Thursday, September 7, 2017


Being Articulate
How to structure a more productive discussion re: SSBM ruleset dev

Games are an assessment of skills.

Rulesets are artificial limitations that are specifically designed to
    a) preserve fairness (“anything you can do I can do too”) or
    b) better measure subjectively-valued skill (coin-battle tournaments would also be competitive, but we as a community subjectively value stock-battles more).

Usually this is very straight-forward. Banned stages are easy examples. Icicle Mountain’s atypical design includes ice, walkoffs, way too many platforms, and phases of rapid movement that disrupt player vs player engagement. While it is fair—anything one player can do the other can as well— it centralizes gameplay around atypical strats that have more to do with fighting the stage than fighting the player. We value player vs player more than player vs stage. Because this is an easy assessment, it’s easy to justify banning Icicle Mountain because it is clearly, objectively detracts from the measurement of subjectively-valued skills.

Sometimes though, issues arise that are ambiguous or complex. These decisions are harder because it is harder to define exactly what is unfair, exactly what is desirable vs undesirable, or exactly what matters. In some cases these decisions are even harder because the change in question has multiple sub-issues or multiple effects. Some of those effects could be desirable while others are undesirable, requiring judgement calls that some people will like and others will dislike based on their priorities. In such an Accidentally Good game, more messy issues like these are inevitable. But that doesn’t mean that they are unsolvable.

In all of these cases, the best solution is to work it out by being articulate. In this context, arguments should NOT be centered around support of or disagreement with a proposed change. Rather, they should be centered around a collaborative ARTICULATION of what a change does for fairness or subjective-values.

Box-type controllers are a great example here. Box-type controllers have spawned extremely ugly conduct because they’re a bundle of ambiguous and complex sub-problems. If you’re more invested in supporting a position than delineating the problems then it’s easy to jump from one sub-issue to another on impulse, resulting in an incoherent if not toxic mess of an argument. At its heart, the box-controller discussion is one of weighing costs against benefits, and some of these are fringe value-judgements. Is left-thumb-techskill something that we as a community should value to a significant degree? Is a box-controller work-around a meaningful departure from a valued skill? Or is it just a workaround that isn’t practically significant? Do they offer a practical unfair advantage? How much do we relatively value accessibility? How much do we value consistency? Has this position changed over time or with the addition of other recent rules? Can the ruleset be altered to curb in-game or out-of-game negative effects? All of these questions can be discussed and worked out productively, but certainly not all at once and certainly not without a collaborative commitment to delineation and articulation over argument for argument’s sake.

Additional Notes:
• for example, non-comprehensive example of delineation of subjective value areas in context:
• Just because something is in the game does not mean that it has to remain legal. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for Nintendo to do our thinking for us with patches. Thus, something that is unfair, non-competitive, or undesirable can be justifiably banned.
• Tradition is important. It gives players consistency. It contextualizes wins in a continuum. If we switched to coin-battles tomorrow then new results would have little to do with old results, and this would be a huge loss. That being said, tradition is not infallible. It’s just one thing that we value. Whether tradition gets priority over another value is situational.
• You should frequently check your thinking and those around you for logical fallacies and/or cognitive biases. They are cancer.
Remember, the presence of a fallacy or bias does NOT make someone wrong, it just makes their argument misleading. Pointing out a fallacy doesn’t make you right, but it does make it much much easier for everyone to stay on the same page.
• The human brain is terrible at changing beliefs, even when presented with a rational argument supported by facts. Consider the hypothetical: could someone, if they had evidence to support it that trumped previous evidence, convince you that white people are a superior race? That would be difficult for me because the premise is so contrary to my beliefs. The point here isn’t whether or not that’s true, but that if it was true I’d have a harder time accepting the truth than I want to admit. When you enter into a rational argument, you have a responsibility to be mindful of and to do your absolute best to overcome any personal biases.

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