Tag Archives: card game

Treasury of Games: Bad Decisions in Technology

This is the card list for the 330 additional cards on the theme of “technology” which will go into the first completed edition of Bad Decisions.

Stories:

1 Today’s inter-office email explains our shocking announcement of [crisis], and why this resulted when [fool] [bad decision].

2 Pardon our dust. [fool][bad decision], which is why you’re seeing [crisis].

3 Did you hear about [crisis] at that new tech company? They really [bad decision]! I blame [fool].

4 [fool] trusted that [crisis] would never happen, but then someone [bad decision].

5 I admit, I [bad decision]. I couldn’t deal with [crisis] caused by [fool]!

6 Nobody [bad decision] quite like [fool]. That caused the [crisis] in the industry today.

7 [fool] showed me the worst way to deal with [crisis] yesterday: they [bad decision]!

8 [crisis], then they [bad decision]. That’s [fool] in a nutshell.

9 If you [bad decision], you might be [fool]. That’s the leading cause of [crisis].

10 When [fool][bad decision], it made [crisis] that much worse.

11 It’s bad enough to have [crisis], but now [fool][bad decision].

12 Why would anyone have [bad decision]? [crisis] can’t be all. Not even [fool] would use that excuse.

13 Because they [bad decision], [fool] was unprepared for [crisis].

14 [crisis] caught us all by surprise, especially those who [bad decision], such as [fool]!

15 [fool] + [crisis] = [bad decision]

16 When [fool] ignored [crisis], we couldn’t avoid [bad decision].

17 [crisis] will be the end of [fool], all because they [bad decision].

18 To have [bad decision], [fool] must have an allergic reaction [crisis]

19 Only [fool] ever [bad decision] because of [crisis].

20 How did [crisis] mean someone [bad decision]? Ask [fool].

21 When we [bad decision], it led to [crisis]. [fool] led us in the wrong direction.

22 [fool] looked like the hero, until [crisis] revealed how the “hero” [bad decision]

23 [crisis] wasn’t bad enough. First [fool] played around, and then [bad decision]

24 This company [bad decision] under the leadership of [fool]; we can’t afford to ignore [crisis] at this point

25 Because [fool] once again [bad decision], we still have to deal with [crisis].

26 The leading cause of [crisis]? If you [bad decision], that would cause it. [fool] didn’t know, and paid for it.

27 [bad decision]? Don’t react to [crisis] the way [fool] did.

28 [fool] [bad decision]. Nobody considered [crisis] first, like they should have.

29 [crisis] came upon [fool] suddenly, which precipitated having [bad decision]

30 Someone who [bad decision] should expect [crisis]. [fool] didn’t. It happened anyway.

Fools:

1 The Majority Share-Holder Of 27 Major Companies

2 Your Tech-Impaired Boss

3 The Chair of the Senate Technology Committee

4 The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee

5 An Apple Fanboy

6 A Techno-Peasant

7 A Selfie-Obsessed Teenager

8 A Distracted Driver

9 That Rare Sociable Engineer

10 A Coffee-Deprived Programmer

11 The Underpaid Office Intern

12 Image-Obsessed Parents

13 the MPAA* *Motion Picture Association of America

14 the RIAA* *Recording Industry Association of America

15 the FDA* *American Food and Drug Administration

16 A Short-sighted Inventor

17 An Aggressive Gadget Sales-Person

18 An Ignorant Investor

19 Anti-Technology Protesters

20 A Fatigued High-Energy Physicist

21 An Irritated End-User

22 The CEO of Tumblr

23 An Anonymous Hacktivist

24 A Social Justice Warrior

25 A Would-Be Game Changer

26 An Obscene Online Chat User

27 The New Popular Online Social Network

28 A Russian Driver With a Dash-Cam

29 That Guy Who Live-Tweets Everything

30 Some Internet Pervert

31 A Straw-Man For Hire

32 The Flat Earth Society

33 A WebMD Hypochondriac

34 A Gullible Email Reader

35 An Artificial Celebrity

36 The “History” Channel* *Which primarily shows programs about aliens and pawn shops.

37 “Music” Television* *Which hosts programs about sex and drugs, but little to no rock and roll.

