Opinion on gay culture
switchbadger
( You are about to view content that may only be appropriate for adults. )

Different kinds of challenges.
switchbadger
I was reading a couple of posts on /r/rpg talking about logic puzzles being requested by players who wanted a small break from the usual roll dice and compare stats game and this got me thinking "What else can you do?"

As mentioned, digging up logic puzzles is always great. They usually require nothing more than pen and paper which you probably already have in front of you. An important thing to look at is how easy the puzzle is. If it's something that the average person can solve in a couple of minutes then you can use it in more urgent situations that the story hinges on. The harder puzzles that can take a good hour or so, maybe longer, leave those as branches. Don't stop the story for those. The players can come back when they have the answer. Monstrously difficult Sudoku might be a good example. Also experiment with timing the player solving it, starting with a bonus that slowly diminishes or a penalty if he takes too long.

There's always board games and card games. Have the characters bump into a gambling elf who pops open a back gammon board and lays a bag of 10 gp on the table. This is a chance to dig out those little betting games that you're good at. Fun way to let the characters spill some of that gold and loot they've picked up. Got a longer board game? I'm thinking Dungeon Petz. Let each round of Dungeon Petz be a week in your game and create a conversion for gold. That way they can transfer gold from one game to another. A very slow game of Pandemic on a smaller, custom map could be the entire drive behind your latest plot point! Don't be scared to pull other games into yours. Just always make sure how it fits in makes sense otherwise you might lose your players to the other game. Re-skinning the other game will always help.

It's very important to take into consideration what kinds of activities your players would enjoy. It's all fare and well to have a tennis match to represent wizards deflecting a spell back and forth but remember that most people didn't come to role playing day to play tennis. Announce these kinds of events in advance. Get feedback from the players first. They might even give some suggestions. Another subtler point is how you tie the two different events together. The tennis match might very well influence the game you've got going but unless your game also influences the tennis match it's going to feel very tacked on.

If you find that your game has lost it's spark and your weekly session is starting to feel more like a chore than a day of playing a game try change things around a bit. Almost any game can be role played with some imagination.

Choices, Their Consequences and Games
switchbadger
After watching an episode of Extra Credits on choices, my mind got to work on precisely that. So to continue what they were talking about I would like to point out a couple of things I've noticed.

As mentioned in the video above, there are two distinct and broad tasks given to a player in virtually any game.
The easiest and most prominent decision in the gaming industry as far as I've seen is the calculation. It's all the difference between taking a +5 sword and a +7 sword although often the decision is not as clear cut as that and requires some figuring out. Sometimes you don't get all the information so you have to make estimates and gamble but it's still a test of logic.
The other, fairly rarer, is the choice between two things that don't grant any real benefits to how quickly you achieve your goals but provide flavour as to the methods of achieving them. A prime example is picking your class and race at the beginning of an RPG. The classes and races are balanced and designed so that no combination provides a significant benefit above another but the differences between playing a mage and a warrior are very distinct.

Generally it is good to have combinations of these. Most players seem to become addicted to the calculations and honing their game play to become the best at what they're doing and it is possible to have very good games featuring nothing but these kinds of decisions but these kinds of games feature very little in the way of re-playability. The reason for this is because calculations offer progression while choices offer diversion. Within a single choice between three options lies the possibility of the game being played three times.

Sadly, there are too many instances in the industry where this power of re-playability has not been fully utilised. The main fault within many of these games is that regardless of what option you choose, within fifteen minutes time you are probably right where you would have been had you picked any other option. The choices don't have lasting meaning and without long reaching consequences, there is no point to replay the game to see how everything would have worked out otherwise. Alternatively, if there are any real outcomes they are usually minor and you don't feel any impact for making them. "The Duke's brother, who you failed to save, was unable to attend the 'You saved the world party.' Please shed a tear as the credits roll." performing these minor actions merely change the colour of the flowers in the final cut scene or, even worse, leave you with a cold statistic at the end saying "98% completed."

There is a perfectly legitimate reason as to why this doesn't happen though. Resources. If you take a big game like Dragon Age and factor in the players choices making significant changes to the end of the game you will virtually have to create an entirely new game for each choice available at the beginning. Then you are staring down pop-ups along the lines of "Please install DVD 4 for your choices." since each branch will require it's own cut scenes and graphic maps and what have you. The alternative is a very short game with many outcomes. Not necessarily a bad idea but sometimes you want to play for more than four hours. What the industry does seem to try at present is to create the illusion that your choices have long standing ramifications. While that's all well and good, the attempts so far have been rather easy to see through.

