Narratologists vs. Ludologist

Huh….what do you know! I think I’ve gone around for weeks now thinking “Whan idiotic immature academics! What an absolutely ridiculous discussion to waste time on! Of course one does not survive the other! They’re dependent on one another!”
Then today, as I’m sitting in a posh office trying to look like I’m doing something important while the phone rings about once every hour, it hit me! I think I’m a bloody narratologist. And I say ‘bloody’ cause I really don’t want to be….I wanna be a Ludologist….but this is my take on the whole thing:

I completely and whole heartedly agree that the ‘gameplay’ aspect is incredibly relevant for digital games. Infact… it goes hand in hand with the narrative. But if I can go so far as to say that it is the narrative of a game that creates the aesthetics….not the game play design (hmmm….there’s a new word for contemplation), I might as well say that it is the aesthetics that creates much of the rules of the game as well. I keep thinking about game designers at the drawing board….now….computer nerd geeks or not…..I really don’t think the designers of Tomb Raider sat there and just discussed codes and gameplay….I’m quite sure they started off with a narrative! And I’m very certain that there were some excited voices in the room as Lara Croft was being created! So it is my belief that it is the narrative that creates the game play. Now….I’m not saying that Tomb Raider wouldn’t be fun with a different story….but with the same actions (as if that doesn’t exist), but that’s what makes it even more fun! Oh dear….this really is a messy subject. But I’ll try to go on!
I keep coming back to FPS (First Person Shooter) games and how incredibly mindless they can be….with no direct story telling involved….just shoot whoever you want to….but yet again…I come back to the aesthetics of the game….they are a part of a narrative. When you see blood as a result of you shooting, when you can’t go anywhere cause you’re trapped….I believe all of this is narratological….and the pure play aspect (dangerous word to use, I know) becomes “What do I do now….if you can’t come up with anything…you quit and you want to start over to make yourself a hero or villain (whatever mood you’re in that day, LOL) by overcoming all obstacles the narrative/game design throws at you.
But I understand what ludologist mean, however. As I’m playing GTA: San Andreas I really couldn’t care less about what type of people I’m killing. Sometimes I had trouble getting on with the story (bad joystick hands) and I just went around killing people for fun to see how much money they had, how much they fought a.s.o. Not once did I think over any moral issues, which narratologists do way toooooooo much, in my opinion. I certainly didn’t feel at one with CJ. But I often sat there hunched, like you do and screamed “Yeah, die motherf***er. Die.”
I think a lot of people hide behind game theory or ludology to dodge questions like “Are games harmful?” and embrace narratologists who say that you are playing a story.
ROTFL! Lost? LOL, so am I! Just need to air out some stuff going on in my head without referring to much to academia as well! But then again…I write this right after understanding I’m not a professional….yet….so go easy on me! Anyways….I don’t really think anyone reads this little blog but me….and that’s good enough for me!!! ;)

I’m not a professional…….yet!

I was trying to get into the whole narratologist vs. ludologist discussion the other day and ended up just pulling my hair. I called a good friend and mock weepingly cried “I can’t keep up with these academics! They keep writing and writing and lecturing and attending conferances and blogging and blogging….it’s extremely difficult for a mere masters student to keep up with them!!! Well….at least this Masters student! And my good darling friend (I have the best friends) told me to calm down and take a few breaths and realize that I’m not a professional yet! I can’t know about everything…yet! I need to focus on getting what I want so I can write my thesis….less is more….and all that!
And I’ve realised that it is so true! Soooo off I go to write!!

In case you’re wondering….I’ve started as a receptionist in conservative shipping environment and things are so quiet that I can study and blog! So basically I’m just using this blog to preserve some of the thoughts and ideas I have while here, so I can start writing when I come home (No! I’m not buying a bottle of wine and having a social life this sunny friday evening…NEVER….LOL!)!

Exchange of virtual goods and money

So Station Exchange goes live, I honestly thought it would never happen! But I can’t believe I haven’t discussed this virtual economy issue here at all! So in my spirit of taking a step back, let’s discuss.
Where to start? Now we cannot discuss this without mentioning the virtual economy guru, Edward Castronova who must have been the first to recognise the importance of virtual economies and markets. Google him and you’ll hit almost every media story or conferance discussing these topics. He found a way…or at least a suggestive way of looking at the relevance of vw economies vs. real world economies. He’s an entertaining writer as well so don’t hesitate to look at the papers listed on the right here!
To boil it all down….it’s all about time play combined with worth combined with ‘value of life’ (if I remember correctly). Now….ever since reading his papers, I’ve stumbled upon words such as gold farming and virtual crime, let me see if I can sum this up in a few sentences, ey? Ok….you play an avatar in an MMORPG, and you acquire virtual property and money along the way. The longer and more you play the more property, skills and money you pocess. Now! You can trade within these games. How to get real money? Auction sites such as E-bay. But soooooooooooo many problems have evolved cause of this, that SOE has decided to create this Station Exchange place. What do I mean by problems? Well, say I went to e-bay to get some simoleons (The Sims Online Currency), found some (LOL, very cheaply cause TSO sucks) and I have to coordinate with the seller a time and place for the exchange in The Sims Online, but the real (debateable) money has to be given to the seller first. Where are my guarantees that the seller will ever show up at our agreed place and time?
Well, Sony Online Entertainment feels it has found the solution (and also a way to get some extra revenue) with Station Exchange. Infact, to all you “what’s the fuss about, it’s just a game”, SOE has estimated the Everquest II virtual goods market to be a $200 million market. And I think they’ve been very careful with that figure.

