Is it just me?

So I’ve read up on some of the ‘love’ articles that blossomed in the virtual world blogosphere (ok…that’s a bizarre choice of words) during Valentine’s. I’ve been in such a lovey dovey mood this week that I felt it was the perfect time to read about scrumptious love affairs that would let me fly away on a pink cloud of romantic dreams and regain hope that my sweet delicious prince would swoop me into his arms and take me away to a land of love and happiness.
But no no! There’s something wrong with me! I can’t wallow in this sweet delight! Now to be fair…I only managed to skim through two articles, Mark Wallace’s “Love in the Time of Pixels” and Wagner James Au’s “New World Valentine’s”, before I gave up on the whole thing. I mean it’s the same old story isn’t it? Find love in-game for there they see the ‘real’ selves because it’s all ‘virtual’! And then they meet up in real life and live happily ever after! Do they? It’s just so completely off track from my research in The Sims Online. I didn’t encounter anything but real intense heartache in there! I met people all the time who had found their ‘mate’ in TSO, met them in real life, moved to other person’s city or country….and not once did I encounter a ‘happily ever after’ story. They all ended in heartache! But then again…I have often played with the idea that TSO is some form of dating service…maybe the happy couples didn’t find the need to play anymore, so I couldn’t find them.
However, this made me think about most of the news blogs on virtual worlds. They’re very one-sided, aren’t they? There’s not a lot of objective journalism going on. It’s all pretty much the same story all the time. You know the drill, gamings great, look what gaming communities have created, what idiots the game producers are and idiotic people who don’t understand gaming, whining. Which is why I was so pleased when I read David Sirlin‘s Gamasutra Soapbox article, “World of Warcraft Teaches the Wrong Things”.
I don’t necessarily agree with him. But it was so refreshing to see a true gamer coming with some genuine criticism of gameplay! Ofcourse, we don’t actually start these blogs unless we feel passionate about what’s going on! I’m not saying that we need to bring genuine journalistic integrity and objectivity into these blogs…but I am missing some criticism of what’s going on. It’s not all a bed of roses. And to be fair, these love stories were written in honour of Valentine’s Day, not exactly the occasion to look at some of the heartache issues. I just couldn’t read them without thinking to myself “Hold on! Surely this must be the exceptions and not the genuine rule!”. But then again, I’m far from normal!
As for love…well…I guess I’ll just have to start playing ‘Rub Rabbits’ which is SUCH a cool idea!! I can’t wait to try it! I really should start looking into some funding for our department to help with all this gaming research! Because my student budget just isn’t good enough!
But talking about love, I definately need to share this with you! Would you believe a guy I had just met approached me with a beer infested burp, a wink of the eye and an unstable hand on my shoulder with “You want to come over to my place for some Hot! Hot! Coffee?!”, last night?!

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Help!!

I will ofcourse be consulting my excellent advisor on these issues, but he’s away from his mail till Monday (which greatfully gave me a few extra days to give him a good handful of text)…but I thought…you know…since it seems like people actually read this blog, that I might as well ask for some advice.

I’m sitting here trying to recap an incident from The Sims Online (TSO) and it’s really making me feel uncomfortable. The incident is that a TSO player ran around calling the maid (which is a NPC) a really nasty C-word that I hate…and was therefore suspended from the game. Which is so interesting, don’t you think? You get thrown out for cussing at code…but not another human, unless the human reports you…wonder if the maid had complaints? But I’m drifting…yet again! I really…REALLY feel uncomfortable using this C-word, is there some better creative way for me to explain this? I suppose I could just write profanity…but it seemed specific that it was the C-word that caused the whole problem…so I guess my problem is that I feel truly unprofessional in writing it in a thesis! Won’t people be offended when reading it? And will it be a terrible crime for me to just write ‘profanity’ instead of going into specifics? Is this distorting the truth in some way?

