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Thread: Pay Before You Play Is Immoral
10-05-2012, 07:23 PM #21
Allow me to suggest a complementary thought: what if somebody sells you something, but the money you gave them doesn't bring them as much happiness as they thought it would? Maybe money should also fall into the "I want to try it out before I scomplete the trade" bin.
Nalano, what's the Latin for "Let the one who uses products to buy some money, beware"?
Helio, I hope you'll tell that story again someday. It was magical.Support for my all-pepperjack-cheese food bank charity drive has been lukewarm at best.
10-05-2012, 07:50 PM #22
10-05-2012, 08:32 PM #23
Of course the only thing that fully represents a work to the potential consumer is itself, which is denied to the consumer pre-purchase. 'Itself' represents one extreme of an infinite spectrum of representation with reference to a game, X, (where 'nothing' would be the opposite extreme having no representational value) and demos, previews, youtube clips, trailers, screenshots, cans of soup, etc. are arrayed along this spectrum.
It is my suggestion that to rely exclusively on less representative forms to present one's product (without legitimate reason to do so, e.g. that a demo can take considerable effort to produce) suggests that it is not in the producer's interest for the consumer to know what he is buying, which in turn suggests something about the nature of the product, i.e. that it is a venus fly trap. Moreover in seeking to deny the potential consumer more adequate representational content, it treats the consumer merely as a means and not as an end, he is not seen as an entity that reasons according to values but rather as merely a tool to be leveraged to the producer's ends. See Kantian ethics on respect for persons, value of truth, etc.
And 'leverage' is the appropriate word, for why would the producer, who must represent his product to his prospective audience in some fashion (so that they might be aware of its existence) prefer to use these less representationally adequate forms to do so? Part of the reason is to conceal what is (and isn't) in the work itself, but the other part of the story is that these less accurate or more abstract forms can nonetheless be very effective in persuading one to buy the product by manipulating various features of the human psyche. Laissez-faire capitalism arose amidst the Enlightenment and its emphasis on humans as rational creatures capable of accurately perceiving their environment and reasoning as to their interests. Only (beginning but certainly not ending with Freud) we now know that this is only part of the story: human rationality is both limited, and manipulable. And indeed, the main use to which our growing knowledge of human irrationality has been put is toward its manipulation in service of particular ends, particularly business and marketing. E. H. Carr put it succinctly:
The picture which confronts us is one in which an elite of professional industrialists and party leaders, through rational processes more highly developed than ever before, attains its ends by understanding and trading on the irrationalism of the masses. The appeal is not primarily to reason: it proceeds in the main by the method which Oscar Wilde called "hitting below the intellect." […] In every society, more or less coercive measures are applied by ruling groups to organise and control mass opinion." (1961)
The classic example of the application of this growing knowledge about the limits of human rationality are Skinner Box mechanisms in MMOs like World of Warcraft. Jonathan Blow gave a lecture a while back on the ethics of such mechanisms in game design, and ultimately suggested that FarmVille was quite literally evil.
What I am doing is taking a similar approach but not (at this point) to the content of games, but rather how they are presented and marketed to the consumer. Like I said earlier, it's not an either-or thing, there's a spectrum of possibilities. The clearest conclusions to be drawn from this are in identifying those publishers and works which are extremely problematic in this respect, i.e. high on manipulation, low on representational quality.
'Caveat emptor' is good practical advice, but then so is 'don't sit with your back to the door'. Morally speaking it's an empty statement.
Furthermore, could you imagine the sorts of arguments based on the subjective value of products? Let's say you're in a restaurant. You eat your food, you get served the check. Eighty bucks for a meal for two. You didn't much like the meal. You think it was fifty bucks worth of food and atmosphere. How far do you think you'd get if you were then to haggle with the manager about that, especially after you ate it? If they didn't immediately call the cops on you, they'd certainly bar you from re-entering that venue ever again.
Last edited by Rii; 11-05-2012 at 02:04 AM.
