Rant: Diversity

No, this isn't about political correctness or racism. It does, however, run along similar veins. No, this doesn't have anything to do with StarCraft II. It does, however, have its roots in World of WarCraft.

I very often get into debates with other players concerning the feasibility of various actions or specializations in the competitive parts of the game. The other players often insist on a specific set of conditions and actions no matter what the situation might be. After bumping heads numerous times, I finally had an epiphany of sorts as to the nature of the issue.

It's a matter of simplicity.

How it manifests is more complicated, but it boils down to the inherent need to simplify matters. I will probably not be able to appreciate or understand art on the same level as my sister, and as such must suffice with a simplified and more base appreciation of a painter's work. My mother will never be as capable as my father in the fields of mathematics, and as such will simplify her understanding of extremely advanced concepts. It's a simply human method of coping with the fact that there is more information and activity in the world than we can ever learn and know.

Often, this part of human nature is abused. A fundamental assumption of our simplifications is forgotten. Specifically, that the simplifications are just simplifications and must be recomplicated when appropriate. It's implicit in the act of simplifying or generalizing that upon leaving the realms of the general for the specific we mustn't rely on the simple or general. Failing to do so brings about racism and other nasty things.

Going back to World of WarCraft, my most recent argument touched on both exploring dungeons and fighting other players. I had written a javascript calculator to mathematically compare the ability of various specializations to defeat monsters. The results were interesting, showing a specialization I had hoped would prove viable to be rather weak but simultaneously showing one I presumed weak to be equally strong as the "cookie cutter" specialization many players use for the specific task of killing monsters. Relaying these results to other players, I theorized that because of various differences (that I will not go into the detail of) the new specialization I had discovered would also be the optimal one for players wishing to both kill monsters and fight players without constantly having to change specializations (an expensive proposition within the game).

Now that I've bored you with that, here's what happened next.

One of the players I was discussing this with scoffed at the idea that this build had any viability in fighting other players whatsoever. He insisted on one specific ability as paramount and absolutely necessary, claiming it was impossible for anyone to fight other players without it. After a few amusing jests on my part ("You can fight other players without even swinging a sword! You'll lose... but it's still a fight!") I positted the following.

If all other players have specialized in a specific way, why not specialize in such a way as to be spefically devastating to people with the "cookie cutter" specialization? They won't know how to fight you (as you're the only person who plays this way and as such very few players will have encountered your style) and you'll know how to fight them (as every other player fights the same way). My argument, to be brief, fell on deaf ears. The player continually insisted that there was only one way to do things, and that doing things any other way was pointless.

Thinking on this birthed the epiphany. When attempting to understand a complicated situation involving 9 different "classes" of players each of which has varying degrees of ability in specific roles such as "damage", "healing", "control", "surivival" and "support" for which players can specialize to maximize specific subsets of each, one immediately wants to simplify matters as much as possible. Attempting to account for each individual player's inherent abilities alongside how they've specialized and fit each player into your battle squad like puzzle pieces is a daunting task. For the average person, this is simply too much to ask. They're forced to simplify.

To simplify, they typecast the 9 "classes" into specific roles to which they have the greatest ability. It's a lot easier to remove three or four other assets from a class and boil them down into one or two than to attempt to account for the five I mentioned. It's simple, X number of people are "damage dealers", Y are "healers", Z are "controllers" etc. One person can now easily account for exactly what each person is supposed to be doing and easily judge them accordingly.

While a useful generalization, it is too often forgotten that one should "recomplicate" matters during an in-depth discussion. This is compounded by the tendancy of devoted players to assume that, due to the time they've invested in the game, they are knowledgable about it. To an extent this is true, but to another extent it isn't. I could potentially spend the rest of my life visiting art galleries and examining paintings, but there is a limit on how much one can passively increase their depth of knowledge. Without active attempts to plum the mysteries of the works, I'll end my life barely more knowledgable about art than when I began my pilgrimage.

The result of all this is a lot of people bringing simplified visions of matters into in depth discussions. In normal conversations, say my sister and a friend discussing some work of Monet, neophytes such as myself have the common decency to avoid barging in with opinionated and uninformed sentiments. This is possible because we immediately recognize our ignorance. When everyone makes a fundamental assumption that they are an expert (or worse, a greater expert than others) very little understanding results from the discussion.

