Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 30, 2011

The Tragedy of Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress is an interesting game. I’ve always wanted ‘more hand craftiness’, more gameplay, more imagination coming from the player, but to go all the way back to the non-graphics of 1978 where all images are words and symbols is too primitive. It will never become mainstream looking like that. Certainly, there is a middle ground between 1978 graphics and uber HD graphics were ‘every blade of grass is unique and made in HD’.

Go read this story about Dwarf Fortress in the NY Times. There is some interesting biographical data about the creators.

The personality of the creators is identical to the original PC game makers of the early 80s. This personality shares the same traits. They love computers, love math. They love history, love science. They very much enjoy Star Trek. They play board games like Dungeons and Dragons and various other paper and pencil games.

But here is where the Dwarf Fortress creators differ. The original PC game makers had one wish: they could do this for a living and ‘not get a real job’. You don’t sense this trait coming from the Dwarf Fortress creators.

Still, in the only moment I heard him speak with anything like bitterness, Tarn called Minecraft a “depressing distillation of our own stuff.” He paused, adding more magnanimously that the game “has its own things going for it.” The problem, he concluded, “isn’t with Minecraft so much as it’s with society.”

The tragedy of Dwarf Fortress is that the creators believe society is ‘wrong’, that the business aspect is ‘immoral’, and this will prevent the game from growing as it properly should. I know these people. I know he believes that being free from these ‘business pressures’ that he thinks will make Dwarf Fortress better. He’s wrong. He is only harming his ‘life’s work’. Even Isaac Newton eventually realized the business world was something he had to learn.

There is nothing wrong with society at all. Society, like family and friends, comes not from artificial construction of some architect but is the natural flow of life. Ancient societies used to regard the Human body as an artificial creation. They would tie boards to a woman’s feet so her feet don’t grow to be ‘too big’. They would stretch a child’s nostrils so he could properly ‘smell’. They would enlarge the ear lobes so the person would properly ‘hear’. Today, we see these in museums and cannot comprehend the barbarism. But it all revolves around the idea that the Human form is artificial. They thought the Human form was ‘wrong’ so they decided to ‘correct it’ with their hooks, rings, and knives.

In the same way, Humans have a Social Form. And people in the future will think we are just as barbaric to try to twist, shape, and mold society contrary to Nature’s form.

But why would someone think something is wrong with society? The Dwarf Fortress creators did very well in school. They did well in history and math. One went to Stanford and became an academic at Texas A&M. What do academics do? Well, they teach and write papers. And this isn’t what the guy wanted to do with his life.

I do not think the guy was given any financial education in his life. Many academics I know are hostile to the financial ways, mostly because they have become institutionalized against it.

(As a disclaimer, I do not thing the financial way is everything. A military barracks cannot be run like a business and shouldn’t. Neither should a university. The reason why many universities are in decline is because they are being run like a business where they treat students as ‘customers’. As such, professors are pressured not to fail their students. Many of you college kids realize you are getting grades you probably shouldn’t be getting.)

The tragedy is that the Dwarf Fortress creators have this emotional chip on their shoulder where they think society is wrong. This is preventing them from actually making a consumer product which would grow gaming, make more gamers, and make these guys into super millionaires.

I believe we are entering a shift in civilization on the scale of the Agricultural Era turning into the Industrial Era. The farmers thought society was ‘wrong’ because they had not emotionally accepted the Industrial Era and the change in the rules for life. Imagine given an education of a farmer and then society changes into an Industrial Age society. You spent your life learning the wrong thing!

In the same way, people around the age of 40 or younger have been educated for an Industrial Era that no longer exists. The rules are changing. Academic education, which was very important in the Industrial Era, is becoming less and less important today. The knowledge that is becoming more and more important is Financial knowledge.

The Dwarf Fortress creators should be living like Saudi Kings. Instead, they are living off paltry donations to a Internet jar. It is not too late. If they emotionally accept the ethical goodness of creating customers, their fortunes will immediately reverse.

Dwarf Fortress deserves to be more than an academic science experiment. It deserves to take over the world and make its creators rich.


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