Forum Posts Following Followers
25 1117 203

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics in Gaming

------------------------------ This is a re-post from my old Gamespot profile I used a couple of years ago - YodaOfTheEmpire. ------------------------------ First off, let me state that by no stretch of the imagination am I a professor of philosophy. I have, however, studied and written enough exams on the subject to be able to get the gist of what a treatise is arguing. For any philosophy buffs, please forgive any dodgy phrasing, I've taken some liberty so as to keep it as simple as possible. I'd like to draw on Aristotle's philosophies on constructing an argument against the current state of multiplayer gaming. In particular, I'd like to make use of his conclusions on the concept of friendship. The short and long of it is that there are three types of friendship. These are: 1.) Friendship for Utility: Being friends with someone just to get something out of them. 2.) Friendship for Pleasure: Being friends with someone because of some pleasure they accord you. For example, enjoying someone's wit. 3.) Friendship for the Pursuit of Good: On a technical level this means to enjoy each other's virtue, but this may also be extended by spreading virtue (goodness) beyond the friendship and thus contributing to the greater good. Aristotle argues that friendship for Utility and Pleasure are both inferior to friendship for the Pursuit of Good, as they only rely on getting stuff out of the friendship whilst friendship for the Pursuit of Good is, well, good, since it gives not to get but just to give. Getting for this kind of friendship is just a bonus he or she doesn't consciously aim for. Now although gaming is not real life, and you're not jamming away at your console to make friends, I do believe there's a practical element to Aristotle's concept that can be applied to gaming. The current multiplayer model is, for the most part, based around the arena concept of randomly joining a battle/race/match and pitting your skills against a random bunch of players that you may never have played against before and don't even interact with through text chat. The vast majority of games follow this model, and a great many players who play these games take part in concerted multiplayer efforts such as Team Death match, Team Capture-the-flag, teaming up on the same EA sports title, making two or more separate RTS factions, or teaming up to down a dungeon boss both (or more) happen to be at. This form of gaming obviously falls into our first Aristotelian characterization of friendship Friendship for Utility and does absolutely nothing but help gain trophies/loot for its participants. Although shooting random players in the face with your trusty sidekick you just met four and a half minutes ago by the name of Anon_39 can be fun, it is, I believe, an inferior mode of multiplayer. But what of massively multiplayer online roleplaying games? If it is friendship you want, you say, why not subscribed to World of Warcraft and join some guild? First, let me stress that what I'm after isn't friendship in the purest sense I do not believe you should be looking to make friends in a virtual world. Yes, friendships can definitely be initiated from there, but for the most part you'll only be acquainted to a person's avatar, no matter how much you agree with their blogs. That is what I am aiming for, a friendship, nay, a fellowship of avatars held together by an epic quest. Before you jump to any conclusions I'm not talking about roleplaying a character. What I am proposing is a relationship of familiarity between players, whom are playing first and foremost because they want to play with someone they get along with. I am not talking about playing an MMORPG, either with a real life friend or someone you've met on the internet for this would be a Friendship of Utility and, most importantly, cannot under any game out there be claimed to be held together by an epic quest (more on this term in a bit). The next counterargument would be that if you want a virtual "fellowship" why not just join a MMORPG guild so as to enjoy the social aspect of it all whilst doing your own thing ingame? But this would be a Friendship of Pleasure, because you'd just be joining for the banter of guild chat. I'm sure every single MMORPG player has joined and dropped guilds at random at least a few times in his gaming career. This is not what we're looking for. What then is a Friendship of the Pursuit of Good in multiplayer gaming? It is not the completion of two thousand random quests with a friend to get to a grand total of 85 levels. It is not downing a raid boss with 50 guild members who have only banded together for the loot. And it is definitely not winning a FPS team death match. It is, quite simply, a co-op single player campaign consisting of (plus minus) two to five players spanning a single story, an epic quest (not a heap of unrelated quests) and dozens of hours. It is, in short, a quest that you and a few of your friends (whether they be real life or established PSN buddies) embark on not to see who gets the best loot or rating, but just to experience the enjoyment of completing the main storyline together. It is not a Diablo or something similar, because (apart from having way more story to begin with) the ideal format for this would be a RPG hence you and your friends would make decisions and it would change the course of your adventure. It also isn't SWTOR, since the story-arc won't be cut up for different types of characters and you'll only be able to progress as a group. It would be one story for a group of five or so friends that changes as they make collective decisions in their bid to rid the world of an evil necromancer/dragon/hoard of goblins. I've played a lot of multiplayer games and formats over the years, but to this day one of the best multiplayer experiences I've had was the co-op Lord of the Rings PS2 movie tie-ins. More than anything else, it was the idea of you and a friend being part of a quest an epic quest embodied by some great cause that made it fun. The ideal multiplayer for me would thus be a kind of Final Fantasy co-op of a handful of friends with RPG elements spanning 30 or more hours. The difficulty would scale and have a cap of say six players, so you don't have to fill the numbers with randoms. There would be an allowance of hours or parts that every character can miss, so the group doesn't get slowed down by someone being busy. Other tweaks would of course be needed, but I think on the whole that this would be good formula for multiplayer, and one that should at least be tried out. I doubt there would be anything cooler at least for RPGers than struggling through an engrossing storyline with a band of adventurers who also happen to be your friends. It would be a friendship whereby the virtue of familiar friends, and not the drive for loot or rank, would defeat the great threat to the goodness of its characters and the ingame world. I thus maintain that such a format of multiplayer one based on the concept of Friendship in the Pursuit of Good (for the ingame world) would be superior to those that we have available at present.