Breaking down Results Oriented Thinking

          In the past I’ve written about how good players make good games and vice versa. Today I figured I would talk more about what makes a good player in terms of skill. Specifically I wanted to talk about something known as ‘results oriented thinking’ and how overcoming is important. Let’s not waste any time and jump into it.

A quick Google search of ‘results oriented thinking’ gives a whole bunch of different results, many of them irrelevant to the discussion at hand. As such, let’s define this before continuing. ‘Results oriented thinking’ refers to valuing the result of a play, not the process of making it is. This is a fairly simple definition but there are two points that need to be covered before continuing. First of all, it’s my understanding that the term originated in the poker community, got picked up by MTG and has seen disseminated to general usage. As such, it’s important to understand that this term really only has its full weight in games that have hidden information and variance. While on some level it can be applied to all games, the full process here only makes sense for this particular subset. Second, I find ‘results oriented thinking’ to be not as intuitive to grasp compared to ‘anecdote oriented thinking’ so if you’re anything like me swapping those terms will make this easier to grasp.

Alright, we have our term defined, but let’s break things down a bit further. All games can be reduced to a series of decision points. These decision points inform and shape the flow of the game. All of these decisions happen within the confine of the rules and as such there are a finite number of decisions that can ever come up. This tells us two things: one that if we play a game enough times then the same, or functionally same, decisions will come up repeatedly. Secondly, knowing what decision to make is invaluable as it provides a sizable edge to win. In general, playing the game should be thought of as the process and winning or losing should be thought of as the result; but it can be compartmentalized into smaller chunks as well.

Now if you’re still reading this, then you’re clearly invested in winning the games you play, the result. It’s human nature for us to look at what we did in the past and based upon our success there to help us determine what we should do in the present. This is the crux of the problem with results oriented thinking. The result matters insofar as it is a motivator but beyond that we shouldn’t place much stock in it. Instead we need to care about the process that brought us to that result. This is why hidden information and variance are important components to consider. Most of the time you won’t have perfect information, so you need to act based upon what you know, both concretely and as possibilities. By extension, variance is also an issue, since you are dealing with unknown variables. Now it would be easy if whenever you made the right play you were rewarded and when you made the wrong play you were punished, but that’s not the case.

One of the single most important thing to understand about games is you are never playing alone; you are playing against other people*. These people also have decisions to make with limited information, and they can be wrong as well. Not only that but we can make the correct decision based upon the information that we have and still lose. This doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision.

There’s another problem with results oriented thinking in that it can breed a fallacious line of thinking. If the results shouldn’t be valued as much, then how do you evaluate anything objectively? Isn’t it all just contextual? No, because the main thing to understand is that is not fact completely contextual. On some level there is an objective reality to games, if there wasn’t then there’d be no reason to play them, it’d just be pure chance. Understanding the objective truths of a game gives you the frame work in which you can understand the processes involved.

So how do you overcome this? The main takeaway here is that you need to look at the process you took, regardless of the outcome, to see if it was the right one. It requires a nonzero investment into the game in question in order to understand what is happening. It requires forcing yourself to think in a way that is not instinctive, and changing the way you think is never easy. It’s not impossible to do and there is a very real payoff involved.

I can’t really give much advice on changing the way you think but I can give some other relevant advice. Talking to your opponent(s) after the game is so incredibly useful. By extension talking about the game in general and finding out more about is such a boon.

Hope this was helpful, next week is a Solforge draftcap. Till next time.




*While this is also true for cooperative games, it’s not entirely applicable due to the nature of coop games. The variance and decisions involved on the opponent’s side are a lot easier to track and evaluation can be a lot more binary.



I’m a Social Justice Gamer, Why aren’t You?

I’m really getting tired of writing this stuff, but I haven’t done anything particularly interesting with games in a while and this is something that needs to be said. I’m not going to waste any time dithering around with an introduction, so let’s just jump right into it.

First, let’s define our terms. ‘Social Justice’ is being used to refer to advocating and working towards dismantling the current patriarchal system of privilege and oppression. ‘Gamer’ is being used to refer to someone who plays games; and considers that activity to be an important part of their self-identity, regardless of whether they feel comfortable using that term or not. While this definition of ‘feminism’ is accurate and conveys the salient point, the definition of ‘gamer’ still leaves open a discussion that needs to be addressed before proceeding.

This definition of ‘gamer’ is really broad, and that’s the point. Games and the people who play them cover a wide spectrum. The idea that I have much in common with a professional League of Legends player or someone who only plays mobile games is absurd. Whatever overlap exists isn’t something that you can use as a basis for a subculture. For one thing, all of these games have different values. While the examples I gave aren’t quite that diverse, remember that this spectrum also includes the sanitized government oppression of Call of Duty and the storygame of Dear Esther. Even then people can play the same game for radically different reasons; the psychographs used by WotC or FFG are a perfect example, albeit a not exhaustive list by any means.

