Quitting early

I still play a lot of Magic Duels, still nearly exclusively against the AI. It is in the nature of that game that there is a certain randomness which is independent of your skill in building decks or playing the game. Sometimes you don’t draw enough land, or draw the wrong color of land, and sometimes you draw too many lands and no spells to cast. Sometimes you draw exactly the right mana and spells of the right cost to play with that mana and start the game perfectly. The same is true for your AI opponent. Thus sometimes you get in a situation where your AI opponent had a perfect hand and is playing creature after creature, while either don’t have the mana or the spells to do anything much to stop him. After a few turns you already know that you will lose. Knowing that the AI opponent won’t be offended, I frequently quit in situations like that.

One of the reasons why I don’t like playing Magic Duels in PvP mode is that some people think that this behavior is also okay if you play against a human opponent. And I disagree with that. Imagine a sports event where one team decides to give up at half time and not to play the second half of the game, because the first half makes it near certain that they lost anyway. That would be completely unacceptable behavior is sports. Because winning is not the only thing a match is about, it is also about playing. In Magic a human opponent who has set up a great attack doesn’t just want to get a quick and easy win by the other guy conceding, he wants to play out the game until that win. Quitting early is impolite towards that other guy, provided that he isn’t an AI who doesn’t really mind.

A lot of games these days have no penalties at all for quitting. To some extent that is due to the problem that half of all players lose in a PvP game, so games have tried to hide that fact by rewarding the loser a bit and the winner a bit more. And you don’t want a disconnect being interpreted by the game as toxic player behavior and punishing that player by a lot. However that does end up in a situation where quitting early in a game which you aren’t clearly winning might actually be the best strategy. Because games are frequently set up in a way where you can immediately start the next game, and staying until the end of a game when the rewards for losing slowly and quitting early are the same is a waste of time you could have spent winning the next game.

I remember a lot of people in the early days of internet gaming enthusing about the internet bringing people from all over the world together. But somehow that ended up with dehumanizing our human opponents: Many people don’t think of their human opponents as real people any more, but consider them to be more or less equal to an AI opponent. People who would never cheat in a board game with friends around a table do cheat in multiplayer video games. They don’t even consider whether their opponent might quite like to play a game until the actual win condition, but quit early in order to earn rewards in the next game faster. And game design frequently encourages that sort of behavior. Players end up being content in a game for which the devs were too lazy to program an AI. And somehow between all these developments we lost a bit of humanity.