My husband is an avid Overwatch player, and the other day he pointed out to me that Blizzard has, in spite of its foibles, absolutely nailed the matchmaking algorithm: For him, with almost 9000 (!) matches played, it’s within 1% of 50:50 wins to losses. But, he noted, there’s apparently a persistent myth among Overwatch players that the algorithm goes funky over time, leading them to roll new accounts in the hopes of achieving a better rating. “What they’re really seeing is statistical anomalies,” he told me. (He’s an astrophysicist.) “You’re more likely to get excursions in a small dataset” – which is what a new account will generate – “but in the long run, the algorithm is going to find you.”
These kinds of myths always seem to revolve around math. Ultima Online players 24 years ago were convinced that eating a lot of food led to better skill-ups. They didn’t, mathematically, but that didn’t stop people from endlessly summoning ham to eat anyway, no matter how many times the developers patiently explained that the effect players thought they saw just wasn’t in the code. I’ve seen similar crafting-related math myths floating around Star Wars Galaxies’ emulator Discords. The devs will come in and shoot them down… but they persist anyway.
So let’s talk about myths. What’s the weirdest gameplay myth that persists in your favorite MMO?