The Social Life of Networked Play

Posted by mvogel6 on Tuesday Apr 15, 2014 Under The Social Life of Networked Play
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The world seems to be shrinking as the internet becomes more prevalent in our daily lives.  Social interactions through Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) and online virtual worlds have become commonplace in the present day.  The two online tools have evolved over time and, although they share many similarities, have created incredibly varied environments and thus resulted in social interactions within them that are entirely unique.

To ensure a clear understanding, we must define these types of environments. What exactly determines that a digital artifact is a MMOG or a virtual world?  MMOGs, as explained by Pearce in Narrative Environments, “are public places that thousands of people enter simultaneously to share an entertainment experience.”  Basically, as the name would allude to, these environments are virtual spaces in which the user interacts with and around other users.  However this definition also applies to virtual worlds. They both have social interaction and multiple users sharing the same space. The users in both instances are represented by avatars of some type – quite often humanoid but not always – as they explore the world and its possibilities. The avatar represents the user and in the system it is more than a single graphical entity or line of code: it is the user.  These are social tools. “If there’s any one aspect about these worlds, whether they’re text or graphical, is people aren’t connecting to computers; that’s not why this should be done” (Intentional Bodies 29).  The point of both of these environments is to bring the experience into a social area in which the user interacts with the other users. But in the end, the MMOG and the virtual worlds are two separate types of entities, and are built around different environments and rules.

The MMOG World of Warcraft and the virtual world Second Life have been experimented with in order to consider the differences between the types of environments.  The two share the typical qualities that the two environments would. Both World of Warcraft and Second Life represent the user by an avatar, and allow for the avatar to show emotions.  The users are both granted use of a chat service in order to type – or in some instances speak – to the other users.   They both also offer an inventory and in-game economy to buy and sell items.  The main differences expand from the difference the objective the experience.  To put it basically, World of Warcraft has the main goal to kill and gain levels in order to achieve a higher status in the game.  Second Life, on the other hand favors the social aspect more, and the goal is to exist and live in a sociable world with towns and business and events.

World of Warcraft, like many MMOGs, focuses the users attention towards specific goals.  These goals quite often require the user to kill an enemy, be it a computer-controlled creature or another user.  The game is tailored to these actions.  This allows for a focused instruction on how the game should be played.  The player enters the world and the game throws the player into tutorials and basic game mechanics that would be the most beneficial toward achieving this goal.  However, it is still a multi-user environment and the player is not alone in her quests. Thus, the experience is split between creating a social environment and an environment focused on killing and questing.  Even the social aspect is all focused on questing and killing enemies.  Players are given the opportunity to join guilds in order to team up with other users in order to fight the more challenging enemies, granting better items and more experience.  Of course, there exist users that had desires to interact in ways that the game creators did not initially plan.  Much like the users of “There” that decided to create a recreation of their favorite game “Uru” within the game “There,” users of World of Warcraft decided to throw away the preset ideas of the game in order to perform virtual weddings and funerals for characters (Productive Play 19).  However, the game did not anticipate these actions and thus the actions often involved much creativity on the users’ parts.  In the end though, the game can be played without the use of social interaction at all.  The player is not forced into it, and many game quests can be completed with ease without the help of any other players.

Second Life, on the other hand, has a much more open-ended experience.  The user is encouraged to create an experience tailored specifically to socializing in whichever way seems the most entertaining.  The player is given various in-game notes on movement and what is going on in the immediate vicinity, but anything else is up to the users themselves.  A player can earn in-game money (Lindens) or buy them online.  Players can own property by paying the original web-service or rent property from other players.  There are art shows and mini-games.  Since the goal is to socialize, the game has become much more open-ended to allow for the huge variance in ways people prefer to socialize.  The players offered free use of items like clothes to newcomers and I was able to explore malls dedicated to these items.  Other realms of the environment had dance floors and in-chat riddles that awarded the player with Lindens should they win.  The player was given a great deal of control and interactions took place almost entirely between players.  The players could even create their own events, which proved successful ever since the days of “Habitat” in which user created events seemed to have much more of an impact on the users than events created by the designers who “were still thinking like game designers” when they should have been more like “the cruise director on an ocean voyage” (Morningstar). That seems confusing, but what Morningstar and Farmer refer to is that they when creating events within the virtual world they were not creating a game but a social opportunity with an option of completing a goal.  After all, that was what differentiated the virtual world from the MMOG.

During the course of my experiences with these environments, I learned multiple things about them.  I was easily frustrated by the lack of direction given by Second Life, but upon further reflection, I made little effort to socialize in the world.  Although I was able to complete some degree of quests and pond creature genocide in World of Warcraft, I once again failed to socialize and quickly lost interest.  Therefore while these worlds offer different opportunities, the social aspect creates the main appeal and draw from other games and thus these two environments may be different but they both still pivot around the opportunity for a social experience for the user.

 

Works Cited

Curtis, P. “Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities. ”http://www.eff.org/Net_culture/MOO_MUD_IRC/curtis_mudding.article

Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle.html

Farmer, R. & Morningstar, C. (1990/1991) “The Lessons of LucasArts Habitat. ”http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html

Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol2/issue1/lambda.html

Pearce, C. (2006). “Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up.” Games & Culture. Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2006. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceGC-Jan06.pdf

Pearce, C. (2007). “Narrative Environments from Disneyland to World of Warcraft.” In Space, Time, Play: Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level. Friedrich von Borries, Steffan P. Walz, and Matteas Bottger (eds). Basel: Birkhauser. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceSpaceTimePlay.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol. 9, No.1, 21-46, Spring 2003. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Intentional Bodies: Virtual Environments and the Designers Who Shape Them.” International Journal of Engineering Education 19, no. 1. www.itu.dk/~tltaylor/papers/Taylor-Designers.pdf

 

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I am currently subscribed to, and heavily play, World of Warcraft. I love the lore, the battle system (even though I am a healer), and most of the community. I have been playing World of Warcraft on and off for many years, since as far back as the sixth grade. I know the mechanics of the game almost perfectly but as expansions come and go, I sometimes lose track of all the changes that are made. Throughout my time as a gamer, I have also tried out Second Life but just couldn’t get into it as deeply as World of Warcraft. A quick disclaimer before delving further into the differences and similarities between Second Life and World of Warcraft. I play on a PvP, that is Player vs. Player, server in WoW. I have always played on a PvP server in WoW. Another server, such as an RP (or RolePlaying) server, might yield an experience more in line with what a player would experience in Second Life. So for me, Second Life and World of Warcraft are two very different sides to the same massively multiplayer coin.

