Virtual World Travel Agency

This is great!!! A virtual guide service, Synthravels!! I love the idea! Clickable Culture reports about this new business that has started to offer guided tours for “those who wish to tour virtual worlds even without the necessary experience” – I love it! I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’ve registered with my preferred time and can’t wait to have a look at all the worlds I just don’t have the capasity and time to experience first hand!

“Synthtravels was conceived by Mario Gerosa and by Matteo Esposito.”

South Park World of Warcraft

Most of us have already seen it…but it just desserves your attention if you haven’t yet! You really don’t have to be a WoW player to understand the humour in this! I was in stitches! And what a social comment!!! Enjoy!

What I’ve learned – Part 1

I’m wrapping up my typology of TSO players and intellectual property rights chapters this weekend and I’m getting kind of sentimental and sad about ending a chapter in my life also – and all my…ehm…work being visible on paper. I could have easily finished this sucker a year ago, but then I would have missed out on a few thoughts and new insights. But I suppose that also has contributed to my low self esteem and the constant second guessing of my thoughts, memories, sentences, conclusions, understandings, sanity and intelligence. So I’m not recomending the extra year, far from it, but I’m just saying that I’m glad I took it. I’ve had such a great time, learning so incredibly much – both relevant and irrelevant.

One thing that I absolutely adore and despise about Media Studies is that it encompasses so incredibly much! Back in my bachelor days I never quite got into the spirit of ‘reading’ film – I mean, sure! I loved reaching for hidden meanings and mis-en-scene and – well, to be honest I’m getting bored just writing about it now, so maybe ‘love’ is too strong a word here. Two semesters of film classes was quite enough for me. Anyways…I was lucky and privileged to have Tiziana Terranova introduce me to…ehm…I think we called it Cyberculture, back then (1997-2000) – which blew my mind and woke my desire to learn more! I remember becoming a huge Baudrillard and Foucault fan and discussing hyperreality with passion at the local pub. Ooooh! I’m about to give you my life story here aren’t I? I suppose my point is that I come from a Media Studies background, a part of the Cultural Studies movement (?). On paper I can supposedly ‘read’ film, pictures, commercials and understand media politics (hahahahaha!) and well at least discuss the issues of identity in media and semiotics.

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Synthetic World News


Castronova’s posse at the Indiana University have started a blog called Synthetic World News! I don’t know why this has passed by me! Anyways…these are the folks behind Ludium (I’m still dumbfounded by their innovative creativity on research) so most likely interesting things will be revealed here!
First up is the Kuurian Expedition and they’re having a meeting at the Hall of Explorers, Ironforge, Silver Hand at 10 pm EST August 2, 2006. From what I gather it is a bunch of experienced researchers/players showing new people what synthetic worlds are all about and how we can learn and build from them. But I’m sure this sounds interesting to all you other WoW freaks as well!
I’m staying away from it all and trying to wrap things up! Although I’m suffering from some annoying syndrom that makes me fall asleep each time I open my thesis!! I will prevail though!! I shall conquer this beast of mumbo jumbo sadistic slime!!

Joi Ito on…well…’the state of the metaverse union’?


So I specifically turned my back on an absolutely glorious sunny day today, to work on a job application and finish up some thesis thoughts I had this morning (burnt the midnight oil) – but first things first – feeds need to be skimmed through!
Rather annoyingly erikso.com had a truely informative and extremely interesting post, loads of stuff I’ve just automatically loaded on to my iPod for the walk home tonight – but I ended up watching the whole of this charming videoblog by Loïc Le Meur (loads of other interesting things on his blog – I became a subscriber instantly), where he talks to Joi Ito about – well…everything important!!!! Joi Ito gives the best description of what playing World of Warcraft is about, EVER!!!!! What we can learn from MMORPGs and how we can incorporate several models into the business world. Ofcourse gold farming comes up -and Ito brings up an interesting observation that the Chinese had a hard time understanding what we have against gold farmers, according to them it’s a given that people with money should be able to pay their way to the top in games. Really ironic – that we in the capitalist world believe every MMORPG gamer should be equal, while the Socialist Chinese are all for money buying gaming fame and fortune! Amusing. Then they have a great talk about videos, music and copyright – and ofcourse the Creative Commons – and what all this sharing business is all about. It was really interesting!!! And it was so relaxed listening to them just have a conversation! Very inspiring! Definitely worth skipping a film or tv program to watch! But now – must work!!

Picture stolen from erikso.com! Thanks!!

So…anyways…

I know I’ve been doing a lot of cut’n’pasting on this blog lately, I do apologize to those who are waiting for my analytical academic insights . I guess I’ve been trying to resist my first impulsive of “Ooh! There’s a thought! I should blog about that” and instead diving straight into my thesis and documenting it there! So my blog writing is just amusing little tidbits I come across on my daily surfsessions. But maybe I should be pasting some extracts from my thesis in here? We’ll see what happens. Right now I’m just obsessing about sewing all my random thoughts and analysis together so that something that can at least resemble some wholeness is presentable. It’s really scary how many times I contradict myself in this process! But yeah…before I go off on a “I take myself too seriously” tantrum – for your amusement:

The spectacular Raph Koster’s written “The Ten Commandments of Online Worlds”, which is, as expected, insightful and adorable!

