Social Networks in Virtual Worlds

Here’s a video of one of Aleks Krotoski‘s presentation entitled “Social Networks in Virtual Worlds” – it was a refreshing find. Aleks doesn’t focus too much on the ‘OMG!’ factor and is very straight to the point about her research. She’s also willing to share her methods of research which I found extremely interesting and helpful. This should be useful to some people out there! ;) The more I think about my own thesis the more I wish I had spent more time on methodology techniques, so methodology has started to interest me. I feel like my thesis discusses more what we’re talking about and why and chapter 2 should be something like “Ok, now we know ‘what’ now let’s concentrate on how to really research the ‘what’!”.

It’s a great find – but I’m writing this already late for an appointment so I haven’t done enough digging from where and why this presentation was held. All I know is that it’s from an event called “Massively Multi-Learner” at The University of Paisley.

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Espen Aarseth’s coming to town!

Yay!!!

Bergen Media By is organizing a social event on Wednesday for the local media industry and they’ve invited Espen Aarseth to speak. The title of his talk is “The Games Industry – skills needed (kompetansebehov) and trends”.

I’m still trying to define what skills I have to contribute to the industry – do I in fact have any? I’m feeling a tad lost in the dark hoping that I’m going to stumble on to some job description that just screams Linn! So these events are truly important to me and I’m so glad they’re organizing them. And it’s so lovely seeing Bergen involving itself!

Networking, networking, networking! One should’ve thought I had the knack of it now, but I still have trouble selling myself. I feel like such a desperate geek and wish I could just lean back, nod my head knowingly and just casually say “You know, you should hire me because I could do this and that and thingamabob for you” and then completely relaxed just hand them one of my flickr cards with a little wink and a “give me call”. I sometimes blame a university education for my insecurities, because they, at least my department, don’t exactly scream to the world “look at all the incredible wonderful stuff our students are doing”! Instead we just walk around feeling like disturbances in the faculty’s research time. I still feel the pain I got when I realised that there was a gaming conference going on at my department without anyone telling me about it. Meeting someone who had finished his thesis over a year ago and being asked “Why weren’t you upstairs? I was sure you’d be there!” – was just devastating!

But where are my manners? I shouldn’t be pouring my hurt feelings onto this blog! I should be looking ahead and beyond into the bright glowing future! I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I actually do know a few things. And I’m loving the fact that I can now write articles because I have a degree that says “Linn knows what she’s talking about” that gives me the right to well…write! Hehe! It’s a nice feeling!

So – Wednesday! Espen Aarseth! I’ll be there! Digital cinema, Its Learning and Bergen in the Movies (Varg Veum) are also on the agenda. Looks to be an inspiring night!

Virtual World Studies

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for about a year now, but for some reason I never got around to it. The idea resurrected after a conversation with a dear friend, where I was reminded of my frustrations when writing my thesis. I was dangling my feet in so many waters that it was no wonder I had a hard time keeping my head above water, and looking back I’m kinda annoyed that nobody bothered telling me that I didn’t have to learn to swim in each water, I just needed to focus on being a good swimmer in one water. Urgh – me and analogies – not a good combo, huh? Either way, I wish I could have just been reminded that it was JUST a Media Studies Masters thesis – I didn’t have to completely understand the law, psychology, sociology, anthropology, narratology and ALL the theoretical approaches to analysing virtual worlds. I remember sometimes thinking – “why didn’t I just focus on a film of some sort?!” – but I didn’t, because this is the world that fascinates me, this is the world that intrigues me. And I still think it is of the utmost relevance to study the evolution of these worlds.

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"Synthetic Worlds and Public Policy"

Ludium II at Indiana University will focus on what ‘synthetic worlds and public policy’ this year.Great!

I hope that a good and healthy array of people will be present. I, for example, would like to see some public policy enforcers present – see what they have to say on the subject. These are difficult questions – and the more diversity discussing them – the more I think they can come up with an adequate proposal. I cannot stress enough how dangerous it is to bring ‘actual’ laws into gaming worlds – and yet I do believe avatars have rights too. But should it be controlled by consumer laws?
I think it is in the best interests of the synthetic world makers to have adequate laws and procedures – but there are limits to the responsibilities that can be enforced on them. I also think that in such debates you cannot dismiss the dilemma of defining what is a gaming world and what is a virtual (synthetic) world.Either way, it looks like Castronova and his bunch have created a great Ludium in the best possible form this year again!

Ludium II will bring together experts on virtual worlds from academia, industry, and government to play a live-action political game leading to an extremely serious, timely, and important contribution: a consensus Platform of 10 Statements answering the question “What policies should real world governments have with regards to synthetic worlds?” The hope is that this Platform will provide answers when legislatures and administrators wonder what to do in response to the critical public issues that will be raised by these unique social technologies.

Good luck!!!

Bogost finds the words

Just stopping by to share this amazing quote by Bogost in Gamasutra’s ‘Are Games Art? “Here we go again.”

