World of Warcraft is the New Golf.

So, Cory was right.   World of Warcraft is not only the new golf, but there are country clubs forming.

Take a look at this.

Given my own very positive experiences in continuing and developing real-life relationships online, I'm not at all surprised to see the growth of organizations intended to foster not only entertainment oriented play, but also the growth of real-world social groups.

Tell that to your spouse the next time she / he claims you're wasting your time online!


Comments on World of Warcraft is the New Golf.:

Joshua Fairfield says:

Hmm. The URL link didn't work so well. Here it is for copy-and-pasters.

http://news.com.com/power+lunching+with+wizards+and+warriors/2100-1043_3-6039669.html

Posted Feb 15, 2006 11:08:10 AM | link

Edward Castronova says:

Interesting, I'm having the experience that I like people a little bit less after playing with them. It's like "Wow, if that is their choice of gameplay styles, if that's what they are into, it feels like that says something about their long-term professional potential."

And then I catch myself and ask, is that fair at all? Like if someone gets into PvP ganking, which I think of as kind of a twitchy, low-brain, and actually pretty rude and almost childish way to be in the world, how do I keep that assessment from affecting the way I read a tenure case or a paper proposal? Or should I? Maybe that's good information. You know, I've found that Person A does a good job leading raids, but Person B just loves open-level PvP. Different brains for different kinds of jobs, right?

Or wrong? In respect of the magic circle - am I learning details of someone's personality that are actually so intimate that I should try to ignore them? Makes me think, you should actually NOT play WoW with colleagues, for the same reason you shouldn't sleep with them (and only drink a little): you learn things that, ethically speaking, it's better not to know.

"That guy can't manage his aggro...do I approve his budget request or not???"

Posted Feb 15, 2006 12:22:21 PM | link

Alan says:

Ted makes a good point. In every pick-up group (PUG) I've ever joined or formed, I always draw some conclusions about the other group/raid members (or even guilds), at least connoting some level of competence or incompetence with at least one other player. Depending on the conclusion, I mentally file away whether this is a player I would actively seek or actively avoid for future groups and encounters. I know other players very often do the same. Way back when a friend and I actively formed PUGs on a regular basis, we both earned good reputations for the groups/raids we formed, leading to many repeat participants and an overall good reputation in general.

However, even given such information gathering and reputation forming, I think that given the relatively limited environment within which these take place there will currently be relatively little benefit or harm reaped from them. That is, there will currently be relatively little benefit or harm unless a substantial portion of a real-world business group actively interacts in the gaming environment on a regular basis. Until the conduct rises to a substantial enough level, the in-game conclusions will not reach far enough into the real world to significantly affect real-world interactions.

Not to say you shouldn't be a nice or good gamer, just that right now it probably won't hurt you too much if you're not.

This is probably very similar to message board posting. Does a reputation based on message board posts translate into real-world consequences/reputation? Sometimes it can, assuming non-anonymity and depending on what is posted. More likely and more often it probably does not.

Posted Feb 15, 2006 12:49:41 PM | link

Chip Hinshaw says:

I agree: the more I play online, the more cynical of people I become. Maybe I was raised in a bubble, but I've been in many online worlds, and though I find many delightful people in these worlds the number of unpleasant people I encounter just amplifies my sense that the world is full of jerks. It's true that we are more sensitive to bad experiences than good ones (except for GREAT experiences), and as a society (in the U.S. at least) we are conditioned, as a professor at NU told me, to "catch people in the act of doing bad, and never look to catch people in the act of doing something good." So, the unpleasant experiences will (and I doubt I'm saying anything new here) resonant with us more intensely and longer than good experiences.

Now, this is just as easily a reflection on me as it may be on "not me". So, we gravitate toward like-minded individuals and, in a place where the design is to bring the masses together, we resort to segregating ourselves. Says something about human nature?

Posted Feb 15, 2006 2:02:19 PM | link

Chip Hinshaw says:

To complete my thought (sorry, didn't cutnpaste the whole thing):

I just find it intriguing that we seem to always be trying to find ways to exclude others (or ourselves?) even when we are throwing ourselves into the frontier.

