Rohrer On The Castle Doctrine, Guns & Chain World, Pt 2

By Alec Meer on February 1st, 2013 at 5:00 pm.



In the first part of an extensive, illuminating and arguably controversial interview with Passage, Sleep is Death and Chain World creator Jason Rohrer, we discussed his new game, the fascinating but sinister home defence MMO The Castle Doctrine, making virtual possessions and people matter and why he chose to include only male protagonists. In this second and final part, we pick up mid-chat about issues of authorship in games, leading to his thoughts on the divisive Far Cry 3. Then we cover his outspoken feelings about gun control, before moving on to how house and trap construction works in The Castle Doctrine, how he thinks he’s made player-generated content meaningful, and, inevitably, whatever happened to his mystery Minecraft mod Chain World.


RPS: Did you catch any of the stuff from the writer of Far Cry 3, which went into issues of visible authorship?

Jason Rohrer: [laughs] Yes, and all that stuff made me run out… Cos I know Clint [Hocking, Far Cry 2 lead] and I played Far Cry 2 and was interested in all the stuff going around about that back in the day. I’m also friends with Anthony Birch, and he was a huge Far Cry 2 proponent. So I played Far Cry 2 and got really into it, got really good at it and really enjoyed it, so I was kind of turning my nose up at Far Cry 3. [Adopts faux-outraged tone] ‘Another sequel! Not by the same people anymore!’ and all that. But once I heard all the controversy about it, I was like ‘oh man, this sounds far more interesting than I expected it to be.’

RPS: It seems to be a conscious inverse of everything that Far Cry 2 did, including potentially the narrative, although there seemed to be a lot of contradictions in what he said.

Jason Rohrer: Right, I guess you’re up against ‘once you’re explaining you’re already losing.’ [Laughs] Sort of back-pedalling, all ‘no no no, we did this all on purpose.’ I guess I’ve been playing for quite a while, and I’ve only seen one or two Alice in Wonderland references, but he says “they’re everywhere in there, man!” [laughs] Although, right in the trailer, right after reading all that controversial stuff in the press I went and watched that, and right off the bat they’re showing you ink blots. There are ink blots all over the game, so I kind of saw that and thought ‘wow, that’s at least interesting. An ink blot in a game trailer?’

Anyway, we’re right off track. Let’s put the train back on here.

RPS: Yeah, back to your game. Another thing I was going to say about the wife element is that it’s surprising you came up with it so late on, because it seems to be a direct link between this and Passage – the fears of loss and loneliness.

Jason Rohrer: Yeah, it was a weird thing. I don’t know why it came late, and why it wasn’t there in the beginning. I guess part of it was trying to figure it out. You just kind of stick them in there as props then see what they’re going to do. So maybe the idea of family members surfaced, but I kind of dismissed it because it was extra complexity and, I dunno, it didn’t seem like there was going to be a way to make them be more than like couches and lamps. Then, once I had this dream, I was really motivated to figure out how to make that work. This game had to have that, it adds this moral dimension to it that’s deeper and more interesting, and not as much this ridiculous caricature of some post-apocalyptic man’s world, where we’ll all just robbing each other. We’re all these lonely bachelors, just robbing each other.

Although I should say that it’s pre-apocalyptic. The game takes place in ’93, it’s not in the future. Things were pretty bad in the United States in 1993, things have gotten a lot better since then and nobody can really explain why.

RPS: Is the game politicised at all? You talked about how you almost bought a gun yourself, and that’s rather a big issue in the States right now.

Jason Rohrer: Yeah, it is. I started this game about a year ago, I came up with the idea more than a year ago but I was busy working on Diamond Trust and other stuff. In the middle of all this game development and coming up with this idea, and making this game about this issue, Treyvon Martin happened, then the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, and the Aurora theatre shooting… All this kind of stuff has happened in the middle of this, so this has been a very busy year for media coverage of these issues.

RPS: Yeah, it carried over here too.

Jason Rohrer: Yeah, cos you guys were all saying ‘see? Haha, aren’t we glad we don’t have guns in England’, right?

RPS: We’re not laughing, but pretty much.

Jason Rohrer: Not laughing, but being a little bit snooty about it I’m assuming.

RPS: Maybe there’s a ‘told you so’ element, but the NRA doesn’t seem to want to hear that.

Jason Rohrer: Right. And me personally, and this is pretty unusual in the games industry, I’m someone who’s a strong believer in gun rights. Not that I own guns, but it frightens me the idea that – and this is a very American idea as well – the only people with automatic weapons walking around are police and military people. That frightens me. Because I’ve had run-ins with police, and I can imagine run-ins with the military in the future or something, and the idea that someone in power might have these things but the people who are being governed just are not allowed to have them. I’m assuming that British police are allowed access to guns, right?

RPS: [Cautiously] In some circumstances, but not in general.

Jason Rohrer: I don’t mean they carry them on their hip, but in the case of like a big drug raid or something they would have them, right? When they need them they have them. So those kinds of things… I don’t own a gun right now, but I want to be able to own one if I decide to, and I don’t want that right taken away from me. I’m also in the classic thing, ‘if you outlaw guns then only outlaws will have guns.’ For the most part I’m a law-abiding citizen and I wouldn’t want to have to go into the underworld to acquire a gun.

(An interjection from the interviewer. At this point, I was increasingly torn about how much to press the gun control issue. My own feelings are staunchly anti-gun and in truth I was a little taken aback by some of Jason Rohrer’s statements, but inserting my opinions into the interview – and thus likely turning the whole thing into a gun control debate – seemed unwise. So I chose to embrace my own death of the author in this instance, allow Jason Rohrer to say his piece and leave the audience to judge.)

Jason Rohrer: So, anyway, the funny thing about the game industry is that you’ve got these people who are making these things where you kill 800 people by the end of the game. Even relatively mainstream games like Uncharted 2 or 3 has that kind of body count. Basically, the main character, for all his charm and wit and Indiana Jones-like characteristics is a psychopath, right? [laughs]

RPS: Yeah, and that’s the Far Cry 3 question again.

Jason Rohrer: Right, but in a game like Uncharted we don’t even notice it, right? I don’t remember thinking ‘this is a very violent game’ but when someone told me there were like 800 people that you have to kill by the end I was ‘really? I don’t remember killing that many people.’ It’s just oxygen to us. And in this kind of climate, the fact that so many game developers are so stridently anti-gun in real life, it’s just so strange me. I’ve been wanting to organise a GDC shooting range trip where we go and fire off some 357s or something. ‘You guys have been making all these games that have these guns in them and some of you have never even fired them!’

That’s strange to me. I suppose it’s just because game designers tend to be liberal generally, and there are these things which just go along with being liberally-minded: you will be believe in this, and you will believe against this. There’s a sort of set doctrine of beliefs. And I’m somebody who doesn’t really line up with any sort of pre-defined political belief system. I’ve kept this weird mix and match [laughs]. Like I believe in gun rights and I believe in gay marriage, I believing in legalising all drugs and I believe in going back to the gold standard… This weird mix of all these different political beliefs that make me rub everyone the wrong way.

RPS: So you’re the Republicans’ worst nightmare: someone who believes in many of the same things, but they couldn’t possibly recruit you.

Jason Rohrer: Right, right. So yeah, The Castle Doctrine is a statement on that kind of stuff. When you’re faced with it, when the rubber hits the road and you have to defend your family… I’ve had conversations with other game developers which are like ‘if a guy came into your house, and he had a gun, and you were standing in the kitchen would you pick up a knife and try and defend your family?’ And they said ‘no, I’d try to talk to him first.’ [Laughs in disbelief.] So someone’s coming into your house and threatening to kill your family, and you’re going to try to talk to him. For me, as soon as you stick your foot across my windowsill I just feel like that’s it. You’ve violated the contract, right. I’m not sticking my foot across your windowsill.

RPS: And yet in the game you’ve made to discuss this, everyone is a criminal. Everyone is violating that contract.

Jason Rohrer: That is sort of a side-effect. I wanted to make a game that makes you feel violated and makes you want to protect stuff that’s yours, and puts you in the process of securing what’s yours. Then there’s the question of where does the violation come from? I thought this all the more poignant and meaningful when the violation is actually carried by a person in the real world. It’s not just like ‘oh, there’s these virtual burglars who are coming in’, the equivalent of a Left 4 Dead type game where you’re defending a little room against zombies coming in through the window. This violation is happening and it’s all the more poignant because there’s somebody who is actually profiting from this in the real world.

So then the question is, where do these perpetrators come from? [Chuckles] The beautiful balancing and symmetry of having everybody in the game be both a perpetrator and a defender. It was too elegant a game design for me to resist.

RPS: So the idea is they are perpetrators precisely because they know the horror of violation?

Jason Rohrer: That is not necessarily part of the artistic statement. It’s this perfect game design that weds all these things together into something that functions like this well-oiled machine. It has some weird side-effects, like this is really a game about defending your family, but then you’re also going out and doing this stuff to everybody else. It’s not really a statement about how we’re all guilty, or we’re all inherently evil. Although everybody who plays the game does go out and rob everybody else, you know? There’s nobody forcing them to do that. There is this temptation to discount the suffering of others and elevate your own suffering. It’s interesting to explore and see it how it plays out, and how people react to it.

RPS: It sounds like, as well as the political aspect, it’s more consciously gamey than a lot of your other stuff. Obviously if you mention Passage, there’ll probably be a large contingent of people claiming ‘there’s no game in there’, whereas this sounds like it has compulsion loops and feedback loops and…

Jason Rohrer: Oh, c’mon, you know that all those people who say that about Passage didn’t realise that they can also push the down arrow, right? ‘I held down the right arrow key for five minutes and watched a movie, that’s not a game.’ [Laughs] ‘Wait, there’s a maze? There were treasure chests? There were decisions to make?’

So, y’know, is this one more game-y? Uh… Not intentionally so. If you look at the game, in terms of what you can place in your house, there are three types of wall and they all have completely different functions. There’s wiring and switches, a couple of different types of switch that all function in completely different ways, there’s three different kind of animals that all function in different ways. That’s about it, there’s maybe about 20 different things that you can place in your house, and when you go to look at the tools you can carry in your backpack there’s about 10 of them. And they all function in totally different ways.

So it’s a very clean, no frills, no fluff, no filler kind of design. Everything is there because it fits together and has a reason for being there. The classic strategy of [mock announcer voice] ‘load the game up with all this cool stuff that you can collect, and that has only slight variations, like 15 different kinds of swords that function slightly differently,’ there’s none of that in there. Some people have complained about that already, like ‘I’d really like to put couches in my house, or lamps.’ And I’m like ‘this is not FarmVille.’ I’m avoiding all this fluff, all that stuff which just appeals to people who play a lot of games or for whatever reason are drawn to that kind of stuff.

The other thing about this game is that there’s this idea of player-generated content that’s been floated around for about the last four or five years, and how interesting this is. Like Spore and Minecraft and Little Big Planet, these kinds of games that let you modify the world. But when I play those games player-generated content kind of sits in this place where it’s cool to see the stuff made by other players, but it really doesn’t matter to the game so much. Like the way your creature looks in Spore doesn’t really have much of a gameplay function.

RPS: Yeah. They said it would, but the reality was that different legs meant a different animation.

Jason Rohrer: Yeah, two legs versus eight legs, or whether they have a short neck or a long neck. There’s a couple of things, like whether they have claws on the front or something, but we were all making these things which look cool but basically they just look cool. And in Minecraft, which was another inspiration for Castle Doctrine. Part of the inspiration is protecting your house in a multiplayer Minecraft server, where you bury your house under a hillside and hope nobody finds it. Then you come back a few days later, you make sure it’s still there and no-one found it and cut through the hillside and got into it. In there, there’s all this player-generated content but once you get past building the most basic cave that protects you from monsters, everything else is just icing.

So I wanted to make player-generated content that was really central to the game, but that mattered to gameplay, where every wall that you place has some mechanical meaning. You’re building this house not just because it looks cool, you’re building it because you’re actually engineering this thing which is for a purpose, which is to keep everybody else out. And if you do a bad job crafting and inventing your thing, then it’s going to do a bad job of keeping people out.

