22 June, 2017

Alt-Facts in Gaming

I'm not going to mention names. I've seen the patterns repeated many times over the years, but a particular instance reminded me of it again this morning.

We've seen it across the world in many guises...anti-vaxxers using claims from celebrities derived from unsubstantiated data (or even data that has been deliberately debunked)...climate change denialists who point to one cold day as an argument against global warming...politics in the USA...

Someone will typically derive their opinion from their experiences, and when their experiences don't adequately match the situation they'll draw on the claimed experiences of someone they look up to. Opinions are like gut feelings, they don't have substantiated facts associated with them, they just resonate with a person and subversively ingratiate themselves into the psyche. Once embedded, they're hard to get rid of.

The specific instance I noted this morning involves people's experiences with games. Particularly the Old World of Darkness by White Wolf, which has been getting a bit of attention recently due to the pre-alpha playtest going around, and the general development to a new version of the game. A few people commented in the ways I'm thinking.

One person basically claimed that LARP wasn't for them because the one experience they had involved a bunch of posers sitting around discussing existential angst in character, and they were booted from the game when they decided to spice things up and make their own fun. I had a similar experience in my own first LARP but I could see something more in it, a potential that one group hadn't seemed to grasp...so I sought out other LARPs to see if it was a common problem with the format, or just with that particular group. I didn't just st throw in the towel and say that no LARP was for me based on one bad experience.

In a related comment, someone said that they hated the revised version of the Old World of Darkness because "everything" was done by the supernaturals...any globe shattering incidents or innovations were the result of the Vampires or the Mages... I dodn't remember this being the case at all, and at this point one of the original authors stepped in made a comment that agreed with my recollections, and I felt vindicated without needing to write a word. This part of the thread made me think that the first commenter had played a game of "classic" Vampire with a bad Storyteller but hadn't bothered to read the books or do further research. Instead they simply took the Storyteller's word as law and had a conception of the game based on a very distorted lens. Actual research and reading seems to hard for some people, so the opinions take hold based on alt-facts, and any claims to the contrary see a doubling-down.

I've seen it in the past with other games. I'm sure I'll see it again. I've seen the opposite, but this happens less often... if someone has a good experience with something they'll seek out more associated experiences. A good experience needs to be reinforced a couple of times before it becomes ingrained, and then poor experiences become dismissed as one-offs. But a good experience followed by a poor experience (or even a series of poor experiences) seems to prevent an overtly positive opinion forming.

I'm sure there is plenty of research into this whole phenomenon, probably in the field of psychiatry/psychology (while my studies so far have been in sociology, and thus more associated with how opinions might spread from person to person, or across social groups). Similarly, I'm sure I could write this concept into a game mechanism of some type...but what would the purpose be? What would the game be about, besides rampant nihilism?
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