38 A Guy Who Wants To “Fight IRL”

39 A Cowardly Anonymous Bully

40 An E-Sports Fan Who Won’t Shut Up

41 An Irritable Open-Source Developer

42 A Professional Gamer

43 An Underpaid QA* Tester *Quality Assurance

44 An Overpaid IP* Attorney *Intellectual Property, such as Copyright and Trademark

45 The Default Video Game Protagonist* *Almost always a stereotypical white male

46 An Unemployed Graphic Artist

47 Someone Carrying a Suitcase Full of Money

48 A Suspicious Looking Character

49 An Embodied Racial Stereotype

50 A Foul-Mouthed Podcaster

51 An Identity Thief

52 A Fatigued Trucker

53 This Guy Who Won’t Shut Up About Trains

54 A Subway Train Conductor

55 A Robotic Fish

56 An Overbooked Computer Repair Service

57 An Unskilled Cable Installer

58 An Overworked Technician

59 A Clueless Co-Worker

60 NASA* *The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration

61 CERN* *Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire in French, or European Council for Nuclear Research in English

62 The Mayo Clinic

63 The FCC* *The United States Federal Communication Commission

64 IBM

65 Microsoft

66 Apple, Inc.

67 Sony

68 A Major Auto Manufacturer

69 The Aerospace Industry

70 The Military-Industrial Complex

71 Big Oil

72 An Unethical Blog-”Journalist”

73 A Sysadmin-Ninja

74 An Irate Tech-Support Caller

75 A Willfully Obstinate Jerk

76 The Same Person Twelve Times in a Row

77 A Scientist With Several Ph.D.s

78 An Unhelpful Help-desk

79 A Caller On Hold Long Enough To Hallucinate

80 A Different Company’s Customer

81 An Online Trash-Talker

82 A Total N00b* *new or unskilled player

83 An Elderly Web-Surfer

84 A Computer Science Teacher

85 A Concerned Parent

86 Teenage Mall Punks

87 A First-Year College Student

88 A Smothering Mother

89 An Amish Youth On a Rumspringa Journey

90 A Zoned-Out Phone Browser

91 A Coworker Straight Out Of Dilbert

92 The Company Social Media Coordinator

93 A Celebrity Hired For Publicity Reasons

94 An International Criminal Genius

95 The Idiot Responsible For This Mess

96 An Anti-Vax Blogger

97 A Slovenly & Inept Plumber

98 The CTO Of A Major Bank

99 Microsoft Bob™

100 An Uncreative Product Developer

Crises:

1 running out of RAM

2 memory leaks

3 the ultimate nightmare of customer service

4 horribly tangled cables

5 spilling soda on the motherboard

6 planned obsolescence* *objects designed to fail so you must buy new ones

7 new technology rendering older household electronics useless

8 being falsely red-flagged in an FBI database

9 the dreaded Blue Screen of Death

10 texting while driving

11 a website with many broken links

12 smartphones becoming the new digital nannies

13 an expensive laptop screen repair

14 finding child porn on a customer’s hard drive

15 illegal downloads hurting music sales

16 an “out of ink” printer error

17 the emergency cutoff switch failing

18 a cell phone battery dying in half an hour

19 rising oil prices

20 globalization creating a new babel* online *place where nobody understands each others’ language

21 software bugs hiding from debuggers

22 teens sexting with online predators

23 an easily-abusable software exploit

24 firearm lethality outpacing owners’ safety practices

25 new standards require replacing expensive equipment

26 driving cross country, non-stop

27 paying extra for airline “food” on a 15 hour flight

28 answering just one more email

29 the phone ringing non-stop

30 getting sucked into a wiki-dive* *when you just keep clicking one more informational link after another on a site such as wikipedia

31 another pseudo-documentary on “historical alien contact”

32 receiving online death threats

33 accidentally installing malware* *malicious software which takes away control of your computer

34 sending a nasty email to the whole company

35 glimpsing a co-worker’s search history

36 having engine trouble

37 losing an online game

38 cheating on a standardized test

39 nothing happening, when something should

40 a circuit overloading

41 a collapse in the price of bitcoin

42 a hoax about a “miracle cure”

43 an exploding poop plant* *anaerobic digester which produces methane power from human/animal waste

44 fire at the gas station

45 having to put out a literal fire in the company servers

46 a flood of error messages

47 motor oil getting everywhere* *yes, even THERE!

48 the LHC* actually triggering the formation of a black hole *Large Hadron Collider

49 television ads which are actually controlling minds

50 falling into the Kola borehole* *The deepest hole made by humans.