RPS: And presumably if a player sees certain structures he’ll know what they mean, it’s not just ‘hey, he’s built a nice barn, I think I’ll burn it.’ It implies a certain challenge.

Jason Rohrer: Right, right. This player-generated content is encountered by the other players and has mechanical meaning for them as well. It serves as the meat of the game. The meat of the game is going and poking around in somebody else’s house and trying to figure out how to get through this without dying. Even in the first couple of days of testing, I’ve already had that experience a number of times. I’ve watched replays of people looking at my security and sniffing around, then finally taking a risk and going for it, applying what they’ve discovered.

RPS: Watching the replays sounds really tense – you know you’ve put something here or here, are they going to go that way, are they going to find your family?

Jason Rohrer: Or ‘they cut the wrong wire, yes!’ Exactly. So I really wanted to have that be at the core of it, so if you say this is more gamey… If you look at other games that explore any of these territories at all, they all do the more kitchen sink, filler approach. I really avoided all that kind of stuff, so in that way it doesn’t feel very gamey, you’re looking at this more honed, refined set of objects and trying to figure out how best to place them in your house to achieve a very clear effect.

In terms of feedback loops and things like that, there’s no levelling up, there are no player powers. A single hit from a pitbull or a single step on the electric floor or into a pit, you’re dead.

RPS: But there’s cash, yeah? Is there not an element of it being about making that number go up all the time?

Jason Rohrer: There is, yeah. You start off with some cash in the game and that’s what you use to build your initial security, then all the additional cash that you acquire comes from successfully robbing other players. So it’s not easy cash and it’s not something where you just click a button or come back later and harvest. It takes a lot of work and planning. And the game landscape is going to change over time, because after people try certain types of security and everyone figures out how to get past that…

One of the types is to create three doors that you can’t see down the hallways of, put a sticky switch behind the door that closes the door after you walk in. One of the doors has the vault in it and the other two have nothing in it, or maybe has a pitbull in it. So you have to pick one of these doors, then the door closes behind you. That is something that a bunch of people have been experimenting with, how best to set these up so that someone is really tricked into walking through the wrong door. Or how to set it up so they can’t just use the saw to cut through the wall next to the door, all this kind of stuff. This was just in first few days, people were discovering stuff that I hadn’t even thought of. And once people have figured out how to out-smart that, they move on to more sophisticated security, and so on.

The landscape is going to be constantly changing, it’s not like ‘so long as they keep swinging the sword at this one monster, eventually they’ll get their reward.’ The rewards are only given out in cases of you demonstrating skill and intelligence. And the skill and intelligence required in this multiplayer setting as the game goes on is just going to increase. It’s not like it’s going to get easier because you become more powerful – there’s no power fantasy. You’re always just as vulnerable as you ever were. There’s no body armour. One wrong move and you’re dead, your whole empire is gone.

RPS: Are you sort of prepared, if it comes out and very quickly people come up with unbreakable strategies, to go in there and add new things in response? Or does that not sit with the idea that there’s no flab and everything’s fixed?

Jason Rohrer: This was one of the big worries back when I was designing the game in the beginning. Somebody’s going to design some sort of unbreakable security, then their house is going to just sit there and nobody’s going to be able to get through it and that’ll kind of be the end of the game. And once everybody sees how that person did it, they all copy them. So how do you prevent that? How do I make the server detect that somebody’s house is unbreakable? There’s no way good way to do that, there’s always some way to outsmart any algorithm that I come up with.

So the way that I handle it is almost this Judo move elegant solution, which is that after building your house and designing it and you’re ready to submit it to the server, you have to get through your own house and get to your own vault using no tools. There has to be a clear, safe path. You can’t put, like, 50 pitbulls standing right around the vault, because when you go up to the vault the pitbulls are going to get you, right. You can’t even be carrying a gun in your own house to shoot your own pitbulls. Basically you’re doing a dry run, a safety drill for your own family, and they all run out of the house and you get to see how they run out, then you have to get through your own security without dying. If you make a mistake while testing your own house, mixing your own dynamite effectively, and you blow yourself up, that’s it.

So there’s peril around every corner, but that makes the game totally fair. It’s impossible to make a house that is unbreakable, because you yourself have to be able to break it.

RPS: I like the idea that you’re terrified of your own house. You want to try something new out, but it might kill you, so you might be moderate than you necessarily should be.

Jason Rohrer: Right, and whenever you’re testing all the stuff that you’ve put in your house, you’re sort of the dummy going through a test track, but a vulnerable dummy who can die. I wanted to people to be, for the lack of a better expression, eating their own dog food. You’re dealing with dangerous stuff, and the vast number of people who are bitten and killed by pitbulls are the pitbulls’ owners.

There’s also the stuff about how you’re much more likely to be shot by your own gun than to shoot somebody else and all that, which is a classic anti-gun argument. But the idea is that you’re dealing with this dangerous stuff, and you’re going to inflict it on somebody else, it’s actually being inflicted a little bit on you as well, it’s poisoning your own environment. That makes it fair and really prevents any of the stuff where somebody comes up with unbreakable security.

We also have the benefit of potentially hundreds or thousands of people trying to get past that person’s security, maybe collectively if need be. So if someone’s setup something really tricky that requires a really smart solution, you could have a bunch of people try to collaborate.

RPS: Just one more question then I’d better head off, but… Do you know whatever happened to Chain World?

Jason Rohrer: [vaguely exasperated laughter] Oh, the eternal question!

RPS: I know, I know, but I’ve gotta ask it, right?

Jason Rohrer: Yeah. As far as I know, Chain World is still of the hands of that person who bought in Jia Ji‘s auction for $3300. We still don’t know who that person is, although apparently it’s a woman, and apparently a woman who had $3300 to blow.

RPS: It’s your wife, isn’t it?

Jason Rohrer: [laughs] no, it’s not her. I don’t who the person is. For a while she was using an anonymous Twitter account to harvest expressions of interest for who she was going to pass it on to, but that Twitter account’s been quiet for a really long time. I don’t know whether she’s passed it on, or stopped looking, or is holding on to it. I really don’t know.

RPS: I suppose that was always the point in a way, that it passed into mystery, but it’s so hard to not want to know what happened.

Jason Rohrer: Right. And I’m up again at GDC this year, this is the last one of the Game Design Challenge ever. Eric Zimmerman is recruiting all the winners from past years to go up in one grand head-to-head showdown, where we have to design sort of the ultimate game. I’m the only one who has to do it three times [in a row], unfortunately for me, because I had to defend my title last year and now I have to do this. So I’m up on the chopping block again, trying to design an amazing thing that’s going to blow people’s minds.

RPS: Well, good luck with it, and thanks for your time.

We’ll have more on The Castle Doctrine soon.

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127 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    DrAmateurScience says:

    Ok here’s what I don’t get about this. If the spouse and children were added to bring in some moral choices/commentary, why not give people playing the choice to not be a burglar?

    Aside from making the choice not to play at all.

    Actually that might be the point.

    Hmm. I shall watch this with interest.

    • deadly.by.design says:

      It not only heightens the risk/reward bit, but adds a moral aspect to it.

      Because I’ve yet to see that anywhere in such a way, I think it’s a great idea. The wife thing does not bother me, because it keeps the elements consistent. He has a vision, and while this is touted as being quasi-MMO, I don’t think everyone one of those needs to be the same. Being so drastically different seems to be a major point of this game.

    • timzania says:

      Well I think that’s sort of necessary in the game design. If people have the choice to not be a burglar, where do they get money to build their house? If you just give people some other way to get money, would there be enough burglars running around?

      Along that line I think it’s interesting how deeply he has undercut his intended point about home defense with this mechanic. When pro-gun people argue for gun ownership by constructing an imaginary situation, they don’t usually talk very much about how the situation might have come to pass. The notion of an armed, dangerous burglar has a lot of inherent questions to it, like why he is doing that, where he got those weapons, whether he’s been arrested before and how he was handled, etc. Yet at least in the United States even bringing up those questions gets you called a liberal.

      Yet Rohrer has to answer that to make his game work so he spent a lot of time implementing a series of motivations for burglary, so that everyone will steal. Of course the notion that people in this particular imaginary society have a “right” to home defense would be absurd, since everything they own is stolen. Leaving us with something of a muddled message.

      • Shuck says:

        There are a number of ironies and contradictions in the game. (Such as the name, for one – the Castle Doctrine has never been interpreted to cover traps intended to harm intruders, for instance.)

      • lesslucid says:

        Yes, I think it would better if you had a small but nonzero income each day, so that it would be possible – just very difficult – to play the game purely as a non-burglar.

        • ArmchairDesigner says:

          From part 1 of the interview:

          “As people come to rob your house, and they fail because your security is good, then all the stuff they were carrying, all their tools and their guns and their saws, all the stuff that they didn’t use by the time they died in your house, gets put into a vault with all your other possessions.”

          I haven’t tried the game (yet), but since you can buy stuff for cash, and steal cash from other players’ vaults, I surmise you can also convert some stuff you have into cash.
          If I’m correct, it may then be possible to play and thrive on a purely defensive style, without ever robbing anybody.

    • Premium User Badge

      Strand says:

      I’d be watching with more interest if he had named the game something less inaccurate. I don’t think castle doctrine, as commonly accepted, applies to traps or other elaborate ‘kill you’ instead of ‘deter you’ security systems.

      Perhaps Break-In would be acceptable? That way, if the game’s successful and he makes a sequel, he could call it Break-In 2: Electric Bungalow.

      • Jason Rohrer says:

        A Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal doctrine that designates a person’s abode (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as a car or place of work) as a place in which the person has certain protections and immunities and may in certain circumstances use force, up to and including deadly force, to defend against an intruder without becoming liable to prosecution.

        Yes, I’m considering “deadly force to protect one’s home” in the broadest sense as I apply that title. The deadly force here comes in the form of dogs and doors and traps. Obviously, this kind of intricate home security is pure fantasy—wires and switches and electric floors and all the rest. Well, at least I’ve never met someone who has that kind of home security!

        But calling the police via motion detection as soon as the robber stepped in the room (real-life home security) was pretty thin from a game design perspective.

  2. jellydonut says:

    [Try again without the knee-jerk insult! Or don't.]

  3. Laser-Pants 5000 says:

    I think a section got lost in limbo or something Alec. Even the bearded guy is confused by that particular segue.

  4. qrter says:

    The mini-discussion about guns reminds me of this recent Onion piece:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/62yearold-with-gun-only-one-standing-between-natio,30984/

  5. Wedge says:

    “And I’m somebody who doesn’t really line up with any sort of pre-defined political belief system. I’ve kept this weird mix and match [laughs]. Like I believe in gun rights and I believe in gay marriage, I believing in legalising all drugs and I believe in going back to the gold standard… This weird mix of all these different political beliefs that make me rub everyone the wrong way. ”

    Uh, no, that’s pretty much exactly a secular Libertarian.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, I think he was avoiding saying it for some reason but I didn’t want to presumptuously label him as such.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Yeah, that’s a sterotypical a Ron Paul-ite as you can get. Did you ask him if he wanted to Abort The Fed? (Just kidding, he already said he wanted to go back to a gold standard.)

      Man, this interview really depressed me. Mr. Rohrer is a pretty good game designer, but he’s kind of a broken human being!

      • tanith says:

        Same here. That interview, and especially his views on guns, really scared me and after reading everything I don’t even know whether I even want to play this game anymore (because of the game, not his political views).

      • Personoic says:

        I have a firm dislike for libertarianism, but I don’t see how this makes him a “broken human being.”

      • Mule says:

        I think referring to someone else as a “Broken Human Being” purely on the basis that their opinions or political views don’t match up to your own is a bit closed-minded. I don’t want to come off as too strong here but I think it’s important for people to at least listen to and try to understand the opinions of others, no matter how unpopular or ridiculous they might seem to be initially.

        I think it lends some interesting perspective, and might even further enlighten someone about their own opinions to listen to the opposition sometimes. Granted some people are just off the wall insane and out of touch with reality, but that is often interesting for an entirely different set of reasons!

        Personally I love coming to RPS and other sites hosted all around the world because I do get a chance to read about other people’s opinions , and the difference of perception between people in the UK vs the US when it comes to “Gun rights” is fascinating as it is a place where the partially shared history of these two countries diverges wildly.