In Julie Dibbell’s article “A Rape in Cyberspace” she expresses interest in delving further in a MUD named LambdaMMO. This quote eloquently captures how I felt about my second time entering Second Life in my entire life. “I continued, in my now and then visits, to seek it there, sensing its presence just below the surface of every interaction, yet increasingly I sensed as well that if I really wanted to see what lay beneath those surfaces — to glimpse unveiled whatever there was of genuine historical novelty in VR’s slippery social and philosophical dynamics — I was going to have to radically deepen my acquaintance with the MOO somehow,” (Dibbel). Since I was not in any way acquainted to the mannerisms of a virtual world style game, I needed to spend a bit of time working on how to approach people. The few individuals that I talked to seemed interested in what I had to say. I told them that I was playing the game to write an article for my class and they were more than happy to give me information on the game. The first thing I asked was how does the combat work. Coming from a Player vs. Player focused game and server, this was my main concern. The users told me that it was practically non-existant but that people found creative ways to “fight” each other. This almost instantly put me off from the game and reminded me of why I couldn’t get into it in the first place. Combat is an integral part of almost every game that I have ever played. They said that the focus of Second Life was more so constructing your own world and then inviting users to come interact with you in it. This is in stark contrast to World of Warcraft which has almost no construction of any sort. There is one (well, two) worlds and that was that. This excited me and they offered to show me to one of their favorite places, a steam punk like community. Once we arrived, their mannerisms completely changed. There were words and costumes that I did not recognize. In World of Warcraft, the vernacular for the game is widespread and unchanging from a certain zone in the game to the other. Entering another zone in Second Life is almost like entering an entirely new game. Jennifer Mnookin (oddly almost spelled like Moonkin, a form that the Druid class from World of Warcraft can shapeshift into) perfectly described what was happening in Second Life by describing another game. She stated that “participants in the MOO are literally building their own universe room by room,” (Mnookin). Second Life, much like our own universe, was building worlds and countries that had different customs and lifestyles that I, admittedly, was not prepared for.

A key difference that I noticed between the two games was that most players in Second Life stuck with one avatar. Curtis touches on this by saying this about a different MMO, “when a player first connects to a MUD, they choose a name by which the other players will know them,” (Curtis). It is good to note that in Second Life, your avatar is how you will be known. In World of Warcraft, some characters have decided to have similarities in the names of all of their characters (my characters are named Alexpotato, Naturepotato, Totempotato so most of my friends know when they see a “-potato” named character that it is probably me) but at times it is still necessary to tell others who you are. Second Lifers didn’t have many “alts”, or alternate characters. In World of Warcraft, having alts is the norm. If a player only has one character, then they are generally very new to the game. This could be due to the fact that in Second Life the single avatar can enjoy all facets of the game while in World of Warcraft different classes and races have different story lines and abilities. This is where one of the key differences between World of Warcraft and Second Life comes into play. In Second Life, your name is who you are. If you make a bad reputation for yourself then that will stick with you unless you make an entirely new account and avatar. In World of Warcraft, one of your characters may have a bad reputation while another has a great reputation and is highly loved in the community. In Taylor’s paper titled “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming” Taylor states that “being known as a good player, as one who is even fun to have around, can act as a real commodity – as social capital,” (Taylor 25). In my guild, I am known as one of the better healers in PvP so I am invited to more events that help me improve my gear, thus making me an even better healer. It is a wonderful cycle that has worked to my advantage.

Something that I believe that World of Warcraft and Second both do magnificently well, but in different ways, is building a complex world. World of Warcraft does this with their lore and many quests and NPCs while Second Life allows players to literally build their own complex world. Morningstar and Farmer stated in their paper titled “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat” that what players “seek in such a system is richness, complexity and depth,” (Morningstar and Farmer). Both of the games fulfill this desire in their own special ways, as stated above. With this quote in mind, I decided to venture forth into a roleplaying server in World of Warcraft. I wondered if players would be able to add any more depth and life into a world already so fill with both of those things. What I found was beyond my expectations. Players held ceremonies for other players, talked completely in character (unless using special chat markers to note that they were not talking in character), they didn’t even kill others mercilessly and abundantly. This was a completely different world from the server that I played on. Celia Pearce summed it up perfectly in her paper titled “Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up”. It seemed that players “were paying to produce their own entertainment media,” (Pearce 18). Something that was very interesting though is that players didn’t seem to stray too far from the core concept of World of Warcraft. There was no focus on raising a family like Sims, or in managing a farm like Runescape. Instead the things that were added in to the RP server were related to the theme that almost all MMO’s have drawn on since their inception. In Celia Pearce’s paper entitled “Narrative Environments: From Disneyland to World of Warcraft” she notes that “93.5% of the major MMOGs revolve around Dungeons & Dragons-style themes,” (Pearce 202). Even when given the chance to add in other elements, RPers decided to stick with the same theme.
Works Cited

Curtis, P. “Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities.” Electronic Frontier Foundation. Xerox Parc. Web. 12 Apr 2014. http://www.eff.org/Net_culture/MOO_MUD_IRC/curtis_mudding.article

Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” Julian Dibbell Dot Com. Julian Dibbell, n.d. Web. 12 Apr 2014. http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle.html

Farmer, Randall & Morningstar, Chip (1990/1991) “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat.” Fudco. MIT Press, n.d. Web. 7 Apr 2014. http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html

Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol2/issue1/lambda.html

Taylor, T.L. (2003. “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol, No.1, 21-46, Spring 2003.http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003. “International Bodies: Virtual Environments and the Designers Who Shape Them.” International Journal of Engineering Education 19, no.1.www.itu.dk/~tltaylor/papers/Taylor-Designers.pdf

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One interesting fact about human is that we are born to be socialized. Most of us always try to connect with others in one way or another. A strong desire within us control ourselves to reach out for others. For the past few years, a lot of social networks, online communities, virtual worlds and MMO games have been build to satisfy that desire. These cyberspaces have been significantly influenced our culture, economy and society.

