How the PvP War Can Shed Light on Creationism.

How the PvP War Can Shed Light on Creationism. February 15, 2014
The Sims 3 is considered one of the most popul...
The Sims 3 is considered one of the most popular games of the 2010s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was noticing a weird similarity between an ongoing debate in gaming and the one that happened last week with Ken Ham and Bill Nye.

In gaming, the hobby revolves around conflicts of some kind. That’s why “The Sims,” as fun and as long-lasting a franchise as it’s been, isn’t really a game but rather a toy–it has no real conflicts or enemies. In gaming, there are a few different paradigms for conflict. One of these is “player vs. environment,” or PvE, which is where the player battles against the computer (or in tabletop, against adversaries played only by a game-master, rather than directly against the other players). Another is “player vs. player,” or PvP, wherein players fight mainly against each other. Some games go for a mix of the two, where most of the time or in most areas players can’t attack each other, but under certain circumstances or in some areas of the game, it’s okay.

There’s this ongoing battle between people who really like PvP and people who really hate it. And I think that battle illuminates some of the confusion that exists between creationists and people who accept reality: namely, they don’t really understand each other.

As you might guess, I’m more of a PvE person. I used to be really good at PvP games in my younger days, but I mellowed eventually on the subject. I really don’t care for it now. My reflexes aren’t what they used to be, and I’m just not interested in the conflict level. I’m not happy about being aggressive toward another person. That kind of play doesn’t push any thrill buttons for me. I do love games like Light Bikes on Tron or table hockey (and make no mistake: I WILL END YOU AT EITHER), or group games like Dork Tower, but none of these are really much of a PvP environment.

On a small scale, it’s fun and manageable. On the larger scale, like in MMOs, it’s just not fun. I look at PvP in larger games like that in the same way I used to look at teachers assigning “group work”–I hated it, because I knew I’d be getting it in the shorts. There’d be some griefer bastard coming in to make me do all the work or research, nobody else on my team would want to carry any of the load, and the finished product would be pretty much all me. (I still don’t know why teachers do this to kids. Quite literally all it taught me was that people suck and that I should hate them all and definitely skip school on any day I thought there’d be group work.) There’s no real way to stop predators in MMO games from coming in and wrecking all the fun of people who just aren’t as competitive or itching for PvP action. When I look at the code advances on games like WoW that purport to stop that kind of behavior, it makes me laugh; my MMO-playing friends, I hate to break this to you, but WoW and the other graphical MMOs are about 15 years behind DIKUMUD code; we worked out most of the same exact stuff years ago on the text games, and all that happened was that the jerks just figured out workarounds like they do the second WoW tries to stop ’em some new way.

But here’s where the disconnect comes in. I don’t have an objection to adventures, or to gaming, or to obstacles, or to opponents. As mentioned, I’m an ace at a lot of games that require me to work against other players. I just don’t like inflicting harm on actual people, be it by hitting them myself or by firing weapons at them in a game. I’m a softie. I can’t even be mean to my Sims. And I really don’t like how PvP encourages griefing behaviors that interrupt and harass my own enjoyment of a game. I don’t want to be on a game that must play constant catch-up to keep up with jerks to protect non-griefers from excessive predation.

But to hear the PvP crowd talk about it, I’m a wimp and a noodle and just too soft to be able to hack it with the big boys. They think I should be forced into PvP whether I like it or not, or tricked into it by thinking I’m fighting computers when really I’m fighting other people (one popular game has a discussion going on right now about exactly this–by not identifying an opponent in the game as an AI or a person’s character, that magically makes it okay to the PvP crowd to get non-PvP people into PvP). They miss the point: it’s not entirely that I don’t want to fire upon other people, but that PvP itself treats people like me who dislike PvP like a resource to be gleaned and gathered for the enjoyment of griefers. PvPers don’t get that, and I think they don’t want to get that.

It suits PvPers just fine for someone like me to be forced into PvP whether I like it or not. They need people like me. We’re easy targets. We don’t go out of our way to bother other people and usually just want to be left alone to play the game our own way. We usually have nice places ingame that we’ve taken a lot of time to fix up and make pleasant; we have more resources for that kind of thing because we’re not out constantly fighting other people and spending all our ingame cash on weapons and armor and stuff. So we’re big glaring targets for people who love to victimize and harass other players.

I’ve got long experience with that kind of behavior. When I was into text MUDs, one thing we had to clamp down on severely was players who thought the game existed for them to rob non-PvPers blind and hunt them down in the streets like vermin. You can’t have a game with non-combatants in it and hope to exist in a PvP environment; those shopkeepers and seamstresses will get gunned down and burgled almost instantly the second a griefer shows up. We had to stop allowing assassin and thief characters in the game because the only people they preyed upon were other players, they preyed upon them constantly, and their targets were getting victimized enough that they felt they had to quit to keep their sanity together. When we issued a moratorium on such characters, the PvPers howled in outrage, but our playerbase grew immediately as players figured out they could actually play shopkeepers and seamstresses on that game without fearing for their characters’ lives every second of the day–or worse, without worrying about showing up in the game and discovering their homes looted of every single item they owned in the world. There just wasn’t a way to keep the balance or to convince the thieves not to rob their victims blind every single time. (I’m not even exaggerating: I was some 15 years in the gaming world and without exception, every time I have ever watched a thief at work on a MUD, I could have sworn I was watching the Grinch rob Whoville.)