Posted Feb 15, 2006 2:32:06 PM | link

Michael Chui says:

People are naturally idiotic, immature, etc. Some people call this the legacy of being animals. Calvin called it absolute depravity. There are a thousand schoolchild theories on the subject, hundreds by various philosophers, religious leaders, and demagogues over the millenia. We all know it intuitively.

The more I interact with people, online or offline, the more I am disgusted with them. Offline, people tend to have an extra level of communication to bombard you with: maybe they're good-looking, so you excuse them. Or they have a honeyed tongue. Or they act like someone you actually do admire. Or they use a perfume or cologne that actually does appeal to you.

None of this is transmitted through a virtual environment (as of now), and we get back that old great thing about MUDs: everyone's playing field gets leveled much more effectively. More importantly, nearly everything can be assumed to be a mostly intentional expression. So, assuming that people really are basically bad, of course you will find that most people are idiots.

What that means is that you should start expecting the negative qualities from everyone, and instead focus on discovering the positive qualities. Their foolishnesses are noise - it's expected, it's nothing special; but their triumphs - like the above example of a good raid leader - indicate signal: this is someone we should take a better look at! She might be a good fit.

When Richard (Bartle) first published DVW, it amused me to see that he says "Oh dear, we don't have an Ultimate Boon." On the message boards, I talked about what this boon could be. I theorized that a developer could sign off on an individual's capability, effectively giving them a letter of recommendation.

This sounds like a better version of that mechanic.

Posted Feb 15, 2006 2:45:46 PM | link

Liz Lawley says:

My experience, as a relatively new to WoW player who started playing only because real-world colleagues encouraged her to, has been quite different from Ted's. I find myself liking people more after playing with them--perhaps because in both of the guilds I play in, there's a significant amount of bootstrapping assistance that more experienced members have provided to me. I suppose I could find things to dislike about people's playstyles if that was what I wanted to do, but I'd have to work harder at that than I do at finding things I like about their online characters.

As to the effect this has on my choices in RL contexts--I think it's a good thing. I'm reminded of the oft-quoted Plato line "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

Much as we may try, we really can't completely compartmentalize the various facets of our social lives. The liminal spaces are expanding, the gated spaces are contracting. My kids play in a WoW guild with me--the same guild that's referenced in the news story you link to. The parents of their friends read my blog. We're all starting to have to learn how to manage the complexity of relationships that cross contexts in these ways.

Posted Feb 15, 2006 4:12:52 PM | link

Cherian Mathew says:

>None of this is transmitted through a virtual environment (as of now), and we get back that old great thing about MUDs: everyone's playing field gets leveled much more effectively.

I think this may be mostly true. Although in my experience though, we just swap one filter in judging people with another. When our interaction with others is through text then we're likely judged on our ability to communicate through text which is far from being a uniformly skill. A lot of people I know who are very likable and gregarious in RL end up being muted, strangely quiet\serious versions of their RL selves.

Similarly, if it's text and the actions of your avatar, say, then perhaps that's the filter with which we're judged and through which we pass judgement (consciously or not). Some of the cues that are available to us in RL are missing (while new ones are added).

But an interesting thread... a colleague at work has been bugging me to renew my WoW subscription, and now I have to think twice ;)

Cherian

Posted Feb 15, 2006 4:45:35 PM | link

Cherian Mathew says:

> being a uniformly skill

err.. see what I mean?
meant to say uniformly distributed skill.

Cherian

Posted Feb 15, 2006 4:48:48 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

Michael Chui> People are naturally idiotic, immature, etc... The more I interact with people, online or offline, the more I am disgusted with them.

Michael -- I'm not sure if you're being ironic/sarcastic and or hyperbolic. And I'm also not sure, if you're being straightforward, if you'd be including yourself in the class of immature, disgusting idiots.

Either way, I disagree with you big lots.

I've found that roleplaying tends to "allow" all kinds of behaviors, both online and off, that are otherwise unallowable or disagreeable. Which is one of the main points of roleplaying, neh? I've never killed a person, but I've killed thousands (maybe millions) of fictional beings in games. I've also indulged in all kinds of other moral depravity and questionable behavior... virtually. Remotely. Through my characters. And, on the flip side, I have done things of remarkable character, heroism and fortitude beyond that which I would be able to bear in real life.

