WIFOM

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WIFOM, or Wine In Front Of Me, is the term given to any argument that asks why another player has acted in a specific manner.

The phrase "WIFOM" is generally used to dismiss arguments outright, often unfairly.


How it Works

General presumptions:

  • Players want to fulfill their win conditions.
  • Players play in such a way as to achieve these win conditions.
  • We as mafia players can reasonably predict how other players will play in order to achieve their win conditions.

From there:

  • When a player chooses to play against their win condition (i.e. playing in such a way as to make their victory harder), then that is either a mistake, or a calculated risk; long-term gain through short-term loss.

Which concludes:

  • If we cannot understand what a player with a particular win condition could have gained from their behavior, and/or if their behavior could only have given the player a loss without any potential long-term benefit, then as a practical matter we should conclude that the player has a different win condition, one in better conformity with their behavior.


A brief investigation into the depths of WIFOM, courtesy of Ecco

Guys, can we take a second to breathe in and out? Okay? Cool. Now let's move onward and think about things for a bit.

I'm a sociology major. I can rant and rave about social theory and internalization and blah blah, but that will mean nothing to any of you, because you all aren't sociology majors (NB: I sound like Mills and math majors; how peculiar).

So let's go through this step by step. WIFOM. What does it mean. How does it work. Can anything be WIFOM? If WIFOM applies to an argument, what does it mean then? Is the argument not valid? These questions and more will be answered in this brief, concise essay.

WIFOM, or "Wine In Front Of Me" comes from the hilarious movie "The Princess Bride." In Mafia, it refers to a situation when people debate whether or not scum would act a certain way; it's scummy to support the lynch of a townie, for instance, but that's so obviously scummy, no scum would do it! But then we'd think "yes, scum wouldn't support it! ...or would they?!". We do the gymnastics back and forth, up and down, debating whether scum would or wouldn't do something, and, according to reason, we get nowhere but frustrated and in tears. The wiki indicates that it is a popular scum ploy to distract the town, but is it really?

In practice, from some of the earliest Mafia games here on SA, posters have been very wary of WIFOM arguments. My first game was Mafia 3, way back in April, and as scum in that game, I and others, all of them townies, were able to help diffuse many arguments by citing WIFOM and washing the argument away. Even back then, people were aware, almost frightened, by the phrase WIFOM. And so, WIFOM became a dirty word, and all players feared having their arguments destroyed by the dreaded WIFOM.

So in practice here on the forums, because the wiki stated that WIFOM was a popular scum strategy, it in turn became the bane and burden of all players equally; nobody would dare argue against WIFOM, and any argument that could be WIFOM was given WIFOM warnings, and largely dismissed even by the posters that made them. So in the minds of most every player here on the forums, WIFOM is seen as this catch-all word for an evil argument only used by scum, but in truth it's never used seriously by anybody.

Except me, because that's how I roll.

WIFOM stems from the ultimately from the fear that whenever we make assumptions about another player's actions, that our assumptions, being arbitrary and somewhat baseless, will be wrong. If we knew exactly what scum were thinking, then of course there would be no need for WIFOM, because we'd already know. But we cannot; and unfortunately, any effort towards that is seen as a waste of time. But let us think about it for a moment: we all instinctually have an idea about how certain players would (or should) act under certain circumstances. We say "well, scum don't want to draw attention to themselves; docs lay low; cops participate, but only vote for people they've investigated; etc.". We have conceptions internalized about how people act, and when people violate these conceptions, they are seen as "bad players," and we ridicule them. But in truth, are not these conceptions as well just as baseless as any other conception of a player's actions? Unless we know the inner workings of the target player, we of course have no idea why they do what they do, act like they act, say what they say, and so forth. We may say "well it's logical to act in XYZ fashion, and I, being Logical Man, only do things logically!". But we don't. None of us act truly in a logical fashion, because even our conceptions of logic are largely based off of our assumptions about the world around us, and how people work. So ultimately, any assumption we make about how a character "should" and "shouldn't" act is baseless and arbitrary. And therefore, if it is largely subjective, then we risk being seriously wrong.

So why then do people use WIFOM? Why is it that ultimately everything is arbitrary, but the very minute people try and form an argument about those assumptions, it's considered absolutely evil? Because whenever an argument agrees with our assumptions and conceptions about how the world works, we say that argument makes sense, and whenever it doesn't, it's because that argument is stupid and wrong. There is no logical basis to it, there isn't some objective standard we can judge arguments about a person's actions and abilities. Debates in Mafia become ultimately a matter of interpretation, and consensus. If everyone (or at least enough for a lynch) agree over an interpretation of a certain player, then that player is seen as a "good candidate for a lynch," even though fundamentally it is arbitrary and has the potential to be very, very wrong.

