Bad Apple Syndrom: Is it all bad?
After making my last post on death penalties in games, my topic skewed a little towards the people who – for some – ruin a game. They go by many names – PK’ers, griefers etc., the bad apple syndrom has been around for a long time (well before video games!)
Some games are designed to cater to this type of gameplay, and while persusing my many academic sites on gaming, i found this post. (you can read more here.)
Competitive Socialization. This is, I think, the richest form of interaction possible in multiplayer games, yet ironically it’s more often been seen as a problem than as a potential virtue. Most players see competitive players in the same way that Bartle did, as killers. And that name connotes visions of marauders, there solely to ruin the game. To be honest, killers did nearly ruin many early games. I played Diablo online exactly once, before I got frustrated by cheating killers pretty much overrunning the game. Ultima Online almost went under in its early days because of the same issue (minus the extensive cheating).
In more recent years some multiplayer game designers have tried to channel these same “killer” players. Dark Age of Camelot is, perhaps, the best example of controlled player competition, with specific areas set aside for inter-player combat. Other games like Shadowbane are attempting to market directly to “killers”.
However, I think this all misses much of the point, because direct interplayer conflict isn’t the only way for players to interactively compete. We’ve seen the barest glimmerings of other forms of competition in any game that develops a player-driven economy based on player skills and crafts–because theoretically those players are competing capitalistically. But it really hasn’t been explored beyond that.
As you may recall, I spent much of the start of this year looking into tabletop strategy games. Tabletop designers have spent generations perfecting ideas for controlled player competition. I think a lot can be learned from them as to how multiplayer computer games should be expanding.