I have been playing League of Legends (LOL), a battle arena MMO game, for more than a year. I have started to join Second Life, a virtual world, lately, but I have heard about it a couple years ago. These games/virtual worlds are two successfully examples of current online media development. Each of them gives me a very different experience when I play. Even though they share the same goal, connecting people, they ways they attract their audience and the issues they have to deal with are quite different.

The Trends

First, we already answered: how do these online forms attract their audience. Of course, their fundamental service is to get people connected. However, that is not how they are really success in the modern age since they are not the first in business. Remarkably, the first of their kind, LamdaMOO was introduced so many years ago. The new question is: What is the key of their success?

In (Pearce, 18), she mentions the three trends of future of play. Productivity is keyword that we are looking for here. Pearce argues that games are no longer an unproductive. Rather, the media industry has significantly changed as “the media snake eating its own head.” Players now are producing their own games, creating their own rules and building their own culture. That is true for our two examples. In both Second Life and LOL people have a place to build their own games, characters and communities. In Second Life, players build the game world not only for themselves but also for others. In LOL, players do not only build their own team but also build an enemy team for other teams. Thus, in these games, players get more involved and become an important part of it.

The Pleasures and The Audience

We have seen the similarities of those games, now let us look at the differences. The best way to analyze these games is to look at what pleasures they bring, and what kind of audience they target. In her paper, Taylor suggests five typical pleasures that MMORPGs bring to their audience (Taylor, “Multiple Pleasures” – 24). I would like to use her measurement to target our two examples.

Communities and socialization
Women tend to enjoy interpersonal social value more than men do. In this case, Second Life reasonably attract more women because it is a good place for socializing. In LOL, because its nature is competitive and cartoon violent, it attracts more men than women.

Identities
Both of Second Life and LOL players enjoy their freedom of not exposing their identities. In Second Life, players get rid of the burden of their own identities in real life and start a new life in this virtual world. That is simply how they enjoy the game. It is the same thing in LOL. However, players do not enjoy freedom of identities because they want to escape the real world, but run away with prejudice if they suck in the game.

Mastery and Status
Both men and women enjoy mastery and status in games, but depending on the nature of the games, they enjoy them differently. In Second Life, players mostly enjoy how sophisticated they are. Players tend to feel better if they have better outfit for their character, more properties or how many friends they have. In this case, women are more likely to be the targets. On the other hand, in LOL, players enjoy their skills and ranks in the game. To ensure fairness, in a certain level, every players have the same level of items or properties, but their skills and ranks are different.

Exploration
In Second Life, the world is built for the players to explore while LOL world is built for the battles. However, in LOL, the players can explore the possibility to build their characters, strategies or skills.

Team and Combat
Teamwork is very important in LOL. It is the most essential element of the game. An individual can have good skills, but he still cannot win the game if he cannot collaborate with his team. This pleasure does not apply in Second Life because there is no team and combat in Second Life. There is no winning or losing condition in this game anyway.

The Issues

In another paper, Taylor expresses her concern about social infrastructure design. For any social infrastructure designers, diversity is the first concern. A designer cannot put his personal perspective into the design. We do not want to create design that serves a certain social group. (Taylor, “International Bodies” – 26)
In our two games, gender is one of the biggest concern. In LOL the problem is that it is a male dominant game. Its audience are mostly males. Designers have been trying to balance it, but that the fact is still that I always assume that the other players behind the keyboard are males.

In Second Life, we have problem with sexual harassment. The issue about identity causes that problem. According to Dibbell, the social focus of these kind of games, and the sense of anonymity become the cause of aggressive sexual harassment (Dibbell). For these sensitive issues, game developers have to address them cleverly to avoid losing their audience. These problems have been occurred in the past. In 1993, Curtis, the founder and manager of LamdaMOO, wrote a memo to the MOO community to address the issues with in the network. In his memos, he first expressed his concerned about the expansion and complexity of the network. Then, he ensured that the administrators had been working to prevent any problem. However, later on, he had to ask for users discretion and appropriate attitude toward the network. He also mentioned how important they are to keep the network alive. Finally, he said he would try to add some code to manage and prevent the issues with in the network. (Mnookin)

Conclusion

Each social game/network is designed for a specific goal and attract different group of audience, but the ultimate goal is still connecting people. Designers must understand the issues about interpersonal game/network to prevent them. We, the players, also need to understand those issues because we are more involved in our online games or social cyberspaces nowadays. We do not only play the game for ourselves but also indirectly affect others because we are an important part of the game world.

Works Cited

Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle.html

Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1996.tb00185.x/

Pearce, C. (2006). “Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up.” Games & Culture. Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2006. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceGC-Jan06.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol. 9, No.1, 21-46, Spring 2003. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Intentional Bodies: Virtual Environments and the Designers Who Shape Them.” International Journal of Engineering Education 19, no. 1. www.itu.dk/~tltaylor/papers/Taylor-Designers.pdf

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Maplestory and Habbo Hotel are two popular free to play games for young teens. Although both Maplestory and Habbo Hotel are influenced by early MUDs, they have major differences that put them in two different spectrums of games.