        Either way, no need to be a depressed Fungus, I am sure he won’t be writing any Gun Policies on either side of the pond. :)

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          On the other hand, it’s a bit like saying that games criticism is useless because it’s all just opinions and they’re all equally valid. No, sometimes games are actually bad. And similarly, certain political ideas are actually damaging.

          • TCM says:

            The idea that everyone has a right to the tools to properly protect himself and his family is a damaging idea, all of a sudden?

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            Let’s just say that I think ‘right to the tools to properly protect himself and his family’ is a horrible misrepresentation of the issue. The recent events that brought the issue to prominence again say enough about that.

          • TCM says:

            I absolutely believe there needs to be better regulation and security concerning certain types of weapons.

            I will never believe it would be good if guns were not in the hands of the citizenry. Ever.

          • Quirk says:

            Indeed.

            One political idea that could be claimed to be particularly damaging is that disarming the populace is an okay thing for a government to do. Given the bloody mass murder that authoritarian states visited on civilians in the 20th century (in a list of countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Russia, Cambodia and taking in many others, not least a large chunk of Africa), those campaigning for civilians to be completely defenceless against soldiers and policemen are traitors to humanity of the worst kind.

            I’m trolling, but have a serious point. On one hand, I actually think that the UK in practice functions pretty well without firearms being widespread, and has been stably democratic for so long it is unlikely to end up in coup territory in our lifetimes. On the other hand, hot on the heels of the Great Depression, authoritarian regimes were sprouting up across Europe like daisies, and amid our current economic woes, extremism in the political discourse is alive and well right now across a range of European countries; you’re likely aware of this tendency in Greece, but even France is seeing the National Front polling at about 30%. Even if we accept that right here and right now civilians not having guns is for the best as it keeps down deaths from violent crime, it should be pretty obvious that that cannot be made into a general rule for the world at large, or even for developed countries.

            As an aside, the gold standard is a terrible idea and reveals economic illiteracy among a subset of libertarians. In a post-Industrial Revolution world, with both productivity and population growing sharply year on year, an inflexible and fixed money supply is deflationary, supporting hoarding wealth rather than investing. We’ve already been seeing this problem over the last century with the limited supply of property around major cities; extending it to the money supply as well would be back-breaking.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            The funny thing is that we’re talking about the US here, where the one time the population took up arms against their government en masse (civil war) they were on the wrong side of history, while more recent big societal changes all happened via nonviolent means (civil rights).

            Revolutions happen regardless of whether the populace has weapons or not and the success of evil regimes is not determined by whether their populations have weapons or not.

          • Reefpirate says:

            Re: people saying the ‘gold standard’ is a fairly tale and a bad idea. The Industiral Revolution and both world wars were fought under a gold standard. It didn’t seem to slow us down. What demonstrates economic illiteracy is saying the problem with the gold standard is that it limits the money supply. You can argue that deflation is a bad thing, but you don’t need a money supply to grow to keep up with production, once again as evidenced by the Industrial Revolution where productivity was growing almost exponentially.

            It’s quite simple, really… As production increases, prices fall. Now modern economics has this pinned as a bad word ‘deflation’, but really falling prices are great for standards of living and people earning wages and people saving money and consumers in general. Since removal of the gold standard, savers have been punished, wages have stagnated or generally lost purchasing power, and a whole host of other bad things. I honestly don’t know how contemporary economists get away with convincing us that all this rain falling on our heads isn’t urine.

          • Quirk says:

            @Dances to Podcasts:
            That’s a pretty weak argument. The success of revolutions is not affected by the number of weapons floating round? Wonder why the West was trucking weapons into Syria then. Of course it’s not the only factor in play, but it’s hardly an insubstantial one.

            @Reefpirate:
            Gold standard in the UK ceased with the outbreak of WW1, was returned to in 1925, left again in 1931. Britain had a relatively mild Great Depression compared with the US which didn’t break its ties with the gold standard until later, though it did devalue the dollar against gold.

            The Industrial Revolution certainly did not get by “just fine” on the gold standard, but in fact was prone to severe economic booms and busts, and the 19th century was far more vigorously unstable than the 20th economically. The world was hauled out of more than a few holes by the gold rushes of the 19th century reflating the supply.

            W.r.t deflation through the gold standard – while prices fall, the money supply is constant. Those who can afford not to spend their money automatically become richer, and thus there is no incentive to invest in business. As more and more people pull resources from useful work in order to hoard them, you can end up with severe economic breakdown. And deflation is not all useful for the majority of the population who are not possessed of substantial savings, for they merely end up being paid less and less.

      • Tasloi says:

        “but he’s kind of a broken human being”

        Best be sent off to be re-programmed by whatever righteous & divinely benevolent -ism you & yours adhere to then.

    • aldo_14 says:

      An aside, but I always found it quite sad how easily the whole gun lobby managed to get ‘gun rights’ as a standard phrase; it automatically makes an (implicit) assumption there is some basic human right to own a gun, thereby short-circuiting the core part of the debate (as to whether that right, if it exists, should exist).

      Much like how the anti-abortion crowd labelled themselves ‘pro-life’ (forgetting that the crux of the issue is how we define life, particularly human life, in order to determine what, where and when to permit/protect), or – domestically – how refugees are now asylum-seekers (immediately creates a degree of ‘grasping’ imagry; likewise, the usage of ‘failed’ asylum seekers rather than ‘rejected’).

      • MrUnimport says:

        We need labels in order to talk about things. I’d like to think that as thinking human beings we can get around a few slightly-polarized wordings and still grasp the issue at hand.

        And he said he was a believer in gun rights, leaving room for people who disbelieve in gun rights.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        It’s called framing. The gun lobby is especially good at that. An even better example is the idea that ‘guns don’t kill people’. It turns the discussion to the method of killing (you can kill with knives as well as with guns), while the discussion really should be about their effectiveness as killing tools (guns make killing large numbers of people much easier than knives).

        • Oak22 says:

          The question is not whether guns are more effective at mass killing than knives. The answer here is clear. The question is, rather, the same old fundamental question that has always dominated American politics – how much power should the government actually have?

          Is the solution to human violence in a small, isolated instance to apply it in massive scale against the entire population? And this is to be carried out by the most aggressive, violent, controlling, warlike institution that humans have ever devised? At what point are we willing to say that government can stop now – we are safe enough? There really is no stopping point for government – that is why people in the US defend the Constitution, even if it doesn’t actually stop Leviathan.

      • Dervish says:

        I am assuming you mean this in the context of the US, in which case the gun lobby is so successful that they’ve even managed to convince people that America has some sort of “bill” that enumerates these “rights”. Talk about brainwashing!

        There are certainly many buzzwords and much rhetoric in gun ownership debates, but “gun rights” are a Constitutional reality like “freedom of speech.” Moreover, the extent of those rights is frequently and intensely debated. There’s no reason to get into the “Is it a human right?” nonsense unless you’re saying you 1) you don’t care about the Constitution, or 2) you want to amend the Constitution, which are both scoffed at for reasons that have nothing to do with the gun lobby.

        • X_kot says:

          I wonder how often the Third Amendment is cited these days? It’s not like these additions to the Constitution were crafted in response to the political and social realities of late-18th century America. While many, like the First Amendment, are still relevant today, the Second is such an antiquated piece of legislation that I’m surprised it isn’t derided like those backward laws that levy fines on people who throw away tin products.

      • Oak22 says:

        You’re making a major error when you disregard the anti-abortion crowd. They simply define human life differently than you do. They aren’t just backwards boobs who don’t get it. Personally, I believe in letting each individual decide. This is simply not a government issue.

        As for guns, the issue currently is whether or not there is a Constitutional protection to own a gun, which there clearly is. This wasn’t a result of the “gun lobby” that you think is super-ultra powerful in the US. Being the 2nd amendment, its kinda prominent in that “goddamn piece of paper” government is obligated to respect.

        You are correct, however, that there is no specific human right to own a gun. But rights do not come from governments. If you are a human, you own yourself. If agree that you own yourself, you can derive the right of self-defense. If a gun is your means of self-defense, so be it. Rights are natural, not granted by politicians.

        One aspect incredibly overlooked in this gun control issue – supporters of forcible disarmament are punishing the millions of safe, responsible and peaceful gun owners for the actions of a few murderous nuts. You don’t need to agree with them on owning certain types of weapons – they’re not killing anyone and it isn’t your call. This issue is based around entirely irrational hate of people you don’t agree with or understand. It’s wrong and it will not give you safety.

        I like to pose the question – if this was George Bush doing the gun grab, would you be so enthusiastic? Wouldn’t you be worried about his next step? And why not with Obama? You give power to one guy, and the next guy has it too. Don’t be surprised when it doesn’t turn out well.

        • Consumatopia says:

          If agree that you own yourself, you can derive the right of self-defense.

          Definitely true–I think that logic goes back to Hobbes.

          If a gun is your means of self-defense, so be it.

          Just because you have the right to defend yourself doesn’t mean you should have every means available to you. Machine guns? Bazookas? Booby traps? Poison gas? Yes, guns are in the Constitution, no, you cannot derive gun rights from first principles. Society has the right to protect itself by restricting certain weapons (that’s self-defense too!) and exactly what weapons to ban is contingent on the time and place of your society.

          One aspect incredibly overlooked in this gun control issue – supporters of forcible disarmament are punishing the millions of safe, responsible and peaceful gun owners for the actions of a few murderous nuts.

          There are a lot of restrictions that we put on innocent people because there’s no way to know in advance who the nuts are. See what happens if you fly on an airplane. Or try to buy some decongestants. There’s nothing special about gun restrictions in this respect.

          You don’t need to agree with them on owning certain types of weapons – they’re not killing anyone and it isn’t your call.

          No, it is the call of a community to decide what restrictions it will put on itself. People who don’t like those restrictions (or people who want more restrictions) are free to find another community abroad. Even guns owned by law abiding citizens can be dangerous–that’s one lesson of Newtown. I’m a gun owner myself, and I appreciate this nation’s liberal gun laws–but we gun owners aren’t above the law.

          I like to pose the question – if this was George Bush doing the gun grab, would you be so enthusiastic?

          George W. Bush actually did support the assault weapons ban, though without much enthusiasm. Republicans have no trouble supporting Obama’s drone assassination and wiretapping, I doubt very much Democrats would have had any trouble support a hypothetical Bush gun control initiative along the lines Obama is proposing (high capacity magazines, assault weapons, background checks–a bit anemic for a “gun grab”, especially since none of it is retroactive.)

          • Oak22 says:

            On Bazookas and Booby Traps:

            Well, lets leave imagination aside. Look at your own self – are bazookas and poison gas part of your home defense repertoire? You said you are a gun owner. Would you rather have a tiger in a pit hidden under your kitchen door mat? Or do you have better things to do with your life than paranoia and overreaction? A .38 or a shotgun is enough. Obviously – there is a reasonable limit to home defense. For virtually everybody, an armed neighbor is not a realistic existential threat. The truth is, regardless of any law, people can do crazy stuff anyway but they generally don’t and life goes on. I spend none of my lawn mowing time worrying about being killed by my neighbors clever land mine placement.

            The fear generated out of a few bizarre instances is creating an irrational overreaction in people. It reminds me of the months after 9/11 where Bush & Co. had a blank check to save us – we see how well that is going with Barry & Co. with his drones and internet crackdown and gun control, Guantanamo and NDAA. Government control thrives on crisis and fear. So does the media.

            On Restricting Innocents:

            I disagree that “we” are putting restrictions on anybody. I’m not. You’re not. But somehow “we” are. You reference the TSA and the war on pseudoephedrine, but you are making my point. Individual humans usually can act rationally – you and I see that an 89 year old woman with a colostomy bag is not a terrorist and should be allowed to travel without being groped. You and I see that it is not reasonable to prosecute and jail for years a mother of four whose family has seasonal allergies and bought too many boxes of Sudafed within a 30 day period. But somehow, “we” do all just those exact things? Gun control is another Royal We. “We” do things that “I” and “You” consider wrong or irrational. Why?

            (see Arendt: Eichmann, and Milgram Experiments).