The other issue with alternate endings in games that do decide to include such things is that so often only one of the endings is really the happy ending. All other endings just feel like a game over screen and you try to navigate through the decision tree trying to find that golden branch. Usually when I play these I don't even get into my second attempt because the idea of having to play through the entire game again combing for some magical choice to make is not very thrilling.

What I propose is to actually have multiple good endings in which the players choices have a dramatic and significant influence on. Sure you may have saved the world but did you do so by fighting off the big bad or did you buckle down and endure it only to rise again and build a better world. Or did you sign up with the big bad, strike up unearthly bargains and rule over this world. All of those endings are worthy of the end credits and will leave the player with a sense of accomplishment. Regardless of which ending he had he will sit and think "I wonder what it's like to do things differently."
On that note, make sure that the endings are as different in game play as they are in story.

While these ideals might not be practically or economically feasible, I do like to dream on that one day we might be able to choose our cake,  have it and eat it.

A Revision of Player Types
switchbadger
Ok. So I've been doing a little more thinking about my classification of the three gamer types. While I see some mistakes I don't think it's entirely wrong.

One of the common criticisms I've been receiving is "These are not all the categories. There are more types."
Having read some of the recommended player categorising systems out there I noticed a key difference. A lot of those classifications are a measure of how people play. What exactly they enjoy doing in a game. I propose that my system is more of a "compatibility" rating.
I will accede to the casual gamer being a type that I did not think of. That being the person who plays the game, because the people they want to hang out with are the people playing the game, but would be equally happy at a dinner party with the same people. Examples include friends and relatives of the gamers "just giving this a try."

Another criticism I received is "Your over-simplistic and totalitarian boxes are aggressive and wrong."
To which I refer back to my first writing "Even more importantly, these are not clear cut boxes where you fit into one role and one role only. It's more of a gradient. There are people who are a perfect balance of all three types. Also realise that your mood can change which group you fall under."

So in the light of these observations I would like to redefine my categorisations in hopefully less "offensive" terms (third criticism) and with greater clarity.

Each person will have a score in each of the following three categories.
Strategist, actor and fool.
Your strategist score will indicate your preference to work with the rules, tactical issues and metagame content. How much or how little importance you place on things like your character sheet and dice rolling feature as an aspect of your strategist score.
Your actor score will serve to show how much emphasis you place on your characters background story, psychology and goals and aspirations as well as plot developement and the general storyline of the game.
Your fool score would suggest how much time you spend mucking around at the table in game or out and in character or out. Not to say that is a bad thing. Everyone enjoys a laugh.

Examples of the extremes:
100% strat, 0% Act, 0% Fool. The game is nothing but a sequence of numbers and probabilities to you. If your character has any identity it was probably forced upon you from an outside source and all humour from you is purely unintentional. Even chess has too much of a theme to go with this outlook. Checkers is purely abstract so that will suffice.
0% Strat, 100% Act, 0% Fool. You probably aren't even aware that this game has rules. This entire time you've been playing has been a long excerise in your ability to be another person and immerse yourself into an imaginary world.
0% Strat, 0% Act, 100% Fool. "I cast 'Magic Cabbage of Immense Leprosy' at the barman!" but you're actually playing a Star Wars campaign... And you're no where near a barman.
So a completely balanced player would have 33% in each score. That doesn't make them the best player. It just means they work with the rules, act in character and joke around in equal parts.

As for how this is a measure of compatibility, I would propose that an 80% actor would probably enjoy playing in an 80% acting game with other 80% actors.
An 80% actor will put considerable effort into their back story and work on how to behave like their character and they will be considerably disappointed if the most meaningful question they're asked is "What's your DEX score?"
Whereas an 80% strat would work hard on creating an interesting combination of abilities and skills but would probably build resentment if his fantastic "Time Phasing Dodge" ability was used just to navigate the 80% Fool game's "House of Flying Pies of No Real Consequence."

This is not to say a 10% strat player can't play in a 70% strat game. They must just expect the game to be as much and respect the other players, particularly the GM trying to run it, and try his best to act as much of a 70% strat gamer as possible. It should also be the GM's responsibility to inform the potential players of what type of game it will be.