As Curtis explains, “A MUD (Multi-User Dungeon or, sometimes, Multi-User Dimension) is network-accessible, multi-participant, user-extensible virtual reality whose user interface is entirely textual,”. both games fit the entirety of Curtis’ definition except they are not entirely textual. Both Maplestory and Habbo Hotel use visuals instead of textual descriptions of the space simply because technology is now capable of doing so. Mnookin, Curtis, and Dibbell all talk about LamdaMOO, a very popular MUD. Mnookin specifically talks about how law was formed in LambdaMOO. Both Maplestory and Habbo Hotel have similar law systems. Language filters that cannot be removed exist in both games, and constant harassment can lead to restrictions being placed on the user, just like in LamdaMoo.

Although both Maplestory and Habbo Hotel have similar ways to communicate with other players, the difference in gameplay makes these two games different in every other way. Habbo Hotel is more of a visual LamdaMOO, where Maplestory has evolved enough to be past the point of a social virtual space. Curtis states three characteristics that make a MUD:
o A MUD is not goal-oriented; it has no beginning or end, no `score’, and
no notion of `winning’ or `success’. In short, even though users of
MUDs are commonly called players, a MUD isn’t really a game at all.

o A MUD is extensible from within; a user can add new objects to the
database such as rooms, exits, `things’, and notes. Certain MUDs,
including the one I run, even support an embedded programming language
in which a user can describe whole new kinds of behavior for the
objects they create.

o A MUD generally has more than one user connected at a time. All of the
connected users are browsing and manipulating the same database and can
encounter the new objects created by others. The multiple users on a
MUD can communicate with each other in real time.

Habbo Hotel has all three of these characteristics. There is no goal in the game, users can simply go into different rooms and talk to other users. Every user has their own room, and can also create additional rooms. Users can customize their rooms with items and furniture in the game. It is obvious that more than one user can be connected to Habbo Hotel, but users can also gift other users items or add new furniture to other user’s rooms.

MapleStory, on the other hand, does not have any of those characteristics. Although it has no end-game state, users have to complete quests and level up to get new skills. The map in MapleStory, as large as it is, is set in stone. Players cannot add new rooms or items to become part of the map. They can drop items that will vanish after a set period of time, but trying to count that would be pushing it a little too much. And since players cannot create new objects, it would only make sense that other players could not encounter said objects.

To sum it up Habbo Hotel is a giant virtual chat room where users can interact with the space as well as other users, where as MapleStory is more of an adventure game where players need to achieve tasks.

Now because the purpose of the two games are completely different, the attitude of the players are bound to be different. With the nature of Habbo Hotel, it is a very relaxed game, players are not in a rush to get anything done, because there isn’t anything to get done. Users will go to the busier rooms in order to communicate with people. Going to an empty room does nothing for the user, there’s no sort of privacy or alone time because turning away from the computer achieves the same thing. Now for MapleStory interaction with others is almost completely optional. A vast majority of the quests in MapleStory are individual quests, although some can be completed faster with a partner helping you. But there are many instances where being yourself is a lot more convenient.

Like any MMOG, MapleStory has servers, and within those servers are channels. Channels are like mini-servers within the server, but players are free to change channels whenever they want; channels are simply a way to make servers less crowded. When players are in a part of the map to kill monsters to gain experience, it’s best to do this alone, so other people in the map don’t take any experience from you. After getting past the initial levels, it is an unofficial rule within MapleStory that when training, there should only be one person per map section, and if there is someone already there, the second player has to change channels and find a channel that is open so he/she can freely kill the monsters there.

Habbo Hotel encourages group play, where Maplestory encourages individual play. This has a HUGE impact on player attitude. Habbo Hotel is all about socializing, so all of the players are very friendly and rarely show negativity towards others. MapleStory on the other hand has the inverse affect on its players, more often than not a player will rage and all-caps yell at other players. I made an experiment, to test how negative player would be if I came in to where they were training and started killing monsters for myself.

Initially, about eighty percent of the players would say “cc pls” (cc meaning “change channels”), and the other twenty percent would rage instantly. I would stay and continue to kill monsters, and after maybe thirty or forty-five seconds all of the players would be raging at me. All sorts of censored out curse words and all-caps insults to my family members were given.

As you can see, the game play and purpose of the two games are completely different, but what causes the positivity or negativity of the players is the social aspect of being able to communicate with others. If either games didn’t have the ability to chat, Habbo Hotel users wouldn’t be able to share friendly conversation with other users, and MapleStory players would not be able to start yelling at other players to leave.

 

Sources

Curtis, P. “Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities.”

http://www.eff.org/Net_culture/MOO_MUD_IRC/curtis_mudding.article

Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle.html

Farmer, R. & Morningstar, C. (1990/1991) “The Lessons of LucasArts Habitat.”

http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html

Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996.

http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol2/issue1/lambda.html

Pearce, C. (2006). “Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up.” Games & Culture. Volume 1, Issue
1, Winter 2006. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceGC-Jan06.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol. 9, No.1, 21-46,
Spring 2003. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Intentional Bodies: Virtual Environments and the Designers Who Shape Them.”
International Journal of Engineering Education 19, no. 1. www.itu.dk/~tltaylor/papers/Taylor-Designers.pdf

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Virtual environments abound amidst the chaotic sea of bits that make up the internet. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOG’s) and virtual worlds are born, live, and die, commonly within a very short time frame. When taking on this blogpost however, I decided to speak on two of the oldest ones. World of Warcraft (Wow) and Secondlife. And they are about as different as night and day.

WoW is a game full of rich environments, quest lines, story line, and challenging dungeons. However, it lacks a great deal in terms of player interactions, with the only actions available to a character being those programmed into the game. This means that regardless of what fantasy a person may wish to live out in WoW, if it isn’t already there, you are pretty much out of luck. Alternatively, SecondLife has many pleasant environments to walk and/or fly around through, which are vastly created by the players of the game. Additionally, a player can create just about anything they wish and put it into the game, creating clothes, buildings, or even new avatars. However, it often feels like there is nothing to actually do there beyond converse with others, even though a player has the freedom to shape their own world.

