Saturday, June 18, 2011

Elder Game and the Hindsight Bias

Elder Game has a nice post up about punditry.

And he's right - he usually is. The human mind is extraordinarily creative when it comes to making sense of things that don't make sense. You can see it every evening in the news (assuming you are that antiquated). The stock-person explains to you that shares fell today, because of rumors about Greece. Of course, if the stock market had risen, the explanation had been that there were rumors about a new Intel chip. That's the hindsight bias.

So, yes, Eric: Trying to make sense of things is messy. Just like democracy is. Mmh, off topic. But not asking the "why?"-question isn't really a solution either, is it?

When writing about MMORPGs, and especially when trying to analyze what worked and what didn't, it doesn't make a lot of sense to doubt yourself all the time. It will make you appear less convincing, if you point out that you're not convinced of your own opinion. Having a good discussion is impossible if you're not convincing. And having good discussions is necessary if you want to get that tiny step closer to the truth.
Of course, you should always remember the limits of your knowledge.

About myself ...
In the past, it turns out, that my taste was an extraordinarily good indicator of how an MMORPG will do. I started WoW and was instantly amazed. I stayed subscribed for two years and played regularly before I even took the first break! That was shortly before TBC had ended. I returned half a year later and didn't like it much, but I stayed subscribed for about 50% of the WotLK expansion. I came back with Cataclysm, leveled one toon 80-85, one from 1-31 and another purely by dungeon finder 1-61. Quit.

I was full of expectations when AoC came out. I leveled within 10 levels of max level and quit, because there was not enough content. All within the first month.
I was a bit more careful with Warhammer, loved the leveling, played a week at the endgame. Quit. All within the first month.
I was very careful about Rift, loved leveling three chars, resubbed several times. Quit.

If that isn't representative of the success of these games, I don't know what is!!
Unfortunately, I may be a victim to memory distortions!

I decided that I am not. By analyzing myself, I decided, I can analyze these games. There's a chance that's wrong. I accept this chance. Having a 100% mainstream taste is a bit embarrassing at times, but for criticizing MMORPGs it's pretty good. And at the same time I imagine that I would be able to design a revolutionary MMORPG without any teleports whatsoever. And make it mainstream! Yeah, there's a good chance that I'm wrong. I see you smiling. But there's really just one way to find out.

Added Elder Game to the Interesting Pages.


  1. "Having a 100% mainstream taste is a bit embarrassing at times, but for criticizing MMORPGs it's pretty good."

    On the bright side of things, having an interest in WoW lets you take part in most MMO blog discussions. I often find myself at a loss when it comes to holding a cogent discussion since many of the topics aren't pertinent to my interests (I never could get into WoW, but I still love MMOs).

  2. There was an Asimov SF story of a future where polling was so good that only one person needed to vote. The calculated Everyman's answers decided everything.

    Perhaps you are not a pundit but rather are an Oracle? GW2 has no interest for me but I eagerly await for when you go through the goat entrails and see what your divinations say about TOR. :-)


    It might be hindsight bias; but a lot is just plain

  3. You said, "Having a good discussion is impossible if you're not convincing."

    Oh rubbish.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." -Bertrand Russell

    In my experience, the more intelligent someone is, the freer they are to admit they don't know something, because they're confident enough in their own intelligence that they're not worried about appearing stupid. You could say that intelligent people are smart enough not to be in denial of their own stupidity. And sure enough Google turns up Richard Feynman saying, "I'm smart enough to know that I'm dumb."

    Rather than having a discussion and arriving at a proper conclusion no matter whose idea it is, it sounds like you are more concerned with convincing others to adopt your ideas regardless of their merit, as if you were a lawyer or something.

    And please be cautious about thinking that you have 100% mainstream tastes. While that may be true for certain types of MMORPGs, one of your links was to a blog item where you said:

    "I haven't even bothered to install Minecraft! The current showpiece of sandbox design. Why? Don't like the graphics. No, that is not shallow, I just don't have enough time to play all these ... indie projects.

    Many people have gotten over their initial reaction to the graphics and are appreciative of Minecraft to the point that it is getting to be mainstream.

    I hope you don't take this comment harshly, I'm an avid reader of your blog.

  4. Stratagerm,

    thanks for the strong opinion. *grin*

    On Minecraft, a bit later I changed my opinion.

    I totally agree that you should always be aware yourself of the limits of your knowledge. The post I linked - and even this one - should be proof that I try to be aware of this.

    The point I am trying to make is that while you are expressing your opinion, you should try to stick to your point. Have you ever discussed with somebody who changed his opinion slightly all the time - even within one comment/forum post? It's frustrating.

    It might work when you are next to each other and really on a joint search for the truth. But I don't think this works well on blogs or forums.

    It's also a psychological thing. You want people to take you serious. When you are 1.92 meter and have a long white philosopher's beard, that's easy. For all I know on the internet, you could just as well be a drooling 14 year old (no offense ;). So it is important that you make a serious impression on me. I need to think that it is worth investing time to convince you and to - yes, gain your respect.

    So, I prefer a strong opinion with arguments and examples, like the one you just expressed. Now that you have expressed it, I can think about about it at my own pace, and then say on what I agree, on what I do not agree, and write don't a more clear version of what I think is the truth. It is very important (and often not easy) to point out the exact points where I actually agree with you.

    This iterative process should either make us eventually agree or pin down on what we do not agree and why.

    Of course, one should always be careful with things like "rubbush" that migt be interpreted as an insult: But before I am insulted, I try to ask my self the question:"Did he want to insult me?. If the answeer is a no, I try hard to not be insulted.

  5. Hmm, yes I probably should have toned down the "rubbish" bit, it's a tad strong.

    Nice to see you ended up getting Minecraft (both purchasing it and understanding it).

  6. I guess I understand wanting to be persuasive in what you say. Honestly though, I almost never write to convince other people I'm right. I write as much to sort out my own thoughts on what I'm thinking about.

  7. Good point, Sara.

    I guess that's the same for me and most bloggers. That's why you will often find me make one post about a topic and then one or even two follow-up posts where I present a more refined version.