Thursday, February 10, 2022

Do Games Make You Bad?

Note: if you missed yesterday's post there's a thing to vote on at the bottom.

Today we have an old chestnut on the disagree-a-thon, games making people bad...


Ok so you're completely untenable claim is: 

"Because a PC is an extension of the player, doing unethical things in character is unethical, chiefly because those actions change the imagined world directly. 

Authors and actors do not face the same problems." 

This makes no sense because the imagined world has no ethical status. Like, kicking a puppy irl hurts a puppy, you can make a right/wrong decision about that. Kicking an imaginary puppy hurts no puppy, therefore there is no right/wrong decision about it.


How is the imagined world not an extension of our own? 

It is less impactful, but doing bad things in a collectively imagined world has negative impact


That's circular argument. 

Morality and ethics are about avoiding harm. 

Harm requires an entity that is harmed. 

A puppy is an entity. 

An imaginary puppy is not.


Ethics are not always about avoiding harm in the same ways, like Mayan religion required sacrifice in order to appease gods. 

That was harm to avoid larger suffering.


1. Mayan religion is religion not a real thing. 

2. "can harm and affect people who are participating in it's creation " 

Don't just repeat your thesis. Say how. Outside of triggering someone, how can it negatively affect them? 


1. The effects or religious devotion affect the real world

2. By normalizing bad things, inducing fear in other players, enacting racism, and other actions that reflect the person that enacts them


1. Yes but it doesn't mean their reasoning was sound so its a bad example

2. Do you have any science backing up that having a bad thing happen in an RPG makes it seem "more normal" to players? D&D has fireballs. I have never seen a player say a fireball was "normal". 


1. Yes, but their reasoning i.e. their rationale was a form of ethics. Ethics just means right and wrong, and our right and wrong wasn't theirs

2. Bad things happen, but players doing those bad things knowingly is the problem

Learning by doing is much stronger when people enact vs just read or understand in the abstract, and doing things in RPGs is much closer-and could normalize things


1. Yes and theirs was wrong so not relevant unless you are ALSO claiming that there are supernatural forces influencing our destiny. It's not relevant. 

2. I asked if you had any science to back up this claim. Please answer.


1. Agreed to a point, I will let it lie for now, I think we can agree that religion is not the core of this

Gimme a sec, will give some examples of learning by doing

Like how it affects learning


NOT "learn by doing"

I asked for science about this preposterous claim:

"By normalizing bad things, inducing fear in other players, enacting racism, and other actions that reflect the person that enacts them"

That doing bad things in an RPG leads to normalizing them in real life.


If you provide examples that people "learn by doing" you are not answering the question at all in any way.


So acting things out isn't considered a form of doing?


If I want to learn to ski, then of course I can learn to ski by skiing. 

That's totally unrelated to if I don'' want to be a murderer, I can become one against my will by having a PC be a murderer in a pantomime imaginary world of an RPG. 

Those are not connected concepts. 

"Learning by doing" requires someone wants to acquire a skill and so does by actually doing it. 

Your thesis is that someone doesn't want to acquire something that's not even a skill it's a personality trait and somehow acquires it by pretending to have it.


Well, that applies heavily to a physical skill. 

Like skiing does not translate to racism, the actions associated are very different, one can be learned and reinforced in the abstract or without physical reinforcement.


Yeah they're unrelated that's why your argument makes no sense.

Learning a skill and aacquiring a negative personality trait are not related.

"Learning by doing" is about acquiring a skill. 


Do you have any science showing that someone doing bad things in RPGs leads them to do them in real life? Because without it you are literally repeating the Satanic Panic reasoning all over again. 


The satanic panic was not just about rpg, or even at it's core about rpg

Rpg was just a affected thing.


Please answer the question you were asked.


Trying, but in doing that I have to isolate some things

Yoon, Gunwoo

Vargas, Patrick 

Know Thy Avatar: The Unintended Effect of Virtual-Self Representation on Behavior

Mostly it has to do with the persona involvement or identifying with what they are playing as.





I will read it if necessary, but first: can you summarize the claim the paper makes?