            On Community Will and Social Contracts:

            Only individuals decide things. Groups do not. I’m reminded of the Swiss a few years ago and how just a hair over the majority decided for the large minority that new minarets are not to be constructed. An odd, but illustrative story. But what does it matter if those harmed are an irrelevant 2 percent of the people, or the the huge losing 40 percent? I say this because that’s what happens when the community “decides” things. It is majoritarian tyranny. It is might-makes-right because there’s more of us. Do we believe primarily in self-ownership or in group force?

            Also a community doesn’t put restrictions on itself – a majority puts restrictions on a minority using a government monopoloy of violence as its threat to those who don’t comply. (see every single special interest group in DC). Usually, there is some Constitution-like basic protection for that minority – but here you’re suggesting that it doesn’t count on certain issues. Thus, majoritarian violence will ensue despite any restrictions against power.

            On Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama’s Gun Grab:

            This is not a matter of administration – it is a gradual erosion that has spanned decades. Government, fundamentally defined as a territorial monolpoly of force, does not like armed people because they impinge upon its monopoly. Republicans and Democrats are flip sides of the same coin. They both are pro-government, and neither is pro-citizen. What we call politics is an internal power struggle between two dominant factions. Neither is a real opposition party to the other. That’s why they both love drones and wiretapping, and that’s precisely why taking away guns isn’t exactly trustworthy federal paternalism either.

            And on retroactive gun control – Connecticut already had a statewide ban on the type of weapon used at Sandy Hook. But the weapon used was grandfathered in as being legal prior to the legislation. If that didn’t work, why on earth would you support federal legislation proposing nearly the same thing? It’s hardly “anemic” (and again, if it is anemic, why would you support it?) to make it difficult or illegal to acquire something the government is supposed to respect ownership of. Do you really think, as warlike as the US is, they just want to protect kids?

            Ever find it odd that we aren’t talking about the medications making the recent shooters psychotic? And that we’re not even talking about amending the Constitution to be more coherent “with the times?” But that instead we’re talking about banning certain guns by executive order in lieu of congressional action. Nobody’s a little worried about that? Again – why was this scary when it was Bush?

          • Consumatopia says:

            Re: Bazooka, the point is that justifying a right to any means of self-defense can’t be done from first principles.

            re: “We”, you consent to live under the laws determined by a community’s governing system by living with its borders and accepting its protection. If you don’t like the laws or the system, persuade the rest of the community to change it or find a new community. Your talk of “majoritarian tyranny” is nonsense–it would be like if I started talking about tyranny when you refused to let me live in your house. In fact, those aren’t merely analogous cases, those are the same case–all property is defined by the community. If it is truly impossible for communities to make collective decisions, then it is impossible for individual property to be legitimate.

            re: executive order–for all the noise both sides are making about this, all any of the proposed executive orders can do is enforce laws that already exist. Certainly no additional gun will be banned by executive order–there is no way SCOTUS would tolerate that.

          • Oak22 says:

            Bazooka: We’re seeing past each other here somehow. I think you have an authority-centric view of the world, I have an individualist-centric view of the world. It’s not meshing.

            We: I do not consent to a government by merely living someplace. I was born – government then decided it owned me unless I moved? Not so convincing. How does that explain, say, the Soviet Union or North Korea where that isn’t possible without the possibility of getting shot at?

            My entire argument is based around the idea that a person has an instant right to self-ownership naturally by just existing. I derive all property rights from this axiom. You are saying, as far as I can tell, that the community trumps an individual right to self-ownership, and I agreed because I was born. This is as bad as “USA USA USA! If you don’t like our war, you can leave!”

            If the individual is not harming the community, what right does it have to aggress upon him, regardless of how many people want to do it?

            The existence of majoritarian tyranny is hardly nonsense. My point was that a democracy or representative government hardly guarantees justice or liberty. Your analogy makes no sense – if you are in my house you have no property rights. I do. You are there as long as I don’t think you are trespassing. You don’t get to live there against my wishes without violating my ownership of the house – the same problem exists with your claim that tacit acceptance exists just because I live someplace. I’m here rejecting the whole concept of an implied social contract as pure fantasy.

            If I own a brown house, and the majority decides that a new rule comes into effect that says “NO BROWN HOUSES EVER.” It doesn’t mean that I move away – it means that the majority has now violated my pre-existing property rights. Back to subject, you have the right of self-defense prior to any rules to the contrary. What happened in Connecticut was not self-defense, but murder. The solution is not to limit peoples ability to defend themselves who did not aggress.

            When a majority has the power of government behind it, it can and will use it against the minority to violate rights. That isn’t nonsense.

            Re: Executive Order
            You have much more confidence than I that gradual erosion of individual liberty just won’t happen – people just wouldn’t allow it. Right. It doesn’t justify the aggression by government in the first place, though, does it?

      • ScorpionWasp says:

        Speaking of phrasing and implicit meanings, pretty much EVERYONE in the modern world will phrase any and all issue you bring at them with the implicit meaning that it’s perfectly fine and expected that a small caste of humans (government) should have a right to determine and uphold through force what other humans can and can’t do, who they can and can’t associate with, how they live their lives, and what percentage of their production they have to surrender at gunpoint to said caste.

        I think that’s the one thing that should not be implied, given and dogmatic. That instead, everyone should be made to defend these – to my eyes very questionable – assumptions before getting to invoke them.

    • Lanfranc says:

      “…that’s pretty much exactly a secular Libertarian.”

      Indeed, which makes it more than a little ironic that he’s built a game that beautifully illustrates the Hobbesian anarchic natural state, with its “war of all against all” in the absence of a central government.

      • Arren says:

        The words, you’ve taken them out of my mouth. (Or off of my typin’ fingers?)

      • Dominic White says:

        Yeah, outing yourself as a vaguely paranoid libertarian in the same interview as you talk about your new game about the horrors of being trapped in a world populated entirely by paranoid libertarians, all without the slightest shred of self-awareness or irony? The man may be intelligent, but introspection does not come easily to him, it seems.

        • jasonrohrer says:

          It’s a complicated mixture of both.

          New Mexico was the first place that I saw civilians walking around with guns on their hips (like some guy in a shopping mall, or the owner of a small pet shop). It was pretty scary. Do I trust this guy not to snap? His hand is mere inches a way from tearing a hole through my body. I’m a bit scared to own a gun myself (what might I do with it and later regret?).

          On the other hand, I was faced with the pressing reality of protecting my family, so I do understand why people have guns and pit bulls and fences and burglar alarms. There’s obviously the potential for those things to backfire, and the mentality of fear that they bolster probably just makes things worse. “Don’t worry, it probably will never happen!” That’s always been my way of handling it. Until it happened.

          Finally, on a philosophical level, the idea that some people can have the means to kill people while they at the same time forbid everyone else from that means really bothers me. (Thus I’m no fan of the death penalty).

          All this was busily mixing through my mind, especially in the wake of moving to a safer place where I didn’t have to worry about this stuff anymore (and all the baggage that such a “bubble” entails).

          So, I made a game about this stuff, in part to tackle this complex cocktail of ideas and fears and solutions. It doesn’t really make sense. Though of course I’m asked to explain it, and I try my best.

          • Phantoon says:

            Why is it that yelling “Fire!” in a crowded area is a crime, but carrying around a full loaded assault rifle in plain view isn’t? Keep them at home, locked up securely. You know, the smart thing. You don’t need them while walking down the street.

            And you don’t need them to make a statement. Because when you do, the only statement most people see is “I can kill you, at any time!” That just makes me scared, then it makes me want laws that keep people from doing that.

          • ArmchairDesigner says:

            I for one am grateful for the candour and openness of your replies here, although it seems some here are a bit queasy about it.
            The entire matter of safety, violation, right to/of force is a complex one, and brings up strong, sometimes contradictory emotions for most people, as it should. That you are so forthcoming about your design being a reflection of your own questions and personals doubts about the issue, rather than a definitive statement about the right way is refreshingly earnest, and a welcome change from the usual mix of arrogant posturing and false humility that is most commonly dished by game authors.

            FWIW: you do kinda come off as a Paultard, but that doesn’t make you any more broken as a human being than all the other nutters in this thread who believe they’re perfectly reasonable, myself included. ;)

          • slight says:

            I have to say that I’m one of those who’s felt a bit unseasy at times reading that interview. My hackles may have been slightly raised by the apparently pretty stereotypical view of the country I’m from, but whatever.

            Having said that this reply eases my discomfort a fair bit. I didn’t feel like I wanted to implicitly condone a pro-gun ownership game, but a game that’s approaching these issues in the way you describe here is far more accessible. As long as you’re asking questions and not /trying/ to imply answers (though they may be implicit in some of your world view) then more power to you.

            On the topic of gun control, I can understand where you’re coming from, but I have to say that I think the damage of the ‘solution’ (easy access to powerful weaponry) is worse than the amount that it would actually help the problem it’s trying to solve. That sentence is really ungainly but my point is not that it’s necessarily worse than the actual problem it’s trying to solve (see Syria), but is, for example, 100 years of gun violence an acceptable price to pay for the /hope/ that if you had a violently repressive government you might have some sort of citizen’s uprising which would be made possible by owning hand guns, or even assault rifles? On the more day to day argument that having a gun allows you to defend yourself seems pretty self defeating to me in that it just means there’s more danger to defend youself against and probably spiralling paranoia about crazy people with access to guns… This is something you seem to be alluding to slightly in your mention of people walking around with guns on their hips.

            While I’m in full flow actually there something I wanted to add regarding police and firearms in the UK. Regarding the police in the UK, only some specialist units are allowed to carry firearms. I’m pretty sure they aren’t routinely deployed unless there is a known threat of someone else having one, so they’re not used that much, and they very rarely actually shoot anyone, usually the threat of the weapon is sufficient.

        • Shuck says:

          Yeah, previous to this interview I thought the ironies of the game were intentional…

      • Dervish says:

        There is nothing ironic about that because libertarians are not anarchists.

        • Lanfranc says:

          Correct, but they are opposed to a strong government, which (at least in the Hobbesian analysis) is the key to enforcing a social contract and ending the anarchic natural state.

  6. trout says:

    I have a weird case of disagreeing with just about everything mr rohrer thinks, but admiring the fact that he talks so openly about his viewpoint and perspective on various issues – are his other games worth playing/checking out?

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Passage was one of the big iconic games of the early-modern indie game / art game movement – lord, does that ever sound pretentious! – but I kind of doubt it’s aged well. Inside a Star-Filled Sky is pretty good, though – procedurally generated recursive shmup, weird as hell but pretty neat. Can’t vouch for any of the others.

      • aldo_14 says:

        I remember Passage being strangely effective / moving.

      • Premium User Badge

        Devenger says:

        Passage should be just as moving as it ever was, if you go into it with sufficiently little knowledge of what the game is. It’s as powerful as you let it be.

        I’m hoping it’s not too great a spoiler to say how much I loved that, given everything, what I chose to do most in that game was stand still. And that was okay.

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      Sleep is Death is pretty amazing, too.

    • sirdavies says:

      I only played Passage without discovering you could go down and still found it quite cool.

  7. X_kot says:

    I really like that “you have to solve your own puzzle” mechanic; it made the Contracts mode in Hitman: Absolution a worthwhile endeavor. Rohrer is clearly a thoughtful and clever designer whose games deserve the critical acclaim they’ve received. That said, it seems that he gets swept away with simulacra that emulate his life experiences. His work is analagous to creative nonfiction, and although I enjoyed Passage, it was a single-player game. I can appreciate its koan-like structure in that format…but as an online game? I have reservations about how well his deeply personal narrative will translate to that genre. The medium is the message and all that.

  8. MarkB says:

    When I first heard about the concept for this I thought Rohrer going to go for a commentary on how the hyper-vigilance and paranoia underlying alot of American gun culture leads to a disregard for the well being of people outside your immediate circle. This in turn leads to a whole lot of societal harm as well as self harm (if not physical harm at least psychological).

    It actually works quite well, blowing yourself up when trying to set up your security, robbing a neighbor to buy more security and the fact that no matter how much you work at it your house will still be vulnerable all fit well with that interpretation.

    But apparently he is just down with the hyper-vigilance thing and robbing other people is a mechanic because it makes the game play better and not as a commentary on the effects an us v them siege mentality has on society.

