Censoring our words!

Oh that’s just it! I’ve had it! I think American corporations are way too influenced by Bushism and things are about to get seriously out-of-hand!
Cory Doctorow is being threatened by a law suit for writing about “an anti-copying program that some games covertly install” called Starforce. I mean the wording is just…wow! “Your article violates approximately 11 international laws. Our US lawyer will contact you shortly. I have also contacted the FBI, because what you are doing is harassment.”


And then there’s Water Cooler Games, which has been contacted by the Virtual Magic Kingdom Community Operations Manager and asked to ‘hide or otherwise remove offending posts, as they contain falsehoods that are derogatory to VMK and provide false information” – and she clearly references comments to a previous WCGs post. Rude and pathetic, if you ask me! I mean…


And then, slowpoke that I am, I learned about the MySpace incident today! Which I still don’t fully understand…but I’ll give you with the comments that steered me in it’s direction, from Lawrence Lessig’s visit to Second Life:
“Think about the story from MySpace. Owned by Murdoch. When people would chat in MySpace about YouTube (which is a very very cool video site), the machine would block the chats. That’s “freedom” in Murdoch land”

The reign of censorship must be destroyed!

So! I thought I’d let this slip by my blog, since absolutely anybody who’s anybody has been blogging about it. But I can’t help myself!! So if you have a worthy life (off-screen ofcourse) here’s the skinny!
Sara Andrews was flagged by Blizzard for posting: “OZ[the name of her guild] is recruiting all levels : We are not ‘GLBT only,’ but we are ‘GLBT friendly'”, at a general chat channel within World of Warcraft. After writing to Blizzard presuming that it was just a mistake, she received the following:

  • “While we appreciate and understand your point of view, we do feel that the advertisement of a ‘GLBT friendly’ guild is very likely to result in harassment for players that may not have existed otherwise. If you will look at our policy, you will notice the suggested penalty for violating the Sexual Orientation Harassment Policy is to ‘be temporarily suspended from the game.’ However, as there was clearly no malicious intent on your part, this penalty was reduced to a warning.”
(In Newsweekly)

Now, I completely understand why players are going abit amuck. It does seem completely unfair and ridiculous! But oh so…familiar! And personally, I encourage every guild in WoW to have a ‘GLBT friendly’ tag! Power to the people!

I suppose I kinda understand where Blizzard’s coming from. Guardian Gamesblog has a quote from someone called prd from the Gaymer.org forum, who stumbled onto some obscene chat involving the words gay and faggot while playing. She (I think) further goes on to say:

  • “I emailed Blizzard and asked them to do something, Blizzard’s response was “just Ignore em, they’ll go away”, riiiiiiiight, like that’s ever worked with a gay basher”

Exactly!! Blizzard doesn’t have enough resources to deal with this stuff. Which, I suppose is why they’re discouraging such ‘labels’ (for the lack of a better word).

I’m discouraged by the response this case has received. The argument that keeps echoing in the blogosphere is that if gamers are allowed to verbally gay bash in chat why the hell shouldn’t a guild be allowed to have a ‘GLBT friendly’ tag? Which I suppose is a fair point. But, in my opinion the issue goes way beyond this! The answer is DEFINATELY NOT to encourage Blizzard to get more involved with chat censorship! I mean, seriously….they’ve already proved they have no sense of fairness on such things! This is just the perfect example that the customer service governance model just ain’t working!!! 5.5 million players! Seriously!

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing
nails it when he writes:

  • “But real life has one gigantic advantage over gamelife. In real life, you can be a citizen with rights. In gamelife, you’re a customer with a license agreement. In real life, if a cop or a judge just makes up a nonsensical or capricious interpretation of the law, you can demand an appeal. In gamelife, you can cancel your contract, or suck it up.
  • Will a game ever give players citizenship instead of just customership? Will players always be willing to treat games as their online homes if they have to rely on customer service ethos instead of the Constitution to assure them a fair shake?”

Ahhhh…doesn’t the truth have such a wonderful ring to it?! Because this is the issue here! It’s really time for Blizzard to let WoW players take some matters in their own hands. Which I suppose is what Andrews was trying to do in the first place, but all Blizzard saw was the tremendous amounts of e-mail complaints this would intice…and they just knew they wouldn’t be able to deal with it, which is just TOO TRUE! So let go already! Let the players deal with this in their own way!