Essentially, the participants were more likely to exaggerate or react differently to tasks depending on how long they roleplayed, what they roleplayed as, or how involved or how strongly they identified with their persona given


(reads paper--people play either Voldemort or Superman and then are given a test about whether to give a stranger chocolate or chili sauce)

They played for 5 minutes. 

I wouldn't call this a conclusive test especially in the face of the overwhelming research showing (for example) violence in video games does not translate to real-world violence. 

Also, the test of "Good vs evil" was whether they'd give someone chocolate (rated "good" BUT has sugar in it) or chili sauce (rated "bad" but it's not crossing any ethical lines to give someone chili sauce).


Of course

Trials like this are very short.

So the effect from roleplaying for a extended period would potentially affect things much more.

And with video games, you have much less agency

It wasn't just the chocolate or chili, but also the amounts.


So do you have science which backs up your causual claim not some other causal claim?

Also fwiw, Voldemort is a stupid character invented by a transphobe and if a scientist made me play them in a game I'd be in a bad mood, so this test might not be testing whether I am playing  a good or bad character but whether I am having fun or not and so put in a generous mood or not.

In an RPG, players are generally doing what they want and games where you're Superman are far more common than Voldemort, so it may be just rediscovering that people would rather play Superman than Voldemort.


Well, closely related is the use of roleplaying in psychotherapy

Which is well documented

It stands to reason that if used to induce or allow behaviors that are not therapeutic, or reinforcement of behaviors. it could be bad


No "it stands to reason". I asked for proof.

So do you have science which backs up your causual claim not some other causal claim?


Also, Superman is patriotic and white and male lots of other things, both are very polarizing characters

So I agree that their choice of character could affect things


All bad ideas AND good ideas start with someone saying "it stands to reason". What we need is proof of your claim. 

So do you have science which backs up your causual claim not some other causal claim?


(this is just the results of a google search calling up lots of papers with titles) 

These in aggregate point to roleplaying having an effect on behavior



You're trying to prove a specific point:

Roleplaying by doing bad things can cause people to do bad things irl/ 

Not a much easier, simpler point that everyone knows: 

Acting out skills you want to have, that you accept are ethically fine to do and that everyone involved thinks you should learn to have can help you learn them. 

I said this already: you are not being asked to prove the obvious, well-known, uncontroversial idea that games can help people learn.  

You are being asked to prove the controversial pseudoscientific claim that games can measurably change your personality for the worse by having your avatar perform bad actions.  

Please address that, not some unrelated thing.


That idea has a reverse, the concept that you can learn through roleplaying means that it is obvious people could learn or adopt poor behavior if it is accepted and not challenged  

Which can happen


A skill is not personality trait nor is it the "opposite" of a personality trait. 

Those are different things.




So you're not making any sense

You are being asked to prove the controversial pseudoscientific claim that games can measurably change your personality for the worse by having your avatar perform bad actions. 

Please address that, not some unrelated thing.


I think it is possible I am biased on this front. 

I have had many experiences where people perceived no moral limits in an RPG, and did things they would never do in real life in the guise of a RPG. 

The better I have grown to know these people, the more I have grown to think that their actions, however unhinged, seem to be a reflection of them, and not just a little

So maybe I should say that people's underlying personality or nature comes out when roleplaying. 

I think I have it wrong that roleplaying causes it, it makes it evident


Ok, sounds like we're done.

I'm sorry you went through that, btw.

Anything to add?


No, just thanks for not relenting. 

I get very Oppositional defiant disorder. 

So do we agree that people's nature comes out when roleplaying? 

If we do, I think that is much more interesting anyways.


I think that's true, but often not in an easily reducible way. 

Like, example: I know a lot of gamers in the OSR (Patrick, Scrap, etc) who would kind of let other people take over in the game and wouldn't voice their opinion about the overall direction of what the party got up to. If they had fun--great! If they didn't--they would blame the people they let make their decisions for them. They would rather do something they didn't like then complain than risk being the leader and thus being seen as being as responsible as they actually are. 

Their play revealed something about themselves but not in a way you'd be able to predict at the time.



