Ownership of play

DiGRA 2005, Changing Views: Worlds in Play has started and I wish I was there!!! One thing’s for sure though…..I have a lot of reading to do! There’s a lot of interesting papers written by fantastically brilliant people.
Of course the topic of virtual goods and ownership is a hot topic. To be honest, I’m getting kinda bored with the topic. It seems to me that once you get over the whole “Oh my! You can buy virtual goods for REAL money!” shock, you need to be a passionate player and hopefully a brilliant in game designer to really give a damn.
My thoughts are wavering off to a place I initially hadn’t intended to go. I had hoped to focus my thesis on governmentality and the virtual reality is reality concept. But I find myself wondering into a dangerous territority. The territory of defining MMORPGs as games. Try defining what a game is and what play is….and I’m sure you’ll find yourself confused. I dare you….!! ;)
I’ve been using Klabbers’ Taxonomy of Games (which is sadly missing from most of the research I’ve been reading on MMORPGs) to classify The Sims Online. He’s found a unique way of combining ‘a generic model of social systems – consisting of actors, rules and resources with Marshev’s and Popov’s semiotic theory of gaming’ (Klabbers, 2003). At first glance, i felt this Taxonomy did not help my analysis of TSO as I felt there was a whole level of communication play that was ignored. But Klabbers pointed out to me that there’s a meta game going on here, that deserves a seperate taxonomy. I won’t bore you with all the details I’ve come up with here….but thought it necessary to give you some background info.
I suppose my point in this post is that no matter what MMORPG you are playing there is one aspect of the gaming experience that cannot be preset by rules or game designers, the communication and the societies spawning from this communication. I therefore start to question who owns the ‘play’ aspect of these virtual worlds? Exchange of virtual goods and so on is all very interesting, but what about the sensorship and control of how a game is ‘played’? Can a game designer tuely own the play element of a game? But I suppose there are laws here as well….really need to fresh up on my reading….be back soon with more.

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