    I was pretty disturbed when Rohrer was saying that he would chose to attack a burglar with a knife rather than talk with him. The assumption that anyone who breaks into your house intends to kill you and your family and cannot be reasoned with is pretty warped and shows a total lack of understanding of basic human motivation (if some is breaking into your house they are probably there for your stuff, not to kill you. By escalating you a much likely to get killed, if you get killed the home invader might feel the need to eliminate witnesses etc.)

    The fact that Rohrer thinks he is going to take on a man with a gun with just a knife suggests a fantasy element that seems to pop up alot in the home defense crowd. Constantly fantasizing about defeating bad guys is how you end up in this: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57566529-504083/georgia-man-69-accused-of-fatally-shooting-22-year-old-who-drove-into-wrong-driveway/

    Anyways good job not getting into a debate Alec, I probably wouldn’t have had such restraint.

    • SamC says:

      What would you say to a burglar? You are right, they’re probably there for your stuff, and they’d probably book it as soon as they saw you. But if they didn’t immediately leave, what would you say?

    • TCM says:

      If I were to meet a home invader, I doubt I’d have the capability to reason with them. I’d probably be in some mixture of anger, fear, panic, and absolute shock.

      I would not be thinking “Oh, he’ll probably leave if he realizes he’s been caught.” I would be thinking “I need to defend my home and my family.”

      Yes, I absolutely would attack a burglar before trying to talk in such a situation. Would I regret it later if they were catastrophically injured, or even killed?

      Probably.

      Would I even consider my own safety before choosing to attack them?

      Probably not.

      • Eddy9000 says:

        Armed defendants are more likely to be killed then unarmed ones, your idea that you’d be the one stood around regretting the decision to shoot the assailant is a little optimistic.

    • jasonrohrer says:

      I’m not personally a home security nut. I don’t own a gun, and would rather leave my doors unlocked all the time. I’ve never been robbed or even come close, and I’m always eager to point out mass hysteria.

      What brought this home to me was when my pregnant wife was attacked on a public, highly-trafficked street by a vicious dog. She was on her bike ahead of me with my 2-year-old in his bike seat. My 7-year-old was riding on the back of my tandem. After biting her, the dog looked at my 2-year-old and then ran straight at me. I was wearing shorts and sandals…. I kinda stuck my foot out and pushed the dog’s head away with the bottom of my sandal. At that point, it lost interest in us and went back to it’s owner (who was standing on the sidewalk trying to control the other dog, which might have been a twin of the one that ran at us).

      Anyway, it all happened fast, and is kindof a blur. But there was nothing I could do to protect my family…. we were totally defenseless.

      Well, at least the law will help us, right? So the fire department came the the scene with the big truck and everything, and examine my wife. Then the animal control officer was on the scene, so justice was at hand. Guess what? There was no law against dogs biting people. The owner got a ticket for having his dog off the leash, and that was it. I thought that this was just a local issue, but it turns out it’s the same way in many other cities and states in the US. Your only option is to sue the owner for damages in civil court (a huge, time-consuming, and likely fruitless process).

      Now, if the owner had bitten my wife, he’d be in jail…

      Anyway, this was the first incident that got me thinking about my cavalier attitude toward protecting my family. More incidents followed with both dogs and people.

      In the end, we moved to a much safer city, which I suppose is a non-confrontational solution to the problem, and our club and pepper spray has been gathering dust ever since. But most people living in rough places don’t have that option.

      Along with being many other things, this game is a love letter to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

      • MarkB says:

        That dog anecdote is pretty horrifying, I can see how that would get you thinking about family defense. The fact that I live some where insulated enough that don’t have to worry much about such things is probably why I have such a negative knee-jerk reaction. Looking over the interview and my post it is pretty clear that I started projecting a bunch of home defense nut stereotypes on you once I realized that you were playing the theme straight, which was obviously unfair.

        For the record I’m not even opposed having a gun for home defense, but I know people who are perpetually waiting for confrontation to validate their preparation and that sort of perspective has a really negative influence on how they view pretty much everything. The gun debate has gotten these people really fired up and over-exposure to their arguments has made me hyper-sensitive to anything that seems to be propagating that perspective.

        Anyways the short version is: Sorry I was projecting other peoples views on you. The game seems like it could be quite fun, even without the meta-narrative I made in my head.

        With regards to everybody asking what I would do or say in the worst case scenario for a burglary (doesn’t run away when seen, doesn’t let you de-escalate, appears to have intent to harm family). I would probably panic, I might even try to attack him, I can’t really know. But looking at it from a distance I don’t think it would be a good idea to attack. This is mainly because I highly doubt my ability to take him down and I suspect a failed attack increases the likelihood killing me significantly and I he kills me he would probably take out the rest of the family. I suspect my perspective I somewhat skewed because from a distance I am more worried about the consequences of the actions I take, ie. failed attack leads to wiping out family to remove witnesses, than the consequences of inaction, ie. robber kills family for no particular reason.

        • Jason Rohrer says:

          I appreciate your willingness to hear me out, Mark. Thank you.

          It’s actually a bit unfortunate (for me) that high-profile events over the past year in the US have hyper-stoked the gun debate. Though The Castle Doctrine predates all that stuff, it now, as it nears release, seems to play right into the debate. Now, when people hear about the game, they say, “Wow, how timely.” That quickly turns into, “Wow, how exploitative.” And the caricature of the gun nut and survivalist (Doomsday Preppers) is so fresh in people’s minds.

          Granted, the events that led to the debate are far more unfortunate.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      I agree that taking on a gun-wielding intruder with a knife is a fantasy borne of action films, but saying you’d calmly have a chat with a gun-wielding intruder is just as rooted in fantasy.

      • Mattressi says:

        Yeah, if someone’s broken into your house while you’re in there, it’s not exactly a good sign that they are just a poor down-trodden soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly. People like that are more likely to break into your house when you aren’t home. If they’ve brought a gun with them, well it really indicates that they are not concerned about your safety. Trying to talk with them just seems really stupid. You’d be putting your life at risk for no reason.

        Why should you have to take the risk that the guy who broke in might kill you? It should be them risking their life, breaking into your house. I just can’t understand why someone would choose to try to talk with someone who broke into their house. You are taking a risk in the hopes that they are a nice person, who just happens to break into houses. They took the risk getting into your house; you shouldn’t feel obliged to take a risk with your life just because they did with theirs in order to commit a crime.

        • Reefpirate says:

          I tend to agree with you. But context is important… If you’re the unarmed party and escape doesn’t seem likely then you may as well talk because what the hell else are you going to do? If both parties are armed, I would also hope that a decent human being would at least voice his/her displeasure with the intruder and give them a chance to disarm themselves before firing.

          • bp_968 says:

            While that seems like a great and friendly idea (trying to de-escalate an armed intruder) it’s really a terrible idea. I believe this concept stems from movies and TV teaching non-gun owners that two opposed individuals can both point guns at each other and carry on a conversation, both safe in the feeling that they could respond if needed, or both locked in deadlock since any action would result in mutual death. The problem is these are all fallacies. When someone is in your house with a gun you *can’t* discuss politely leaving with them because action is faster then re-action and if he acts to shoot you then your at high risk of being killed. You also can’t shoot to wound. A wounded man with a gun is still a wounded man with a gun who can kill you. Your only option to an armed intruder is to start shooting first and shoot until the threat is down (however many rounds that takes). Remember, a grown man can cover 21 feet in 1.5 seconds and put you in a world of hurt, even without a firearm.

            The method Jason used to avoid trouble (move to a safer place) should highlight some things to people. Most of us posting in these comments live in first world nations in nice, happy little safety bubbles. The reality is that most of the world doesn’t live in a safety bubble, and in the past most of the world was bubbleless. We are stunned and shocked to our core when we see the dark side of humanity (mass shootings, etc). Yet if we were to dig around we would find that these events happen on a daily basis outside our first world safety bubbles. In these places its only corrupt governments or gangs that are armed and its there that we get to see the real, true nature of humanity, and its not pretty. The problem with all powerful governments is that they are run by people. The same people who apparently are not trustworthy enough to own a gun are trustworthy enough to wield the power to completely manage, or destroy your life. Their are endless examples of a good government quickly going bad and turning on its own people, yet for some reason humanity seems intent on constantly stripping themselves of all power and handing it up to a select few. The problem is It will eventually come back to haunt us.

  9. jasonrohrer says:

    One clarification: At the end, I said I was the only person to face the Game Design Challenge three times. I misspoke—I’m the only one to face it three times in a row. Most of the other past winners who have been called back for this final Challenge are also doing it for the third time.

    That 1992 yellow page ad at the top of the story really sums up the thematic underpinnings of the game, and helps to explain why I chose to constrain the family structure so much. This is the archetypal family with two children, one boy, one girl. If you flip through that same 1992 phone book, you’ll find that women’s names are almost entirely absent.

    I don’t have that archetypal family myself (I have three boys and no girls), and if you flip through a 2013 phone book, you’ll find my wife’s name instead of mine (because she happened to set up the telephone account, and we have different last names).

    In other words, a lot has changed in 20 years, at least in the US. I was only 15 in 1993. If anything, this game could be cast as me imagining my father in that era (who did have one boy and one girl, and who was particularly nervous about home security), but it’s not really that either. You’re playing that guy in the yellow page ad, or some guy just like him.

    Also, when people say “MMO”, everyone thinks MMORPG. This is not an RPG where the progression of the character that you’re playing is central. The character that you control in this game is really just an icon. It hasn’t been mentioned before, but this game is a roguelike at it’s core (albeit a roguelike where every dungeon is designed by another player with the sole purpose of keeping you out). So, instead of being about character progression, it’s really about house progression.

    Anyway, if anyone has any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

    • Dervish says:

      I find it absolutely hilarious that one of the least pretentious “indie” interviews in history, in which the designer simply explains some of the mechanics and the ideas he was thinking of and seems to make no normative statements, results in insults by commenters who want to get all self-righteous and rail against imagined or associated positions as if this is some horrific propaganda piece. Or rather, offended that it’s not presenting their favorite arguments.

      I was expecting this interview to be a bunch of artwank and looking down the nose at “mainstream” games, but Rohrer just comes off as a completely normal dude sharing his thoughts and not telling anyone what to think. I haven’t seen the game, but I will be further amazed if Rohrer also ends up being the one to use “roguelike” more appropriately than just about anyone in recent memory.

      EDIT: Oh shoot, reply fail. Sorry Jason, expect a bunch of gun control comments though!

      • Machinations says:

        I don’t see a single insult in the thread. I do some some discussion of the game as well as discussion of the developers expressed political views, but not insults. The developer chose to include those comments in the interview, and the commenters had some response to it.

        I’m not going to wade into a gun control discussion ; I will say that comparing the per capita murder rates of the US and any other ‘first world’ nation does not paint the US in a favorable light. Besides, what exactly does this have to do with the game, except tangientally?

    • X_kot says:

      Mr. Rohrer, I want to thank you for giving such an open interview about TCD’s design and for venturing into the comments section. It’s refreshing to hear such upfront discussion from a dev, so I hope any flak you get doesn’t deter from you doing this in the future.

      The roguelike comment makes sense, and I completely agree with you that the focus should be on the progression of one’s home. My concern about using a stock nuclear family as a source of player investment is that players, assuming they play more than once, could start to objectify the family members (i.e., wife = lockbox, kids = griefer bait). That seems contrary to their purpose. What do you see as the downside of leaving them out and instead substituting other devices? Do you consider the pride of success/shame of failure not sufficient to keep players engaged?

      • jasonrohrer says:

        Thanks!

        Fortunately, compared to other sites’ comment sections, RPS is a highly civilized place. Yeah, people might disagree with my views, but the personal attacks are minimal. That’s part of the reason that I choose this site for exclusive stuff like this (and why Alec will be the first writer to get a hands-on with the game later on).

        As to your question regarding the necessity (and thematic dangers) of the family mechanics, it really comes back to a “family attacked” dream that I had a few months ago and the nagging feeling that it gave me: some emotional weight was missing from the game. Picking that yellow page ad also highlighted what was missing. I really liked the tagline “SOME THINGS CAN’T BE REPLACED,” in the way that it captures the business of selling fear. But in my game, everything could be replaced!