And here’s another thing! I decided a few months back that I certainly could not use the names to the avatar’s I met on my virtual world travels so I’ve been doing this Player 1, Player 2, Player 3 thing…and well…urgh…it’s tedious and boring. How can I ever reflect the personality of it all with such a dull characterisation? When you start pumping out sentences like “Player 20 hadn’t met Player 8 before, and so we…..blah blah blah!”, it all becomes so completely unpersonal. Sooooo! Would it be awful for me to just make up my own names for the avatars? Just have a little “Names have been changed to protect….” at the beginning? Ofcourse…that’s a lot of names I have to think of…but that’s a distraction I don’t mind.

Ofcourse…I could look all this up! But I thought I might just throw this one out there!

As a reward for reading through my tumble weed of confusion:

A Sims Machinima Bloopers Video

Wonders Never Cease

Hypnosis

I love this stuff!!!

On a lighter note!

Urgh! I’m starting to take this blog way too seriously!
So…on a lighter note let me introduce you to a fabulous game that I’ve had loads of fun with!! Introduced to me by Mr. ‘Del.icio.us Information Overflow’ i1277 . Talk about game in it’s truest form!!! I’ve had such a great time trying to figure out what the different minerals do to each other, what feeds the annoying round thing and how long an oil fire lasts in a pile of sand!!! And some of the combos are just ‘beautiful’! Enjoy!!

The Falling Sand Game

Space substitutes time

So Wonderland pointed me to this fabulous presentation by Kim Plowright, SCP New Product Development, BBC iD&E (I’m really not sure), entitled “21st Century Folktales: Games, Worlds and Stories”. It was a pure joy to read, seriously! She’s got some wonderful clips in there, including stuff from PacManhattan (which put me in a dual between”OMG! How utterly ridiculous!” and “OMG! I wanna try!” state of mind), The Leeroy Jenkins video (which I’ve heard so much about…but never seen and I laughed my socks off) and ofcourse The Internet is For Porn (it was actually worth seeing again) and loads loads more!! Definately a refreshing presentation, specially because she didn’t get caught up in the banalities of definitions! Which also produced an interesting comment on MMORPGs (specifically WoW) that’s got my head spinning:

  • “There’s something else worth mentioning about the game world, too; as your character progresses, you’re given quests, which will move you from one area of the (huge!) game-world to the next. The quests also deliver you tiny fragments of the story of the world. So rather than being organised as a narrative that you play through, the narrative is organised as a world that you play in. Interesting things happen when you subsitute time for space in a narrative.”

This all…has ofcourse led me down a path that has no relevence to my thesis whatsoever (or maybe I’ll turn things around…again). But isn’t this fascinating?! “Interesting things happen when you subsitute time for space in a narrative.” It’s just such a lovely sentence!! And it brought back memories of Rune Klevjer‘s fascinating lecture last monday about stories and games. He introduced a completely new notion to me about fiction and play and presented Kendall Walton! Which of course led me to read Remarkable Jill Walker‘s ‘Performing Fictions: Interaction and Depiction’.

Now…truth be told…I’m really confused while writing this, but I can’t help loving this notion of fiction, which according to Walton is the combination of imagination and rules:

  • “A fictional truth consists in there being a prescription or mandate in some context to imagine something. Fictional propositions are propositions that are to be imagined – whether or not they are in fact imagined. [35]”

Now…I’ve been a fan of space being narrative within virtual worlds for a long time – every place and thing has a different story to tell (I have no narratological background…so yet again…excuse my ignorance), but just as wise Mr. Juul expresses, narrative can mean everything: “…our interest is in concepts rather than words” (p. 156). And this fiction thing is just fascinating! Now…to be honest…I was going to say that this could be used in relation to space in MMORPGs, but see…that just ain’t going to work. The space is pretty much ‘real’. There is no imagination involved in virtual space. What you see is what you get…it’s a rule system that your avatar has to acknowledge and obey. Now…combine this with imagination and you get fiction? The virtual world is the rule and your imagination (I don’t know…being your avatar?) combined creates a fiction? Not a narrative, in other words…but a fiction. And I can see now…that I need to stop before I get carried away and write several pages worth of messy thoughts! I’ll get back to it when I know more of what the hell I’m talking about (like that’s ever gonna happen).