So…to sum up! Let’s not let this turn into a “well if you’re going to censor that, you should also be censoring this” discussion but rather a “Blizzard! Wake up and smell the coffee! You can’t handle the world you’ve created with customer service! The only way around this is giving some power to the people!” argument!
How? Well…you know…if I had all the answers in the world?! But I definately feel that a step in the right direction would be to put a ‘GLBT friendly’ tag on as many things as possible in WoW and show them who’s really in charge! Demonstrate, revolt!! Oh dear! I’m getting carried away now aren’t I! Don’t write to Blizzard do all this in-game!

Are MMORPGs games?

Yeah…I know! It seems kinda like a ridiculous question doesn’t it? But it’s a hurdle I’ve had to overcome lately and thought I’d share my amateur academic conclusions with you!

Ever since I read Salen and Zimmerman’s definition of what a game is…I’ve been smitten by it!
“A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that result in a quantifiable outcome” (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004).

I’ve always, however, had a problem with excluding ‘fun’. Fair enough, Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun really takes care of that, by proving that these attributes are actually fun. But I’ll get back to that at a later point – the thought is still not fully developed in my dark dust infested mind of messy infinite stupid thoughts.

But this is where I start to have problems! They also introduce Johann Huizinga‘s ‘Magic Circle’ (1955) to describe our state of mind and being as we are playing a game. “In a very basic sense, the magic circle of a game is where the game takes place”. Salen and Zimmerman’s definitions seem to indicate that we leave all ‘real world’ rules behind, as we step into another ‘magic’ rule system. A game is then another ‘world’ where there are different rules of space, existence and play. The player agrees to these rules when entering the ‘magic circle’. But what about games that are “a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome” but the players themselves have the freedom to make their own rules as well? Are they then creating their own meta game outside of this definition? The amazing Edward Castronova, who defines MMORPGs as synthetic worlds (at least that’s my impression) eloquently describes them like so:
“The synthetic world is an organism surrounded by a barrier. Within the barrier, life proceeds according to all kinds of fantasy rules involving space flight, fireballs, invisibility, and so on. Outside the barrier life proceeds according to the ordinary rules. The membrane is the “magic circle” within which the rules are different (Huizinga 1938/1950). The membrane can be considered a shield of sorts, protecting because it is necessary that everyone who goes there adhere to the different set of rules. In the case of synthetic worlds, however, this membrane is actually quite porous. Indeed it cannot be sealed completely; people are crossing it all the time in both directions, carrying their behavioural assumptions and attitudes with them. As a result, the valuation of things in cyberspace becomes enmeshed in the valuation of things outside cyberspace”. (Castronova, 2005).
As much as I love the ‘synthetic world’ definition, I feel it’s missing a few things as well. It’s really almost perfect! But gameplay kinda gets lost in it. It is my contention that these MMORPGs are in fact playgrounds, not games. In a playground you find several ‘systems’ of play and you freely (or not so freely) enter into them, but you never leave yourself behind, outside the gates of the playground. Your body, soul and mind come with you into the playground, but there are certain rules that attain specifically to the playground space. The same is true of MMORPGs. We bring our emotions and mind with us into MMORPGs, these are not left behind and are frequently used in the actual gameplay. MMORPGs are playgrounds that contain traditional (what an odd word to use) gameplay elements, just as the seesaw and swings are available for play in children’s playgrounds, so is gameplay in MMORPGs.

“MMORPGs are not a new form of play as much as a new communication medium that affords new forms of social identity and social interaction” – Nick Yee, 2006

Although the fabulous Mr. Yee makes a relevant point, I don’t really agree with him either. Most MMORPGs still have the ‘gaming’ factor. It has indeed become ‘a new communication medium’ but only through the act of playing. Although it is highly possible to enter MMORPGs and focus on the social factor, the act of gameplay is required! One can take on a new identity, but only within the strictest limits of the game space (and beyond).

Lost? Yeah…I know, I’ve pretty much managed to confuse myself as well!