As with so many things, the only way to win with PvP was not to allow it at all. And for all the PvPers’ noble ideals of policing themselves and working within the system so as not to excessively victimize PvE players, it just didn’t ever work out.

Other MUDs are nothing but PvP, and they love it and have a great time with it, and more power to ’em. They’re honest about how harsh their environment is and are very open about how little protection there is for players who don’t want to play that way. Every game has its own dynamic. But the game I was on for most of my time in the MUD world didn’t want that dynamic. I don’t think you can mix and match PvP with non-PvP action. There’s not really a very good way to compromise. If you allow PvP, you open the door to griefers and predators, and you make non-PvPers face the very real risk of being preyed upon when they don’t want to be. And if you’re not paying people to face a risk they don’t want to face, then you’ve got no right to insist they spend their valuable free time facing that unwanted risk when all they want to do is have fun on a stupid game.

So obviously I have a very colored perception of PvP–one from the point of view of someone who has many years’ experience administering games that tried, unsuccessfully, to merge PvP with PvE, and someone who used to love PvP but is now a PvE gamer herself. And PvPers have a very colored perception of me–namely, as someone who is wimpy and cowardly, who wants baby food instead of steak. They don’t understand my concerns, and even if they could understand my concerns, those concerns are exactly why they want me on their game. They need me on their PvP game for the exact same reason my old “group work” companions from school needed me in their group. And I’m not getting paid enough to be a professional victim for a pack of griefing PvP bastards.

You seeing some parallels between creationists and science-accepters? I know I am. There’s just not a way to communicate between creationists and non-creationists. Even when we’re using the same words, we’re not really using them in the same way as you’ll notice immediately when you realize that most of Ken Ham’s debate time was spent outlining the many ways that “evolutionists” have “hijacked” common words like “science” and then redefining those words in a way that made creationism sound less whackadoodle. (I’ve mentioned before running into a guy on YouTube who was all for “comprehensive sex education”–by which he carefully mansplained to mean “forceful and abject indoctrination of young women into the Purity Myth and Rape Culture”, and refused to consider any other meaning for the words.) And creationists kind of need non-creationists, don’t they? As long as we exist to tell them that their weird-ass beliefs are whackadoodle, they can feel persecuted and like they’ve got a handle on this mysterious conspiratorial truth that nobody else outside the creationist group really understands because they don’t have that special understanding of Jesus that creationists do.

They need to not understand us, because the second they start to understand real words like “science” and “theory,” that sort of makes their redefinitions sound absolutely crazy. They need to fight against science, because it gives them a reason to push their religion at people and feel persecuted and special. If this whole creationism/evolution debate didn’t exist, then how would Ken Ham fling sermons at people who wouldn’t ordinarily go anywhere near a church to hear him talk? And they need to feel misunderstood, because–I am sure of this, because I was this way–as long as they feel misunderstood, it lets them think that their views can’t be crazy; they just haven’t found the right way to express those views yet, but they will, and then all those folks saying they’re crazy will go “oh wow, you’re so right, I hadn’t thought of it that way” and it’ll all go back to the gauzy 1950s Mayberry fantasy creationists all envision when they think of the Perfect Christian Society.

That said, I don’t think we’re going to get creationists to hear us out while we’re insulting them. While I have nothing but the deepest disdain and contempt for the leaders of that wretched movement, I know from experience that creationists think their view is right because they got indoctrinated with those views and consider them part and parcel (if not the very basis) of a very rigid belief system. A lot is riding on creationism for them. If it turns out not to be true, a whole bunch of things happen. They have some deeply erroneous views of science and of non-creationists, but then, a lot of non-creationists don’t really have very accurate views of creationists and don’t tend to understand what’s riding on creationism.

One thing I think Bill Nye did beautifully in that debate was communicating how deeply in awe he is of the natural world. Creationists tend to think of non-creationists as bitter, angry atheists, and when they run across someone who expresses joy and wonder at nature, I know that has to set them back a bit. I also think he did well in constantly drilling down on how Ken Ham’s beliefs are very particular to Ken Ham’s specific movement, and not universal to Christians or even religious people in general, and expressing confusion about why this rather “unsettling” belief would be so important to one’s overall belief system, thereby forcing creationists to see themselves in the context of a fringe movement. Bill Nye didn’t attack their faith and made clear that he didn’t consider Christianity itself to be an enemy. Instead, he shared the viewpoint of a person who is deeply wowed and enamored of the natural world and its glorious wonders, and who isn’t ever going to settle for “oh, a god did it” but rather will always ask “why and how is that happening?” and search for the answers.

In the same way Bill Nye didn’t allow Ken Ham to dictate the terms of engagement, I as a PvE type of gamer will simply not play games that allow PvP, so the PvPers will have to find their enjoyment from each other rather than ravaging and victimizing me. I understand their point of view and I totally get why it’s important to them that I play their game, but as long as they don’t understand mine, I’m not going to set up shop in their game.


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