Writers block

Ok! So now Dagbladet has managed to write what I’ve been struggling to figure out the last two months. How to sum up the whole virtual gaming world. Although the journalist, Bente Kalsnes has an interesting take on the whole situation which she’s apperantly gotten from Julian Dibbell. According to the article sex is played in online gaming worlds when there’s nothing better to do, which is pretty bogus if you ask me.
But anyways…very annoying that she managed to write this summary before me! I’ve realised that I’ve involved myself way too much in what everyone’s writing that I’m having difficulty stepping back and having an objective view of the whole situation.
To me it just seems ridiculous to even discuss the whole ‘it’s just a game’ discussion, cause we all seem to agree. I had to suffer through several pages of such arguments by reading the DIGRA 2005 papers (as if I will ever manage to read them all!). And I guess I just got bored with the whole ‘the experience is real, it’s much more than a game…blah blah blah), which is sad, cause I still haven’t written anything about it in my thesis (I swear, my advisor must hate me!). So I suppose it’s true what they say about keeping things simple! Cause the more I read the more confused I get….and the more convinced I get that I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

TSO creativity

TSO Bingo Posted by Picasa
MAXIS has done a crap jobb in maintaining entertaining game play in TSO! They have so much to learn from Second Life!
But The Sims Online players are finding new stuff to entertain themselves with and the creativity is endless!!!! The recent fad is this bingo game, Bamse was kind enough to send me a picture of (haven’t played it yet, silly me). It amazes me so, cause there’s so little room for TSO players to use their own creativity and design and implement them again…but yet again they amaze me! Just think how wonderful this game would be if the players had more design freedom!

Crying for London

The tears have been rolling down my cheeks continuously since Thursday. I am so sad for London, I hate that my dear London friends have to go through this and I find myself in a grieving state of mind.
But my thoughts are on the positive side, however. Hitting London like this does not create fear or hate… creates unity, love and peace. Hatred will not thrive in London….love will. In many ways I wish I was there, hugging London in every possible way. But I’m in Bergen grieving. My thoughts and love go out to London, the city that is so close to my heart.
I also feel confident that whoever’s behind this will be caught and brought to justice….war is not the answer, and I think we know that now. No Bushism will prevail here!

The dreaded Methodology

So….I’ve come yet again to a crossroads that I was desperately trying to avoid in my thesis! I’ve been struggling for such a long while now…trying to find the right approach to talking about governmentality and the individual’s rights in MMORPGs. I’ve now come to the conclusion that excluding game theory seems irresponsible as actual game design acts as a governmental force in MMORPGs. So the interesting thing is combining it all…to analyse The Sims Online (TSO). And this is where my thoughts are at the moment.
I’ve really fallen under the spell of Klabber’s taxonomy for classifying games and simulations, which has helped me map out my own interepretation of the design aspect of TSO. I suppose the crossroad I’m at is using this model to further interpret what is actually going on in these online worlds, maybe I can go so far as to say that I want to analyse how the game is actually played. There’s a meta game going on here, of course there’s the actual question of the classification of game, but that aside….how do I even start to interpret the social organisations being spawned from these games? I was mesmerised by Javier Salazar’s paper On the Ontology of MMORPG Beings: A Theoretical Model for Research that I feel lays out these problems so well and proposes some interesting new outlooks and then there’s the genious Nicholas Yee’s Motivations of Play in MMORPGs. Both of these papers look at the player’s relationship to these virtual worlds and lay out some interesting methodological approaches that I feel are useful for looking at the socio-economic ontology of MMORPGs.
Although, by writing this post….I’m even more confused than ever….the method of keeping things simple has eluded me yet again! Back to the drawing board I think!!!!

Love tips for gamers

Now I haven’t been to Nettavisen’s Spillsonen in a while, don’t know why….but I just popped in now and I’m sitting here in hysterics!!!! Oh, where to start….?
Well….an obvious gamer nerd has written a little article advising gamer geeks on how to pick up women! And granted, I have an odd taste in men, but if I ever met a guy doing the things he suggests I’d be ROTFLMAO!!! A few points are good….but this guy actually suggests pulling out the Singstar to seduce a woman!!!! I’m sorry, dear English readers….it is written in Norwegian. Now….I have to admit that I’m wondering if this guy has been given money to try to get more men to buy Singstar….cause this is just ridiculous….!
Anyways…thought I’d mention it here….and thought some of you would be laughing as much as me!