Thursday, November 04, 2010

A concentration of spite

What I wrote about Lusternia's imbalancing quantities of positive feedback is something that would typically be agreed to, in some form or another, by most Lusternia players. (The only possible exception is some of those who are currently benefiting from it, the ones who would rather not lose it or (more typically) would rather believe that all their times at the bottom were because of bad luck or enemy conspiracy, but all their time at the top is because of their own talent and hard work. But even considering that, most of those on top would agree, or have agreed in the past, to some extent.)

There's another factor at play in what's keeping Lusternia from living up to its potential right now which is far more controversial, and trivially easy to brush off. If I posted this on the forums it would be lambasted in a virulent flame-war which was all focused on deflecting it onto me. (There's a natural tendency to see whatever is wrong with you in everyone else: if you're bitter you see others as bitter, if you're angry you see anger in everyone else, etc. This tendency can be easily overcome by watching for it, but most people don't, so you can usually tell people's inner states by the out-of-nowhere accusations they throw at you when confronted.) Others would brush it off as mere weariness or sore-loserdom (and conveniently always forget when you said something would happen long before it did, at a time when you were on the "winning" team). Generally speaking, there would be a ton of deflection, dodging, and vitriol, but almost no one would give the idea any serious consideration. Even those who agreed would mostly be doing so out of upset, not really thinking about it.

But while I don't expect almost anyone would take the idea seriously, I think it's still a relevant factor in why the current imbalance in Lusternia has lasted so long, shows so many signs of continuing to do so, and cuts as far as it does into all the great things about Lusternia. It is that the current concentration of power happens to coincide with a concentration of spite.

At any given time, a certain number of people in any organization will be the kind of people for whom spite is a motivation, who either like to screw with people for the sake of making them miserable, or who justify any amount of hurt inflicted on other players (possibly also their characters, but players are the important part) based on whatever chain of retaliation and retribution they need. Everyone has to deal with someone doing it to them, and everyone has someone amongst them doing it. Most of the time, these people tend to be spread out, because they can't do as much of what they get off on if they're clustered.

But the current imbalance happens to also have concentrated a lot of the spiteful people in one place. Partially because the nature of the place favors spite as part of its roleplay, partially because of the happenstance of who ended up there, partially because once the balance of power tipped the resulting organization favored them since they helped build up the power, and partially because once a critical mass of spiteful people gathered in a position of overwhelming power, their needs could be sated despite being in the same organization.

This makes the power imbalance inclined to last longer, because spiteful people are far more likely to keep crushing everyone else the moment they start to stand up, to obliterate other people's morale, to find rationalizations for not "playing fair" or being good sportsmen, and to play any angle that they can get to keep their power up and their opportunity to piss on people going. (On the other hand, the one factor that can undermine the power balance, the tendency of some people to get bored of being on top, applies even more to spiteful people. They don't mind the lack of a challenge, but they still get bored after a while.)

It also makes the imbalance more hurtful to the state of the game, because all the usual difficulties of having one side on top too much are amplified when that side has a large number of bullies. It makes the demoralization that much more intense, and also more all-pervasive.

You might think, from reading this and the previous post, that Lusternia's no fun, but that's not it at all. The intensity of my posts come from how close Lusternia gets to being ideal, which makes the places it falls short more agonizing. Even in the current marathon-length beat-down, my character in the victim-organization is still fun enough to play (though I also spread my time across another character in another organization to help even things out).


Siobhan said...

so do you think more of the negative feedback in key places might even this imbalance out?

Hawthorn Thistleberry said...

If the power balance shifted that might spread some of them back out.