        So, the family members fill that hole. If they had no gameplay function, players would naturally not care about them at all. I mean, some would, because some can grow attached to icing for thematic reasons. But I wanted every player to care about them, and to not be able to ignore the necessity of protecting them.

        I’ve been playing a lot of FTL lately and noticing how attached I grow to my add-on crew members. They are so hard to come by, and so helpful mechanically. When one dies in a fire, I literally shout “NO” out loud and feel grief. Same is true for permadeath of characters in Fire Emblem and Disgaea.

        So, even though we might “objectify” these characters for their mechanical benefits, some kind of psychological attachment trick is being played. I think that trick is STRONGER because of the benefit. Obviously, I’m not sure, and it’s something that hasn’t been explored very much. But it’s something that I want to explore.

        When your wife dies, she can’t be replaced. Let’s say you lose this red haired woman named Deborah. But you also lose your in-game parachute that helps you recover from future robberies (by retaining half your money). So, when you come home and find her dead, you’re hit with two flavors of emotion loss that resonate with each other.

        In early testing, before players noticed that the wife carried half the money, people were not bothering to protect the family members at all (they were pretty much ignoring them).

        Also, the kids are not just griefer bait. They have a subtle mechanical function as well, which I’ll let people discover on their own.

        Finally, to answer a question from above, no, you can’t leave messages in someone’s house. The game purposely has no verbal communication channel at all.

        • X_kot says:

          I appreciate the response and look forward to playing it when it’s released. Good luck!

        • Kregoth says:

          I really want to play your game, I imagine that the children do move, one turns off the lights and the other calls the police? Also does the Mom just up and leave the kids behind in the house? That’s kinda saddening if so :P

          I wanted to mention that as a fellow American who also loves RPS, that I DO own guns and never though of them as a weapon! They are a hobby like tool to me and my family and friends, we shoot clay disc’s flung through the air, we shoot at paper targets, and yes sometimes they are used for hunting. I still feel uncomfortable holding one, but simply because I know how dangerous they can be.

          I think the view point of those who have never held or even been around a REAL gun, really should for at least 1 day!

        • Bart Stewart says:

          “Also, the kids are not just griefer bait. They have a subtle mechanical function as well, which I’ll let people discover on their own.

          Finally, to answer a question from above, no, you can’t leave messages in someone’s house. The game purposely has no verbal communication channel at all.”

          Thanks for these corrections to my impressions based on the first part of Alec’s interview with you.

          I appreciate that you have something more in mind than just “design a game around the Killer playstyle.” Based on that core mechanic, though, I do suspect it will mostly attract and retain people who enjoy messing with other people. I also still wonder what the steady-state numbers (as a MMO) will be — maybe this will be a validation of Richard Bartle’s observation that the number of Killers in an MMO depends on the number of Socializers and Achivers available to annoy. Or maybe it won’t, and that part of his player types theory can be modified and improved.

          Either way, as I said, I believe this game is a fresh tangent in game design history. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

    • Urthman says:

      Would it really be that hard to let the player choose a gender for themselves and their spouse and just use some other artistic cue (color palate?) to differentiate between player characters and NPC spouses?

      I think your game would be much more effective if people could defend a family that looks like their own rather than trying to imagine what it’s like to defend your family.

  10. Premium User Badge

    draglikepull says:

    The title of this piece is a perfect example of why we need the Oxford comma. I was confused for a while trying to figure out what “Guns and Chain World” was and why it didn’t seem to be showing up anywhere.

    • Shuck says:

      “Guns and Chain World” – the least enjoyable theme park ever.

      • The Random One says:

        Instituted after the Gears of War licence fell through.

  11. Michael Fogg says:

    Pro-gun types keep bringing up those ‘home invaders’… I wonder if it ever dawned on them that it’s good to have a solid set of doors. Typically in the American suburbia you will only find respectable front door, but completely puny backdoors, that sometimes even get left unlocked to boot (heh). Peculiar idea of security: a completely open house with a gun in an open drawer in every room…

    • Shuck says:

      Most “home invaders” get into the house when the owners open the door for them, making more solid doors rather useless. It also makes guns rather useless unless you answer the door with a gun drawn on all visitors, of course…

    • Oak22 says:

      Where on earth are you coming up with this cartoonish view of people who own a gun for personal protection? They don’t have good doors?

      Really?

    • Reefpirate says:

      Anti-gun people keep bringing up this idea that the world really isn’t that dangerous and mean people won’t want to break into your house and do wrongs in it. Why do police even need guns if the world is so damn peaceful?

      • Michael Fogg says:

        Hehe, ‘mean people’. You should really read about the correlations between things like poverty, inequality, education levels and violence. In some places stranger-on-stranger kind of crime that is the bulk of media scare stories happens so rarely it’s not even worth mentioning.

        • PopeJamal says:

          This is completely true.

          If you live in a really bad neighborhood with lots of poverty, look out. If you live in the target demographic area for those “scare tactic” news stories (middle income areas or better), you can be pretty sure that if anyone robs you, it’s someone who either knows you, or lives near you.

  12. Acksiom says:

    CDC FIREARM DEATH STATS for 2010:

    Legal Intervention: 344
    Accidental Deaths: 606
    Homicides: 11078
    Suicides: 19392
    Male Suicides: 16962
    Total: 31420
    Percent Suicides: 0.6171865054
    PERCENT MALE SUICIDES: 0.5398472311

    2010 — 0.5398472311 Reversed Average — 0.5398472311
    2009 — 0.5240880604 Reversed Average — 0.5319676457

    1996 — 0.4700984328 Reversed Average — 0.4989777677
    1997 — 0.4737908884 Reversed Average — 0.5010405773
    1998 — 0.4969728876 Reversed Average — 0.5031367072
    1999 — 0.507145359 Reversed Average — 0.5036503588
    2000 — 0.5083529701 Reversed Average — 0.5033326316
    2001 — 0.5029650331 Reversed Average — 0.5028305977
    2002 — 0.5015167172 Reversed Average — 0.5028156604
    2003 — 0.4958199572 Reversed Average — 0.5029780283
    2004 — 0.4950910207 Reversed Average — 0.5040006099
    2005 — 0.4894824927 Reversed Average — 0.5054855415
    2006 — 0.4803103403 Reversed Average — 0.5086861512
    2007 — 0.4905325061 Reversed Average — 0.5157801039
    2008 — 0.5086526181 Reversed Average — 0.5241959699

  13. Arglebargle says:

    While an intriguing sounding game, with some clever mechanics, the theme pretty much makes this uninteresting to me. Sorta like the game Prison Architect; when I live in a country where private prison companies lobby to keep laws strict so they can get more ‘paying customers’.

    Though my favorite spin on the old saw is “When guns are outlawed, only police will have guns.”

    • Mattressi says:

      Which, if you look throughout history, isn’t necessarily a good thing. Just because your police and government seem fine now, it doesn’t mean it will always be that way. No need to fear it, but no need to not dismiss it either. It amazes me how short-term people think; as if they believe their world will forever stay the same.

      • Premium User Badge

        draglikepull says:

        The right to bear arms isn’t going to protect you from tyranny if the country in question is as powerful as the U.S. How is a person armed with a handgun (or even a machine gun) going to fight back against a government that can fight back with tanks, fighter planes, and drones? The idea that citizens need to be allowed to arm themselves to protect against tyranny is an anachronism from a time when such a thing may have been possible. It isn’t anymore, at least not in a place like the U.S.

        • TCM says:

          That’s a good point, and that’s why we won in Vietnam, took no losses whatsoever in Afghanistan, and easily dispatched the insurgents in Iraq. Because the US has a big powerful military that couldn’t possibly be bogged down by a lot of guys with cheap guns, since after all, they have tanks, drones, and fighters!

        • Consumatopia says:

          You can see down below that I’m not entirely down with the NRA, but I don’t think they’re entirely wrong on this point. Ultimately you need boots on the ground and human beings to control a place, and an armed population makes that harder. In addition, there would likely be divided loyalties in the military–so all that hardware and organization might not be one side.

          That said, it’s just as easy to imagine guns making things worse in the event of dictatorship. If there’s ongoing violence between an armed minority and the feds, that might cause people to rally around the feds. Ultimately, any struggle for control of the United States would have to be a political struggle (and yes, politics goes on even in the middle of a war, see our Civil War.) Guns don’t necessarily make that struggle easier. Would African Americans be better off today if Dr. King had encouraged armed rebellion? Armed resistance did play a part in racial equality (e.g. black Union soldiers)–but sometimes unarmed resistance works better.

  14. Mattressi says:

    Awesome, a libertarian game dev! That’s probably the first time I’ve agreed with a game dev on political issues, ever. I don’t know why game development and even gaming are such a liberal/left wing area. I also don’t get why people must judge others on their political beliefs, when it is clear that the vast majority of people have their beliefs formed by their own government and interest groups. Yes, there’s a “gun lobby” in the US, but there are also anti-gun lobbies in other countries, as well as the US. To balance the gun lobby in the US, there are groups like the Brady Campaign. While the gun lobby blames videogames for massacres, the Brady Campaign (and similar groups) blames the pistol grip stocks, the bayonet lugs, the flash suppressors and the high capacity magazines. As if any of these would prevent a large number of defenceless people from dying (10 round “low capacity” magazines can be changed out within 2 or 3 seconds). There’s stupidity on both sides, yet both sides will name call, will use misleading evidence (NRA citing imaginary psych studies on gamers, Brady Campaign citing US murder rates compared to other Western countries, without showing the higher murder rates in gun-controlled Russia, nor the lower murder rates in unrestricted 1940s America – showing massacres a cultural thing, not a gun thing).

    So, please, before the comments become more heated, consider that your own view is heavily based upon emotion, how you were raised, and terribly misinformed views (as much brainwashed by your own government and fellow citizens as you claim the Americans are by the gun lobby). It’s a sensitive issue and people will always disagree on it. People see people dying because of guns and want to ban them, other people see people dying because of guns and want to own them to protect themselves. People see people use guns and weapons to rebel against a government and want to ban them, people look at history and see that governments can go bad and want to keep them. People on both sides have their reasons and people on both sides can be well informed or completely brainwashed. It seems an odd thing to me that people would so quickly condemn someone for being pro gun. I live in Australia and was raised to be anti-gun. For some reason (certainly not the completely non-existent “gun lobby” – if that’s what you could call the SSAA) I came to form my own views and became libertarian in my political views. People look at me like I’m crazy over here, but I can tell you that if I am – it’s my own doing. I’m not brainwashed, I don’t have a low IQ, I’m not paranoid nor scared of anything. There are people like this on the opposing side too. It’s disheartening to see people in these debates, resort to inferring that pro or anti gun people are stupid. I’d say the vast majority of both pro and anti gun people are quite stupid, but the sides themselves are not inherently so (though the belief that a lack of a bayonet lug would save anyone’s life is a bit…dumb).

    Anyway, good interview and good game dev. I’m very interested in this game, although it sounds quite punishing! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

    • Consumatopia says:

      I have divided opinions on gun control, but the gun control side makes more sense than you realize.

      Some spree shootings (e.g. Gabrielle Gifford’s shooter) have been stopped when the killer went to change magazines.

      I strongly suspect that the availability of guns in 1940s America was constrained by economics and technology rather than law–it’s unlikely that they had as many semi-automatic handguns, for example, as we modern Americans do per capita.

      It’s certainly true that things other than the presence of guns strongly affect a nation’s murder rate. (For example, one reason our homicide rate is falling is that better emergency room care is saving the lives of victims. And there’s also this.) However, our rates for other kinds of violent crime are similar to or better than other Western democracies. Guns don’t cause crime–they do seem make crime more deadly, though.

      I’m not committed to the assault weapons ban, but it’s not crazy–bayonet lugs don’t really save lives, either. The aesthetics of a gun matters–the appearance of a gun can be used both to commit and deter crimes. They might give an otherwise nervous potential spree shooter a little bit more “courage” and push him over the edge. It’s true that assault weapons aren’t used that often in crimes…except spree killings.

