Some time ago, I mentioned I play Halo 3. I never played Halo or Halo 2, and I just happened to stumble into this thing, and I find it a relaxing side hobby, in between film renders and other stuff that makes me have to take a break for a while. I love logging in, getting into a game, and then hauling ass or having my ass handed back to me.
About 50% of the fun of the game is the game itself, and the rest of it is the social aspects that I like studying. The game has the ability of people all over the world to hear each others’ voices and interact quite a bit along the lines of shooting other people in the face, so there’s a lot of room for interesting interactions. Some of these are, of course, ugly.
When you play Halo 3, you get two scales of your achievements. One is your experience. The experience comes from playing games, grinding away. As you play more, your experience inevitably goes up. Maybe it’s a point a game, maybe a couple points, maybe zero points. But ultimately, it just climbs up, given enough games, regardless of your performance.
The other scale, however, is your skill level. This one’s a little stranger. If you win a lot, it goes up, but it doesn’t always go up, and sometimes it can go back down again, depending on your performance or your team’s performance. It initially goes up very fast (starts at 1, and you can end up with a score of 3-5 very quickly) but as the Skill number climbs, it will eventually sort of plateau out and it’s very difficult to go up in skill without just winning and winning, with no lost games.
Eventually, this combination of skill and experience will set your Rank. Your rank starts out at Recruit and goes along about 13 general Rank headings. Each of these Rank headings also have grades. So you can be a Grade 2 Lieutenant or a Grade 3 General, or whatever. More importantly, though, either increases of skill OR experience will increase your Rank. This means that if you play enough, you will gain rank, rising through the various levels as you go. Here’s my various ranks I’ve had.
Eventually, though, pure experience stops being too relevant a metric. You eventually have to raise your Skill level. This level is Captain.
Some time ago, I hit the maximum of what a person can do just through playing. Now, when I play with buddies or whatever, sometimes I win or sometimes I lose, but we have a good time. But since I’m not winning over and over, I am what’s called a “Staff Captain”, the highest level Captain you can be. It’s quite recognizable, with the three gold bars at the bottom.
Thanks for sitting through all this. Now for the interesting situation.
People fucking hate staff captains.
Being a staff captain means you are not a consistently winning player. You have not risen to sufficient skill in any variation of Halo 3, and you are a holding pattern, and therefore unpredictable.
And, with the additional bonus of people seeing Ranks when a group is assembled for a game, the insults come raining down. Nasty, nasty insults.
“Oh fuck, a staff captain. Jesus, why are you even playing this game? What the fuck’s wrong with you?”
This does not encourage the nicer aspects of my personality.
The question, of course, is where Bungie is in all of this. What they now have is a system that breeds a level of nastiness far and beyond mere pseudo-jingoistic team puffery. In game after game, I and others with the three gold bars get called all manner of sub-human, targeted and criticized by others, being told that because we haven’t taken the steps to specifically win a number of games in a row, we should get the hell out of Halo. Surely they can’t be delighted this is happening.
I’m sure there’s no way they knew it was going to end up being this way, that how the game was would trap a specific set of folks in a grinding situation with no easy escape, set up to be ridiculed consistently and nastily. I doubt they’re proud of it. If they are, they’re not the same style of programmers/designers I see in evidence elsewhere in the game, with its attempts to keep games fair, opportunities many, and variety the rule of the day.
How amazing just a few chosen parameters in their work would be the cause of so much ire.
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