The difference between golf and WoW is that while both are games, golf is not roleplaying. You can do some acting, asskissing, pretense, etc. And some of those things are replicable in an RP environment and have some relevance there. But I can't "fake" being a good golfer. I can't ask you to pretend to believe that I'm better than I am. You can give me a handicap, sure... but (unless we share some really good drugs), we can't share a fantasy that my bad slice really did go onto the fairway. Golf, while a game... is real.

What else about golf that is "real" and that can't be faked is important, and that can't be replicated in an online environment? Currently, I'd say, much of the physical/social elements, although that's getting better all the time, and will probably (sooner or later) catch up online. Golf requires more physical skills, gaming more mental. Golf is an outdoors thing, gaming indoors. Golf is more expensive (usually).

OK. So they're different. What does that mean?

It means, if you're going to use your time in WoW to judge someone in terms of any other activity... make it make sense. If you want to know if somebody in your guild whom you've never met will make a good babysitter? Whoops. Probably I'd prefer to play a couple rounds of golf with somebody in order to make that decision. But if I wanted to know whether or not to partner with somebody on a writing project or long-term IT type deal-i-o... give me a chance to group with them in WoW.

It's all about context.

And, BTW, I like people. I've met lots of nice, smart, friendly, funny folks both in RL and online. But that's because, I believe, that's what I expect going into relationships, and what I dole out.

Call me Polyanna, if you like.

Posted Feb 15, 2006 5:24:10 PM | link

Chip Hinshaw says:

Andy Havens>I've found that roleplaying tends to "allow" all kinds of behaviors, both online and off, that are otherwise unallowable or disagreeable.

But there's a fine line between roleplaying evil (or, at least, mischevious) and using RP as an excuse--pardon my language--to be a dick. In my experience, and in the experience of many others I'm sure, that line is crossed so often that it becomes hard to buy into the "oh, I'm just roleplaying" claim.

Posted Feb 15, 2006 7:08:10 PM | link

Michael Chui says:

I'm not sure if you're being ironic/sarcastic and or hyperbolic. And I'm also not sure, if you're being straightforward, if you'd be including yourself in the class of immature, disgusting idiots.

Slightly hyperbolic, but I commonly analyze myself and find that I am disgusted by my own immaturity and idiocy. And I think everyone is this, but most people also work to better themselves; I certainly do, and make what progress I do. The more progress one makes -- and there's hardly a non-intuitive way to measure that -- the more positive qualities show up in the personality, as opposed to negative ones. In real-life, people have long learned how to wipe out how obvious their negative displays are, and maximize their positive displays. I have a slightly adjusted metric for such things (I look for different things), and thus my experience with this altered metric is that people don't cater to it, and thus they don't impress me.

Although in my experience though, we just swap one filter in judging people with another.

Yes, we do, but because it's newer, most people don't know how to game that filter yet. In real-life, people have been learning to cater to that for many millenia; they've had time to figure out how to "make friends and influence people".

Now, if you have someone who's spent a lot of time online, who has spent a lot of time in the medium, then it's a lot less useful to expect a "level playing field", socially. In this sense, WoW as golf is no more useful, but still has the same level of usefulness.

The difference between golf and WoW is that while both are games, golf is not roleplaying.

Neither is WoW, really. Roleplaying is this odd idea that I've found thoroughly unfathomable. You can't "fake" being a good raid leader, either. You could buy a level 60 character, but you can't fake being incapable of using it. The fact that you failed to do what the raid leader asked you to do cannot be faked any more than where the golf ball landed. And both say just as much about the person.

Golf requires more physical skills, gaming more mental.

Are you hiring executives because they can walk 18 holes and hit a ball straight, or because they know how to think? If it's the former, then why bother?

No one plays golf in search of a babysitter.

Posted Feb 15, 2006 7:40:43 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

I know that no one plays golf in search of a babysitter. That's what bowling is for. But we're using golf as a metaphor here, right?

And I would hope that nobody would end an interview for any real job with an invitation to either play golf or go raiding in WoW. My point was that different activities reveal different facets of our personalities and skills. Roleplaying is meant, by definition, to mask many aspects of our personalities, whereas lots of people will tell you (rightly or wrongly) that activities like golf, going out for drinks, being on a charity board, being on church committees together, etc., will expose "the real" person.