10-05-2012, 08:35 PM #24
Dudes, listen dudes, I never heard the term Skinner Box until like two days ago, and now I've seen it like five times. It's the new "conflate"! I'm pretty okay with that.
don't sit with your back to the doorSupport for my all-pepperjack-cheese food bank charity drive has been lukewarm at best.
10-05-2012, 08:42 PM #25
"Moronic cynicism is a kind of na´vetÚ. It's na´vetÚ turned inside-out. Na´vetÚ wearing a sneer." -Momus
- Join Date
- Jun 2011
- Three miles from the nearest bus stop
10-05-2012, 11:53 PM #26
11-05-2012, 12:05 AM #27
Bah, Rii's post lacks any vestige of cogency and now I am mildly annoyed that I bothered to read it. I hereby declare Nalano the winner of this thread.
11-05-2012, 12:27 AM #28
11-05-2012, 12:33 AM #29
11-05-2012, 12:50 AM #30
Rii, Rii, Rii.
Your treatise reads like somebody who's just about to finish intro courses in Soc and Econ and has no place to apply the things they learned. It comes off as sophomoric, which is funny, because it illustrates just why sophomores are called that.
I'm having trouble parsing your last TLDR and I suspect it's because there's no real point under all those words. It's half psychobabble that elides a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature (it's okay, you're a philosophy student; we expect it of you) and the other half is a laundry list of historical theorists with competing and contradictory models.
Suffice it to say, it's a good thing you aren't charging subscription fees, because nobody would accept them. As it stands, you're giving it away and it's not worth the price.
11-05-2012, 01:15 AM #31
I'm having trouble parsing your last TLDR because I'm failing to see the point it's trying to make.
Last edited by Rii; 11-05-2012 at 01:56 AM.
11-05-2012, 01:36 AM #32
Rereading the OP, I find it interesting that you talk about Frustration as an inherently harmful thing, and (What's The Opposite Of Frustration?) as an inherently helpful one. ^_o
I get frustrated when I play Tribes Ascend sometimes (and that's monetarily free, so no worries on that front), but I have never thought "Playing this is like ingesting carcinogens", only that I was acting like a stupid baby for getting mad. I think your original principle combined with your definition of harm would make all competitive gaming into an abomination.
But then halfway through it started sounding like this whole thread is secretly about how you don't like false advertising and misleading hype, and now I don't know *what* to believe! D:
Last edited by Berzee; 11-05-2012 at 01:45 AM.Support for my all-pepperjack-cheese food bank charity drive has been lukewarm at best.
11-05-2012, 01:45 AM #33
Last edited by Rii; 11-05-2012 at 01:57 AM.
11-05-2012, 02:01 AM #34
So...basically, would a return-this-within-3-days-for-a-full-refund policy solve this problem? Or a "we'll bill you if you haven't returned this in three days" policy, if you want to complicate the payment system a little more in order to get the sequence right? =)Support for my all-pepperjack-cheese food bank charity drive has been lukewarm at best.
11-05-2012, 02:21 AM #35
11-05-2012, 03:04 AM #36
Going beyond the simple idea that a refund policy is a friendly thing to have, I will also add some mostly useless comments and even put them in grey so they're easier to ignore if anyone so chooses.
You say that it is immoral to profit from that which harms another, and I can accept this statement in its straightforward form. If I really plan to do an action that is purely harmful, and I plan to do it for profit, knowingly -- or perhaps even if I cling to my profits after discovering that what I got paid for turned out to be a purely harmful action after all -- then I should probably re-examine my behavior. o_O
However, even supposing that someone hates a game they bought with every fiber of their being and it truly does harm them (something I remain skeptical about, but even supposing), I am not convinced that the profit and the harm are as closely related as you describe.
Here is an example of a simple "false advertising in order to gain profit for harm" scenario -- you go to the dentist, say, John Walker's dad. You say, "Hugh, I will give you some money and then you will heal my teeth how about that?" He agrees, takes your money, and then just slams you in the mouth leaving it full of broken shards, and runs away laughing, deeper into the mountain. Immoral? Probably, if anything is. =P And keeping the money doesn't help. (A slightly more complex scenario would be if he tried his best to fix your teeth but accidentally destroyed them. He still didn't live up to his end of the bargain and should probably return the money...let's assume it was an easy operation that had no chance of failure except through negligence).