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that MMORPGs go way beyond any definition of ‘game’, but they still include gameplay. Therefore I choose to define them more as a playground that has gameplay elements built into it! There’s just so much going on in these worlds (jepp…definately believe they are worlds) and the experience is way more immersive than ‘just playing a game’. The communication is real and something that we bring with us. The wonderful creativity of these gamers is real…their choices are real…there’s just too much reality going on for it just to be gameplay.

Urgh! Who am I kidding? I don’t really know what the hell I’m on about!

Shame on you for encouraging modding!

Umh…ok! I vowed never to blogg about Hot Coffe again, but this is just too bizarre!! So Take-Two is yet again being sued. This time by The city of Los Angeles “for selling pornographic video games to childen with its best-selling game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” which last year was found to have hidden sex scenes.” Which is just so incredibly silly, in my opinion! The game was rated for 17+, so I don’t understand the whole kids scenario…but I think that’s an American thing and I’m really not going to bother getting into the whole thing here. But I will however say that Take-Two has just been really incredibly stupid, I’ll save my opinions on this for another date, however. But listen to this:

  • “The lawsuit asks that Take-Two “marketed the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series in a fashion that encourages the creation of (software modifications), which has added to the counter-culture image of the games, enhancing their popularity and hence their profitability.”” (Reuters)

WTF!!!!! Seriously? Are these grounds for a lawsuit? First of all they mention modding as a bad thing, which I actually do understand that game producers have a problem with (you know, the whole copyright blah blah) BUT A CITY?!!!! I don’t know if Take-Two did this all as a deliberate marketing tool, or not…but jeez! How ridiculous can you get? Clickable Culture’s wonderfully brilliant Mr. Walsh states it best, when he writes:

I seriously don’t understand what’s going on over there! I’m sure they’ve all gone mad…either that, or I’m just not understanding this correctly!

Buying real things in virtual worlds

To be honest, I’m through being gobsmacked by these things…and well…I’m getting kinda bored with it! Anyways! Some guy, runs an in-game store, Second Life Boutique and is now selling XFX GeForce computer graphics cards in Second Life for Second Life money (Linden Dollars). Which, I’m sorry…but it really doesn’t surprise me!! To be honest, some people have become so fanatical about Second Life, that I’m sure they’re conspiring to make it the first ever virtual country somehow! Which I know, somewhere deep inside of me, I’m really excited about but it’s really not a game anymore is it? Was it ever?

Ramblings of a mad woman!

Well now…I’m sitting here at the university late, because I really don’t want to go home and feel like I haven’t done anyhing usefull, today as well!!! Other than making more sense out of Castronova’s and Burke’s arguments on governmentality within MMORPGs, I really don’t think I’ve done too much! I’ve written about 5 sentences…yeeehaa!! But it’s good to feel comfortable about the stuff I’ve read…it’s just…well…that’s not the chapter I’m working on, you know! Jepp! I’m completely stuck in that ‘is it a game, what is a game, is it a playground, what is a playground, can a playground have gameplay and not a game?’…finding my own definitions is the WORST! But I know as soon as I get through this crappy thing…I can move on with vigour (at least I hope so)! So…after telling you what a completely awful and unconstructive student I am, let me introduce you to what I’m doing right now!
I stopped by Guru Lessig’s blog and was introduced to yet another side track of entertainment! First off this wonderful film ‘Cease-and-desist’ – a humorous insight into IP copyright law and how ridiculous it has become.
And then the ANIME videos!! They’re soooooo sweet and soooooo emotional!! I don’t understand half of what they’re supposed to mean…but I’m definately feeling something watching them! Anyways….better than sitting here trying to figure out how gameplay is different from play if I’m saying that it can exist without a gaming frame, narrative or form or magic circle thingie! Time to go home, I think!!!


The fabulous Ian Bogost’s Persuasive Games,
has now released Disaffected.
You really just have to love them!!!

“Are games only capable of carrying positive advertising messages? Or can they also enact dissatisfaction and criticism against corporations? Anti-advergames are to detract from or call into question a set of products or services for expressive, cathartic, social, or political purposes”

I had a great time with it!! So should you!!