Know your limits and know what you're getting into. Not all games or players are the same.

Types of Role Player
switchbadger
As long as I've been playing role playing games I've witnessed more than my fair share of tensions between players. Not because of what they did in the game but more because of how they did it. Wondering where all these clashes come from I sat down, stared at a bunch of gamers, had a good think and came up with this observation. There are three types of gamers and most of them aren't even fully aware of the others.

The Strategist
Probably one of the most numerous players around. They tend to see the role playing game as an overly complex game of chess and commonly try to build the most scarily powerful characters they can by manipulating combinations in the rules. Pure strategists would probably come up with all the statistics about a character first and then try tack on a back story "because they have to" and that often feels contrived to the actors. Rules lawyers abound in this category. Strategists would probably be equally happy playing a dungeon crawl board game instead of a fully fledged RPG.

Typical Description of Character: "I play a level 15 monk who gets +11 to attack rolls. I'm also immune to fire damage..." ~shows you 4 page character sheet~

Commonly playing: Dungeons and Dragons.

What they think of
  • The Actors: "Cut the emo whining and just hit the monster!"
  • The Fools: "Stop it. Just stop it! You're going to make us lose."
The Actor
Most female players I've met are of the actor/actress persuasion. Actors and actresses tend to view the game as a personal stage in which to play out their stories. An actor will almost always write out a character history and come up with their personality long before going anywhere near the dice and character sheet and sometimes before even knowing the rules. There are two subgroups in this field, that I've noticed. The first is the realist trying to create characters that seem like ordinary people that you would expect to bump into on the street. The second, and more common, is the dramatist who will come up with very exotic character personalities and often stack extremes of archetypes.

Typical Description of Character:
Realist "I play Oliver, a tired mechanic struggling to get by and support a daughter coming off a drug habit."
Dramatist "I'm Lady Cassandra, a 20-something girl that grew up on the streets, was frequently taken advantage of so I learned to manipulate everyone and have it my way. I also went crazy and developed dissociative identity disorder to cope with..."

Commonly playing: World of Darkness

What they think of
  • Strategists: "Burnt pancakes have more depth than you."
  • Fools: "Yes, great. You have a radioactive nostril. Why are you alive?"

The Fool
Fools flit in and out of various groups acting as the comic relief and often they are nothing but comic relief. They tend to view the game as a setup up for a long list of punchlines they have prepared. The fools character will often revolve solely around one bizarre or silly ability. The fools are also the ones who will typically get the most enjoyment out of a  mixed group game since the other types of players don't step on their toes too much.

Typical Description of Character: "I use magic to shoot ponies! No, not shoot at ponies. Shoot ponies at you!"

Commonly playing: Dungeons and Dragons, Paranoia, Feng Shui.
 

What they think of
  • Strategists: "But why is it funny?"
  • Actors: "Why so serious?"

Now none of these types of player are better than any other. It's just an issue of compatibility. What is often frustrating is when the game master is of one type and the players are of another. If you really want a recipe for disaster let an actor run a game for a fool and a strategist. Even more importantly, these are not clear cut boxes where you fit into one role and one role only. It's more of a gradient. There are people who are a perfect balance of all three types. Also realise that your mood can change which group you fall under. Some fools may calm down and be a really good actor when their mood is just right. I know I can play any of these roles but I need to be warned in advance but I do prefer playing as an actor. Nothing is worse than fleshing at a character that an actor would be proud of only to find out your game is being run by a strategist who brushes all your wonderful story under the rug.

It is the responsibility of the GM to inform potential players which type of player their game will be appropriate for and it is the responsibility of the player to know what type of player they are and not to join games that they can't line up with.

Just because that is how you play doesn't mean that is how everyone should play.

Vapours of Role Playing Rage
switchbadger
I'm not as aggro over stupid role players any more since I haven't role played with any for a very long time now. But every now and then I still get wonderful ideas on what to do to them. So here's a small collection of ideas I had.

Ray Of Synaptic Frost
An attack that causes the victim to not be able to gain any experience points for the next 2 to 8 game sessions.
This was designed with the intention of making players scared of the villains in games again.
It basically results in the following metagame dialogue:
Player: Do you expect me to die?
Villain: No, Mr PowerGamer. I expect you to not level up.