But anyways…I agree with the presentation really! Space does substitute time in MMORPGs…and I think that’s incredibly interesting! But…wait a minute…I feel my thoughts…going in another direction again…darn!!

What’s this world coming to?

My incredibly cool WoW playing sister sent me this Sydney Morning Herald article (I’m certain there’s a hidden agenda with the incredibly nasty anti-smoking images that attack you while reading it). It’s a long article about the addictiveness of World of Warcraft. It’s filled with the usual yada yada with experts on why gamers become addicted. You know the drill…

  • “In interviews with addicted players, some in their teens, she (Maressa Hecht Orzack) learns that most often the gamers find a sense of belonging in the virtual world. Some are shy with low self-esteem and find it easier to connect with other players, they find a sense of purpose and achievement in their game quests.
  • For others, the game becomes a way to escape worries in the real world. Sometimes, though, that escapism can become extreme and lead to teens dropping out of school or older players losing their jobs.”

Which makes me wonder why people who aren’t…you know…socially disabled…play alot? And exactly what consitutes addiction here? If you choose to spend your free time playing instead of doing, well…boring stuff…does that make you addicted? I mean…5.5 million can’t all be social defects, can they? If so…what the hell does that say about the world we’re living in?

Anyways…I have another theory I’d like to just throw out here! I haven’t thought it thoroughly through, so please excuse the innocence of it all! But could this be a totally natural evolution? I mean…we’re all so connected, but we’ve yet to become really ‘personal’ about the whole connected thing. Are MMORPGs exactly what we need? Do we need a world in which to feel comfortable in? A world where we have a biological figure, have a reason for being there (gameplay) and a more personal communication method (biological interactions with avatars)? I’m just wondering if the popularity of MMORPGs is because we’re all so freakin connected that MMORPGs give us a freedom to be biologically connected, as well! I mean…I truely don’t believe that we’re all social defects, but I do feel that technological communication has become an important part of our lives and this is just a way of..well…adjusting! A way of defining our cyberidentities? But then again…social MMORPGs (although this is SUCH a wrong word to use) are pretty much a flop…except for Second Life, ofcourse. I’m just wondering if this whole MMORPGs popularity has something to do with the fact that we’re all pretty much secluded in such a 1 dimensional space by being connected all the freakin time whether it be work or sociality, but MMORPGs give us the freedom to be…well…human, human in cyberspace! Just a thought that’s crossed my mind! I just feel there’s something more luring with MMORPGs than just addiction and gameplay…there’s a reason why it’s so popular…there’s a reason why we all want to join…and I’m just saying…could this be because we need to have a more biological identity within cyberspace?

Anyways!! All these stupid thoughts aside! The whole article got me thinking about this whole WoW being the new golf thing! And there’s another theory! We’re looking at the next Freemason movement! I’ve often thought that it would be the IT support departments all around the world that would do it…but I think maybe it may be gamers instead!!!

It’s all vigoratingly exciting! What will happen next?!!

Game that made me feel icky!

I found this War On Terrorism flash game. And…well…I’ll be honest with you…shooting’s never bothered me…and I didn’t even think over the content! Infact I find shooting in games quite fun. BUT!! There’s one mission where you punch Osama Bin Laden – and it really freaked me out! At least the shooters are shooting you back – he’s just standing there taking the punches! I couldn’t finish it. Suddenly I was overpowered by a chilling feeling and it just felt wrong and disgusting! I thought it was pretty weird since I’m very much a ‘moral content doesn’t have that much impact’ kinda girl! Just thought I’d share that with you!!