      Lastly, while I think that your perspective, as well as that of Jason Rohrer, is entirely reasonable, I do have a very serious problem with gun culture. It’s not that they go on to support insane policies–as I say, I’m very ambivalent on the actual legislative questions. It’s this fantasy I see all too often of solving all of your problems through individual violence. Having a gun might save your life in some emergency situations (and take your life in other situations). But ultimately, defending our lives and our freedom can only be done collectively. Government isn’t necessarily the answer, but communal responsibility definitely is.

      Conversely, I think the gun rights control (edit) crowd rhapsodizes about how wonderful our police and military are a bit too often. Not that I’ve got anything against police and military, but every institution is prone to abuse its power if people become overly dependent on it.

      • TCM says:

        But the potential for abuse of the police and military institutions is another reason why gun rights are an absolute necessity.

        One guy with a gun won’t stop an excessive, tyrannical regime, in the event one ever comes to power (a real, proper one, not what Party X so often says Party Y is). A hundred thousand guys with guns might make professional armed forces think twice.

        This is something I doubt would ever happen in my lifetime one way or another. I am under no delusion that some megalomaniacal demagogue will take over the USA and make it into a police state. But in the event such a thing does happen, it’d be really good if a bunch of folks happened to have handguns and rifles on hand.

        • Consumatopia says:

          Sorry, that last line was a typo–I meant “gun control crowd rhapsodizes”. I largely agree with what you said.

          If there were an evil federal government, mass distribution of guns would be useful for the “good guys”. More useful, I think, would be to encourage personnel and institutions in a corrupt government to switch sides. “Second American Revolution” fantasies seem to imagine all private citizens on one side while all employees and officials of the government are on the other. But probably some citizens will be “bad guys”, while a lot of military, police, state governments, etc would refuse to go along with a truly oppressive government–and their cooperation would be absolutely essential to slowing that government down and building any kind of organized alternative. (And without organization any rebellion would probably produce something worse than it replaced.)

      • Mattressi says:

        Thanks for the good and civil response, Consumatopia. I can definitely see where you’re coming from and it’s not possible for me to argue that killing sprees would most likely be less common without semi-automatic rifles (I hesitate to say “assault weapon”, mostly because the name was created solely for the connotations it brings – swords were also used as assault weapons, at one time). There have been mass knifing sprees in China, there have been bombings, but certainly it seems that these sprees would be reduced if semi automatic rifles were banned. I do wonder what started them though, since they weren’t all that common before September 11 (not saying it’s a cultural reaction to terrorism; just saying that roughly around this time, shootings increased).

        However, it is also possible that if more people were to carry guns, these sprees might be ended faster and eventually reduced, since the shooter will know they have a bad chance of taking out more than a handful of people (I’m not sure if that’s their motivation though?). People say it would turn into a “Wild West” gun battle with everyone shooting everyone, but I haven’t seen anything which backs this up. At the Tucson shooting, Jared Loughner was actually finally subdued by a man using his concealed carry weapon (though he was initially subdued by someone hitting him with a chair). The man with the CCW wasn’t at the event, but it seems that had he (or someone like him) been there, it might have ended sooner. But, this is all speculation, of course.

        A citizenry would certainly stand a better chance resisting an oppressive regime if they worked together and sabotaged it. However, they would also stand a better chance if they were armed. It’s difficult to overthrow a regime without arms or an arm supplier (international supporters, usually countries which oppose the regime). There is a reason why so many tyrannical regimes have banned and taken weapons from their citizens (I’ll mention Nazi Germany, before someone else gets the Godwin prize). Though, a nation which bans and removes weapons from their citizens is not necessarily Nazi Germany (as some pro-gun people seem to keep implying).

        I guess it ultimately comes down to your values and beliefs. Most anti-gun people appear to base their reasoning on wanting to live their lives without too much fear, because they know that any unpleasant event which might befall them is statistically quite low. Many (most?) pro-gun people seem to prefer to own the means to possibly defend themselves in such a situation, alleviating their fear (though I don’t know whether you are more likely to live long if you were to live somewhere where guns are banned or somewhere where the crime rates are higher – though this does not appear to be an effect of easy gun ownership – and you can carry and use guns in self defence).
        Personally, I would rather have a higher chance of defending myself than having little chance of defending myself, but a (possibly) lower chance of needing to. Of course, gun ownership for the purpose of self defence is illegal in Australia, so my thoughts do not (and cannot) affect my actions. Sometimes I wish the US would set up trade systems, whereby they trade some of their anti-gun citizens for UK, Australia, etc pro-gun citizens (who want to, of course). If only family were not an issue, it seems like this would be a good solution for many people, since they get the laws they want without having to spend 10+ years in the process of immigrating.

        • Consumatopia says:

          There were definitely mass shootings in the 80s and 90s (Columbine was in ’99). Some numbers I found online say 31 since Columbine, 61 since 1982. That does seem to indicate a bit of acceleration. I’m not sure the samples in question are large enough to draw a conclusion, but my guess would be media–spree shootings are contagious, and media attention to the last shooting probably makes the next shooting more likely.

          I’m in favor of concealed carry permits–there’s no evidence they make us less safe. (But I’m very skeptical of “Stand Your Ground” or other efforts to further liberalize self-defense protections outside your own home.) However, from my understanding while the guy who finally subdued Loughner had a concealed gun, he didn’t use it or display it. I could be wrong on that.

          I made another post about this up above, but I’m not really sure citizens would stand a better chance with guns. Obviously, if you have an absolute tyrant, and neither he nor his officers care how many people they kill, then your only hope is to kill them back. Neither Syria nor Libya was going to have a peaceful revolution. But in revolutions that did succeed without mass armed uprising, it’s possible that guns would have made things worse. Would Egypt be better off if Tahrir Square was occupied by armed militias? Would guns have helped in Eastern European “color” revolutions?

          It does kind of amaze me how very different American and Australian gun laws are. There is a small chance we might end up with stronger background checks for gun sales, but that’s as far as I expect to see any new legislation get, despite all the talk.

  15. zal says:

    I got the impression in part 1 that if someone died everything they brought with them was lost in your place… so failed burglaries made you richer (and your opponent dead).

    Then in part 2 he flat out says the only way to make a profit is to go rob people? are burglars not allowed to carry any of their wealth? can you not sell burglar tools? It would of course be ironic to be selling tools back to thieves when the object of the game is not to get robbed, but I find that a pretty entertaining idea.

    I understand the need to engineer the game to encourage robbery, but I liked the sound of the game more when it had those added elements (how much am cash am I bringing with me instead of equpiment, do I sell this failed burglars tools of the trade, or employ them myself…)

    I’m also a little disappointed in the all or nothing thing. one of my favorite things about the thief games was deciding on just how far to push your luck for those last few shiny things. but from the sounds of it, your house is just a giant vault room. and all things of any value are in a vault. plus it rules out leaving wealth as a way to exhaust would be attackers so that they use their limited tools and supplies before they reach the big shebang.

    This one sounds.. interesting? but.. not hugely fun. It may inspire others to make a similar but more well rounded game… the laser focus and polar/extreme nature of it, just seem more about statement and less about game.

    • Jason Rohrer says:

      Oh, that’s true! Whatever they are carrying gets left in your vault when they die (tools only, their money stays at home), and you can sell those items back for cash, and use that cash to further improve your house.

      So, if you have really good security that catches a lot of people, your wealth will grow over time without you having to do anything.

      However, I don’t believe your starting resources are sufficient to implement really good security that catches a lot of people over the long term. They are sufficient to design security that stops people for a while, while you’re out robbing houses to further bootstrap yourself.

      Well, maybe if you’re really clever with the $2000 that you start with…

      I did consider multiple wealth deposits in each house to engender a “press your luck” element, but I decided to keep the design more focused, with one central deposit. Given that people design their own houses, it’s not clear why they would want to leave some of their wealth out near the front door. I’m guessing that, if they had 5 vaults instead of one, they’d try to bury all 5 as deep as possible (maybe even together in the belly of the beast). Thief levels, on the other hand, are designed by the designer.

      There’s still press your luck, because you can decide to back out any time as things start to heat up.

  16. Acksiom says:

    Via the CDC’s WISQARS system: FIREARM DEATH STATS for 2010:
    (see http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/leading_causes_death.html )

    Legal Intervention: 344
    Accidental Deaths: 606
    Homicides: 11078
    Suicides: 19392
    Male Suicides: 16962
    Total: 31420
    Percent Suicides: 0.6171865054

    PERCENT MALE SUICIDES: 0.5398472311
    53.98% of all firearm deaths in the usa in 2010 were male suicides.

    And that’s not a fluke:

    2010 — 0.5398472311 Reversed Average — 0.5398472311
    2009 — 0.5240880604 Reversed Average — 0.5319676457
    2008 — 0.5086526181 Reversed Average — 0.5241959699
    2007 — 0.4905325061 Reversed Average — 0.5157801039
    2006 — 0.4803103403 Reversed Average — 0.5086861512
    2005 — 0.4894824927 Reversed Average — 0.5054855415
    2004 — 0.4950910207 Reversed Average — 0.5040006099
    2003 — 0.4958199572 Reversed Average — 0.5029780283
    2002 — 0.5015167172 Reversed Average — 0.5028156604
    2001 — 0.5029650331 Reversed Average — 0.5028305977
    2000 — 0.5083529701 Reversed Average — 0.5033326316
    1999 — 0.507145359 Reversed Average — 0.5036503588
    1998 — 0.4969728876 Reversed Average — 0.5031367072
    1997 — 0.4737908884 Reversed Average — 0.5010405773
    1996 — 0.4700984328 Reversed Average — 0.498977767

    Which means we have to go back to 1996 before the reverse-counting average drops below 50%. Even then male suicides remain by far the plurality — the single largest demographic group — all the way back to the limit of the online WISQARS stats in 1981.

    So, no, actually, we don’t have a firearms problem in the usa. Here in the usa we have a male suicide problem, with firearms merely being the primary means of death.

    Suicide is now the 7th largest cause for men and boys in the usa.

    In fact, we now lose 12 times as many people to suicide every year as died in the 2001 9/11 attacks. We lost 10 times as many people to suicide in that year itself. And yet we fund the TSA at more than 100X the amount we spend on suicide research, outreach, and prevention.

    It’s not the guns, or the licensing, or the availability, or the magazine capacity, or any of the rest of those distractions.

    The majority of firearm deaths in the usa since 1997 have been male suicides.

    Since 1997, the majority of firearm deaths in the usa have been male suicides.

    Male suicides have been the majority of firearm deaths in the usa since 1997.

    The problem isn’t other people’s guns.

    The problem is how hatefully so many of you behave towards men and boys, and how little the remaining few of you can be bothered to care about it.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      Perhaps the NRA should fund suicide prevention and mental health outreach given so many people are using guns to kill themselves? They have a uniquely strong level of access to male gun owners so they would be very well placed to help suicidal gun owners.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      You realise though that your armed homocides per capita are still huge compared to any European country though? The fact that completed suicides by firearm are so common is just icing on the cake. Accessibility to method is the biggest predictor of completed suicide, that’s why farmers and doctors have the highest suicide rate, not because they’re shitty jobs but because they have access to shotguns and lethal drugs. Less guns will mean less suicides, and reduce completed suicide faster than any mental health programme.

      • Mattressi says:

        It strikes me as odd to consider preventing people from being able to protect themselves against others, in order to protect others from themselves. Depression and suicide are terrible things, but more terrible, to me, is to stop those willing to defend themselves, from doing so. If the aim of people is to technically remain alive, rather than to be free, I guess it would make sense for governments to ban everything bad for people (I guess they already ban drugs and limit cigarettes, depending on the country), and to force people to live in padded cells for their own protection. People kill themselves using vehicles (often taking others with them), using bridges, using toasters, using sharp objects, using rope, etc. All of these things have uses other than suicide, just like guns do, so why should guns be banned, but these things not?

    • Hulk Handsome says:

      In Australia during 2010, there was a TOTAL of 236 gun related deaths.

      America had 31420. That’s 31184 more than Australia, or to put in other terms, Australia’s total was 0.75% of America’s total.

      11078 of those 31420 were homicide in America. In Australia, only 30 were. That’s 0.27% of America’s total.

      So yes, you DO have a gun problem.

