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Mar 12, 2004



I'm actually very happy that smart people are turning their attention to games from the perspective of "Why are they fun" and trying to understand all aspects of them.

It has really pained me to see the huge stretches of time between releases of original gameplay and the reluctance to try out new ideas.

It really bugged me when I read Bing Gordon's assertion that tomorrow's game platforms will have "8GB of memory". I deem it correct, and I'm sure by the time we have 8GB of memory on our machines/consoles about 5-6 years down the road, the processing speed of those machines will be equivalent to a Pentium 4 at 30GHz. What Gordon did not seem to say is what he was going to use that for, or *how* he planned to leverage it. All the computing power in the world is useless unless you can harness it properly.
An article came out a few months ago where they noted that today's Palm PDAs have more computing power than that which was used to put a man on the moon. Impressive, but what that says to me is that to put a man on the moon you do not need massive computing power, you need human qualities at work. The same applies here. My future GameBoy Ultra++, to be released in 2010, will have more computing power than my bank's mainframe, but that is not what is needed to provide a fun experience - Human creativity, ingenuity, courage, drive and brains is what needs to be there.

Going back to what makes me so happy smart people are looking at games is simply because they're going to be needed, or the games are going to be just the same thing we had twenty years earlier but with Pixar-quality graphics. Nice, but "is it fun?"


>One thing I wonder about (or, more accurately, that I'm continuing to wonder about) is this: how much can game studies tell us about virtual world studies?

Mindful that any inter-disciplinary discussion can easily turn into one where you light the blue touch paper and stand well back…

I think there is a huge amount of overlap here; indeed I’m not sure I would want to separate Virtual World studies from Game Studies at this point.

VW’s can be plotted on a ludic axis with social worlds at one end and heavily puzzle based MUDs or levelling intense MMORGPs at the other. In this respect there are greater similarities between traditional games / computer games and VWs at the more ludic end.

But I think that there the similarities between VWs and other computer games are so strong that at this point we need to learn as much as we can from each other.

For instance I think that things like TL’s Sopranos paper highlights interesting extra-game social stuff that has parallels with the way that people relate to each other over single player games: comparing scores, swapping games, swapping cheats, talking about games etc. That is, the social function of games seems important what ever type of game you are looking at. Also I think that the deeper psychological stuff that Sutton-Smith etc talks about crosses all types of game and social worlds. Social Worlds require a similar suspension of disbelieve and investment of value into stuff that seems to be to be common to this type of practice.

In thinking about this I had a look at the Games Studies bibliography on my web site http://www.ren-reynolds.com/bibliography.htm and its not easy to find ‘games studies’ papers here that someone interested in Virtual Worlds could not get something out of.


Greg> I was going to post a recap of the Princeton Conference on Form, Culture, and Videogames organized by Dexter Palmer and Roger Bellin.

Can the papers / presentations be downloaded from anywhere?


Ren> But I think that there the similarities between VWs and other computer games are so strong that at this point we need to learn as much as we can from each other.

Yes, I guess that's where I come out too. MMORPG devs today generally think they are making games, and those who subscribe generally think they're playing games. And VW researchers generally seem to be interested in computer games generally -- and there are many similarities. My hesitation is that (for obvious reasons) I don't see social MUDs or Second Life as primarily games.

Ren> Can the papers / presentations be downloaded from anywhere?

No, not as a group. Some of the authors may have the papers on their sites. Unfortunately, Nick Monfort just de-posted his "Combat in Context" paper.


>My hesitation is that (for obvious reasons) I don't see social MUDs or Second Life as primarily games.

Hence my reference to TL – not all Games Researchers see games just as games, they see them a part of a wider set of social practices. Thus I think that there are things to learn from, say, researchers who look at social groups that use computer mediated communications. For example I learnt a lot from going to a session at AoIR last year on internet communities – OK as well as learning some things about general research methods and theories of community I also learnt that apart from the few Gamer types that snuck into the room no one else seemed to be aware of anything beyond web communities and email lists – so given that VWs are pretty much on the edge of a whole number of areas I think that this community has a lot to give other by mixing with them.

OK, so it was fun when I heard that that the reason that internet communities were not _real_ communities because there was no fixed sense of place etc – and I got to stick my hand up and go: ‘Er have you heard of….’

Oh, and i'm not denying that there is a lot of very specific work to be done in VWs right down to looking at the specifics of any given VW or a sub-set of players therein, its just not and very very much should not be and either or.

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