are of course other NPCs. Vendors exist to offer goods for sale. We visit them, but not all, which similar to the quest NPCs implies a massive subversion of purpose and therefore immorality. Trainers exist to provide spells, so as long as we have all our spells on that character, our morality is untainted. This suggests that perhaps we should apply the same to vendors, that if we have completed all our needs for buying and selling, that we have sufficiently interacted with vendors as a whole. This also means that if we leave a NPC area with our bags fuller than we'd like, that we are behaving immorally by denying the vendor his purpose. Guard NPCs are meant to fight, meaning they are meant to possibly die. The same goes for all hostile NPCs.

Can the vendor argument be applied to quest NPCs? Can we ignore their quests if our needs for quests are met? I do not think so, because as long as there is a quest, we have not yet completed all we can, so it remains immoral to ignore a quest giver.

By this reasoning, only Loremasters are anywhere close to moral, but even they fail to complete all daily quests. However this is inevitable as there are too many daily quests. This does not excuse them from all daily quests, but instead means they must seek out those quest givers most in need of offering. And here is where I must end, because I cannot say which quests are most needed. Are they the most recent quests, or are they in fact the least recent quests, those which have been neglected?

Let us pray on this to our developer-gods.
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