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How would you feel if your online opponent was secretly a bot?

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Are drones better than nothing?

Yesterday I was playing Wii Sports Club Boxing online while contemplating stuff to talk about on this week's Sup Holmes. I thought I'd have a while to think, but I was wrong. I only had to wait like 3 seconds before I was thrown into a match. For the least popular mode of a game that I'm guessing hasn't even sold 750,000 yet, that's not too shabby. 

I got my butt kicked, so I jumped into another match. Again, it was just 3 seconds before I found a new opponent. Again, I got beat down (K.O'ed on the first fall!), so again I went looking for another a new challenger. Again, I was paired up quickly, but this time I won. After that I cut my losses and went back to training mode. Sometimes its best to quit while you're ahead. 

Now I'm not accusing Nintendo of anything here, but while punching those giant floating training mode plates, the thought crossed my mind that the person I just fake-assautled might not even be real. Maybe none of them were real. They did engage in a few exchanges with me using the games pre-set text dialogue system, but that's not exact solid proof of humanity. On top of that, all their Mii's were pretty generic, and their fighting styles were awfully similar to what you might find in CPU opponents in single player mode. Then again, in Wii Sports Boxing, there isn't a whole lot of strategy when you're not very good. It's pretty much just "Always Be Punching: The Game" (which tells you how rusty I am that I kept losing), regardless if you're fighting a the game's AI or some other flailing schlub like yourself. 

The question is, if Nintendo had set up some auto-play online opponents to give the illusion that you were taking on a "real" person, would that be a bad thing?

Most art, including videogames, is about tricking the audience into thinking something is "real" when it's just a construction from the artist's imagination. The catch is, the audience is usually given full disclosure that they thing that they are about to witness is fiction. They're told upfront that they're about to be tricked, which keeps them from feeling taken advantage of, at least in theory.

Wondering if my online experience with Wii Sports Club Boxing was "real" or not took me back to when The Blair Witch Project was first released. A lot of people who hadn't researched the movie before going into it came out thinking it was "real" too. They thought the footage was all legit; that someone really edited together what a snuff film starring a witch and some dead college students and put it in theaters. When they found out later that is was all made up, some were impressed that the film had suspended their disbelief so effectively, while others were outraged that they were made to think that the movie was "better than it actually was". This conversation ended up being more interesting than the movie itself, and probably did a lot to contribute to its financial success. 

Which side of that fence would you end up on if it turned out that not all of your online gaming experiences were "honest"? If a game's publisher manufactured online opponents give you a better experience, would you care? Does it matter if you're told that some aspects of the game aren't as "real" as you might otherwise believe?

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Jonathan Holmes
Jonathan HolmesBad Joke Uncle   gamer profile

"Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1 "The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Ju... more + disclosures


 


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