“Film can be used for deeply charged emotional expression, or it can be used to show you how to use the oxygen mask in case of cabin depressurization. If video games are indeed a medium, then they too will speak on different registers. “If you look at the world of ‘serious games,’ a lot of those titles are much closer to the airline safety video than to ‘Citizen Kane,'”Bogost adds. “And like film or TV or painting, there will be different modes of video game craft. There will be pop-art games and self-referential postmodern games and exploitative games and games made solely to cash in on intellectual property like Sponge Bob.”

Naw – I haven’t actually read it – but found the quote at Water Cooler Games and I’ve been thinking about it all day! So much so that I’m getting very distracted from work. But I suppose I knew that would happen eventually!

"Storytelling in the online medium"

Raph Koster has released yet another excellent presentation slideshow from one of his talks. This time it’s five years old – but I agree with him when he says “…the examples are dated, I don’t think the state of the art has moved forward in most of these areas”.

“Storytelling in the online medium”

Would be such a joy to experience one of these talks like someday!

Help – stressed!! – updated!

Kjellvis found it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!

Earlier today (this is a weird way of updating a post, huh?):

I’m at work which allows for near zero surf time – and I’m freaking out about my oral exam/defence of thesis and phd proposal deadline tomorrow. I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done by tomorrow when I actually have to work to pay the rent! Annoying!

But anyways – I’m looking for a video – which my stressed out googling skills just can’t find and would adore any help!

About a year ago (I think – time is such an demented factor) a video circled the web of some boys playing a game on their computer. It looked something like Battlefield – but I’m not sure. They were torturing the poor avatar soldier – crashing him against walls and making him fall off high buildings. Suddenly the door to the boy’s room is kicked in and the avatar gets his revenge. I’m sure I found the film at Kotaku – but I can’t seem to enter from this lovely computer.

So? Do you know what I’m talking about? Oh I will love you forever if you bother sending it to me!!!! Would be a tremendous help!!!

I suppose I should include some Valentine’s thing here as well, like everyone else – but today I reserve the right to be a bitter old fat hag! So there! Hehe! Who said I was in a bad mood?

Interactive Australia 2007

The Centre for New Media Research & Education (which looks really cool, by the way) at Bond University in Australia has published a report that:

“…provides data on who is playing games in Australia, what their attitudes and behaviours are like compared with non-gamers, the nature of the games market, the importance of games in the family experience and the role of online access in game purchasing and play.
The study is based on a national random sample of 1,606 Australian households who responded to more than 75 questions and over 300 data points in a 15-minute online survey run by ACNielsen Surveys Australia in late September 2006. Two units of analysis are explored in the study: the household and the player individual within the household.”

It’s interesting data. Nothing that really surprises me – but nice to see such reports finding nice little heartwarming details such as:

“Parents and children are increasingly playing together. 35% of gamers are parents.”

I would really like to see the questions asked though, because it seems just a tad too optimistic – too good to be true, in a way. But then I’ve always been skeptical to such things as I’ve done my fair share of phone surveys. ;)

Columbine game is all about art!


It’s funny how certain tragic events can spawn new luscious things!

There’s been a whole lotta uproar these past few weeks because Super Columbine Massacre RPG was pulled as a finalist from the Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition.

Personally, I can’t believe they waited for it to get so far only to pull it off the list – which makes me rather suspicious. They write that:

“There are always legal checks and balances with any Slamdance program. Specifically with the subject matter of Super Columbine Massacre Role Playing Game Slamdance does not have the resources to defend any drawn out civil action that our legal council has stated can easily arise from publicly showing it.”

Man! Capitalist society can be such a ruthless freedom-of-speech stomping evil dictatorship!

Then, other game developers start pulling their games from the festival in an act of solidarity. TGC (thatgamecompany) explained it very nicely:

“As game designers, each project we have done so far, and plan on doing in the future, aims at showing games as a serious and expressive medium. We cannot help but wonder, if SCMRPG were a film, if the reaction by the Slamdance organizers would have been the same. Removing it from the festival is discouraging, because it implies that games are still not to be taken seriously, that games are only for mindless fun. If we are trying to work against this stigma as artists, then we also have to fight against this stigma as entrants in the festival as well.”

So this incident has really triggered an inspirational discussion about games as art! Which I think is really exciting! And my heart pounded even more when I read Clive Thompson‘s excellent piece, ‘I,Columbine’ in Wired this week! I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying it’s the best artistic critical analysis of a game I have ever read!

You’re constantly reminded of how creepily unbalanced Harris and Klebold were. One minute they’re tossing off nihilistic riffs: “When I’m in my human form, knowing I’m going to die, everything has a touch of triviality to it,” Klebold muses. The next minute they’re quoting Shakespeare: “Good wombs hath borne bad sons.

I’m having a hard time pulling out quotes because it’s all so relevant and good – but I’ll paste this one in just in case you don’t read the whole thing – but you really should! It’s a beautiful beginning of art criticism in games!

“It uses the language of games as a way to think about the massacre. Ledonne, like all creators of “serious games”, uses gameplay as a rhetorical technique.”

Gameplay as rhetorical technique! I love it!!!

It’s tragic that Slamdance felt they had to pull it from the competition – but I’m loving the discussions that have spawned from it!