Burden of Guilt
This one will curb the enthusiasm of players who froth at the mouth to kill anything that moves for experience points. (Especially each other and important NPCs)
A permanent curse that attracts the souls of those killed by the person who is cursed. (Even if they kill it in self defense or by accident. If you really were a good person you'd disable it and run. I would still award experience for that.) Each soul haunts the character for one lunar cycle (a month) and steals 20% of all experience they gain while the spirit lingers. Let this penalty stack up to 5 times resulting in a 100% experience point penalty.
Dungeon Master: You just killed five creatures. That gets you 0 xp and you can't get any more xp for the next month.

The Tunnel of What You Wanted
This is actually a campaign.
All the characters start in the dead end of a long, perfectly straight tunnel. No further description of the tunnel is provided. None of the players have a backstory, physical description, gender or name. They refer to each other by their class and level. No in game descriptions of spells or actions are given. All communication is purely metagame statistics. At indeterminate yet identical spatial intervals down the tunnel are collections of traps and monsters. Randomly determine what they encounter based on the party level. When a trap or monster is destroyed there is a chance to convert loot into money and money into loot. No explanation of how this occurs. No limitations are set as to what loot my be bought or sold. The tunnel never ends. The challenges just get progressively more difficult and the game ends when all but one player has been killed. The remaining player is declared the winner.
Best played using DnD 4th edition.

And so ends todays splash of caustic venom. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

The Vagaries of Character
switchbadger
Ok so I've been browsing around on the internet and looking at all sorts of games and roleplaying related stuff. I now have a burning quest to point out something to people.
I caution now that there are spoilers to Iron Man 1, Coraline, Emperor's New Groove and Paranormal Activity

Outline of a good story.
It's a very basic formula but any good story revolves around "Character gets into trouble, character gets out of trouble."
Here's some examples:
Iron Man: Tony Stark gets screwed over by terrorists and has to build awesome things to get himself out.
Coraline: Little girl is kidnapped by evil-faerie-witch-woman-thing and must escape and free her parents and other kids.
Emperors New Groove: Kuzco is turned into a llama and must try become un-llama-ed.
Paranormal Activity: Random Couple is haunted by a thing and try get rid of it. (Eventually when the guy stops being a tard.)

So that's the premise of the movie. Let's look at something else critical about the characters at the start of the film.
Iron Man: Tony Stark is clever, rich man who wants to do human kind a service.
Coraline: Coraline is a bored kid who is trying to live a normal life and get attention from her parents.
Emperor's New Groove: Kuzco is self absorbed but ultimately useless and wants to build a pool.
Paranormal Activity: The very normal couple ultimately want to have a normal life.
Notice how they all actually want to do something.

Now let's take a look at the odds they face.
Iron Man: Great odds are against Tony as he relies on an alternate power source, that is depleting, to live while having to fight someone armed with every weapon he made.
Coraline: Evil-faerie-witch-woman-thing has trapped Coraline in another world and won't let her go.
Emperor's New Groove: Evil advisor Izma has placed a great distance full of scary and dangerous jungle between her and Kuzco.
Paranormal Activity: Evil haunty thing is seriously badass and dangerous. Completely invisible and intangible.
Notice here how overpowering the bad things are compared to the characters.

And finally lets look at how they get out of the trouble.
Iron Man: Using quick wit and some luck Tony just manages to build himself back up to power and kick some serious arse.
Coraline: Using quick wit, help from others and some luck Coraline manages to out smart the thingy woman and escape.
Emperor's New Groove: With the help of a new friend and some luck Kuzco manages to cross the jungle, get the antillama and stop Izma.
Paranormal Activity: Using not much wit, no help from others and remarkably poor luck the characters die.
Notice how when they did this you should be on the edge of your seat thinking "Holy crapola! Are they gonna make it?"

Now. When I'm trying to run a serious and immersive game there are two types of player that get to me.
1) I start the game as amazingly powerful and can do pretty much anything. And I'm a dark tortured soul.
or
2) I have a (wand/hat/disease/genital) that makes (rainbows/gravy/pidgeons/monkeys)!!! LOL!

