Assumptions and Optimism

So! I am disappearing to the middle of nowhere for 10 days. When I return, there will be new content, but there will be nothing new here next Friday.

Now, on to assumptions and optimism.

Where It All Started

Since my parents purchased our first home computer, I have played video games. I can’t say that I come from the same pedigree as gamers that began with large machine in an arcade, nor can I say that my first gaming console was one of the classics (Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, etc). My first console was a Nintendo 64 that I bought in my teens. A friend of mine has the machine now, and it still runs.

Anyway. This post is not about video gaming or consoles. It is about a phenomenon I have noticed in online multi player games. It is the tendency to leave when the going gets tough (or before, in some cases).

Playing the Game

In a single player game, leaving has no consequence. When the game gets frustrating or pointlessly difficult to play, the player can stand up and go do something else or play a different game.

Some multiplayer games function in a similar manner: the game is hosted on a server and runs perpetually. Players can come and go as they choose. If there are players on the server who are too good for everyone else, one can simply find another server to play on. The only time a game ends is based on how the game is scored or if a time limit elapses, and even then, then server usually just changes the map or restarts the match. Once again, there is no consequence for leaving.

Other mutliplayer games function in a random match format. The player hits the “go” button and they are matched with enough other players to fill the space on each team. This method usually employs some form of “matchmaker” that uses parameters such as player skill, how far they have advanced into the game, and/or other relevant measurements.

Win/Loss

A pair of games that I have been playing recently, World of Tanks and War Thunder fall under second category of multiplayer game. Interestingly, they are also free-to-play. Any user with a good enough computer can play these games, and the system requirements are not high.

Zero entry price for the game and low computer requirements mean that the level of player skill will vary wildly. Some players will exceptional, many will not be.

That also leads to interesting matchmaking. The matchmaker in each of these games does not use win/loss ratio, average damage per game, or any statistical measure associated to any one player’s account. Instead, the matchmaker uses the rank of the vehicle being used by the player.

Beacuse of that, some players to acquire user-made modifications for the game that allow them to see the win/loss ratios of players on each team and calculate the percentile chance each team has of winning, based purely on those numbers.

Assumptions

Now let’s get into the meat of this discussion.

The modifications I mentioned lead some players assume whether or not their team will win. There are more factors than statistics to a win/loss equation, but some players seem to rely entirely on the numbers, and then leave a match if there is a low chance of victory.

About a month ago, I was playing World of Tanks and noticed something strange. Using the in-game chat system, a player on my team, let’s call him JoeBob stated “win chance too low. bye”. A system message came up: “JoeBob has left the game” and his tank exploded.

That situation is not unique. I have seen the same thing happen several times. It is annoying from my perspective because my team is at a disadvantage: one less player, one less gun, one less bullet magnet.

Optimism

Absence from a game is like lining up a shot and then not taking it. At least taking the shot gives one the chance to hit the target. It’s like saying “It looks too tough” without knowing whether or not it will actually be tough. Raw statistical calculation does not account for every variable possible.

That kind of negative, “can’t do, won’t do, might fail” attitude is usually called “pessimism”. Most, if not all, of you have heard that word before. Giving up before you start is the ultimate definition of pessimism.

To get back to the game I mentioned earlier, I go into every match without a mod that tells me the chance of victory because I don’t want to begin a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. Like Han Solo once said: “Don’t give me the odds!”

I don’t have the keys to the Millennium Falcon (I wish I did), but I do like Solo’s optimism. Despite facing overwhelming odds, he chose to ignore them and bet on his skills (and a little bit of luck). Just like Han, I would rather make the best of the situation than back out based on an assumption.

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