51 a random number generator seeming too predictable

52 the device not being plugged in

53 figuring out an 18% gratuity

54 forgetting the password

55 defective brakes failing on a slope

56 a GPS failing in the middle of nowhere

57 running out of gas

58 zero cell phone signal bars

59 unsafe radiation levels

60 a toxic chemical spill

61 not knowing how to google

62 a barrage of un-explained internet initialisms

63 an incestuous tangle of old AV cables

64 the inevitable robot uprising

65 the self-checkout register failing to ring up an item

66 a digital billboard showing a windows error message

67 a broken ATM* spewing out all its receipt tape *Automatic Teller Machine

68 the Google street view car catching a public urinator

69 Windows’ own restart process preventing a restart

70 an error message declaring failure to find an error message

71 a customer trying to scam tech support

72 the male-dominated STEM* field *Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

73 CAPS LOCK BEING TURNED ON BY MISTAKE

74 aggressive dogs bothering the installation tech

75 not knowing what “backup” means

76 accidentally setting the background image to an incriminating photo

77 a problem which could be easily solved with a quick web search

78 components being installed without removing all the packaging

79 not getting a connection for unknown reasons

80 the presence of chemicals in literally everything

81 battered tech support specialist syndrome

82 the latest stupid reality TV show

83 a realistic game being mistaken for reality

84 a long list of codes to memorize

85 shoved a credit card in the disk drive

86 knowing the solution due to past illegal acts

87 receiving parts for the wrong device

88 an improperly installed part

89 a breach in network security

90 misleading acronyms

91 mass firings and layoffs in the company

92 a diaper tweeting when it gets soiled

93 hazardous chemicals leaking into the public water supply

94 new computers smelling like cat pee

95 having to pay extra for that

96 missing a crucial piece of hardware

97 dumping physical memory

98 mixing up the blackwater and greywater pipes

99 heat conducting from the parts to the person’s skin

100 a complete loss of banking data

Bad Decisions:

1 promised to make thousands of microchips in a home garage

2 installed Linux on the microwave oven

3 discouraged invention in favor of profits

4 declined to fund the new product (which hits it big next year)

5 bought the newest thing just because it’s new

6 deleted an important email (and emptied the trash)

7 violated privacy rights with new brain-scanner devices

8 texted someone sitting in the same room

9 took a video for YouTube instead of helping

10 watched the GPS instead of the road

11 made changes to the live code without source protection* *a backup which stores previous versions of the code to restore to in case of failure.

12 allowed children unsupervised internet access

13 deleted an important email, then emptied the trash

14 didn’t try a simple web-search before complaining

15 handed a hard drive full of illegal pornography in at a store for malware cleaning

16 didn’t pressure test the boiler

17 assumed the new invention would never be misused

18 pre-sold millions in vaporware*, then went bankrupt *a product, especially software, which doesn’t actually exist.

19 sold the patent rights to the next big thing for chump change

20 tried to hold back technology with lawsuits

21 sold the bugs in the code as “features”

22 stayed up for the midnight gadget launch on a work night

23 allowed anonymous users to edit the official website

24 failed to keep equipment up to code

25 ignored dozens of customer complaints

26 played online games for 36 hours without moving

27 freaked out over un-answered text messages

28 texted 400 times in an hour

29 left a clingy voice-mail message

30 programmed while drunk, leaving cryptic comments in the code

31 kicked it until it worked (or broke worse)

32 watched porn videos at full volume on public transit

33 asked, “who the hell do you think I am!?”

34 ran away while police cruisers slowly rolled along behind

35 believed sketchy gadget advertisements

36 drove off with a motorcycle gang

37 looted and set fires during the blackout

38 failed to deliver on the hype

39 talked smack with no intention to back up the words

40 trusted an email from a “nigerian prince” requesting a bank account

41 convinced usenet the universe is actually a plutonium atom

42 launched an IPO* without an actual product *Initial Public Offering of stock shares

43 badmouthed the boss without hanging up the earpiece phone-call

44 put the cotton shirts in the hot water wash cycle

45 meddled with things humans should leave alone

46 played dice with the universe

47 put kerosene* in a gasoline engine *jet fuel

48 threw away the user manual without reading it

49 literally threw a wrench in the works

50 literally ground their gears

51 plugged it into the wrong socket

52 took a photo of the smartphone screen

53 printed phone app screenshots at the photo center

54 stuck a game DVD in an old Nintendo Entertainment System

55 took photos of the delicious restaurant meal until it got cold

56 relied on unproven systems

57 fudged the data for profit

58 put a screen door on the submarine

59 installed a jet engine on a compact car

60 expected the map to match the territory

61 ignored the project specifications

62 mistook HTML* for an STD* *HyperText Markup Language, which is not a Sexually Transmitted Disease

63 developed a prototype pizza, which was inedible

64 wouldn’t stop playing games on the tablet for the family christmas photo

65 named the wifi “hack this if you can”