Learning to "become virtual Cleopatras, Bushes, or Baryshnikovs" in the classroom

Yeah…the title is a quote I got from a businessweek article, which I thought was pretty funny! But you know…cool! It’s a great article discussing the different uses of mainstream computer games like Civilization and DDR a.s.o. I’m all for computer games in the classroom!
I solely credit Where In the World is Carmen San Diego? for my world geography knowledge! It’s funny to think about that time really! We sat there, I think it was in the 5th grade, group of 4 to each computer (Apple) with this black and green screen blinking at us giving us hints of what to look up in the almanac (which was…you know….an actual book with facts and figures and stuff)! I credit my teacher back then, Mr. Clem for being enthusiastic and nerdy enough for lobbying this in to an otherwise conservative school!
Funnily enough…the first person to comment on the article…remembers the same:

Who needs tv?

So I was sitting here at home drinking my morning coffee and thought I’d turn on the tv to see what’s new in the world! Oh…how depressing! First thing I see is this overenthusiastic healthy extremely happy woman walking to a beat and throwing punches towards the camera which zooms out to find a bunch of kids behind her doing the same motions. It turns out they’re doing coverage of something roughly translated to “Urban Kids in Motion”. I don’t know, I think it’s about teaching kids that motion and exercise is fun and cool. My initial thought was “Dude! Where’s the DDRs! Why are you tormenting these poor kids!!”.
Then the news! Well…what can I say? Being Norwegian isn’t exactly a hoot right now! I mean, there’s the Bird Flu on its way, there’s more Cartoon violence (I still can’t get over the fact that these two words together are actually scaring me!) and well…our Olympic team is sick! Not that the news is really covering this in an indept style…for that I need to open my beautiful laptop and enter my favorite world!!
So after updating myself on the long list of things to be scared, worried and disappointed about…it’s so lovely to find little entertaining film clips that put a smile on my face!

There’s more ofcourse….but now my keyboard is acting up…which I suspect has something to do with all the shelves at my student “office” crashing down on it last night! This isn’t going to be one of my favourite days is it?

The Wikipedia model for gaming

So, in the active process of ignoring my thesis and advisor, I went through the time capsules from State of Play III yesterday. There’s a conversation between Ondrejka and Lantz which I thought was quite interesting. They seem in unison when they say that games are about constraints and rules that limit your behaviour makes play. I suppose I agree, really.
But it reminded me of this article from Cnet.
Allard is quoted:

  • “(Gaming) is the only medium where we yield control of the protagonist. Let’s yield control of the director-and the producer. We’re going to take on the Wikipedia model. We’re going to take on…the open-source model, if you will, for gaming”

So I guess I’m wondering…is there really a market for this? I mean…can you really create computer games that infact demand your own creative input? Isn’t this more a building of a virtual community than gaming and play?

MMO’s in the news

Terra Nova’s Mike Sellers has a great summary of MMOs in the news lately! ALL of which have simply passed me by! How did that happen? Anyways for those interested:

  • New York Times – World of Warcraft promotion article really! But interesting! I suddenly realised that most news about WoW I’ve read, hasn’t been from Blizzard’s take on things. And I can’t figure out if that’s my fault or theirs! So this was kinda a new perspective…interesting, really! Says they’re giving the players more freedom!
  • Washington Post – an interesting article about the changes to Star Wars Galaxies! Sounds impressive…but I certainly do understand some of the player’s grievances, but yet again…I feel like I’ve only read their perspective – which is starting to worry me. Do I read enough?
  • The Economist – Just a good piece on Castronova and the whole make ‘real’ money from virtual goods thing! Sigh….is anyone else really sick of this now?!
  • CNN Money – Not sure
  • BusinessWeekonline – James Cameron + Multiverse. I don’t get it really but I’ll give you: “Ron Howard, director of Apollo 13, has partnered with former Halo producer Alexander Seropian to develop a new science-fiction reality TV show called X-quest that will lett viewers interact with contestants in an online video game” – it sounds strange to me!

I’ve just skimmed through this stuff….I’ll leave it up to you to make up your own minds. This has started a great discussion at Terra Nova on the future of MMOs. You’ll be singing David Bowie when you read it!! He he! I still am!!