With good ol’ Jack Thompson disbarred and fading from the video game scene as an attack dog/controversy starter/general wild-eyed maniac, I’m sure not just a few sites and blogs have been thrashing about looking for a new punching bag for their wit and wisdom.
“Hm,” they think. “All we need is a fairly high-profile figure who is somehow connected with games, is very opinionated, gets agitated easily, and engages the mob on their level.”
To be fair, this could be quite a few people, but Richard Bartle’s stepped up to the plate this year to deliver this perfect storm of qualities, and writers left and right are barely containing their glee at attacking one of the founding fathers of the modern MMO scene.
A few months ago, I myself got into it when I read a quote of Bartle’s where he seemingly dismissed Warhammer because he’d already played World of Warcraft. It was really an aside post, something you write off the top of your head in the passion of the moment, so imagine my surprise as Bartle (who must monitor his name popping up on blogs) responded in force. Then, adding to my surprise, I saw that he’d commented on pretty much every blog or site that took him to task over this comment.
Now, the way the internet works is that one person cannot fight the mob, and should rise above that level of discourse when the trolls get their blood up. It’s not fair, but usually the fight is not worth the additional trouble you’d bring down on your head. Yet Bartle kept on going after these people, defending himself with tenuous logic and walls of text, and eventually it fizzled out as the news cycle went elsewhere.
Recently, we’ve been treated to another Bartle story that Just Won’t Die, in which he made a comment on his blog about the use of torture in a World of Warcraft quest — the player is instructed to torture a NPC multiple times until the NPC “confesses”. Bartle was taken aback and said so, but perhaps used a few too many words to keep it above controversy. Some people agreed with him, but some went after him the way lions stalk a wounded zebra.
To be honest, I kind of see his point. I know, I know, it’s “just a game”, but to ask a player to virtually torture someone is not something we see too often, particularly in Blizzard’s Disneyland-ish title.
The fun of all this is that Bartle took offense to everyone commenting on his comments, so he commented back and in greater force. That prompted the mob to comment in return, and we’ve been going back and forth and back and forth on this for days now. It’s weird, sickening, funny and eye-rolling.
If it’s his opinion, then fine — it’s his. I think he gets a little too into whatever he’s saying and he doesn’t always make the best analogies, but he’s not attacking your first-born kid or anything. I don’t understand quite why people are so insanely riled up against him, other than he just won’t let it go and neither will they:
- Bartle’s original Torture post
- Bartle’s Rebuttal @ Wandering Goblin
- Richard Responds to Torture Quest Issue @ Massively
- MMO Weekly @ IncGamers
- MUD Designer Unhappy With Torture Quest @ Kotaku
- Jack Bauer Wouldn’t Have These Issues @ Broken Toys
- Bartle Further Responds to Attacks
It’s kind of a shame because this topic could have led to some real engrossing discussion about whether torture is an appropriate in-game activity for MMOs — but neither Bartle nor most of these blogs will let it be anything but about ego, cheap shots and “your mama!” attitudes. I think people are eager to rip into him not so much because of what he said but because of who he is and his status in the MMO community. I think he gets a little too worked up when other people disagree with him. Six of one, half-dozen of another.