Reflections on Another World

During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition called war; and such a war is as of every man against every man.

To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.

No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

– Thomas Hobbes

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What is Tibia?

You’ll never forget your first dragon. Tibia is an online fantasy world in which you may escape the mundane realities of your boring life. Thousands of people plug into this Matrix-esque world (it is literally a matrix) every day to mindlessly murder trolls and goblins in the vain effort to increase their skill numbers. Tibia offers a huge world to explore and more ways to die than Dark Souls (“Did you bring a rope?”). If killing the local creatures isn’t enough for you, then you will be pleased to learn that you also have the freedom to murder other players at will and loot their corpses, offering the sweet satisfaction of ruining their day while at the same time improving your own. But beware, for every time you die you will lose a small part of yourself and become that much weaker.

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If you find yourself being murdered more than you see fit, then you also have the freedom to band together with other adventurers (unless they be secret spies from a foreign land). Tibia is a world in which lost souls bring out the true nature of men (or children? – certainly not women). From political alliances to rogue assassins for hire, this is a land where might makes right. And might is here defined as he who can sit in his computer chair for the most amount of time. The illusory sense of progress is not to be underestimated. The most elite players have transcended the urge to piss for days and may even starve to death while staring at the wall for the sake of increasing their numbers faster than yours seem to decrease.

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Sure, you may rent a house (if you prefer to throw your things all over the floor), but other lost souls may also threaten to erase you and your entire virtual family from the annals of Tibian history unless you turn over the deed. You may scavenge dungeons and slay dragons for hours, only to be murdered on the way back home, effectively losing your spoils and spirit. You may wander the world for days on end, solving puzzles and catering to NPC’s riddles, only to be rewarded with a worthless virtual achievement. You may innocently offer help to a poor lost Brazilian, only to find that their God-damned cohorts are waiting in ambush to trap and murder you with geometrical precision.

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Of course, there is something to be learned from your time in the fantastical land of Tibia: trust nobody, not even yourself. Each time your health reaches zero, whether it be from the slow tick of poison or the blade of another lost soul, the game reminds you of why you are spending your days sitting in the same chair, in the same clothes, staring at the same screen: “You are dead.” Perhaps your mundane life is not so bad after all.

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This is what is sad when one contemplates human life, that so many live out their lives in quiet lostness… they live, as it were, away from themselves and vanish like shadows… The most common form of despair is not being who you are… The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.

– Soren Kierkegaard

Philosophy of Gaming

Jonathan Blow (born 1971) is an American independent video game developer. He is best known for his game Braid, which won the “Game Design” award at the Independent Games Festival in 2006. He is currently developing The Witness, to be released in 2012.

For many years Blow wrote the Inner Product column for Game Developer Magazine. He is the primary host of the Experimental Gameplay Workshop each March at the Game Developers Conference, which has become a premier showcase for new ideas in video games. In addition, Blow is a regular participant in the Indie Game Jam.

In a speech at the Free Play conference in Australia in September 2007, Blow suggested games were approaching the level of societal influence of other forms of art, such as films and novels. One example that Blow cites is World of Warcraft, which he labels “unethical”, stating that such games exploit players by using a simple reward-for-suffering scheme to keep them in front of their computer. In his view, developers need to think about what reinforcement the games are providing players when they reward them for performing certain actions. He emphasized the need for developers to design inspiring new games using “innovative, ethical and personal art.”

In an interview with Jeff Glor CBS This Morning, Blow noted that games could have a “much bigger role” in culture in the future, but current game development does not address this potential, instead aiming for low-risk, high-profit titles.

For more:

Ethical Dilemmas

The Most Dangerous Gamer