1. Thou shalt not mistake online worlds for games, for they encompass far more; nor shalt thou forget that play is noble, and game is no epithet.

2. Thou shalt not disrespect thy players, nor treat them as mere database entries or subscriptions, but rather as people, for thy power is granted you by them.
3. Thou shalt not remove fun or implement unfun for the sake of longer subscriber longevity, nor shalt thou consider thy sort of fun to be the only sort of fun to be had, for many and mysterious are the ways of enjoyment.
4. Thou shalt not blindly do what has been done before, but rather shalt know why all is as it is, and how it could be different.
5. Thou shalt create and follow rules that bind thyself as well as the players, for thou art of the community, not above it.
6. Thou shalt not make thy world a place for players to do real harm unto one another, or for thee to do harm unto players.
7. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s userbase, but instead be true to thine own userbase, for thou hast made them a garden, and thy job is cultivation.
8. Thou shalt make every activity within thy world one that stands alone enjoyably; if it be a game, then thou shouldst make it a fun game on its own merits; if it be other, then thou shouldst make it true to itself. Thy world doth not make boring things into enjoyable things merely because it is thy world.
9. There shalt be no number nine.
10. Honor thy ancestors, for they solved most of thy design problems.

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Griefers

The Guardian has a great article on griefers and the evolving community counter measures to tackle them.

I think it’s interesting how the journalist brings up 2 examples of ‘griefing’ that have caused the debate about gaming ethics (although it’s a discussion that’s been going on forever – at least since the LambdaMoo days).
The first is the EVE Online incident where a group calling themselves the Guiding Hand Social Club, cunningly infiltrated the Ubiqua Seraph corporation and basically ruined them! They worked on this for over a year! I first heard about this after watching one of the State of Play III debates, where Dr. Kjartan Pierre Emilsson brought this up as an example of how sometimes developers just have to shrug and say “Hey! It’s all part of the gameplay!”. I remember being so amused and uttering a little ‘Yay!’. The debate harrowed in the community, however.
The second example, is ofcourse when World Of Warcraft mourners (mourning the death of a real life player in WoW) were completely ambushed by a rival guild. Which was ofcourse seen as disrespectful and awful.
But these two examples are not griefing incidents, in my opinion! And we can’t start punishing players for how they’re playing the game. I mean most of these outcries are like children screaming “BUT IT’S SOOOO UNFAIR!”. It reminds me a lot about my life at the moment. I’m moaning and groaning about my thesis and my friends and family are hitting back with “For crying out loud, Linn! Will you please just get over yourself and finish the goddamn thing! Stop taking yourself so bloody seriously!” – the analogy here is me being the screaming child and my friends being the ‘griefers’! My point is….thank God for ‘griefers’!!!! Sometimes it’s good to have players come along and take the piss of those taking the game way too seriously! Which, in my opinion, doesn’t make them griefers at all!!! So what are griefers? I would call advanced players living off of stealing and hassling new players, griefers – but why? They’re still playing the game, are they not? I’m rambling here, sorry about that – it’s just that I feel we really need to define what griefing is before we start making executive decisions about who’s playing the game the right way and who’s not. I don’t believe that anyone should be punished for these two ‘griefing’ examples, but others may disagree.
So who gets to decide what griefing is and what actions are offensive enough to merit punishment? Who should decide? Game masters or democraticly organised groups? Community or an authoritative power?

I’m gonna leave you with these questions which have so often been thrust at you in this blog – and promise to come back with some reflections on what works and why tomorrow! It’s about time, right?!!

Surveillance and invasion of privacy in MMOs

Select Parks has a questionnaire going about surveilance in MMOs. It’s an interesting dilemma. You quickly forget that your every action is being watched and recorded while playing. But I’m wondering if christo might have misunderstood something – if not, I certainly have. In the comments about ‘Game administrators monitoring players’ christo writes:

“The ability of MMO game administrators to monitor and record player
interactions out-strips any type of surveillance occurring within the
real-world. All movements, actions and conversations can be permanently
recorded and archived for later retrieval. Some MMOs use this data to help
suspend player accounts when end user license agreements are broken. For
example, if one player continually harasses another, administrators can sift
through conversation and proximity data to prove an offence has taken
place. Game companies also mine user data to help review and enhance the
game’s structure and playability”

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"Girl things" in games

Granted, I really don’t have time to focus on blogging at the moment, so excuse me if I’ve misunderstood this completely! I just….I just couldn’t let this pass by without adding some comments. I’m confused, terrified and well…just a tad insulted, to be honest.

Edward Castronova’s latest Terra Nova post examines one of the ‘theories’ introduced at Ludium 1. Uhm…from what I can gather The Koithuo team proposed a way of looking at ‘the evolutionary theory of human gender differences’ and implementing this as a test into games, using Steen’s ‘girl game modes’ which say “that women will be interested in a) games about rating men’s prowess (The Yenta Game”), choosing men to connect with (“The Marriage Game”), and getting men to stay committed to them (“The Newlywed Game”).”

Now…it seems the crew at A Tale in the Desert have implemented a game in their world to test these theories. Which I completely concur with Castronova when he writes that:

“Regardless of whether you agree with Steen’s theories or not, the exciting thing here is that we get to see them tested, at the level of an entire society. It’s not just a theoretical/political debate any more. We’re getting some information.”

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