My mobile game playing continues. I’ve had my ups and downs with the online Dungeons & Dragons-type game, Evony, but have made steady progress in building my city from level 1 up to level 18 (out of a possible 35, so far). Occasionally I’ve had my city attacked and electronically sacked by some more powerful and hostile players. Different players have different reactions to this practice. I, of course, had a philosophical insight.
I attacked a couple of cities myself before stopping the practice. There are plenty of creatures and lesser creatures in the game you and your “alliance” mates can gang up on, and they are not played by other humans trying to build their cities. It seemed rather unsportsmanlike to pounce on people with less power than you.
That’s when I started noticing the argument on the “world chat.” A lot of the people from the more successful (i.e. aggressive) alliances took the approach that “This is a war game! Toughen up or bubble up.” The bubble they referred to was a “truce agreement” item you can acquire in the game through various achievements or direct purchases.* If you have the truce agreement bubble around your city, you cannot attack another live player, and they are not supposed to attack you.
The “war game” comment caught my attention because the advertisements I had seen–and the reason I got interested in the game in the first place–was that Evony was about building your city or civilization.
The game itself is a bit ambiguous. However, the incentives for more points, more power, more tools/toys, etc., probably favor the people who are there to play it as a war game. The players have weekly “kill” contests, where the goal is to inflict as much damage to others as possible, from killing virtual armies to stealing city resources.
There are incentives to joining alliances. You can pool resources to store food, mine for resources, fight creatures, and so forth, as well as some rewards for helping your friends if they need help slaying a troll, repairing buildings, or healing troops, but not a lot.
So what was my philosophical insight?
I’ve seen people outside the electronic game-playing community who think the same way about the workplace that they do about role-playing games: they think of it all as a war. The goal is to win. I suppose this happens in the worlds of corporate finance and international politics as well. Is your goal to make the world a better place or to make sure you and your allies/associates “win,” however you define it? The approaches are a bit different. Being the biggest, baddest, or toughest often involves a lot of easily measurable confrontations, battles, or “wins,” but at the end, there is a clear victor.
- Individuals, groups, corporations, or nations that pursue their wins with no heed of consequences or harm to others develop a “reputation,” usually not a good one.
- Activities such as growing trust among individuals, community building, establishing peace, or improving living standards for everyone are a lot harder and a lot less “exciting” because progress often is measured over months or years, not days or financial quarters.
At present, I’ve found an alliance that thinks in similar terms. We’re very predatory, and there are some non-aligned or other-alliance cities that manage to live unscathed by us…some even join us. We’re not a (virtual) bloodthirsty lot, and our tendency is to “bubble up” when the predators swoop in with their high-powered armies to steal what they can. And meanwhile, we keep talking, cooperating, and building. There are worse ways to live your life, virtually or otherwise.
(* Interestingly, when I looked at the most recent “Monarch Challenge,” it was concentrated on resource gathering, which you can do one of two ways: growing food and mining for materials or ransacking and stealing what your neighbors built. Killing other cities’ troops, however, is not specifically mentioned. That’s just something the game allows and other players take advantage of. You can advance yourself rapidly by stealing from everyone around you, but should you?)