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Glad to see you finally tackle Agon. Your supposition of an intrinsic connection between certain types of agonistic play and fiero is hard to deny, and as such the terms you suggest really do help to distinguish closely related, but differing types of play. Especially when it comes to such hardcore and highly refined sensibilities as those that govern FPS games and the like, these kinds of terms I believe are a great step forward for refining game design. Bravo.

"Perhaps finding means to chart a player's position in the flow channel will allow for an automated game balancing system in the future."

Yes! This has been something I've approached for years, though its easier said than done. I suspect that the challenge/skill axes aren't adequete for mapping agonic system dynamics in general, rather I see the flow channel existing between material and formal constraints, with challenge being the amount of "room" between the constraints and skill having to do with the consistency of the wave-like performance function reflecting skill. I think if I understood system dynamics theory better I might have more insights into how precisely you could take the mechanics of the game and translate that into adjustable functions describing the mechanics, to be continued...

Of course, agon is a very real and corrosive prescence in our society, as a recent post of mine examines through a quote from Chris Crawford's "Art of Interactive Design". EA is probably the quintessential example of this, their ruthless smothering of competition has lead to an industry dominated by agonic games.

Patrick: of course, EA also produced The Sims, the antithesis of their usual output. That said, they did all but try to stop it being made. :) My chief complaint with EA is that it's a scandal for the publisher with top turnover to be bottom in investment in original IP.

Jack: thanks for the kind words! Sorry for the wait - it's been busy here. :)

I'm not so sure if fiero in games is as harmless (or even noble) as you suggest. I've been wondering lately about the behaviour of conqueror-type gamers on forums (especially because of thier "amusing" reaction to our Endless Forest "anti-game"). They tend to be extremely aggressive. But also very arrogant and "smart-ass". They have an attitude that I would associate with people who have achieved something in life, people who know that they are important, powerful, etc. But these are usually just spotty kids locked up in their room playing war games on the computer in the attic all day. They have achieved absolutely nothing and have zero power. I think their experience of fiero in the games that they play leads them to believe that they are somehow superior beings. They mistake overcoming the challenges in a game with overcoming challenges in real life because the pay-off feels the same. And the trance that the victory in a game puts them in, blinds them for the fact that the emotion was triggered by a simulation and not by a real event.
I'm not saying that these people are going to break out a gun and start shooting their class mates now. But I do think their experience in games influences their social behaviour in a bad way.

Michael: it is an interesting question. I chose not to pursue any possible negative connotations about fiero in this piece, but in the back of my mind were some concerns. However, how can we tell that the behaviour of these people is a *consequence* of playing games, or if they are have just been poorly socialised - and this has lead them to play games?

I suspect the alienated youth end up playing video games, but this does not prove that playing video games causes alienation, if you see what I mean. Cause and effect are so hard to unravel.

I tend to suspect that even if these people were not playing games, they would *still* be aggressive and rude. There has never been a shortage of rude people - it's just the internet now collects them into larger clusters. :)

"They have an attitude that I would associate with people who have achieved something in life, people who know that they are important, powerful, etc. But these are usually just spotty kids locked up in their room playing war games on the computer in the attic all day. They have achieved absolutely nothing and have zero power."

But isn't that the point of playing those games (at least for these players)? To feel like you're really someone special, even if you're not?

Chris, I'm sure you will agree that the fact that you can't prove something does not mean it isn't true or that you can't believe in it. I know that peaceful games, like our Endless Forest have a soothing effect on me that lasts much longer than the time spent playing. So I can imagine that the effects of fiero work in a similar way.

William, if that's the point of those games then I personally think that this is very dangerous. I am a parent myself and I really hate the tendency of popular entertainment to tell kids that "everybody is a star". This is simply not true and the illusion that it is, is harmful. It leads to the wrong expections of life. I have been a victim of this myself. It took me more than 30 years to realize that it is ok not to be the best, not to be a "star". I think it would be more constructive for these kids to play games that teach them that being ordinary is just fine, that there is a lot of joy in being a "mere mortal".

Of course, Michael, we are free to believe whatever we wish. I personally don't believe in big-T Truth, though, so even if something is proved I *still* don't consider it to be True (absolutely and completely), so I can't agree that if something *can't* be proved that it doesn't mean it isn't true; I believe all knowledge is subject to the same limitation in this regard! :)

From my studies of players, I believe that a tendency for arrogance in general terms is associated with a particular set of personality patterns, and also with a particular age range (specifically: teenage to early twenties). This group also seems to correlate strongly with a particularly strong enjoyment of fiero. Therefore I still maintain that the love of fiero is symptomatic and not causal of the behaviour you describe. (Though I recognise of course that this is just my belief).

I would rather these people were getting their fiero from the safety of a computer game, than from drag races, gang fights, violent crime et al which are vastly more dangerous to both the participants and innocent bystanders! :D

I think there is reason to be concerned about the effect that media exposure (of all kinds) has on the youth as they grow up; I become increasingly interested in so-called Cultivation Theory, and its sobering implications.

I am not against games of fiero - I believe they have every right to exist - but I am against an industry throwing all it's weight behind these games and only these games. There seems little doubt that players have diverse play needs, and that we are doing a lousy job as an industry at meeting those needs except in certain narrow channels. But I believe the situation is already starting to improve, and the best is still to come.

As for the joy of being a "mere mortal", this perhaps is a wisdom that can only be borne of age. :)

So how about creating a game that simulates age then? ;)

I doubt is the geeks that frequent the game forums would particpate in drag races and gang fights, though. I think you're overestimating the appeal of games.

So how about creating a game that simulates age then? ;)

I doubt is the geeks that frequent the game forums would particpate in drag races and gang fights, though. I think you're overestimating the appeal of games.

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