As such, I would say that the primary difference between these two forms of virtual environments are in who shapes these worlds. In games such as WoW, the world and everything in it is created by a team of designers, programmers, and artists employed by Blizzard for that express purpose. Because they have this training, the game takes on a cohesive feel. The quests, story lines, and achievements created by these professionals provides the player with the feeling that there is always something to do within the game, leading to a continued level of immersion within the world. This is interesting in particular, because it succeeds so well in overthrowing the general idea of the “Running the World” section of “The Lessons of LucasArt’s Habitat”, exercising a designed system approach, but with such a vast quantity of available options that it feels expansive. However, where it fails is in communication and creativity.

“Our approach, then, is not even to attempt this, but instead to use the computational medium to augment the communications channels between real people.” (The Lessons of LucasArt’s Habitat)

WoW does not enhance the communication channel between people. It provides a way to chat among individuals out of pure necessity and ignores the fact that communication can be much more deep and complex than what the game allows. Beyond this, it does not provide individuals with many ways to tailor the game, with ironclad rules regarding modification of the game. As Taylor discusses “ There at times seems to be an uneasy relationship with all these add-ons and what constitutes legitimate action in the game world. The line between simply improving the UI and cheating or creating unfair advantage can be tricky.” While this can be considered fair in one way (ie, producing a game which players consider all individuals on an equal footing), it is also rather draconian, reminiscent of the powers wielded by wizards back in the early days of MOO’s.

Alternatively, SecondLife embraces almost a complete opposite of this. Rules and creation are strictly within the realm of the player. Powers of flight which are heavily limited in games such as WoW (must reach a certain level and spend a large amount of gold) are available immediately upon arrival in the game. You can create new items, vehicles, pets…just about anything you can think of, leading to the sort of player production Pearce speaks about (Productive Play). And other people can buy them…for the currency in the game. The unfortunate side of this is how brutally capitalistic the game feels. Walking into an area, you can find yourself being bombarded by advertisements for new avatar additions. Some areas are poorly made, requiring significant rendering time and inspiring lag on even gaming computers. However, the game also feels immersive due to the interactions available. Just as in LamdaMOO, it is fascinating to walk amongst some of the better scenery. I personally was somewhat entranced when my toon lounged down on the back of a lion statue, as I could imagine having him sit there just kind of building a reputation for himself by talking with people passing by. And that is the beauty of virtual worlds. It provides a far more expressive environment than what is available in MMOG’s. However, at the same time, it can be dull. There just are not enough activities available to really entertain. And lacking a good conversation, it becomes hard to justify just wandering about, as there are no real goals present.

So the question comes down to who has the power in all of this. And who should have the power to create? The developers or the players themselves? This harkens back to discussions within the MOO community, regarding governmental architectures. In games such as LamdaMOO, all power originally rested within the purvey of a few high level programmers. However, these programmers eventually grew weary of arbitrating every dispute and handed down a form of democracy to the players for altering the world. WoW definitively rests as more similar to the early form of the MOO, while SecondLife harkens to the democratic notions. In some ways, I believe that the first provides for a better game experience. The world is more tightly constrained, but a player can expect a certain level of quality. Forms of interaction are limited, but those necessary to the game are well implemented. SecondLife however, is not so much about the game experience. It is about interacting with others. And it provides this societal construct well. However, it also runs significantly higher risk of incidents, such as those described in the Bungle affair. (Dibbell)

In short, I believe that there is room in this world for both of these forms of virtual environment to grow and thrive. They each fulfill a very different role and it is up to the player to choose which design fits them better.

 

Works Cited:

  • Curtis, P. “Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities.” https://w2.eff.org/Net_culture/MOO_MUD_IRC/curtis_mudding.article
  • Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” http://www.juliandibbell.com/articles/a-rape-in-cyberspace/
  • Farmer, R. & Morningstar, C. (1990/1991) “The Lessons of LucasArts Habitat.” http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html
  • Pearce, C. (2007). “Narrative Environments from Disneyland to World of Warcraft.” In Space, Time, Play: Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level. Friedrich von Borries, Steffan P. Walz, and Matteas Bottger (eds). Basel: Birkhauser. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceSpaceTimePlay.pdf
  • Pearce, C. (2006). “Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up.” Games & Culture. Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2006. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceGC-Jan06.pdf
  • Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1996.tb00185.x/
  • Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol. 9, No.1, 21-46, Spring 2003. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf
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Fantasy settings have dominated MMOG. As Pearce states, “the vast majority of online role-playing games have been and continue to be based on or inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-55). Peopled with elves, dwarves, orcs and all manner of fantastical monsters, these virtual worlds rival Disneyland in both scale and audience” (202). As a result, games that break out of this setting are often praised for their innovative approach. The Secret World, an MMORPG released in 2012, is set apart from its fellow MMORPGs by its setting, its choice to eschew the dungeons and dragons theme. “What makes this massively multi-player game so unusual? It’s the setting, at least in part. The Secret World occurs in a off-kilter version of our own planet: in New England, you learn of a league of new monster slayers; in Egypt, cultists worship ancient gods and sand creatures roam the desert” (Gamespot). An IGN reviewer mentions “…after years of playing MMOs more or less on autopilot, I was suddenly in uncharted territory” (IGN).

