“Gameplay Bias aka What is “Really” Playing the game(?)”

Earlier tonight, I came across a thread in the OGPlanet forum that really got me thinking again about some of the issues with Uncharted Waters Online (the thread name is the title of tonight’s post). I posted a brief reply to the thread on the forum, and for those of you who are interested in following the original thread, here’s the direct link:

http://nforum.ogplanet.com/uwo/forum_posts.asp?TID=602659

Below are my thoughts about this thread….and arguably the most reflecting I have done on any video game (or on video games in general).

Enjoy!!

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Most of us who play video games probably don’t spend a terrible amount of time reflecting on how we play or why we play what we play. And that’s probably a good thing, for video games – like any other form of entertainment – are designed to get our minds away from the stressful “grind” of our daily lives. One of the collective stereotypes about us as video gamers is that we pretty much play mindless, violent first-person shooters (Call of Duty come to mind?). Anyone who follows the news (and especially in the United States) will know about the ongoing political debate over regulating video game content, and I believe a large part of what’s fueling that debate comes from this stereotype about video games and video game culture.

Perhaps I was very fortunate that as a young kid in the 1990′s, I was exposed to different kinds of video games, games like the original Uncharted Waters for the SNES. In fact, I still remember the day I bought the first Uncharted Waters video game; the young guy who sold it to me said that it was a very addicting game and had a lot of depth – both gameplay and historical-wise. Uncharted Waters was one of the first (and one of the few) role playing games that I played for the SNES and I loved it!! Those of you who remember the original game may still remember that incredible feeling you had as you were leaving Lisbon on Leon Franco’s first journey in his tiny caravel. To think that you can go from being in that tiny ship to commanding an armada of galleons with hundreds of sailors; that you could sail all around the world (and I mean the WHOLE world!); and that you could rise from obscurity to marrying the daughter of the King of Portugal? And that you could do all of this however and whenever you wanted to (despite the fact that you automatically died after you reached 36 years of age?

That’s awesome stuff!!

Of course, much has evolved since those halcyon days. Video games are still wildly entertaining (or at least the best ones are), but they have also become incredibly diverse….and incredibly complex.

And I’m not just talking about the video games themselves.

We as a gaming community have also become incredibly diverse and complex.

There are a few of us, for example, who are considered by marketers to be the “hardcore” type – the gamers who play a game from the very beginning to the very end, striving for every achievement possible and investing all the hours that such effort requires. And then there are the millions of “casual” gamers, gamers who like to sink in a few hours or days (or weeks or months) into a video game, but who then move on to another video game. There are even a growing number of gamers who like to “retro-game” – i.e. play the old video games that have become “obsolete.”

And then there are video gamers like myself, gamers who have pretty much done all of the above (even the so-called “retro-gaming,” although I prefer to call this activity “Enjoying the Classics!”).

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So……I quote the title of this post:

“What is ‘Really’ Playing the Game?”

The question mark was missing in the original title, but I think it should be there because CPC (or Crazy Psycho Chick – the author of the original thread and one of the older UWO vets) raises a very legitimate question. The question is not only about what is “really” playing Uncharted Waters Online, but what is “really” the point about playing video games in the first place.

I’ll try not to get to abstract about all this because that would ruin the “game” (so-to-speak) about dealing with CPC’s question.

And I’ll try not to take too long either (although I am enjoying this thought exercise)….

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Okay, let’s start from the premise that:

Video games are meant to be entertaining.”

If we then substitute the words “Uncharted Waters Online,” then we get:

Uncharted Waters Online is meant to be entertaining.”

But if we then add an additional phrase, we come up with this premise:

“Uncharted Waters Online is meant to be entertaining because you can do anything you want to.”

Well, that is basically the original point (or thesis, if you like the fancier word) of CPC’s thread.

We are free to do pretty much anything we want in Uncharted Waters Online, whether it’s Running companies, Engaging in piracy, Running spice trade/nanban trade, Pulling adventure chain quests, Grinding production skills, Discovering new ports, Sinking baby pirates off the coast of Seville, Running Seville Bazaar alts (yes, I’ve done this as well), Doing Epic Sea Feuds, Investment Battles, or Academy Competitions, Competing in the sailing races, Running Syracuse, Bordeaux, or FSD Dungeons……..