The problems with these is that with option 1 you don't get that suspense with the story, wondering if the character will make it to the end. Instead of letting the story prove that they can do amazing things while being relatively normal we have... well... Imagine if Tony Stark was a telepath with telekinesis and could melt entire armies with his mind. Or if Kuzco could teleport and kill people by looking at them. It defeats the formula and thus makes a bad story. (And very short.) If the game master has fooled themself into thinking that these kinds of characters are good then the bad guys have to be even more overpowered and thus ruin any sense of connection one would feel with any of the characters because instead of "My character is a tired mechanic trying to pay off the house to shelter his girlfriend.", whom a lot of us can relate to to some degree, we have "My character is a walking apocalypse who likes entrails." who's mind we battle to get into and many of us don't care if he's happy or sad or dead.
If we side with option 2 you may be able to overcome the odds, despite being useless, but more often than not it's an excuse to "Fart on the lich king." Here the GM will either let the lich kill you because that's what would happen but then you complain and whine, or he takes pity on you, lets you survive and becomes annoyed by your character ruining the suspense that is supposed to build because you now have pity and stupidity protecting you from the big bad.

So what guidlines make a good character?
Start off with a normal person. Sure it might not be cool but it's someone you can relate to. More importantly, other people can relate to. A good character has the audience worried about them. Pick bits and pieces of people you know and stitch them together. Make them like dogs, be scared of thunder, like raspberries, own a collection of coins. (Maybe not even valuable ones) The trick is they must not be TEH AWESUMZORZ!!! LULULUL! or dark and brooding unstoppable forces. Next is give them motivation. Something a normal person would have. Living a normal life and paying the bills is always a great start. Improve on them and make them more memorable by being "That guy who's saving up to go to college." or "That chick who is trying to get her divorce finalised." If your character has no reason to get up in the morning why should they be up at all when you start playing them? Sure the GM will throw a story your way but your character hasn't been sitting at home their whole life waiting for this story. Frodo actually had friends and family and daily chores to do before he was sent to Mordor to nearly die. Also, let the story make you awesome. If you want to become a powerful and influential business man, don't start off like that. If you want to become a demon lord and rule over a circle of hell, let your character get that gole as the game progresses. No normal shop assistant actually aspires to that without realising that there's a chance and realising that chance is a pretty amazing thing. Worth roleplaying actually. What's more interesting? A powerful CEO with government ties that can organise anything or someone trying to become that CEO? Finally, being different is only special if you're the only different one. A party of a fire-elemental, a psychic elf ranger and a ogre necromancer is special as a group but no individual is special because they're all equally exotic. If you stuck a human farmer in there he/she would then be the special one because of how normal they are.

So to wrap I give you this summary.
Don't start with an awesome character. Develope an awesome character.

Violence and Your Games
switchbadger
Today I type up a little gripe! It's something that has been nagging at me for several years and the chewy pain of it is getting a bit much. The topic: Gaming.
More precisely violence in games...
I want less of it.

Now! I'm not one of those monkeys leaping up and down waving a picket chanting "VIOLENCE BAD!" like some frantic mother who wants Gandhi for a child.
I'm one of those standing outside the game dev company buildings, peering in through the windows, whimpering occasionally, as people walk past, "Variety good?"

My gripe lies with the fact that I'm bored with hacking, slashing and fireballing umpteen-million little ugly things with the occasional big ugly thing thrown in. It's fun now and then yeah! I love SSBB! I enjoy a lot of games where the focus is maiming enemies in a variety of interesting ways but I would like something new.

As for multi-player things: the only mulit-player stuff I see any more is "hackety-slashy gore fest 12" where you need to try kill each other or work with each other to kill other things. (Be they player or AI? Doesn't matter.)

Now before anyone says "But you've got non-violent games! Look at the Sims and Harvest Moon and [insert another title here cos I can't think of more now cos it's late]..."
My reply to you is vaguely reminiscent of what my vegetarian friend said about the "vegetarian" menu at a restaurant. "2 choices is not a menu. That's just an option. May I have variety please!? I like to pick from 10 dishes just as much as any meat eater out there."
I personally would like to see more co-op non-violent games purely because they sound fun! It's one reason why I'm programming my own game right now. I would like to see something different and interesting and does not revolve around who can kill the greatest number of things within an alotted amount of time.