Pearce’s Narrative Environments makes clear that these settings and their affordances play an important part in shaping the behaviors of individuals players and the community as a whole. Indeed, narrative environments have existed long before virtual environments — narrative space is not new, nor is it an aberration of 20th-century capitalism and commercialism. In fact, architecture has functioned as a narrative medium for millennia” (200). However, unlike the narrative environments guests experience when they visit theme parks (undoubtably one of the more expensive, centrally planned instances of narrative environments), “players are not simply spectators, but rather take the roles of elves and orcs fully engaged with the narrative and conflicts of the game” (203). For example, ” the Internet, in its various forms, presents us with a technology that is somehow inherently democratic or liberating” (25). As a result, these environments are host to players who are inexorably attached to their virtual representations. As Dibbell states, “Ludicrously excessive by RL’s lights, woefully understated by VR’s, the tone of exu’s response made sense only in the buzzing, dissonant gap between them” (Dibbell).

MUDs, for example, based on textual descriptions alone, allow more agency for users when creating their characters. As Curtis states, “Aside from conversation, MUD players can most directly express themselves in three ways: by their choice of player name, by their choice of gender, and by their self-description” (Curtis). Gender is a prime example: “Initially, MUD players appear to be neuter; automatically-generated messages that refer to such a player use the family of pronouns including `it’, `its’, etc. Players can choose to appear as a different gender, though, and not only
male or female. On many MUDs, players can also choose to be plural (appearing to be a kind of `colony’ creature: “ChupChups leave the room, closing the door behind them”), or to use one of several sets of gender-neutral pronouns (e.g.,
`s/he’, `him/her’ and `his/her’, or `e’, `em’ and `sir’)” (Curtis).

On the other hand, Playstation Home, for example, carries numerous constraints due to its design and the platform its hosted on. Originally planned to be released upon the inauguration of the Playstation 3, the Playstation Home project was delayed for several years. Upon release, players were introduced to a virtual space for socialization; its designers focused on cultivating a community centered around the Playstation brand and related Sony media products, such as upcoming film releases, etc. Part of the constraints of interacting with a virtual world via a console is a lack of a physical keyboard; although players could connect a usb keyboard, many players communicated via the on-screen keyboard or the environment’s provided prompts. As a result, communication in Playstation Home progressed at a slower rate than that of other virtual environments. Additionally, utterances shared between players tended to be of shorter lengths. How these change in affordances affected player behavior is difficult to say — its clear that these considerations inexorably affect player experience and – as text communication is of upmost importance when crafting community experiences – the nature of the Playstation Home community as a whole.

As a result, the boundary between these virtual behaviors and real-world consequences become blurry. As Morningstar and Farmer state, “is an Avatar an extension of a human being (thus entitled to be treated as you would treat a real person) or a Pac-Man-like critter destined to die a thousand deaths or something else entirely? Is Habitat murder a crime? Should all weapons be banned? Or is it all just a game?”

Lambda Moo presents an interesting case of laws emerging in virtual worlds, presenting an elaborate system of arbiters and punishments they can doll out. As Mnoonkin states, “LambdaMOO’s arbitration system is staffed by volunteers; participants who have been a member of the community for at least four months may offer their services. Every member of LambdaMOO is bound by the arbitration system, including wizards”.

Pearce illustrates the differences between MMOG and virtual worlds, where virtual worlds allow for a more diverse culture of creativity, divorced from the more directed play of MMOGs: “the trend in consumer-production represents a fundamental inversion of the capitalist/industrial media production/broadcast model that has dominated western culture for at least a century—it it the media snake eating its own head” (Pearce). Of course, these virtual worlds can include game-like aspects as well. Morningstar and Farmer discuss the nature of their environment and the difficulty of creating content, especially in judging the appropriate amount of resources to pour into the development. “It took us hours to design, weeks to build (including a 100-region island), and days to coordinate the actors involved. It was designed much like the puzzles in an adventure game. We thought it would occupy our players for days. In fact, the puzzle was solved in about 8 hours by a person who had figured out the critical clue in the first 15 minutes. Many of the players hadn’t even had a chance to get into the game” (Morningstar et al.).

  • Curtis, P. “Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities.” https://w2.eff.org/Net_culture/MOO_MUD_IRC/curtis_mudding.article
  • Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” http://www.juliandibbell.com/articles/a-rape-in-cyberspace/
  • Farmer, R. & Morningstar, C. (1990/1991) “The Lessons of LucasArts Habitat.” http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html
  • Pearce, C. (2007). “Narrative Environments from Disneyland to World of Warcraft.” In Space, Time, Play: Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level. Friedrich von Borries, Steffan P. Walz, and Matteas Bottger (eds). Basel: Birkhauser. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceSpaceTimePlay.pdf
  • Pearce, C. (2006). “Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up.” Games & Culture. Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2006. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceGC-Jan06.pdf
  • Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1996.tb00185.x/
  • Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol. 9, No.1, 21-46, Spring 2003. http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf
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What’s the difference?

Posted by aatmadja3 on Tuesday Apr 15, 2014 Under Blogpost Assignments, The Social Life of Networked Play

Honestly, when I read the prompt for this blogpost, I’ve tried so hard to start formulating some key points about the differences between MMOG such as Final Fantasy XIV or Ragnarok Online with virtual world such as Second Life. Both genre of the games deals with the world that’s happening inside our computers, with us getting represented as avatars with new looks, names, and identity — representations that can be as similar to as what we are in real life or completely different if we choose so. Even if I try to analyze it from the technical perspective, the architectural design for the games of both genres are quite similar: they’re object-oriented (like most of modern programs out there are), relies heavily on communication bandwidth, need to be easily expandable vs. centralized pre-planning, and the fact that developers need to build the system such that it won’t trust anyone that access it, otherwise it’ll be prone to get abused by the players, just like what’s written by Morningstar and Farmer when they summed up their experience with Lucasfilm’s Habitat.

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EVE Online and Second Life are two Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG’s) that, despite the fact that they share some similarities as MMORPG’s, the design choices that were made by the game creators make them wildly different. These differences further effect how players interact in the game space, not only be what interactions are possible, but by what new interactions players are able to create in the game context.