66 trusted autocomplete while texting

67 used an obviously shopped photo for a profile picture

68 took a phone selfie while acting in a period re-enactment

69 asked Google how to Google

70 tried to insert a CD into an iPad

71 shot the computer in frustration

72 assumed a woman couldn’t be an engineer

73 damaged the device, then returned it, claiming it was faulty

74 tried to seduce the tech for a discount

75 downloaded a car

76 called the IT helpdesk for a blocked toilet

77 demanded their ISP* make them friends on a social network *Internet Service Provider

78 put the hard drive in the dishwasher to do disk cleanup

79 lied on the internet, assuming nobody would fact-check it

80 assumed the recorded message was incorrect

81 believed airplane mode was for talking to airplanes

82 clicked the wrong button repeatedly

83 asked a Ph.D. to perform basic adult tasks

84 set the browser home page to porn

85 lied about having sent emails and made phone calls

86 demanded a physical object be sent by fax

87 shouted at someone who wasn’t at fault

88 tried to pay the victim with his own stolen credit card

89 blamed foreign government hackers

90 did not read any of the clearly-marked signs

91 erased the hard drive with a sledgehammer

92 drove drunk and bragged about it

93 re-sold the same network capacity multiple times

94 ran an offensive attack ad

95 made an inappropriate joke, which went viral

96 said “it’s impossible.”

97 acted smart but didn’t fix anything

98 ignored smoke and sparks

99 refused to vaccinate the children

100 didn’t panic soon enough

Ian Price, author of the Tabletop Treasury posts on this site, is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem. Bad Decisions has a Kickstarter project, which successfully funded, and an interactive website!

The Treasurer Reviews – Hearthstone: Not a Game

Hearthstone, by Blizzard Entertainment, looks like a game. It interacts with its users as though it is a game, and tournaments are held of it as though it were. The original concept for this article was to explain why Hearthstone is a bad game, but after analyzing the elements of it, I reached a different conclusion: Hearthstone is not, primarily, a game. The reason for its failings as a game is that it is designed mainly with ulterior motives in mind, with enough game elements to masquerade as something other than its true identity: a malevolent marketing Skinner Box.

A Skinner Box is any scenario designed to keep someone doing a repetitive task with the minimum reward necessary to keep it interesting, based on the principle that infrequent rewards are actually more addicting to the human mind than reliable rewards. Hearthstone uses these principles: you only get rewards if you win, and only a limited amount, which tapers off over more play. Wins are not guaranteed, nor entirely in the player’s control (something I will touch on more later), which adds to the unreliability of the reward – and the strength of the operant conditioning. If you keep coming back to it day after day, you will be randomly assigned “quests,” which could let you get extra rewards for certain kinds of victories, or possibly make some progress even without victories. These additional breadcrumbs further enhance the addictive effect of the operant conditioning.

The marketing purpose of Hearthstone is clear on one level – convincing players to buy the cards, or attempts in the “Arena” mode to possibly earn more cards than otherwise. This is incentivized by a clear imbalance in the power of the cards themselves within the game framework of Hearthstone. Rare cards give more power for their in-game cost than common cards, which give more power than the basic cards everyone has access to. There are also even rarer “epic” and “legendary” cards which give even more disparate levels of return on investment of in-game resources. The design is also inconsistent in these power level assignments, leading to a clear stratification of cards which outclass others. Little is done to address this by the game developers, because it is ultimately beneficial to their short and medium-term aims. Long-term, this situation would be toxic to a game – and that is one reason I can’t classify Hearthstone primarily as one.

The secondary level of marketing in Hearthstone is not aimed at sales in Hearthstone itself, but bringing players to Blizzard’s other products. By addicting players to a free-to-play game, which bombards them with imagery from their subscription game (World of Warcraft), they gain a channel for continuous marketing communication to potential customers. It’s difficult to determine the effectiveness of this marketing channel, particularly due to its release simultaneously with the pre-orders for Warlords of Draenor, the newest expansion for the other game – but that similarity in timing is telling of the effect Activision and Blizzard wanted it to have. They lost 800,000 subscribers over the same period that they picked up 1.5 million pre-orders for the expansion, the period immediately following Hearthstone’s release, and had been losing subscribers steadily before that as well. From its peak of over 13 million subscribers in 2009, World of Warcraft has declined to as few as 7 million, though the last two expansions both drew in enough re-subscriptions and new subscriptions to boost that number over 10 million again for some time. The tie-ins with World of Warcraft range from using the same characters and world IP to in-game perks in WoW for playing Hearthstone, to using the same launcher tool so that every time a player launches Hearthstone, they are reminded that Blizzard’s other games are there, and they could be playing them. This also applies to some extent to Diablo III, Starcraft 2, and Heroes of the Storm, which share slots on the Blizzard launcher.