And the list goes on and on.

Well, basically you can do just about anything you want in Uncharted Waters Online. And that’s why UWO is such an entertaining video game. Whereas other MMO’s basically limit you to fighting dragons in dungeons (no offense to those video games), in UWO you don’t even have to leave your home port. You can earn hundreds of millions of cold hard ducats by hanging around places like Seville and auctioning stuff (Seville being the auction capital of UWO). Whereas other video games require you to complete a storyline campaign or tutorial phase, in UWO you don’t even need to do the tutorials before diving right in (although I personally would not recommend that). And of course, since Uncharted Waters Online (on the GAMA server) is a “free-to-play” game, you don’t even need to pay a single cent to play this game! All you need is a decent computer with a decent internet connection and you’re good to go!!

(Well, you may want to spend a few dollars now and then so you can grind skills faster or if you want to sail out of Europe without worrying about the pesky pirates! =D)

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There is a problem with CPC’s original premise, however. The problem is that since Uncharted Waters Online allows players to do anything they want, then there’s inevitably going to be SOMEBODY who will take that premise to its logical conclusion.

Before continuing, I would like to point out that my comments are in no way meant to offend any player or the larger UWO community. I am simply trying to state my humble opinions. If anything there are many friendly players in Uncharted Waters Online, and I am deeply grateful to all of the players (a few of whom may even be reading this blog post) who have helped me enjoy this game over the eight months that I have been playing this game.

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I’ll name a few examples:

1. Scamming other players, either in-person or using their gold-spamming player bot programs

(that of course is not just a UWO problem; It’s a problem in other MMO’s, including World of Tanks)

2. Attacking other players indiscriminately

(this is probably why KOEI and Netmarble decided to severely curtail player pirates so that they can only attack players after they reach a certain level)

3. Driving up the prices for everything in the player economy so that players are forced to go into dungeons and farm them in order to make millions of ducats

(I personally try not to sell things for too much – especially vigour food – although I understand why people have to charge so much for things in the bazaar or company shops)

…….And in my opinion the worst offence

4. Making personal attacks on other players in the forums or in game chat

(Obviously this is not just a problem confined to UWO, but it is an issue within the UWO gaming community)

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I think #4 is especially what motivated CPC to start her thread about “Gameplay Bias” and I don’t blame her. I have read the comments made against her on the UWO website Ivyro, and some of them are quite vulgar, about as bad as any of the stuff that gets thrown around on the Internet these days (and an embarrassment to Ivyro, which otherwise is a very important database for UWO players).

Despite whatever issues CPC may have caused with the way she has chosen to play UWO, I do not think she deserves that kind of online abuse.

And to those of you who may be thinking that CPC can simply ignore these players and their personal attacks, I think you are missing an important point about MMORPG’s like Uncharted Waters Online. Because MMO’s require multiple players to be in a persistent game world, they require players to interact socially, one way or another. This is one of the biggest differences between Uncharted Waters Online and the original Uncharted Waters games. In the original games, you can do anything you want (even cheat, especially in the emulated versions) because it is pretty much yourself against the computer. While there are NPC’s (non-playable characters) in Uncharted Waters Online, gamers are the lifeblood of this game. Without them, UWO would pretty much be dead. And because CPC is an auctioneer, she is especially vulnerable to players making personal attacks on herself and damaging her reputation in the game (so that players will not want to deal with her).

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For nearly nine months, I have been playing Uncharted Waters Online almost non-stop, although I’ve slowed down more recently to focus on other video games like Titanfall (which btw, is an excellent game on the Xbox One!). To be honest, this is one of the longest stretches I have spent on any particular video game, which is one of the reasons why I believe UWO is one of the best MMORPG’s out there. And in the process, I have started this personal blog, along with a second blog for my in-game company The_Lords_Paladins.

In short, I have invested a lot of time and energy into this video game, and that’s pretty amazing when you think about it, especially in a world where we all seem to have shorter attention spans for anything (let alone video games). Heck, if you’re still reading this post, then you must have a pretty good attention span, since I did not intend to write as much or as long as I ended up doing tonight. But having looked back on everything I’ve written, I feel good for having gotten all these thoughts off my chest. Perhaps this is the time to finally come out and express my own views about a video game that in certain respects has become more than just a video game. Too often, it seems like gamers (and especially non-gamers) look at video games like kid’s toys, something to trifle with but not really something to take seriously. I think any serious gamer would tell you however that video games do contain a certain cultural and even psychological power. Look at it this way, if video games did not have psychological power, then why do we spend hours of our free time playing them?

