It is known by all, omnipresent. Although not everyone is aware of how to acquire it or use it, everyone has heard of it, been recommended to use it. In some cases it may even be mandatory. And yet it is not a part of the game, it is a tool to circumvent any difficulty a citizen might encounter. It is used for 100% efficiency.
It is the Decoder.
Some may be rolling their eyes at this point, the decoder has not been the most popular of talking points. Camps usually separate along the lines of "use of the decoder is cheating" and "it's not explicitly against the rules and everyone does it so you would be a fool not to". I believe it is an important dialogue that needs to be engaged with ourselves and ideally with Admin as well.
This game is a social one. Most of the action, figuratively, is done through postings, backroom deals and chat interaction. In its current incarnation there are only two elements of 'skill' added… one is the ability to play the economy, the other is the ability to answer trivia questions. The trivia is what allows us train, work and fight. These are the dynamic elements. If the game was only social, a large segment of the playing population would not stick around. If the game was only dynamic, another large segment of the playing population would look for something else to do. The true strength of eRepublik lies (and will continue to be based on) the fusion of these two elements, the social and dynamic.
Why use the decoder?
The most persuasive argument for use of the decoder is that an important segment of players use it. These tend to be influential players, those that can sway the fortunes of war for example. Non use of the decoder against these individuals is granting an almost insurmountable advantage.
The second most persuasive argument is that perhaps there is a language and geography issue. The decoder evens the playing field, makes all eCitizens equal regardless of background and provenance. In this author's opinion, this may well be the only valid mitigating factor to promote its use.
Also the decoder is convenient. Too often we have heard that the trivia is… well… trivial. A chore to do more than something fun that adds a twist to the gameplay.
So is the decoder cheating?
I would argue that it is. That being said, and before anyone jumps to the barricades, I am not prepared to condemn anyone for using it. Before something as drastic as that can happen we first need to discuss the topic and then Admin needs to engage with us in a constructive manner to decide on the issue. If it is cheating then it clearly needs to be defined why. If appropriate, alternatives need to be proposed and implemented.
To revisit some of the pro arguments let's look at the "everyone else is doing it" crowd. This has always been a weak argument. Whether it is in game or in life, because a majority of people is doing something is never a valid answer. What if the majority is wrong! The key here is to establish what, as a player, you are willing to accept and what you wish to take out of your gaming experience. This dovetails with the "you need to be at maximum strength at all times or you give too much of an advantage away" crowd. Why have trivia at all if the decoder renders us all equal? The answer to that is because it would be boring to play a game where you need only push a single button for maximum benefit. It is because the trivia enriches the game by introducing an element of uncertainty (add an element of risk and it would be better still). The trivia allows people to take pride in what they achieve because it did not come for free. A super soldier, a super worker can be bragging rights but those rights are devalued with each use of the decoder. Also would you play chess for example if your opponent was forced to tell you his next five moves ahead of time? There would be no point.
If the problem is the trivia, not the decoder, then it is the one that needs to go. Yet I do not believe it is the trivia and I would argue that the decoder not only devalues parts of the game but also is against the spirit of the game. Ah but it isn't specifically against the rules most of you say! True enough but many things are not specifically against the rules (there are only a handful of them after all), it does not mean they should be allowed or even encouraged. Anything that transform a module of the game into something irrelevant needs to be scrutinized and questioned. It either points to a weakness in design or a loophole that needs to be closed.
People will use all advantages they are granted, it is human nature. With the multilingual support for the game being a priority, I hope to see the need for the decoder diminish. More importantly I hope to see this become a constructive debate where real ideas are put forward for solutions.
In the end, this process would only produce winners for eRepublik and it's eCitizen base.
What is this?You are reading an article written by a citizen of eRepublik, an immersive multiplayer strategy game based on real life countries. Create your own character and help your country achieve its glory while establishing yourself as a war hero, renowned publisher or finance guru.