Second Life is an MMORPG centered on social interaction and creativity that is driven by user-created content. After creating and customizing a character, players are encouraged to manipulate the world around them. This first trait,  that of user-driven world building, forges a stronger relationship and sense of ownership between the player and the world they inhabit. In Narrative Environments, Pearce makes this point similarly. She writes, “[i]n these worlds, players are not merely citizens of someone else’s fantasy world, but actually have a hand in constructing the fantasy themselves. I term this ‘productive play.” This productive play is not so much the case for other games, like EVE for instance, where customization is the only way to shape the game space in a more direct fashion than simply interacting with others and the built in game mechanics. In Second Life, users can even script various actions and interactions to further bend the design choices given to them by the creators of the game. This definitely exhibits their role in “constructing the fantasy themselves.” According to another reading from this week, you could even say, quite literally, that “players themselves drive the direction of the design” in Second Life (Farmer).

EVE Online is also a player-driven MMORPG like Second Life, but has a different set of mechanics, values and design choices that make the player interactions and relationships entirely different from those forged in Second Life. In EVE characters operate a spaceship to travel, trade, and interact in a futuristic space setting. EVE’s mechanics are simple – players travel and have an in-game profession that allows them to have certain interactions and hone their class skills. What is lacking in EVE, in my opinion, is more of the human element that appears in Second Life. From what little I played, it seems like I would be spending a rather large amount of time looking at my console and watching my ship fly around through space, entirely alone. While this isolation may be a characteristic of a game at some point, it seems to violate my ability to role-play with others. I feel like, as far as I was able to play, there was little I could do to advance my self-assigned class, and engage in what Taylor calls “various identity performance and corresponding forms of play.”  While I was able to “construct identities which may or may not correlate to their offline persona” in both games, I feel as though, in the short run, EVE failed to deliver on giving me the full interaction and range of behavior to fulfill my desired persona (Taylor, Multiple Pleasures). While this may be an emphasis on the freedom to roam the depths of space and have to seek out humans, as you conceivably would in the first place, it still strikes me as odd. In Intentional Bodies, perhaps Taylor would disagree with my thoughts, reminding me “there is a fundamental fact that worlds are generally designed with something in mind.” Furthermore, much like the titular virtual assault in A Rape in Cyberspace, EVE is unexpectedly rampant with players intentionally stealing or killing other players (by means of NPCs). This I believe, is an unexpected interaction and social norm that has arisen, unintended by the game’s creators

Both games clearly chose the multiplayer platform for a reason as part of the design process. At the very least, the question of creating believable NPC’s comes to mind. For Farmer, no one “knows how to produce an automation that even approaches the complexity of a real human being, let alone a society. Our approach, then, is not even to attempt this, but instead to use the computational medium to augment the communications channels between real people.” In this instance, we are more concerned with the interaction and communication, and perhaps rely more on what can be related to another player. Perhaps this is why EVE can get away with what seems to be a fairly isolated social space, despite the fact that you can connect with other players, without the “in person” feel of Second Life. I suppose that, were you in this futuristic setting, this would be much of what the real experience would be like to you. In either case, both games both take from reality and miss the mark at the same time. Dibbels writes “[w]hat happens inside a MUD-made world is neither exactly real not exactly make-believe, but nonetheless profoundly, compellingly, and emotionally true.” This can be said for both the representation and the relationships and experiences that we take away.

While I was unable to forge any relationships in either game, it is well known that players often form meaningful relationships in the game space. Taylor cites that “chatting, connecting with other people, forming relationships and maintaining them are all aspects of the interpersonal pleasure MMORPGs afford and multiuser games have benefited by drawing in this component of online life.” This would make quite a bit of sense in both games, as certain missions in EVE require banding with other characters, and Second Life operates on the fact that you may want to interact with other players at any given time, much like in life itself.

Curtis, P. “Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities.” Electronic Frontier Foundation. Xerox Parc. Web. 12 Apr 2014. http://www.eff.org/Net_culture/MOO_MUD_IRC/curtis_mudding.article

Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” Julian Dibbell Dot Com. Julian Dibbell, n.d. Web. 12 Apr 2014. http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle.html

Farmer, Randall & Morningstar, Chip (1990/1991) “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat.” Fudco. MIT Press, n.d. Web. 7 Apr 2014. http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html

Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol2/issue1/lambda.html

Taylor, T.L. (2003. “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol, No.1, 21-46, Spring 2003.http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf

Taylor, T.L. (2003. “International Bodies: Virtual Environments and the Designers Who Shape Them.” International Journal of Engineering Education 19, no.1.www.itu.dk/~tltaylor/papers/Taylor-Designers.pdf

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Both Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOGs) and virtual worlds have grown in popularity over the past decade. However, it is a mistake to assume these two forms of virtual space are identical. While both offer players an interactive environment, there are significant differences in both how players interact with each other and with the game world itself. In turn, these interactions influence player behavior. In this post, I will draw from the readings to try to pinpoint the major differences between the two forms and analyze how player behavior is affected by these differences. To assist in my comparison of these two forms of virtual space, I will be using the MMOG Guild Wars 2 and the virtual world of Neopets. For the sake of this post, games and virtual worlds will refer to two different things, despite the fact that there is significant overlap between the two. The distinction is that games are goal-oriented and have a clear sense of progression while virtual worlds are less goal-driven and focus on creating a world which players can explore or interact with.

Guild Wars 2 is an MMO role playing game (MMORPG) set in the world of Tyria. The player assists in the re-birth of the guild Destiny’s Edge, which was dedicated to fighting the Elder Dragons who wreak havoc upon the land. Guild Wars 2 is driven by players interacting with local events that affect the environment rather than one linear story (though a linear overarching story is present). On the other hand, Neopets is a browser-based virtual world where players create and care for virtual pets. They can buy virtual items, play games, and interact with other players on forums. The world within Neopets is called Neopia, which is divided into different areas which have unique themes. While the main goal is to care for your pets, Neopets is largely driven by player interaction.