The only type of "evidence" that can be levied against another player is evidence that is cop-collected and card-flipped. That is the only evidence that is 100% absolutely accurate (even if the cop is insane, or a player is a death miller, the information is still accurate, just not true). Any other type of evidence (a persons actions, their voting histories, what they've said, who "buddied" with them, etc.) is ultimately based off of an assumption and a leap of faith. So, fundamentally, unless every single one of us wants to wait around for cardflips and cop investigations (if we even have a cop in this setup), we need to make arguments that are arbitrary and have the potential to be inaccurate. That is to say, in order to play the game, every single one of us must necessarily make WIFOM arguments.

"But then, that sucks! Why is it that we have to make WIFOM arguments in order to play? I just wanna win each time and never make mistakes. "

Yep, I suppose it does suck, kinda. It just requires more critical thinking. We need to stop and try and imagine if a player legitimately could be acting in a way that we call "scummy" if they are actually town. Since there is no objective rubric for judging other players as "more" and "less" scummy, if a player is town, we can call them "Scummy McScumerson" all we want, if they are town, then we are wrong. Not them for acting that way, because there is no way for a person to deliberately act "scummy" in any objective sense. But we are the wrong ones.

We will be wrong. So far at least there has not been one game of Mafia, ever, where townies en masse never made any single mistake. Even the "flawless" games that occasionally happen on the IRC, those are only because, quite frankly, everyone got really lucky and guessed just the right people to kill/protect/whatever. So we'll make mistakes. We need to remove this fear of being wrong, and (more importantly) the fear of being lynched if we are wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, and in a game this large, with only one scum, I reckon everyone is going to make many mistakes before we finally find out who Balkoth is.

Please don't vote for me because I "use WIFOM arguments." Because as I believe I have just proven, concisely and strongly, every argument is ultimately victim to the WIFOM category. We can debate back and forth, "If Ecco were scum, he'd never do this!" "What? That's just what she wants us to think!" "That's stupid!" "You're stupid!". But ultimately we need to come to a mutual agreement about how certain players act, how certain roles should act, and we shouldn't feel scared if we are incorrect.

My argument for my defense is the same it always has been: in a game this large, with this many players, Balkoth does not want to make himself known to the world. Not just because we'll find him easily, but because he risks getting recruited. I happen to know that there are certain ways, if a Lord tries to recruit Balkoth, that the Lord will run away successfully and survive to tell not only who he tried to recruit, but that the person is Balkoth himself! The more active and vocal a player is, the more likely they are to be in the public's consciousness, and the more likely they are not only to be voted for, but also to be recruited at night. This in no way is what Balkoth is seeking. I am firmly of the opinion that Balkoth simply wouldn't do what I've been doing, and I ask you to look inside and realize that I am right. You can admit this grudgingly, fine, but everyone voted for me because I've been acting "soooo scummy." Did it ever possibly occur to you that I've been acting that way for a reason? It's clearly deliberate -- all who have played games with me before know I'm acting oddly. I've been scum before, I've been town before, I've been cop, and I was once Neo, but I've never once acted the way I have now. If you all genuinely care, I'll tell you, but I hope you realize by now that not only am I most likely town, but that I've been acting like I have for a damn good reason. I don't wish to share it, because I don't want Balkoth to know more than he does, but just trust me on this. You may say "you haven't earned the trust ", but how haven't I eared it? By being snarky, obnoxious, perhaps a bit annoying? But as I hope I have just shown you, it's because something very peculiar is happening; saying "trust me" in the sense of "at the very least don't lynch me today" should be enough.

So yeah, that's why I hate WIFOM. People here see WIFOM and they run away in fear; I embrace it. I rejoice that we have the ability to determine, simply with our minds, how people are, and what they do. If you're new to the game, then your "scumdar" is probably weaker than more of the experienced ones, but keep trying and it'll come to you. But I reiterate this, because it is important: WIFOM is not a reasonable critique of an argument. To say "well that's WIFOM" and to wipe the argument away is not being a good player; it's being a lazy player. Get dirty. Risk being wrong. Jump forward, make suspicions, and see how players act. Those are the ingredients to a fun game.

References

1. This youtube is a good example of this. Startrekowns. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQoJOAbAsRM&NR=1