Now between this stated position on social justice and dismissal of any sort gate-keeping nature in regards to the term of ‘gamer’ I’ve placed myself outside of what is often thought of with the term ‘gamer culture’. But there’s one problem with this line of thought, ‘gamer culture’ is an illusion. At best it’s an idea borne out of naivety that games in and of themselves are somehow a unifying force, at worst the concept is exclusionary. Yet this idea still exists and has done so for a long time, so let’s look at this from a more historical perspective.

There are four major historical events or trends to look at. The first has to do with the origins of modern day gaming. In a lot of ways it was limited to white males who, or their families, had the ability to buy the luxury goods needed to be a gamer. The second is the anti-DnD scare from the 1980s. The third is the anti-videogame movement that existed in full force from the late 90s to the mid 2000s. Finally, it’s mixing in the values of things like Revenge of the Nerds. Taken all together, this leaves us with a privileged group who are united by an opposition to what is perceived as censorship and outside forces interfering with their hobby.

Again, it’s tempting to think of this as ‘gamer culture’ but that’s misleading for two key reasons. First, it places this kind of behavior outside of the mainstream, and can anyone honesty claim that this isn’t true in society at large as well? Sure, the intensity and nuances might be different, but it’s still a microcosm. Secondly, it denies agency to people who got into games but don’t’ fit the above profile. It denies agency to people who fit that above profile and the differences they have from one another.

Now why was this historical tangent relevant?  Because it’s time to talk about Gamergate. Last week I wrote about how they’re essentially a terrorist movement and I stand by that statement. It’s not telling the whole story. Gamergate is a reactionary movement, the new culture war, bent on maintaining that privilege. This is a result of what I’ve come to think of as gaming’s original sin.

Gaming, and nerddom in general for that matter, got their start in no small part among those who didn’t live up to the patriarchy’s ideals of toxic masculinity. The reason for that qualifier being that the patriarchy discouraged women from buying into it. Now, they had this safe space and instead of using this safe space to deconstruct the patriarchy and make it safe for others, they recreated it. The values may have shifted slightly, if at all, but it’s still the same patriarchal system that said they weren’t good enough. If instead of recreating the patriarchy they had demonstrated enough collective self awareness to realize what had brought them to that point and turned to something along the lines of feminism, then we would be better off.

Now given my use of qualifications so far, it’s important to draw attention to my relative lack of qualifiers in that last paragraph. This is intentional. Why? The anti-gamergate language has a whole has a tendency to veer into ableist territory. This. Is. Not. Okay. If we want gaming to actually be an inclusive, safe space, then that shit has got to go as well. This trend of infantilizing those who support gamergate and encouraging this talk about how people with mental illnesses are the real problem with gamergate is harmful and hateful. It reinforces the patriarchal idea that of ‘boys will be boys’. It denies them their own agency, obscures the fact that they know full what they’re doing and equates them to people who are already marginalized in a negative tone. It feeds the ableist idea that that neuratypical people are Others to be feared and ignored instead of actual people who need help.

It doesn’t have to be triggery to be a problem; it is a problem in and of itself. Nor do you get to decide what is and what is not triggery for someone else. This. Is. Not. Okay. This isn’t something that’s all that hard to avoid either. If you don’t care enough to correct yourself, then you are nothing more than the enemy of my enemy.

Gaming should be as safe a space for everyone else as it was, and is, for me. That’s why I identify as a Social Justice Gamer. Still, it leaves me thinking. If we fight against reactionaries using exclusionary language…then what’s the point?  If this isn’t actually a safe space for everyone, then why bother? Why do we have to persist in what amounts to fighting over table scraps instead of actually being decent human beings to people who aren’t the enemy? I’d rather gaming cease to exist then we go forth this again and again so we inch towards being a safe space for everyone. And this, this doesn’t make me sad or sickened or embarrassed like the other things I’ve written about in regards to Gamergate. This, this makes me angry.

So I leave with this thought, why aren’t you a social justice gamer? Why don’t you want gaming to be a safe space for everyone?

Gamergate is a terrorist movement

I was originally going to write a more academic post this week, but there were two problems with that. First, I’m not exactly thrilled with how the first draft came out and the past two weeks have been uniquely terrible. While I touched on this briefly last month, it’s important to not only touch on it again, but to be far more forceful.

For those of you not in the know, let’s start at the beginning. Gamergate started with a developer named Zoe Quinn and a game called Depression Quest. Her ex-boyfriend accused her of sleeping with games journalists, one of whom gave Depression Quest favorable press. Except this favorable press doesn’t actually exist and Zoe Quinn’s personal life is no one’s goddamn business. The point being, this got claimed by the scum of the internet as a rallying cry for integrity in games journalism.