Both of these spaces were created to provide an environment that would foster player interaction. In this sense, they follow Morningstar and Farmer’s ideas of what a cyberspace should be: “a multi-user environment” that is focused mainly on “interactions among the actors within it”. This also follows with what Pearce describes in Narrative Environments about how games create spaces where users can “enter simultaneously [to] share an entertaining experience”. She continues by considering the design of each of these spaces and finding that many deal with the idea of creating an “illusion of authenticity” which attempts to immerse the player in a different world. This sentiment is shared by Taylor who discusses how “software and design shapes the world in advance of the user’s arrival”. To this extent, the impression is given that developers play an active role in shaping the environment to foster immersion, the idea of identity and social responsibility, and legitimacy (Taylor). It seems as though the biggest difference is that in video game spaces there is an emphasis on creating an environment that reacts to players and perhaps forces some social interaction whereas virtual worlds worry more on purely the player interaction.

Taylor would argue that the purpose of games is to encourage players to form and maintain relationships but when comparing games to virtual worlds the difference is shown in the types of relationships that form. In games such as Guild Wars 2, which require player collaboration for certain areas (bosses, dungeons, puzzles) the community seems to be much more accepting of different types of players and identities, simply because player worth is based more on ability and competency within the game rather than personality (game or real life). However, in games like Neopets which do not require any player collaboration, players have the option to be more selective in whom they choose to interact with. Also, because there is more of a focus on socializing for the sake of socializing, players tend to attempt to wrestle personal details from each other. In many cases, this inquiry turns into harassment, especially toward female-presenting accounts and characters (Curtis). In many cases they are challenged to prove that they are female as if there is more required to being female than simply choosing to identify as such.

Gender identity in virtual spaces is an interesting subject. On one hand, as mentioned above, female characters and players tend to experience much more harassment and challenges than males. However, as Mnookin points out, the anonymity of the internet allows players to present themselves in different ways without having to worry about the same type of consequences that doing so in real life could produce. This encourages experimentation and adaptation of one’s identities (Mnookin). In many cases, games and virtual worlds both allow players the ability to customize their character (within certain limitations). For many people, including myself, this virtual space allows players to explore different presentations, which lead to different types of social interactions. I agree with Taylor that “diversity in all its forms is better than any kind of monastic or singular representation” because in the real world there is so much diversity that could be reflected in games and virtual spaces that is sadly missing. To this point, Morningstar and Farmer note that “a real system […] is going to be used by real people” and that these spaces can provide a medium for change “only if it begins with humanity as it really is”. Currently, there are few games that give a true representation to the many different identities expressed in the real world.

There are those who claim that games and virtual spaces provide no significant value to society at large, that play is simply for the sake of play. However, as Pearce points out in Productive Play, we should “question the assumption that games and play are unproductive”. While the primary goal for these spaces is to provide a place for and facilitate social interaction and play, they are one of the best platforms to discuss and challenge social norms. As Curtis notes, “certain attributes of this virtual place […] tend to have significant effects on social phenomena, leading to new mechanisms and modes of behavior not usually seen ‘IRL’ (in real life).” While sometimes these affordances allow players to commit atrocities such as those discussed in the Dibbell reading, many times these players are ultimately held accountable for their actions by the community at large or in game moderators. Whether or not their punishment is fitting for their offenses will not be discussed at this time but it raises the question of how accountable people can be held in real life for their online actions.

In many cases, developers and builders work tirelessly to try to allow equal freedom of expression to all players, though there is a concern that many times the execution is not nearly as successful as they intend. There is some discourse over whether or not trying to level the playing field between different groups of players actually achieves this goal. I would argue that it does not and agree very much with Taylor that:

“The idea that colour-blindness (or in this case gender-blindness) can simply be achieved through discounting the power (or value) of these categories can be risky. Indeed the ability to even suggest such a position can often only be taken by those who aren’t’ subjected to its force and weight. The rhetorical effect is that issues pertaining to gender and race get taken off the table as areas to be articulated, debated, and confronted”

To this end, I think developers could take a much more active role in bringing light to these social issues and creating a space that encourages the safe discussion of such topics. For example, Guild Wars 2 is known for being one of the most accepting and open-minded MMORPG communities and I attribute this to the fact that they actively try to include different kinds of representation in their game: NPCs that are of different sexual orientations, genders (and not just male/female),and body types. They actively encourage players to be different and unique and I think many other spaces would do well to follow in their footsteps.

 

Works Cited

Curtis, P. “Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities.” <https://w2.eff.org/Net_culture/MOO_MUD_IRC/curtis_mudding.article>

Dibbell, Julian. (1993/1998). “A Rape in Cyberspace.” <http://www.juliandibbell.com/texts/bungle.html>

Farmer, R. & Morningstar, C. (1990/1991) “The Lessons of LucasArts Habitat.” <http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html>

Mnookin, J. (1996) Virtual(ly) “Law: The Emergence of Law in LambdaMOO.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Volume 2, Number 1: Part 1 of a Special Issue, June, 1996. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1996.tb00185.x>

Pearce, C. (2007). “Narrative Environments from Disneyland to World of Warcraft.” In Space, Time, Play: Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level. Friedrich von Borries, Steffan P. Walz, and Matteas Bottger (eds). Basel: Birkhauser. <http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceSpaceTimePlay.pdf>

Pearce, C. (2006). “Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up.” Games & Culture. Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2006. <http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/PearceGC-Jan06.pdf>

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Intentional Bodies: Virtual Environments and the Designers Who Shape Them.” International Journal of Engineering Education 19, no. 1. <www.itu.dk/~tltaylor/papers/Taylor-Designers.pdf>

Taylor, T.L. (2003). “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming,” Convergence, Vol. 9, No.1, 21-46, Spring 2003. <http://lcc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/CourseReadings/TaylorMultiplePleasures.pdf>

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