Imagine hedonic, preference, and eudaimoniac utilitarians as three players of an MMO who all decide that they want to improve the game for everyone playing.

A hedonic MMO utilitarian would decide that the best way to improve the game experience is to get everyone to the highest level, with all the best equipment and maxed out skills and attributes.

A preference MMO utilitarian would decide that the best way to improve the game experience is to satisfy all of the players’ preferences about the game, from graphics to metaplot, paying more attention to strong desires and desires that are about desires.

A eudaimoniac MMO utilitarian would decide that the best way to improve the game is to make it the most fun for everyone.

All three of the MMO utilitarians would agree on a lot (particularly if they can’t reprogram the game and are stuck acting as characters, which is similar to the position humans are actually in). Most of the time, if you want to make the game more fun for players, you should do what the players want, and if you want to do what the players want, you should make the game more fun. And even the actions that make someone higher level are often correlated with the actions that make the game more enjoyable or that satisfy player preferences.

However, the MMO utilitarians would also disagree on a lot. The hedonic MMO utilitarian, for instance, would unleash a virus which makes all the numbers as high as possible, while the other two would not. Unfortunately, having very high numbers actually isn’t a whole lot of fun, and most people would rather play the game than be given high numbers by fiat. Indeed, the hedonic MMO utilitarian’s desired end state would be viewed as a terrible game by the vast majority of players.

On the other hand, the eudaimoniac and preference MMO utilitarians don’t necessarily agree about everything. For instance, the preference MMO utilitarian might notice that players seem to care about graphics a lot and not really care about load times. On teh other hand, the eudaimoniac MMO utilitarian might notice that realistic graphics don’t really affect how much people enjoy the game, but long load times increase the amount of time they spend staring bored at the screen, which is not fun at all. In that case, the preference MMO utilitarian would support hyperrealistic graphics that take forever to load, while the eudaimoniac utilitarian would support minimalistic graphics that take far less time. While the eudaimoniac utilitarian is willing to listen to players’ preferences– after all, players are experts on their own happiness– she is willing to override them when she has evidence that they are simply mistaken about what makes good game design.

(Long load times here are a metaphor for commutes. Commutes are evil.)