Buying a game? Not so simple, I think.
You come up to me and say "Berzee, I hear you made the greatest game. I'd like to play that game," and I say, "Well for nine of your currencies I will give you this diskette, it has a copy of the files upon it!" and you say, "How about that!? Done."
We swap money for diskette, and it turns out my game is garbage. Did I fail to fulfill everything that was required of me? No -- I gave you my game. It did not meet your expectations, but you did not pay me to fulfill your expectations. You paid me for a copy of a computer program, which I furnished to you.
Here are some ways that I might directly cause you harm in this transaction:
1) If I lied and the disk was empty, or just had a video of "Never Gonna Give You Up" on it.
2) If I lied and told you that my game was objectively something it was not (i.e. if I said "I made an Age of Kings clone, wanna buy it?" and it turned out to be Monkey Island clone)
3) If the diskette was broken or the files corrupted so that you were not receiving a pristine copy as possible, and I knew it
These are examples of me taking your money while deliberately breaking my word.
Here are some ways I might profit from harming you, without being proactively villainous:
1) If the disk/files were wrong/broken and I didn't know it, but when I found out, I refused to trade them back for a fresh copy
2) If I didn't do a good job of explaining my game, maybe? I can't think of many indirect ways...
But the main point is this -- here are some ways that you might end up suffering harm, but you could not convince me to admit to wickedness
1) If the game was buggy, and I warned you it was buggy, but you wanted to buy it anyway.
2) If I clearly described the game without attempting to deceive by omission either, and you bought it because it looked fun, and didn't have any fun
I think this whole thread is based off that last idea -- that it's the developer's responsibility to provide fun to the player. That the player is paying for fun.
The player is not paying for fun. The player is paying for a copy of some files; he deserves a pristine copy of the agreed upon files and no more. Unless the actual file transfer and installation causes harm, then once it's confirmed that the software runs like it's programmed to run, it's a good trade that everyone agreed upon.
It's understandable to be disappointed when a game isn't fun like you thought it would be. But don't say the developer harmed you unless he *actually* harmed you. I bought "Age of Conquest" once...it was some old RTS about boats...I really *really* didn't like it. I didn't feel like Gamestop or the game developers were a band of highway robbers, stabbing me and stealing my joy. I felt like I Made A Bad Decision. I hoped they would allow me to reverse it, and they did. But it's not like when I bought "Onesimus" from the Christian Bookstore and I got it home and there was no game disk in the box. (Looking back, that was lucky...buying that game *might* have been a Bad Decision =P). I hadn't been cheated. With Age of Conquest, if there was any Fun being pulled out from under me, that was simply because (impending folksy wisdom) Sometimes Things Are Different Than You Expect.
Maybe someday we will have purchase agreements where the developer agrees to provide "an experience" or "a certain amount of Fun". But nowadays, when I buy a game, I expect to get...That Game. And that's all.
I think return policies are a decent thing to provide if you are grateful to people for trying out your game and if you want them to like you. =) It's nice to allow for people's indecision and their inability to see the future perfectly.
But I wouldn't interpret a purchase on Steam as "I'm buying Fun" -- unless you write to Mr. Steam and make sure he agrees, first. =PSupport for my all-pepperjack-cheese food bank charity drive has been lukewarm at best.
11-05-2012, 03:09 AM #37
I'll try and draw a picture of where I'm coming from here:
There are two ways that one can justify IP; the first is with reference to ostensibly absolute principles of property, i.e. property is asserted as a fundamental right, and then the conception of intellectual property as a subset of property is introduced.
The second way to justify IP is to invoke the right of society to constitute itself as it sees fit to maximise the general welfare insofar as doing so does not violate any such fundamental rights as are asserted. In this conception, property (or at least intellectual property) is not one of those fundamental rights: it is considered an invention of society that is maintained because of its practical utility (i.e. makes large scale works possible, encourages innovation to the benefit of all) and, to the extent that is it not useful, it can be modified.