I call Hearthstone malevolent because, from interface to card balance, it is designed to harm the user. The emote system, for example, is designed to allow the players to annoy each other, without allowing direct interaction which could be complained of as harassment. As a result of this lack of direct interaction, there is no feature to report another player, so the various abuses which are possible in the system are guaranteed not to be punished. There is an option to squelch an opponent, but it cannot be set up as a default option – it has to be manually set each time a game starts. The animations and sounds on victory and defeat are typical “this is good” and “this is bad” reinforcement – but human beings have an inherent negativity bias, so the overall effect of these animations is to punish users when they lose more than rewarding them when they win. The animations also can’t be entirely skipped or turned off, so there is again no opt-out of this conditioning mechanic.

The card balance may simply be negligent, but I find it more likely to be intentionally painful to the user who hasn’t spent more money than his or her opponent.  I already mentioned the power differential between basic, common, rare, epic, and legendary cards; for example, for 6 mana you can get the following minions:

Basic – Boulderfist Ogre – a 6/7 minion with no special abilities.

Common – Temple Enforcer – a 6/6 minion which gives another minion +0/+3 when it comes into play. (2 more health on the field for the cost compared to the basic card)

Rare – Savannah Highmane – a 6/5 minion which spawns two 2/2 minions on death (a total of 10/9 in stats, +4/+2 compared to the basic minion)

Epic – Piloted Sky Golem – A 6/4 minion which spawns a random 4-cost minion on death (potentially a 5/6 Pit Lord or a 4/3 Piloted Shredder which itself could spawn a 4/4 Milhouse Manastorm – so at maximum a +8/+4 increase in attributes compared to the basic minion)

Legendary – Iron Juggernaut is 6/5 (+0/-2 compared to the basic minion), but it shuffles an Iron Mine into the enemy deck, for 10 damage when drawn (+10/-2), and this mechanic can be repeated with common cards which return the Juggernaut to your hand (an incomparable increase in power). The Black Knight is a 4/5 which destroys an opposing minion with Taunt when it enters play – which could destroy a 6/5 Lord of the Arena, making the Knight worth 10/10 in attributes between what it gives its player and what it takes away from the opponent. It could also destroy a 6/6 divine shield Tirion Fordring, making it worth at least 11/11 (since divine shield takes at least 1 point of damage to pop) but effectively much more (since taunt is a powerful ability itself, and divine shield could potentially block any amount of damage).

These examples focus on the obvious raw attribute advantage of the rarer cards. Notably,spending enough money on the game allows obtaining these cards for certain – duplicated of already-owned cards can be traded in for credit towards unowned cards, with a system where common cards are cheap and rare, epic, and legendary cards are expensive. It’s possible to earn all the cards through play, eventually – but the previously mentioned psychological tools are working to punish you the whole way, and meanwhile the option to pay to get the better cards is on the table the entire time.

If Hearthstone were designed as a game, it would not be designed with these obvious power disparities. Take Magic: The Gathering, for example, since it is the game Hearthstone imitates. The giant difference between Magic and Hearthstone is that once you have a physical magic card, the company which published it can’t control whether or not you give it to someone else. Hearthstone, being a fully online system, takes full control of what cards a player has available to them. Once the packs are randomly filled and sent out to stores, on the other hand, Wizards of the Coast has no further control over who receives what cards in Magic. Wizards of the Coast also realized early on in Magic’s history (as early as 1995) that rarity and power could not directly correlate for their game to be healthy. Richard Garfield, the award-winning game designer who created Magic, said it himself: “rarity should not be equated with power.”

If you enjoy playing Hearthstone, whether competitively or as a pastime in between other activities, don’t let me stop you. However, do be wary of the psychological armlock you are being put in, before deciding to spend any money on it. Hearthstone is a program designed first to extract your money, and secondarily to be a game. If you’re interested in competitive card games online, you could actually play Magic, or get into an even better designed game, Android: Netrunner. A:NR dispenses with the random card acquisition entirely, allowing all players to design decks from a completely even standing. It also has a unique asymmetrical style of play, where the Runner and Corp players are playing different games against each other, allowing for a change of pace depending on which side of the board a player wishes to take.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem. Bad Decisions has a Kickstarter project coming March 6th!