You say: “ I would be proud of my son for doing the same, because the benefits are a lot more subtle and significant than merely guaranteeing 3 free stars on every level that gets built.”
The benefits to whom? The cheat in question, presumably. You need to explain how the benefits accrue to the community. This is a key point you do not address.
You say: “ It also guarantees that every level gets 3 plays, and it creates a small community of builders who are committed to helping eachother.”
It does indeed guarantee every level gets three plays. You are also welcome to call them ‘builders’ if you wish. They are also cheats. They are also committed to helping THEMSELVES.
You say: “ While there is an element to gaming the system here I would propose that the son is a significantly better level designer for having joined this team.”
Why? How? From the evidence we have available the child went through the 5 stages of grief, proceeded to create a cabal of like-minded cheats and engage in cartel behaviour with the express purpose of inflating their scores. This necessarily meant that other non-cheats were disadvantaged. What the child did NOT do was any of the following:
- Seek out information about level-design — perhaps watch some Extra Credits videos, or read Raph Koster
- Request critique and adapt his design approach accordingly
- Do any actual level-design WORK
I reject your proposal out of hand for these reasons. Perhaps you have other reasons but they remain unstated.
You say: “ By gaming the system, I was able to reduce the amount of homework I had to do (very little — various forms of cheating lightened the load in a number of ways) and the amount I needed to study for tests (also very little — mostly by learning to extract the test goals and questions from the teacher prior to the test I was able to avoid studying anything that would be on it) I was able to have a lot more free time to focus on sports, friends, programming, and other advanced topics that don’t really get taught in high school.”
This reads to me like you were able (perhaps even needed) to conspire with your teacher to gain an advantage on tests. Particularly worrying if graded on a curve. It’s no wonder you think as you do if this was your childhood experience.
You say: ” I got to skip the miserable parts, enjoy my life, and still graduate in the top 2% of my school. And my life post-school has been better for it.”
Can I have a go on the machine that lets you live the life you didn’t, you know, actually live please? Your claim is unfounded.
You say: “ Learning to give people what they want according to their own definitions of success has been immensely useful to me in ways that are positive to all of society.”
At what point did the other designers of levels (those not in the cartel) define success?
If I come to you and say “I would feel successful if you helped me steal the crown jewels.” you would do so and feel that society was then enriched???
You say: “ In this case, the son learned that if you want your levels to persist, you need a certain number of stars.”
No. He knew that ALREADY! It was his explicit knowledge of that fact that informed his choices.
You say: ” So he found a way to give the system what it wanted.”
No. He found a way to make the system give HIM what HE wanted. And to hell with anyone else.
A ‘system’ does not ‘want’ ANYTHING. Only PEOPLE ‘want’ things. The system was designed to crowd-source the solution to the discoverability problem. It did not sit there ‘wanting’ stars at all.
You say: “ And, if I were the game designer, I’d probably be pretty happy with his methods, because I have now encouraged a community of designers to spring up where one may not have existed before.”
And as a game play-tester I can assure you that his ‘methods’ are not going to produce good games or game levels. Although we shall never know I think I can confidently predict that the level that he ‘poured his sweat and tears into’ made the following, elementary error:
He will have sat down and thought to himself ‘Hmmm… how about I make the most difficult level EVER! Wow! That would be amazeballz! I’ll get lots of stars for that!’
And, having done no research into difficulty progression would not have thought about what the experience of playing such a monstrosity would be like for the player.
We know that thinking about what other people experience is not this child’s strong suit. He’s clearly far too focused on what HE wants. He probably STILL thinks his level is awesome and that THEREFORE it MUST BE the SYSTEM that is to blame and not him. Until he works this issue out he will never be a good, or even mediocre, game designer. This perspective is sine qua non as evidenced by the huge amount of money spent on play-testing.
His only defense — and it is a very good one — is that he is a child. However, children need people around them who will point out, constructively, when they are being unethical. This child is, on current evidence, unfortunate — perhaps even bereft — in this regard.
What ‘sprung up’ was nothing like any game designer, or group of them, I have ever met — and I have met quite a few. What ‘sprung up’ was a cartel of selfish cheats at least one of whom was not only being cheered on by a ‘parent’, but also being used as a model by said ‘parent’ and celebrated for the behaviour publicly.
If you are right, what we have to look forward to in the future of game design is a bunch of people with excellent exam scores who are very good at gaming the system but actually very bad at designing good, or even playable, games who all believe that this sorry state of affairs is, nevertheless, good for society at large.