The simplification marginalizes any number of important possibilities. For example, if I ask, "Is it ever wise to enter a dark alleyway?" the obvious answer is "No! That's dangerous!" However, it ignores any number of possible situations. What if I'm walking a dog and it runs down the alley? What if there's a runaway car plowing down the sidewalk? What if I see someone in need of assistance? These situations may or may not be common, but in the name of simplification they are forgotten.

Again returning to competitive video gaming, the simplifications allow average people to work together well. However, they will never be optimal for "pro" players. The near infinite diveristy of situations calls for a nearly infinite adaptability, something the simplifications don't provide. There are numerous possible situations which can call upon someone in one role to fill another. Though not their express mission, they may be the only one able to address a sudden issue or development. Requiring them to ignore this if it is of greater detriment for them to do is ridiculous. The most excellent of "teams" will be those that act as a web, not only filling their "best" role but also the others. Such a force would easily steamroll any "simplified" opponent.

Sadly, people such as I who recognize this often find ourselves filling in too many roles simultaneously upon joining battle with a randomized group of people. Very few people are able to see beyond a single role, and so very often many important things go undone.

Perhaps eventually I'll meet a group of people who all see what I see.


Warp Field Stablized

At the Blizzard Entertainment Worldwide Invitational in South Korea, StarCraft II was announced.

I'm sure there'll be an official English page later today, complete with screenshots, but until then make do with what I've linked.

It's been a while since I've played any RTS games. I'd looked forward to Supreme Commander, but was rather disappointed with the result. It had been marketed as a "macromanagement" game, one where the insane amounts of micromanagement done in StarCraft and WarCraft would be unnecessary. Playing the Beta, I saw a few interesting tools that reduced some forms of micromanagement, but not the most common ones. Coordinating attacks isn't hard, it's having to individually order several hundred units that's bothersome.

StarCraft II currently doesn't claim to be the end of micromanagement. Without that expectation, I'm assuming I'll probably like it a lot more than Supreme Commander.

It's inevitable I'll blog more about this later. Until then.


Tough Questions

Lately I find myself dwelling overly much on a particular topic, which is a clear indication I need a creative outlet for it. To be specific, I've been wrestling with the issue of homosexuality. I remain confused as to what position I should take on the matter, but I've lately had a break through of sorts in guiding me.

For a few weeks now I've been participating in discussions on the subject and finding myself assailed on the idea that homosexuality is sin. There have been prevalent, and eloquent, arguments that homosexuality is not a choice anymore than I choose to be aroused by breasts. At first glance, this argument seemed strong and formidable against my own. The scriptural uncertainty certainly didn't help my confidence.

This is not to say that I have been deliberately attempting to fortify a position against homosexuality, but rather in attempting to understand my own feelings as to the subject I continually have felt that there was something "off" about it that leads me to remain uncertain.

However, I did note a certain epiphany on the matter, and it is something I am glad to have thought of.

After some deep thinking on the matter I was reminded of a french film my mother owned, Les Visiteurs. It opens with a french lord visiting some noblemen's daughter in a clearly sexual rendezvous. In a small room, the lord is aroused by the woman revealing her ankles to him.

That's the important part there. Ankles? Arousal? What prudishness is this?

It occurred to me that over the course of ages, what visual cues arouse men have not been static. Though breasts seem to be the order of the day in this time, different cultures and times past had different ideas. What of the tribes where women run around topless and without concern? What of the medieval lords and their ankle-lusting? What of now and restaurants such as "Twin Peaks" and "Hooters"? Obviously, there is a cultural component to the sexual cues for men.

How large that component is a matter for debate, but it seems irrefutable to me that to some extent our sexual desires are not shaped by our genome or nature, but by our culture or nurture.

On the flip side, we have the studies that show homosexuality runs in families, showing a clear genetic link to the end result of homosexuality, but I began to wonder how direct that link was. Purely hypothetical, but isn't it entirely possible that instead of a gene that determines homosexuality versus heterosexuality, there was a gene that inclined its bearers to reject typical modes of arousal? Without going into detail, such a gene seems far more likely to survive natural selection than one expressly dedicated to not reproducing.

That's where I stand at the moment. I'd encourage any of you who happen to peruse this place that sees updates but rarely to share your views as well. It would be deeply appreciated.