Historically it is this second argument that has been convincing (even in the United States) and indeed the copyright laws of most nations make little sense in light of the first argument. However over the last century, particularly in the United States (where the Lockean notion of property as a fundamental right has always been strongest) but certainly not limited to that nation, endless extensions and revisions to copyright law have been made and these largely under the first argument. From a functional POV we can observe that the reason this is happening is because moneyed interests are exerting increasing influence on the political process of governments but in the imaginary world where principles and argument hold sway the changes have been brought about on account of this argument from principle, and we can observe this in the moral condemnation hurled at pirates: industry and much of the public is very keen to use the word 'thief' here even if the legal system retains, as it does other detritus such as latin, the veistigial awareness that this is not so.
It is my position that insofar as one seeks to justify IP via the 'argument from principle', not only is this argument totally erroneous, but it actually violates Principles Wot Are Actually Valid, namely free speech, or that from which it is derived: liberty. In other words, if industry wants to fight on this turf I think pirates actually have the moral upper hand. Of course you may not care to take my word for it: J.S. Mill, for one, articulated liberty without (necessarily) property.
It is further my position that insofar as one seeks to justify IP via the 'argument from practicality', that the argument is valid but the current conception of IP does not even remotely resemble this, i.e. significant modifications need to be made to existing law. And now with your suggestion we have arrived at one of those possible modifications.
Last edited by Rii; 11-05-2012 at 03:38 AM.
11-05-2012, 03:13 AM #38
Why.. I thought I was on a gaming forum site.. oh yeah right I'm at the "other stuff" .__.
11-05-2012, 03:15 AM #39
You can also read a whole book in WalMart while you're waiting for them to change your oil (heck, two or three books at my local Wal-the-Mart yes I get my oil changed at WalMart I don't know why I don't just change it myself I just don't want to get my pants dirty OKAY? >_<) and then put it back on the shelf, if you like. =) Lots of loopholes like that exist (like grabbing a giant free-refill popcorn tub out of the garbage when you go to the theater), but I think when I eventually have games to sell, I will still offer a return policy for those who wish they hadn't bought it, whenever it's feasible depending on the method of sale. Nobody has ever returned my book yet with a sincere complaint that it was awful from cover to cover, but if they did I think I would refund their money (being simply glad that they read it anyway ^_^) and perhaps recommend they not buy any more of my books to save us both the trouble. =P Of course if that was my livelihood I mightn't be so tractable. ;)
Also -- if anyone ever does offer a 3-day return policy, will you please do exactly what you said you would do and make a blog called The Daily FPS? I want to see how many single player campaigns from the last decade it takes before they start to blur together and drive you mad. :D
Edit: Also, Rii, thanks for this thread. =) It's been way too long since I've had a perfect opportunity to just produce a giant unjustifiable wall of (gray) text. =P It was nice. I heave a contented sigh.
Last edited by Berzee; 11-05-2012 at 03:29 AM.Support for my all-pepperjack-cheese food bank charity drive has been lukewarm at best.
11-05-2012, 09:38 AM #40
I find this idea that not enjoying a computer game (a subjective experience) somehow constitutes 'harm' to the consumer from the creator faintly risible.
It's all very well to run to the abstract, but the world is governed by practical realities. It can be argued that pretty much all activities 'harm' you, from breathing air to drinking water. Appeals to notions of negative impact of mental equilibrium are hilarious. Parents dying in car crash = negative impact on mental equibrium, not enjoying a game, not so much.
It is my suggestion that to rely exclusively on less representative forms to present one's product (without legitimate reason to do so, e.g. that a demo can take considerable effort to produce) suggests that it is not in the producer's interest for the consumer to know what he is buying, which in turn suggests something about the nature of the product, i.e. that it is a venus fly trap.
I can't even be bothered to waste my time getting into the laughableness of your 'I think pirates actually have the moral upper hand' assertion.
Last edited by Kadayi; 11-05-2012 at 10:27 AM.