I have seen this too

Anyways, I agree that we are done

My original statement holds no water

Thanks for your time!


A pleasure, Bec.


Becami Cusack said...

Thanks for helping me arrive at a much more reasonable conclusion!
It was definitely one of those things that I thought, then just tossed around in my head for ages without really examining or communicating about it, so then when I had to actually defend it, it became quickly obvious my statement was not factual.

It was like an horrible pearl, instead of a gemstone. Instead of intense heat and pressure (actual introspection and outside communication) leveraged to create my statement, the original statement was formed through irritation from a little grain of sand (bad experiences).

Simon Tsevelev said...

It's the old argument of "People do X and it makes them want to bad things" versus "People who wanted to do bad things all along and occasionally did X grasp the opportunity to do bad things provided by Y".
I knew some science fiction/fantasy writers who turned out to be disgusting evil people, and I'm pretty sure writing wasn't the thing that made them that way. It still made me wonder back then.

Steven A. Torres-Roman said...

For the record, I do not think that roleplaying a character that performs evil acts makes the person doing the roleplaying become more evil or more likely to perform those acts in real life, any more than I believe that authors or actors who write about or take on the roles of evil people warps them and causes them to be more likely to perform evil actions.

That said, as this topic has come up repeatedly in the decades I've been running and playing RPGs, I have wondered if the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment might be applicable to this discussion.

If anyone reading this is unfamiliar with the Stanford Prison Experiment, detailed information on this topic is just a Google search away.

In essence, it did demonstrate that roleplaying a fairly defined social role (in this case, prisoner or prison guard) did lead to significant observable changes in behavior on the part of the roleplayers - over time, the "prison guards" increasingly demonstrated particularly cruel and abusive behavior.

I think it's also important to note that the participants were randomly assigned their roles, so that *might* eliminate the assumption that people who were already likely to be abusive individuals gravitated to the prison guard roles of their own accord. However, the original advertisement that the participants responded to mentioned a prison study, not merely a psychological study, so that might have increased the likelihood of more abusive individuals showing interest.

I personally think that the extreme condition of an enclosed environment (participants were confined to a given space throughout the experiment) might have been a significant factor. It has been argued that the guards' behavior was expected in that role, and perhaps subtly encouraged or at least condoned since the "guards" faced no consequences or correction--the experimenters didn't intervene until the study was prematurely ended.

Also, it was a pretty small sample size.

This clearly unethical study cannot be replicated, so there's no real way to compare data with later iterations.

Other factors may have contributed as well.

Still, I thought I'd mention it.

Zak Sabbath said...

One part of the Stanford prison experiment that people don’t talk about is that everybody was paid.

The “prisoners” were paid to be there, the “guards” were paid to be there— I am not sure that the guards Felt that they would keep getting paid if they stopped doing whatever they thought was expected of them.

also if you watch the film it’s pretty clear that at least one or two of those guard dudes were just fucking assholes and I’m not sure of the interpersonal dynamics they had with the other people would’ve made it difficult for the other guards not to follow their lead.

Steven A. Torres-Roman said...

While it's certainly true that some of the guards were assholes (they're everywhere, after all), that doesn't account for all of their behavior. Given that some accounts state that the researchers might have actually *encouraged* abusive behavior, that certainly would have affected the interpersonal dynamics you mentioned.

And yet, nothing in the study *required* the guards to perform abusive behavior--they would still have gotten paid if they completed the study. I think that, however, as in so many other areas where awful human behavior is observed, many/most of the guards could have thought it was easier to go along to get along.

Zak Sabbath said...


Zak Sabbath said...


FredR said...

Sir please stop trying to kill me with LOLZ :)

When your enemy is now trying to pretend they were on your side the entire time and their past actions did not occur. Quietly take them outside and hand them a shovel. Tell them to be quick about it, or you will get angry.

I believe I told you this would happen. How did I know history is always repeated by fools and idiots. Everyone forgets this is not the first go around of SJW Wokeism. It's not even the 2nd time.

Zak Sabbath said...


I don't know what "this" is in your comment and I don't think you told me it would happen since I'm unaware of us ever interacting before today.

Please say what "this" is.