As for most MMORPGs... Well... At this point you should put on protective clothing or at least wear goggles and some protective mouth cover cos I spit with rage here. TWITS!!! ALL OF THEM! My problem with MMORPGs is that they are all about gunning down monsters and being rewarded for mindless item collection quests. This, along with the PVP stuff just promotes who-has-the-bigger-peen competitions and is there purely for those who don't have one at all and like to try to bolster their ego by showing off in games. Even in Co-op mode! It's all about "Being the man!" To aggravate it further, most of the ones that do this are the super dorks who live in their mom's basements at age 45 and retarded spoilt twinks, both of whom spend their every waking moment obsessing over the game, becoming ridiculously over powered and leveled up and strut around trying to impress everyone by being so annoying that the other players would rather set fire to their own computer than carry on playing. I would love to force them to play as a low level support unit and deprive them of the ability to chat so they can't try give orders and complain when "you guys should've done what I said..."

Table top role playing also get a free mention here because of the players thing. I only run games where I personally invite the players. NO RANDOMS EVER AGAIN! It's never about being a character in a deep and interesting world, interacting with other characters and a moving story line. With most people it's a case of "How can I bend the rules so I can feel powerful in a virtual sense because I have no self-confidence and feel weak in the real world?" or if they are inlcined to try put any emotional back ground to their character (usually at my prompting, begging and threatening) it's "They are awesome and can do everything and stand to the side looking cool all the time, never talking to any one."

So all I ask is more variety in games where trying to out do each other is not the flavour of the day. I want some calm and interesting mulitplayer interaction. Something that involves a little more thought than "Push button to have ego stroked."

But of course I won't get that because intellectual doesn't sell in this age of hyperactive, trigger happy egomaniacs and if it doesn't sell then no one will make it because it's all about the money in the end and not about fun.

Nintendo seems to be trying a bit here but all they have so far are little silly fiddely games like the things PopCap games produces. Fun yes but not epic and the novelty soon wears off.

Not much has changed in all of history. To the death combat has always been the entertainment of choice with the human race. Public stoning, gladiator arenas. Heck! It used to be considered a day out for the whole family to go to the town square and watch criminals get executed! Children half price admission! (And I'm not being facetious here. That really did happen!) Only now no one "really" has to die cos it's all virtual and even the unfit geeks, who are only alive because of copious amounts of medical care and would otherwise not be able to fight his way out of a brown paper bag, can participate in the slaughter at the touch of a button.

Racism In Games
switchbadger
This has been a hot and spicey topic on the internet for quite some time especially since the release of Resident Evil 5 and the fact that it takes place in an African village where you have to defend yourself from the zombified locals. (Or something like that. I don't claim perfect knowledge. It's not my style of game.) Another wave of this lamenting has been inspired by the release of Left 4 Dead 2. I just read someone else's blog about how "[he is] disturbed by the growing trend of racist undertones that are cropping up in video games."
(For his whole blog go to blogs.chron.com/gamehacks/2009/07/racism_in_video_games_the_new.html#more. And yes I don't care that I'm advertising for him. It's the subject matter that I'm chewing out. Not the author.)

For starters I'd like to roll onto the definition of racism that I have come to understand. Discriminating against someone because of their racial background. Discrimination between things is why we don't eat poisonous plants or allow blind people to become pilots. Discrimination against things is thinking Hindus cannot fly aeroplanes or all plants with bulbous roots are poisonous. Discrimination against something means using a criteria that is not related to a certain quality to identify subjects that are "supposed" to have that quality. Like Hindus not being able to fly aeroplanes. Being Hindu has nothing to do with your ability to fly an aeroplane.
So discriminating against a black person would be not allowing him to associate with you because you believe "all black people are dirty and stupid."
Discriminating between black people would be not allowing one to participate in a pharmacological trials for sun tanning lotion designed to help white people get a good tan, because it would skew the results.

So the primary argument here is that shooting at a black person in a game is bad. Never mind the fact that you're shooting at them for being a zombie trying to munch on your delicious and tasty flesh. Never mind the whole "black vs. white skin colour" argument. What I'd like to point out is that you're discriminating against a zombie by shooting all of it's comrades and not this one because he/she (Don't want to be sexist too now do we.) happened to be an animate a corpse with a different pigmentation of ithe skin. I just hope you discriminate between targets by shooting at the ones trying to eat your brains and not the ones who are running for cover. That would be a good criteria to decide what to shoot at since it stems from the survival instinct. Discriminating "between" targets because of their skin colour makes you a racist because that would stem from a preference to race. So if you only shot non-black zombies that would make you a racist trying to survive but not doing so effectively because of all the black zombies enjoying a healthy serving of your innards.

