Monday, November 5, 2007

Suicide Bombing in Halo 3

Clive Thompson has a great article on his Wired blog about how Halo 3 has given him insight on the personal economics of suicide bombing. In short, he resorts to "sticking" players with plasma grenades at close range because it's the surest, easiest way to kill another player. He writes:

I, however, have a completely different psychology. I know I'm the underdog; I know I'm probably going to get killed anyway. I am never going to advance up the Halo 3 rankings, because in the political economy of Halo, I'm poor.

Specifically, I'm poor in time. The best players have dozens of free hours a week to hone their talents, and I don't have that luxury. This changes the relative meaning of death for the two of us. For me, dying will not penalize me in the way it penalizes them, because I have almost no chance of improving my state. I might as well take people down with me.

Or to put it another way: The structure of Xbox Live creates a world composed of two classes -- haves and have-nots. And, just as in the real world, some of the disgruntled have-nots are all too willing to toss their lives away -- just for the satisfaction of momentarily halting the progress of the haves. Since the game instantly resurrects me, I have no real dread of death in Halo 3.

At the risk of sounding flippant, this is true. I often sacrifice myself on suicidal runs just to help out my team. Even if I don't have the highest kill tally at the end of the round, I can at least deny a flag capture or chalk up one more kill for my team.

Thompson also finds a way in which interactive worlds can communicate complicated differences in perspective (see: Virtual Guatanamo). More on that later.

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