This is utterly nonsensical for two reasons. The first problem is in regards to the entire concept of integrity in games journalism. Integrity is a rare commodity because publishers can withhold access if they don’t get favorable press. It’s why negative reviews are so rare for example. Secondly, objective reporting doesn’t exist, reading something by an author means that you’re reading something written by a human who has preferences and biases, which is even more true in an opinion piece like a review. The other issue is that this crusade for integrity is really about harassing women and ‘sjw’ aka social justice warriors aka a derogatory name used to describe those concerned with social justice.

Now at first this was just your usual eruption of internet hostility that tends to blow over, except this started back in August. Since then it’s escalated with such events as Adam Baldwin joining in on the harassment, to taking up the cause, to outlets like the Washington Post reporting on it. Oh and we have developers being forced to flee their homes because they’ve received death threats and Anita Sarkeesian speaking at a university prompts threats of a mass shooting.

Yeah, let that last part sink in for a moment. Gamergate is a terrorist movement concerned with preservation of toxicity and keeping games as an unsafe place. There is no other honest interpretation of it. As such, the only ethical thing to do is to denounce them. Silence is complicity in their actions.

Next week, I talk about something I actually want to talk about and not denouncing bigots for a while.

What I’ve been watching: Fall Equinox 2014 Edition

I like doing these kinds of posts every so often so I can just talk about a bunch of shows at once. Since the new TV seasons is in full swing as well as the anime season, seemed like a good time to do one. Let’s have it.

Gundam Build Fighter: This show is awesome, every aspect is top notch. The animation is good, the music is all kinds of sweet, the plot and characters are engaging. It’s also the most fun I’ve had watching anime in years. It’s not without its flaws though. While the gender politics aren’t terrible, there not great either. It’s not hard to present most of the female characters as being problematic, although the only one that I’m really on board with such a reading is Kirara for literally being a fake gamer girl in her first appearance. Also if I’m even remotely right about their ages then the relationship between Felini and Kirara is all kinds of creepy. There are a few other problematic scenes but nothing that really jumps out at me like that.

On the flip side, it does present a positive view of gaming by having gender just not really come up as an issue. A sentiment that is generally true when it comes to this show and gaming in the abstract. Overall, it’s in my top 3 Gundam series and I can’t recommend highly enough. The sequel series is also starting up this week I I’m not mistaken, so that’s exciting.

Aldnoah Zero: This show does just enough right that I didn’t drop it. While the characters are little more than clichés and the set up is somewhat reminiscent of UC Gundam, the action is good enough to keep me around. I like the mecha designs and I like the fact that each fight is a puzzle essentially. It’s a nice inversion compared to something like Gundam Wing and reminds me of the better parts of Gundam 00.  That being said, I’m not the biggest fan of the CGI or the music. If you’re just looking for something short and/or really like mecha then I’d say give it a shot, otherwise there are probably better things you could watch.

Bojack Horseman: Netflix’s latest original series is an animated series about a washed up horse actor in a word where anthropomorphized animals exist along people. On one hand, this is show is very funny, on the other hand it’s very bleak. I don’t use the term bleak here lightly, it is the single most depressing show I’ve watched. Your interest in depressing stuff should really determine whether you want to watch this or not.

Californication: The only reason why I watched this was because the tvtropes summary sounded interesting enough and I was looking for something new to watch. At first that wasn’t a mistake. It starts off alright, the music and the cinematography are the two things that really stand out to me in hindsight to be honest. As a whole the show quickly descends into a drawn-out, incredibly problematic, bad show.

Parks and Recreation: This show is still hilarious and heartwarming. Although this time around I found the Jerry humor to be somewhat off-putting. It just clashes with people who are by and large decent to hurl this abuse on someone who is also decent.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: This is my second time through the series. It’s a wonderful series and one of the best things to come out of the 90s. Having the foreknowledge of what’s coming next certainly diminishes my excitement of getting closer to the end though.

Babylon Five: I’ve watched it twice before so I know what happens. I’m just forcing myself through the fifth season, and I’d describe myself as someone who didn’t dislike the fifth season. It’s just that the show really drops off after the end of the Shadow War.

Defiance: Labeling this as something I’m watching is a bit of a misnomer. I gave up after the first three episodes of the second season. I wasn’t interested enough in being a devout viewer and the TV club reviews just dampened my desire to go back to it.

Legend of Korra: Now I know that I wrote that I was done with the series after season two; the praise that season 3 and now 4 was getting was enough for me to check it out. Season 3 is in fact much better than season 2 and is fun to watch. I wouldn’t call it good as there are still problems with it, just not the kind of problems that made me loathe season 2. Mainly in the villains are underwhelming from a narrative point of view and either they aren’t doing anything interesting with Korra or I just don’t like the character. Season 4 only has one episode out so far but it’s looking to be the most interesting yet.

That’s it for this week, next week is going to be another mystery post. Till next time.