So I suppose I've exhausted the topic of how the player should act and that is a relatively short process. The another side of the coin lies at the developers. Why would developers put black people into their game as zombies? Because they're racist? No. For the same reason they put black people into the party of protagonists? Probably not. They probably put black protagonists in because it seemed like good character ideas or, doubtedly, in a vain effort to placate the hordes of people who blindly shout "racism" if they don't see a black person portrayed in a party of protagonists. So why include black people at all? For realism. That wonderous effect that gets you emotionally involved in a game by immersing you into the game and making you feel as though you are actually in the game experiencing the world for yourself. So Resident Evil 5 has a scene taking place in an African village. How many African villages do you know of that are inhabited solely by white people, or hispanics if we really want to drive home the don't-kill-the-black-people-but-everyone-else-is-ok idea. I don't personally know many African villages but I'm quite willing to bet money that they aren't populated by a solely non-black group of people. As for Left 4 Dead 2, the story takes place in New Orleans. Black people live in New Orleans alongside people of all other racial groups. Here are 2 photos to prove it,
www.illinoisphoto.com/pictures/d/154281-2/New+Orleans+August+29+2005.jpg
www.nydailynews.com/blogs/gustav/docs/images/500_new-orleans-residents.JPG
and you can find many more with just a google search. So in the name of immersion black people were included in a game that was taking place in a city where black people live. It feels more real. If they weren't included I might have questioned the developers' vision of an "ideal New Orleans" or think that they actively pitied black people which is also bad because it seems to express the idea that black people can't take care of themselves. Which, I am quick to remind you, is also racism since your skin colour has nothing to do with your ability to look after yourself. (Which is why BEE puts a hive under my bonet because being black has nothing to do with your financial background. Your financial background has to do with your financial background.)

So the edge running around the depth of the coin would be the sociological front. I'm not a sociologist so I openly invite those who are to correct me of my errors.
It seems you can open the question of what gunning down black people in games make people think? Does it negatively effect their opinion of black people?
I personally don't think it's right to gun any one down and the legal system seems to agree with me on that but in zombie games I'm too busy discriminating between those who have a pulse and those who view my buttocks as prime steak to even notice skin colour. I honestly don't care if you are white, black, coloured, Asian, Mediterranean, pygmy, friends, family or sperm whale. If you are a member of the undead viewing me as haute cuisine I will run away and gun you down. If this has to do with the fact that I'm white please do tell me how and I want to also ask why I'm not, but get the nagging feeling that certain people out there think I should be, upset that there are virtually no homosexual protagonists in mainstream gaming.

I suppose the only time you can call a game racist is when the developers made the game because they hate a certain race. If you want a racist game I can always try make one for you by having you play a member of the KKK murdering black people as they walk around eating fried chicken, speaking in broken English and having the dress sense of a dead hobo in a storm water drain. Although I don't really want to make that game because I'm not racist. (I'm stupidist. I hate stupid people.)

Part of me just wonders idly about the writer of the blog I mentioned at the beginning. It almost sounds like most people play zombie games to shoot zombies while he plays zombie games to shoot white people. This of course I mean in jest.
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DRM (Digital Rights Madness)
switchbadger

"''n Grap is 'n grap maar jy maak nie a sambriel in 'n man se hol oop nie!" Leon Schuster

So I just had a chat with a friend about DRM, Digital Rights Management. While most of the media hype and warfare is over (that I've noticed) one can still watch as it creeps into our everyday lives and infiltrates how things work.

I'm going to assume that you already know what DRM is and if not that you're going to pause reading here for a moment and hit up Wikipedia. It's a simple concept but worth knowing about.

So why does game piracy happen? From what I've noticed it has a very predictable life pattern. A group of people get together at a LAN and want to play something that very often one of the people present actually owns. It looks good and they all want to try it so a copy is made and distributed on the little network. That's not global piracy but it is where it starts because then a while later one of those players goes to another LAN with new people and then they want to play the same game and that copy is copied again. It moves like an infection growing at an exponential rate. I'm guessing this is why most copies of games are mulitplayer games. There is a branch in the pattern in that sometimes a single person wants the game with no intention of group play. Either way it's a case of "I don't care." and they play it without paying or (what I end up doing) "I don't know if I'm going to like this game so let me try it out first." Often I've bought a game, gone home, popped it into the machine and went "Ugh..." and while this might not be a very good excuse since I can always sell the game to someone else or, more easily, read up about it in reviews it is still very frustrating.  Demos were supposed to help here but a company can just make a really good demo and sell a bad game. (Apparently that happened to Mirror's Edge but I can't speak from experience.) In the end I wind up getting a cracked game and playing it. If I like it I pay for it. Case and point being Spore, Anno 1701 and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (Which was so good it got me into their table top rpg too) Special mention on Anno 1701 is that I liked it so much I also bought Anno 1404.