      And yes, both America and Australia (and, I suspect, much of the world) have problems with suicide. That’s sadly not news and it’s horrible. So please don’t appropriate that tragedy for your argument, and accuse those who disagree with you of being responsible for their deaths. It’s disgusting.

      • Mattressi says:

        No, the US has a murder problem. In 2010 there were 14,748 murders in the US. Assuming all 11078 of the homicides you mentioned were actually murders (which obviously wouldn’t be the case, but I’m too lazy to check the murder rate with firearms and my point is still clearly made even with this assumption which isn’t in my favour), the number of murders which were committed, not involving firearms, was 3670. In Australia, there were apparently 229 murders, giving 199 murders not by firearm (again, same assumption).

        This gives a non-firearm murder rate in the US of 1.189 per 100,000; and a non-firearm murder rate of 0.891 per 100,000 here in Australia. So, even ignoring firearm-related murders (AND this is with the assumption that all firearm homicides were murders, meaning the number of non-firearm related murders was likely a much higher percentage of the murders than I’ve used), it is exceedingly clear that the US has a murder problem. People kill people there a lot more than people do here. It’s clearly a cultural thing and means that you can’t just say “look, you’ve got more murders and more guns, therefore more guns = more murders!”.

        I find the interracial homicide statistics by the FBI to be interesting (see here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl06.xls ). 2950 homicides were committed by “black offenders”, 3062 were committed by “white offenders”. This is despite “whites” making up 72.4% of the population and “blacks” making up only 12.6% of the population. Before you call me a racist, my point is not meant to be about race – I’m trying to show that there are clearly other factors which elevate the murder (and hence murders involving firearms) rate. This likely has nothing to do with race and a LOT to do with culture (gang culture and what-not).

        So please, don’t look at one statistic and say “you’ve got a ___ problem”, otherwise you could turn anything/one into the supposed “problem”. It’s not so simple as that at all.

        • PopeJamal says:

          “Before you call me a racist, my point is not meant to be about race – I’m trying to show that there are clearly other factors which elevate the murder (and hence murders involving firearms) rate. This likely has nothing to do with race and a LOT to do with culture (gang culture and what-not).”

          Culture? as in “Oh, they just culturally LIKE to kill people. But it’s not a racial thing, honest!”. How is that even relevant to the current discussion?

          Nope try again, that still sounds racist. Try “socioeconomic” instead of “culture”. It will at least make you SOUND sincere.

          • Emeraude says:

            Racial discourse used to cover class-issues.

            Because there are no such things as a modern class-based society. We are all one big middle class.

          • Mattressi says:

            I knew this would happen. When you research the homicide statistics, things like that can really stand out (it’s such a huge, statistically significant difference). So I link to it and try to explain it. I hate that the use of statistics will get you called a racist unless you word what you say exactly perfectly.

            Yes, I guess it is a socioeconomic thing. But I doubt it’s because all poor people need money so they kill people – it’s a socioeconomic culture. Perhaps I’m misusing the term “culture”. I’m not a sociologist, so I’ve got no idea. I’m doing the best I can with the data I see.

            My main point was you can’t look at statistics and say “look, there’s the problem, ban it!”. Because, and this is crude I guess, the same people who do this should logically look at the statistics I linked to and say “ban black people”! I’m totally going to regret saying that, but that’s the way I know to make my point – you can’t say the statistics are caused by one thing.

          • Emeraude says:

            I hate to be the one saying this but correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.

            And I didn’t say you were racist, just that – and it’s a truth – issues that would have formerly pertained to the class-warfare discourse have slowly been converted into a racial discourse that conveniently also expunged all significant economic and even often historical data.

          • Mattressi says:

            Yeah, that was what I was (probably poorly) attempting to communicate – correlation does not equal causation.

            Also, I wasn’t replying to your post, so sorry for the confusion – I was trying to reply to PopeJamal.

          • Emeraude says:

            As long as we’re clear I wasn’t attempting to insult you, I’m OK.

  17. Danda says:

    Jason, I kind of understand that when you live in the US you feel exposed if you are the only one around who isn’t armed. It doesn’t help that even the police can be very nasty and trigger-happy.

    But anyway… here in Europe it’s hard to relate to that because I am as old as you but I’ve never, ever in my life felt afraid of being shot. Attacked? Maybe. But I always know for a fact that the other party involved won’t have a gun.

    • Jason Rohrer says:

      Yes, it sounds like things are quite different in Europe!

      • Eddy9000 says:

        Yes, stricter gun controls have meant that criminals can’t get hold of guns very easily in Europe, in direct contradiction of your argument that gun controls remove guns from lawful owners while continuing to arm criminals; as a result I am far less likely to be killed by a firearm and because of the weighting of firearms murders less likely to be killed in general. I do take your point that European and North American culture is very different though and disarming is a very separate issue to not having been widely armed in the first place, but hey, gotta start somewhere yeah?

        I’m not good at expressing myself in text so sorry if I come across snarky, not intended. Something I’ve always wondered about if you or anyone else with similar views is still reading these comments, but how would you say a country like the one I’m living in (the UK) with very strict gun ownership laws would be improved by bringing in the same gun ownership laws as in the USA? I only ask because people who believe gun ownership is wrong tend to see it as a human issue and will argue it for other countries (like I might argue for awareness of women’s rights in the Middle East for example), but I would have thought that if someone really believed that gun ownership was an important human right then they would campaign or argue for gun ownership laws to be relaxed in other countries. I guess I’m wondering that if people think owning guns is a human right, why they don’t see countries where gun ownership is disallowed as being denied this and argue for their becoming armed? I also wonder how the militia principle accounts for the fact that the countries with the greatest rate of civilian firearms ownership seem to have the most oppressive governments like the Middle East and Central America. Lydia and Syria both needed foreign intervention to overthrow their governments, and they have almost non existent gun ownership regulation

        • Mattressi says:

          I’d say the reason for pro-gun people not campaigning for pro-gun laws in other countries is that they’re fighting too many battles in their own country. The US hasn’t been bringing out pro-gun laws in the last century – they’ve almost all, ultimately been antigun. For all that anti-gun people complain about the “gun lobby”, it’s clearly quite a necessary entity for gun owners, since even with this supposedly all-powerful lobby, the laws passed have not been favourable to gun owners.
          I’d love to say the reason pro-gun people don’t campaign for ownership in other countries is because they respect people’s right to render themselves defenceless, but I doubt that’s the main reason. It does interest me that most people in heavily anti-gun Western countries, however, do insist on injecting themselves in American politics regarding guns, as regularly as possible. The US clearly has their ways and we, the rest of the world, have ours (much to my chagrin).
          I really do wish that all countries would adopt an open border policy. I’d love to see each country have its own unique style of laws and culture, where you can choose to easily move there if that’s what you like. Why not have one country where all of the pro-gun people can go and do what we like, while the rest of the world can do what they like. No need to interfere with each other (except for cases of tyrannical regimes/human rights issues), no need to care. Unfortunately open borders conflict heavily with social welfare and medical welfare, which might be the main reason countries don’t have these policies. All I know is that I would move to the US if I could – few people here share my view and, besides, it’s too damn hot here!

        • bitbutter says:

          how would you say a country like the one I’m living in (the UK) with very strict gun ownership laws would be improved by bringing in the same gun ownership laws as in the USA?

          The UK’s homicide rate has been higher since it’s (effective) ban on private gun ownership in 1997. So this isn’t a good example for you here.

  18. Acksiom says:

    I’m sure the NRA would be delighted to lend their expertise.

    Unfortunately, I suspect with their mandate, staff, and funding limits they can’t really afford it. Perhaps you should contact the following organizations and get them to donate the money to match the NRA’s time and agency?

    Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI)
    Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV)
    The Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence (EFEHV)
    The Violence Policy Center (VPC)
    CeaseFire, Inc.
    Million Mom March Organization
    Americans for Gun Safety
    HELP Network
    Join Together
    The Ford Foundation
    The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
    The Joyce Foundation
    Physicians for Social Responsibility
    California Wellness Foundation

    That’s actually one of my plans for this year. I’m going to set up a voucher donations account for gun owners in general and self-defense activists in particular. They promise to donate $X, and when the matching funds arrive from the anti-gun organizations or activists, they get billed.

    Because, y’know, otherwise, you’re basically expecting the NRA to take on their opponents’ supposed responsibilities and mandate for no recompense, and that hardly seems fair, now doesn’t it?

    I mean, if the NRA don’t get matching contributions but still expend staff and money on a new suicide outreach project, doesn’t that relatively advantage their opponents, who can still spend ALL their staff and money on lobbying?

    • Eddy9000 says:

      The gun ownership lobby makes tons of money already by being funded by corporations that make guns. Tell me what the corporate interest of the anti gun lobby is. And why do you even think that pro ownership individuals will donate more to suicide and firearm victim charities than anti ownership individuals will?

      • Mattressi says:

        I think it’s a little disingenuous to assume that gun corporations only donate because it’s their livelihood. According to the anti-gun publication “Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA”, 74% of the corporate donations to the NRA were from gun manufacturers. They use that statistic to say “see, look at the blood money!”, but to me it says the opposite. Who are these other 26%? They clearly like/support firearms and their ownership. They don’t appear to have any stake in whether firearms are restricted or not. Perhaps they might get more customers for donating, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to find out who they even were. To me, this shows that people do genuinely support firearms ownership -most likely gun enthusiasts. And how likely is it that all of the firearms manufacturers are run by non-gun enthusiasts, who solely want to make money? They do want to make money, but I find it hard to believe that people who don’t genuinely support firearms ownership would work for a company making firearms.

        So yes, the gun lobby has corporate backers. The anti-gun lobby also does, but not as many. This is because “not owning firearms” is not a hobby nor interest. The majority of people in the US seem to only become anti-gun for a brief period after a massacre, but then lose interest. People who own guns are always interested in their ownership. It doesn’t seem like there is something evil about the way in which the “gun lobby” is funded – it’s just the way society works. People put more money into the things they enjoy than the things they don’t care about.

        • PopeJamal says:

          “I think it’s a little disingenuous to assume that gun corporations only donate because it’s their livelihood.”

          True. ALL corporations only donate because it affects their livelihood.

          • Mattressi says:

            You’ve interviewed them and they’ve said this? It’s ridiculous to assume that. Why does the Brady Campaign get donations from corporations then? No corporation has a stake in the sale of non-guns. Why is it then unreasonable to assume that the gun manufacturers and other corporations donate for reasons other than their livelihood? Surely people who run many of them have strong political views and would like to use their company’s money for what they see as “good”?

  19. cytokindness says:

    I’m not sure whether this is a conscious influence or not, but the game that this is reminding me the most of is Outwar.

    Yes, Outwar (and its related clones) – the terrible browser based game from ten years ago, where you would level up by raiding other players and thus getting the cash to upgrade your own character. I used to play one that was medieval themed, and it really reminds me of this – the building of defenses and armies (tools in this case), and the raiding of other players (especially other newbie players) to take their gold and build up yours.
    I loved how it got to the point at one stage where someone parodied it by making an “SQL Wars” (or something) one, where you literally filled in the values to go in an SQL UPDATE queries for attacks etc.

    Since Rohner himself seemed to be answering questions here – is there an account referral system? ;)

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  21. johnnyr says:

    What an awful interview. Almost nothing about the game, just a bunch of political crap. Don’t we get enough of that everywhere else? Why can’t we just have an interview that *gasp* is about the game?

    Jason Rohrer is awesome, and it’s pretty bad that RPS decided to waste this interview asking ridiculous questions that weren’t even about the game.

  22. bitbutter says:

    inserting my opinions into the interview – and thus likely turning the whole thing into a gun control debate – seemed unwise. So I chose to embrace my own death of the author in this instance, allow Jason Rohrer to say his piece and leave the audience to judge.)

    I think that by choosing to insert this aside, you failed to really embrace the ‘death of the author’. Now you’ve chosen to present Jason’s comments (at least the comments relating to gun politics) in the context of disapproving commentary–added later. This seems a little half-baked to me.

    A better option, imo, would have been to either: actually have that conversation about gun centrism vs gun dissemination (and perhaps publish it somewhere as a link from the game-centric part of the interview), or refrain from having that conversation and don’t add commentary after the fact.