Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Altador Cup, TPIR, and Mario Party

I'm currently in the middle of the latest feature on the Neopets website. The Altador Cup is a soccer type game taking place with 16 different teams and millions of people playing it all over the world. It's thrilling for me to be involved in a contest of that magnitude. And it's interesting that I'm actually at least not bad at the game itself, because I'll be the first to confess that my eye-hand coordination is not the best in the world, and you have to get the angles just right. I'm a member of the Mystery Island team (partially because the Goalie is a Yurble), and we're doing really well. Should be in 4th or 5th place right now. Krawk Island and Roo Island are in 1st and 2nd place. I know this doesn't make any sense to have someone who just analyzed the works of Carl Jung be so enthralled with a child's game, but it's quite addicting. Honestly, it makes you feel like you're part of a community, and since that's the main reasoning behind much of what human's do, and the Internet does it so well. Like my brother, who plays Everquest or WOW or whatever, I'm joining into a community on a much simpler level.

One of the things I considered as I played this game was exactly how much of the game is actually fixed by the Neopets company. Little things that they could do if they wanted to influence the outcome of the game. And it's quite possible for them to do it without the knowledge of the people playing it. Little things, like tweaking the speed in which the computer's goalie intercepts the ball, or changing the randomness from which we get the Mutant or Dragian balls. The only thing they can't influence is the amount of playing that the players do, or their skill in doing so. It's very similar to playing Mario Party on the Nintendo 64. Now, to be fair, I've not played Mario Party 2 on up, just one, but let's take it as an example. Playing it on an emulator on my computer, I was able to save the game at any instance and force the computer to re-roll the dice on the board game. To my astonishment, every time I did that, the computer rolled the exact same roll. The game had been designed to roll whatever at whatever time. The only randomness was my skill at playing the mini-games. Thus the game was not truly random at all, but fixed to give the players, computer or human, a distinct advantage or disadvantage.

Also, take the game show The Price is Right. I know it's blasphemy to talk about such an icon of television culture, and I watch the show religiously, but there are parts of the game that are influenced by the outcome of the taping. The prices that are wrong can be made easier or harder to make the games easier or harder based on how many people are winning. Take "Half Off" for instance. Those prices are so easy to determine which ones are wrong, because they want you to be able to have at least a 25% chance of getting the money. The odds have to be correct. And with Wheel of Fortune, the puzzles at the end can be easy or hard, depending on how much money has been won. They would never let me on TPIR, because, for one, I'm too calm. And also, I know the ways to influence the odds to be more in my favor.

It's not exactly cheating, but it is influencing the game to make the outcome desirable for the people who's interests it serves. Not that that makes me not enjoy the games any less (a triple negative, you figure it out), on the contrary, it adds a bit of fun at figuring out how the powers that be want the game to come out. And we'll not even talk about the Reality TV shows, which are probably more fixed than anything else.

And I'm not dissing Neopets, either. They do a wonderful job at getting us all addicted to the games they have, and make us care about the events happening on their virtual world. So GO MI!! And I hope we win at least third place, or at least, I hope that TNT (the Neopets team) lets us try for it anyway.

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