I remember being absolutely gobsmacked when I first read about Edward Castronova and his economic analysis of the online game Everquest. And it all spiraled from there … do you remember? We all got caught up in the rights of the avatar. I remember being enthralled in discussions about what is real and what is not real and what rights avatars have in games such as Everquest. Because we saw avatars as extensions of ourselves, therefore we should have the same human rights as we have in our own ‘real life’. Ownership issues and freedom of expression where things that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring and debating.
An issue that kept being difficult was the fact that these were games we were talking about. Were we maybe spoiling the fun out of World of Warcraft because these issues became so popular? We were, after all, willingly entering a magic circle – how could we expect to have real world issues in there? It all became more real with Second Life. This is where I fell off the discussion because I never felt comfortable in Second Life. I enjoyed the philosophical discussions, but I just never really got over my noobiness in there – I really missed the gaming aspect.
A thought I’ve been having lately is that Facebook seems to be doing all of these things that were such hot topics while I was writing my Master’s Thesis – but very seemlessly. It’s almost unnoticed. But there are bits and pieces. Like when Dr. Jill Walker Rettberg was censored or that Facebook keeps growing its virtual currency. Personally I’m very freaked out by open graph, but I’ll save that to another post.
My point here is that most of what I tried to explore and analyse in my Master’s Thesis on Gameplay Politics – could just as easily have been focused on Facebook. We are creating an online avatar or online presence of self. We are feeling ownership to all we do on Facebook. I wonder when there will be a Facebook protest of some sort. When will we see our first Facebook millionaire?
Although … writing this now – I feel it’s still not the same. And I’m quite intrigued by the words that are coming into my head as I’m doubting myself. Like “Yeah – but it’s still not the same. Online games are much more open than Facebook.” – which is both cases is just an illusion. Games are made to feel open and free to explore, but in actuality are very limited and very restrictive – whilst Facebook is made to feel very private and restrictive, but in actuality is much too open and has very little privacy. That’s kinda funny.
So in conclusion I conclude nothing other than question what Facebook is. A social platform? A social world? A social app? Or is it a game just like World of Warcraft?