The Tip.It Times

Issue 16299gp

Critique of Pure Efficiency

Written by and edited by Jaffy1

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of a gaming account, must be in want of some fun.

Over the past several years I have observed a subtle but conspicuous shift in the RuneScape Zeitgeist, with the rather relaxed approach to the game largely falling by the wayside and evolving to the nowadays prominent focus on what is termed 'efficiency.' To be clear, 'efficiency' refers to the practice of minimising time required to reach certain (usually XP-related) goals. It is, for instance, more efficient to train melee by killing armoured zombies than by killing black dragons. On the extreme end of the efficiency spectrum a player tries to maximise every last drop of time. Rather than waiting to see the loot, he moves on to attack the nearest Gargoyle, luring it with a series of delicate manoeuvres so as to pick up the shiny blue charm without skipping a beat. For reasons that should soon be clear to the erudite reader I shall call this practice 'pure efficiency'.

If we hold the opening premise to be true, the whole concept of 'pure efficiency' must come across as a tad strange. One does not go to a restaurant and gobble the food down to minimise time spent eating: one takes time to savour each bite, each burst of flavour, each whiff of bouquet. To gobble the food down would be to go against the whole idea of enjoying the food: the delightful piece of art cannot be fully savoured. Yet, the purely efficient aspires to be the impatient gourmet. He seeks to minimise the (fun) time spent playing the game, as if the game were a chore. What are we to make of this? I suspect that most proponents of 'pure efficiency' enjoy the game much less than they enjoy being good at it. Not being purely efficient would be to lose ground on others. Why not put more effort in if it means gaining a few more ranks?

I am often amused at how people often gripe about how boring a particular skill is, and yet pour many hours into it in pursuit of lofty and respectable heights. To be sure, such a practice may be rationalised by thinking about maximising fun in the long run. Repeatedly clicking on logs and tinderboxes may, for instance, allow one to enjoy the versatility of the inferno adze. Still, it is often difficult to imagine to how the hours of boredom can translate to an overall maximisation of fun, especially considering the opportunity cost of forgoing whatever activities the player considers to be fun.

To be sure, efficiency and enjoyment are not necessarily exclusive. Using turmoil, for instance, gives one the added enjoyment of seeing higher and more accurate hits without adding much hassle at all. But certainly there must come a point where diminishing marginal returns sets in. To this point it must be necessary to bifurcate efficiency based on how much it compromises on enjoyment. I shall, if I may be so bold as to borrow from Kant, call these two kinds of efficiency 'pure efficiency' and 'practical efficiency'. To be practically efficient would be to minimise the time required for attaining a particular goal without compromising on one's enjoyment of the process. 'Practical efficiency' is the Pareto optimality of sorts.

The practically efficient is the patient gourmet. Each morsel is fully savoured, and he does not take so long that the food turns cold. Unlike the purely efficient, this minimisation of time spent does not signify a disinterest in the game: the philosophy happens to maximise enjoyment as well.

I do not mean to imply that ‘practical efficiency’ may be implemented in a way as mathematically precise as 'pure efficiency' can, for certainly the concept of utility is as inexact as it is promising. But the concept remains useful at least insofar as it exposes the problems with 'pure efficiency'.

Often times it is our pride that blinds us to the prejudices we hold. May pure reason vanquish such pride to reveal another Darcy of this world.

Do you have any thoughts or comments about this week's articles? Want to discuss these articles with your fellow RuneScapers? We invite you to discuss them in this forum topic.

Tags: Emergent Gameplay Metagame Skilling

Will you use Menaphos to train your skills?

Report Ad