In closing, I commend Crazy Psycho Chick for finally coming out into the open with her thread on the OGPlanet forum. Even though making forum threads – or blog posts – is not exactly like public speaking, it does take a certain amount of courage to publicly state your views in a candid manner, online or offline.

And that’s what Crazy Psycho Chick did. And I respect her for what she did, even if I don’t agree with everything she has to say.

One thought on ““Gameplay Bias aka What is “Really” Playing the game(?)”

  1. Hello, Cocoa-Puff here (and Cocoa-Pebbles). I agree with everything you have written. I am a 56 year old Black married old lady, rare for this game; I could care less what is said about me and my game play. Hopefully, someday I will become famous enough to be talked bad about like CPC. I admire CPC, and I will never forget when my friend and I fleeted up with her to run the Coliseum. CPC chose the Wallenstein missions, and my friend and I got killed immediately. CPC ran around laughing and texting and killed every one of those Wallenstein NPCs, every time.
    I am the one responsible for getting the pirate rules changed. ME! All you pirates out there, hate ME. Better yet, hate Hires, KIT-KAT, and Ezio; I was attacked and plundered 3 times in a row by Hires and KIT-KAT as I was trying to limp to port using life-preservers on my first spice run. I lost my few hundred spice. Then, on the way back, I was attacked twice by Ezio. I screamed and moaned and complained so much that shortly afterwards the rules were changed. Someday, when my Bounty Hunter is strong enough, I will serve all of them, even if they are white and I have to turn red. I never understood why a high level veteran would attack a lowby noob like me over and over. I almost quit over it. Now, I am going nowhere, I will stay right here and annoy everyone.
    I play the game differently. I have been playing almost 2 years and I am about to make my first billion. I have Syracuse middle, but I rarely run dungeons. I cannot figure out Nanban and I have never gotten a good rate no matter what I trade. I will never be good enough to try BC or ESF. I do not know about 2nd Age or combining clues and discoveries. Ten million used to be a lot of ducats to me, now 100 million is a lot of ducats to me. A billion ducats is beyond my thinking. I would never pay a billion ducats for ANYTHING. I was blessed with my good friend daren giving me a dozen well modded, rare, NC ships. If I sold them, I might have 40 billion +, but I appreciate the value of things, so I will keep them until they are antiques. I do not buy Purchase Orders, RIBs, QMP, or SWMP. I get my Purchase Orders from the Company Colony Print Shop, and I can make a lot of things with my Spice Trading, Cooking, Sewing and Handicrafts, which are max or near max levels. Pebbles is an Arms Dealer and Ship Builder, and has high Casting. I am making my money from making and selling MCT, Vintage of the Covenant, Poupelin Tower, Nutmeg, and Mace. I want to bring down inflation, so I check out the lowest price in the other cities company stores, and I cut my prices down even lower. I don’t care if someone does buy my stuff and resell it, eventually word will get around. I sell out all my stuff, and my bank account is growing. Those greedy folks who jack up prices will watch their stuff sit there unsold.
    At this point in my game, I could care less if I get sunk or plundered; they won’t get much anyway. In fact, I just might get to use several pillage orders. I have never bought or used tributes, I have no tributes, I will never pay tribute to someone higher level than me who makes their living my stealing other folk’s hard-earned stuff. I will go down fighting. My storage is high and even my trade ships are well armed, and I have good melee and deck battle skills.
    I help everyone I can. I turn away no one who asks for my help and truly needs help. I have helped many, and no one will ever know about it. I do not cuss anyone, or talk bad about anyone, on chat or in private. If anyone talks bad about me, it is just free entertainment to me. This is a GAME, and games are meant to be fun. I come here every day to escape from my problems. No other person can steal my joy, I do not give them that much power. Most of the time, when you see me, I will be sailing. I sail a LOT. I rarely if ever bazaar, I like to sell my stuff to market or the company store, so I can get back out there and SAIL.
    However, I would not mind being adopted and shown how to do FSD without being killed, and without spending billions. Ha ha. Take care you all.

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