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The Decoder Problematic

Day 413, 07:19 Published in Canada Canada by Alias Vision

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.



David Johnson
David Johnson Day 413, 07:22

A very good article. You argued a bit for both sides, and were fair with each. Voted and subscribed.

Salmon BC
Salmon BC Day 413, 08:23

Salmon Grain need workers... come and work with US!!!

nice article.

Alexandria Furioso
Alexandria Furioso Day 413, 16:26

Well said, good journalism. The ability to argue both sides and still make your own point without whining or expressing an overly bias argument has convinced me to subscribe!

Eastcorner Enterprises
Eastcorner Enterprises Day 413, 16:35

Well written, good job.

Xhidden Day 413, 16:51

I'll say that I don't like the decoder, and if 'infuental' players use it then whats the point of not using it? You'll never get anywhere if you don't. And even if you have different Geo the way I understand it is that a country gets a certain set of questions that are updated, I get asked about PEI (worst place in the world in my opinion) even though I know little about the history of the Eastren provinces. So it's still an unfair advantage.

Raz Poutine
Raz Poutine Day 413, 18:22

I dont use the decoder, and dont seem to have any trouble with the trivia (i usually tend to get 4 out of 5 right on average) some people need to brush up on history/ general knowledge imho.

@xhidden: whats so lousy about PEI, aside form the fact you dont know what its capital city is 😛

Alexander Rearden
Alexander Rearden Day 413, 18:55

Good article, voted and subscribed

Kelly Mahoney
Kelly Mahoney Day 414, 07:00

i agree with Raz. Sometimes, I get stumped by the trivia questions, but I find that most aren't very hard, and with a basic Canadian grade 12 education, I get most responses right while based in Canada. Some questions seems to come up every day. When outside the country, things get stickier, but I don't "have" to move elsewhere.

I don't use the decoder, and am proud of my hard worker achievement, am looking forward to my super soldier medal within the week, and feel that had I cheated, the accomplishment would have been of less value.

Even if nothing changes, and using the decoder remains so prevalent, I won't be using it, for reasons of my own satisfaction. Does this put me at a disadvantage? Probably, but I like being the underdog.

I do think admin should "do something" to make the decoder less effective. One suggestions I've seem is to use different technology in the trivia matrix. I don't understand it, because I'm not "computer-speak savy." but it seemed to make sense on the surface.

Tarkus Day 414, 13:02

I have been advised that I should use it and I agree that its use would make me a more productive player and employee. I just can't bring myself to do it. I'm 45 years old. If I can't answer a simple bunch of trivia questions, frankly I don't deserve to be at full productivity. Besides, so many of them repeat that over time you remember a lot of the answers anyway. I don't plan on spending any more than twenty minutes a day here if that. I just don't find using the decoder a productive use of my time.

Przemek Orfin
Przemek Orfin Day 414, 18:07

good article
voted and subscribed

leaderoftheband Day 415, 05:22

where do they get that decoder thing?

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