Justification of actions

I remember when I was in my first semester of my sophomore year of college I had to take Psychology 1. At the time, I’d never had a particular bent toward the study of the mind or any of the related fields. Still, some of the lectures stuck with me from all the classes that I glazed over in my memory banks with booze and women. One in particular was a segment from a lecture from this professor. I can’t remember his name to save my life, but I can still picture him quite clearly. A short and skinny man in his early to mid 40’s, he had a goatee, and curly, fluffy hair. He wore thick glasses and spoke in a very clipped, but familiar voice. He had a strange sort of posture, and would walk across the front of the lecture hall with his hands lightly clasped in front of him, and would occasionally release them to gesture or to point out a student with a hand raised. In short, he personified in a way the “idea” of what a college professor should be.

The topic of the lecture that sticks in my mind was about something we had (read: were supposed to have) read the night previous. There was an experiment that had people come and take this incredibly long (at least three hours), tedious, convoluted questionnaire scheduled at an incredibly early time. They knew they were part of an experiment, but the misdirection was that their answers were being studied and analyzed. The reality was that one group of people did this on purely volunteer, non-compensated basis. The other group got 50 bucks out of it. A few months after, people from both groups was asked to come back for a second round of the questions. One group overwhelmingly accepted and the other rejected the offer. Can you guess which ones returned for session numero dos?

If you guessed the paid group, you are horribly incorrect. You and me both when I heard the story. My broke-ass college-self thought, “50 bones for answering some questions? Score! That’s a keg!”. However, my adult-self understands it better. When money was introduced into the experience, a concrete value was placed upon the event. The participants could look at it, and see that 50 dollars divided by “x” amount of time does not equal a justifiable compensation for the pain-in-the-ass experience this was. Hell, I imagine anyone making over $16/hour would probably turn this down.

The biggest shocker, was that the UN-paid participants were not only willing to come back again, but were EAGER to do so. In their minds, they looked at what they did, and changed the experience into a fun and entertaining one. They received nothing for their efforts, but they did it anyway, so surely they MUST have enjoyed it. They looked at their actions, and the surrounding events and applied an opinion about it after the fact. Justifying their actions by changing their perception of an event. The long and short of this is, people will look back at events, and will overwhelmingly ignore the negative events unless impacted in some concrete, quantifiable manner.

Now, this applies to gamers, MMO-players, and WAR how exactly? I think it’s pretty clear, but lets explore it a bit.

In MMOs and games, we all spend a lot of time performing repetitive activities. We spent a lot of time in-game in general. Whether farming materials for crafting, grinding out mobs to rank up, or fighting the same group of people in PvP for the thousandth time. Some of these, we can easily justify. I’ve seen lots of players confess their love of grinding for levels (particularly around the time of Aion’s launch). Some may have been sincere, given the result of Aion’s grind on population, I think most were not. However, when faced with concrete results, players have a harder time justifying their time spent.

In WAR, if I (stress the “I” here, I’m talking about me) am in a 12 man group, and lose to another 12 man group, there is little in the way of excuses I can make to justify the loss. The more similar those groups are to each other in every regard, the less excuses I can make. Similarly, if I’m playing solo and get run over in a scenario by six people at one time, I probably didn’t enjoy it much. Sure there are reasons for why I lost, and that’s very clear, but justifying my loss and changing my belief of the situation to be a positive one that reflects “fun” would be very hard to do. The further the divide from a fun experience to an un-fun one, the harder it is for me to justify playing. In the immediate sense that is.

There’s some strange phenomenon that occurs as time goes by from the initial event that took place. The further I get from my time playing Everquest (the original) the more I remember it as being this great game. However, when I sit down and look at it with a critical eye, I can’t imagine how I was able to enjoy it. An insane grind, bad graphics, limited interface. It was a trumped-up graphical MUD in many ways (the slash commands of these still linger in today’s game worlds). But man, my memory makes my play time epic and entices me back to look at screenshots of the current world from time to time.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, and one that most of us are really familiar with. Usually it’s refered to as “rose-colored-glasses” but the drastic affects it can have on gamers is surprising to me. I have lost count of how many times I’ve resubbed to a game I’ve long quit, just because some stray bit of information has sparked my interest and rekindled my nostalgic memories.


About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

3 Responses to Justification of actions

  1. openedge1 says:

    “The long and short of this is, people will look back at events, and will overwhelmingly ignore the negative events unless impacted in some concrete, quantifiable manner.”

    i.e: My continued need to hate LOTRO. The game caused a rift in a long time relationship of guildies, caused computer issues, caused grief with Devs during beta…so many negatives, which I still see to this day.

    Everytime I returned, it all came crawling back to me. I finally deleted the game and made a commitment to never go back to that mess.

    The “Rose Colored” part of that was the movies making me REALLY want to love the game. The game is NOTHING like that.


    The interesting part you note is the “reward” feature you speak of. Does the reward justify my return? i.e: WAR. My return to the game after being a launch player hater (I truly thought WAR was a mess)…was so long ago (and left little impression) that I totally forgot about the game.
    The payoff (reward) of how much had changed, really helped me decide that it is a good game.

    So, a payment did help…a payment of fun.

    Same with Age of Conan after their overhaul.

    Interesting post, and is making me think today…appreciate it.

    • shadowwar says:

      Glad to help, that’s what college is for!

      I continue to be amazed at times by the random tidbits of information that creep up through the memory banks from my days at the the university.

  2. Wasdstomp says:

    It is very similar to an ex girlfriend or wife. You start remembering all the fun you had together. You get back together, and the by the third day you are looking for a bridge to jump off when you realize why you left the first time.

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