Now DRM is supposed to stop those evil gamers who don't care about the companies that provide the games. Being a programmer myself, I know exactly how much blood, sweat and tears goes into the production of making a triangle move across your screen, let alone produce an entire, fully developed game. That's a lot of employees to pay. But the one thing I've been watching happen is that the DRM techniques employed to stop the pirates are actually punishing the legitimate players. Common elements include "Only 5 installations" and "Must register online" and even more scary "Can only play while online." Ubisoft tried that last stunt with Assassin's Creed 2 and when their sever crashed only the pirated copies of their game were still running. So not only are they trying to make piracy impossible (and failing to do so) but the companies are actively pushing their users towards piracy. This has also placed an extra push on us South Africans since we don't have amazing Internet connections like other countries do. The Mouse Trap summed this all up quite nicely.

So what would remedy the situation?
I acknowledge it may not be a completely viable idea since there are a lot of scummy people out there but trusting the gaming community could help. Yes piracy will happen. It's unavoidable. Scummy people might be amoral but they're not retarded so they will find a way around your preventative measures. It is a matter of trust. Gamers should pay for their games knowing that the money they just spent is going towards making the next game more awesome and game development companies need to stop being so paranoid that everyone is out there to get them. Piracy is going to happen but your DRM is only encouraging it. Big Brother is not an option. Further more you can lower the prices of your games and still make the same profit margins because you won't be paying for all that complicated DRM stuff. This, in fact,  will encourage more people to actually buy the game and possibly earn you more money. If you haven't noticed it is a bit of a status thing to actually own a game you liked. (It's only really the teen aged, pizza faced super dorks who hate the outside world and can't get a date with a real girl that think that pirated games are cool and while they stereotypically are seen as your biggest "customers" they are in fact in the minority.) One could also make provisions for those frequently copied LAN games in mind. Provide each owner with a license to run an entire LAN legitimately. Sure lots of people are playing off of one purchased copy but it would be like free advertising. They aren't going to LAN that one instance for all eternity. Reward the users who legitimately own it by giving them something that the other players can't have unless they have their own disk.

So you want to praise the owner? Give each disc a serial number. Let the game run in multiplayer mode without the disc but if you are playing with the disc in then you get something cool. Don't make it something that imbalances game play since that will encourage others to copy the disc to make up for the disadvantage. Yes there are ways around this but think about it.
Friend: "Hey give me a copy of your disc. I wanna play as a blood knight too. (or whatever boon is appropriate.)"
Owner: "Hell no! I'm gonna be the only blood knight in this group!"
And if they do copy the disc then the game can tell by the matching serial numbers. Inform them that you know they're cheating, turn it into a joke and randomly assign the boon to only one player who seems to have the disc. Then the real smart arses will figure out a way to get around this but chances are they're going to like you, because you are funny and not some authority figure waving the law at them, and go buy a disc because the game was awesome and getting the blood knight is worth half the price of a game today since they're not paying for your DRM attempts.
Notice how your game has to be awesome. No excuses for crap games here. Sorry. If it's even mediocre then it won't be worth the effort and money.

Finally. A note to all those first world countries. Internet is not free everywhere. Hell, it's not even available everywhere. But just because there's no decent Internet connectivity doesn't mean the place is just mud huts and animal skins. We have computers out here in Africa. "Must play online" in South Africa roughly translates to "At the mercy of Telkom." so stay away from unnecessary use of the Internet because then you are immediately excluding maybe a million users worldwide who would also pay to have it. Without Internet they're even more likely to buy it since they can't download it.

I make no claims to be an expert on the matter and I might be unexpectedly optimistic with the human race right now, thus being horribly wrong but this does sound like something worth looking into.

I'm just going to leave it at "Stop bullying me around or I'm going to floss your teeth with that umbrella after you've opened it."

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