It's one thing if you are hiring a kid to be in a line-level, new-hire, push-pull-click-clock job in the mailroom. Can you pull the big red lever when the green light comes on? Can you push the cart back and forth? I did my time in food service ("Do you want fries with that?") in HS and college, and the requirements were a pulse, the ability to lift a 25lb crate of frozen meat and enough native wit to put the cheeze on *top* of the burger. It was good, hard, honest, honorable work that some people (some smart people, even) manage to screw up by being lazy, irritable or petty. But nobody would ever suggest that you'd need to take me golfing to figure out if I'm qualified to do it.

Now... being the Chief Marketing Officer for a $100 million company -- which is a job I've also had -- that's a "golf" gig. Again, I don't mean golf literally. Which is good, since I don't golf. But besides being able to show that I had the specific skills for the job, and being able to give good references, the folks who were hiring me for that job -- the executives of the company -- wanted to test me for "unknowns." They were hiring me to do stuff they'd never done before. They were hiring me to market them in ways that they'd never tried. So... how do you test someone in skills you're not sure you know what they are to do things you're not sure you know what you want for results you haven't defined in ways you don't understand?

You "play" together. Like the great quote from Plato, above. That's how you come up with "fuzzy logic" about the person. You do stuff together outside the "box" of the interview, resume and references.

It provides non-specific context. And while you can get that in WoW or another online game -- and in some specific cases, you could probably get more -- we still have a couple million years of physical/social experience built into our genes that give us a leg-up in most real-world situations that don't translate (yet) online. And, as I said, some aspects of roleplaying, and the online experience in particular, are designed to specifically frustrate reality, which would then be a hinderance to the process of "play for understanding."

I've hired more than 20 people over the years, and have interviewed hundreds. I've often wished that, for the most important positions, I could spend some time waiting in an airport with them for a delayed flight. That's when, I've found, you discover some really interesting things about folks. Some people get instantly crabby, bitchy, testy... call it what you will. They complain to the gate crew (who have oh so much to do with the problem itself), other passengers, etc., and make things worse. Other people sleep. Or read. Which is fine. Others, though... they begin to chat with their fellows. They make the best of it. They exchange biz cards or talk about what they're reading or play a crossword puzzle together or share their snacks.

Would I hire or fire somebody because of how they played one game of golf? No. But if I played a couple dozen games of GURPS with somebody over the years, and I had the chance to promote them or not... I sure as hell bet that those experiences would factor into the decision. As would how well they behaved in airports.

Posted Feb 15, 2006 9:53:08 PM | link

Michael Chui says:

So, in other words, WoW is not the next golf because it's too new, and we have working methods from the olden days?

And what makes you say that roleplaying is a process of obfuscation? Roleplaying, in general, starkly pairs off your own personality against an archetype, between which you build a middle ground that is hopefully very realistic and convincing. This is generally far more revealing than disguising: the nature of that middle ground and your perception of the archetype strongly affects the nature of your presented character.

That said, I strongly doubt people in MMORPGs, in general, bother roleplaying beyond archaic speech. You catch the same person in an AIM chat and they're not exactly shockingly distinct. However, that's anecdotal and without knowledge of that general 4 million population of WoW. Listening to Ted talk about it, though, I doubt I'm all that wrong.

Roleplaying has never been about faking things. Roleplaying is an exercise in identity exploration, much like acting. If you're only playing pretend, then you're not learning as much as you could be from the experience.

For instance, I've always amusedly and jokingly told my friends that I was God, for this reason or that. It's an inside joke, really. Naturally, I was intensely interested when I heard about Black & White, where you basically play a god. Recently, I acquired a copy and started fiddling with it. I decided to try being nasty. So I picked up a villager and shook him around. And I immediately felt so terrible about it that I stopped playing. I wasn't even out of the tutorial, and I had discovered that it clashed terribly with my personality to actually be cruel to what I knew were mere minions, good or evil. (Never mind the snide remarks by the villagers about my holiness.)

Roleplaying is no more occluding than being invited to dinner. Now, granted, when you invite the boss to dinner, you're playing a role anyways. And yes, there's disguising. What makes a meal with the boss or a game of golf more revealing than some time in WoW?

What is it about the online experience, about roleplaying, that is so hindering to understanding a person?

Posted Feb 15, 2006 10:51:35 PM | link

Mark Wallace says:

Michael > "What is it about the online experience, about roleplaying, that is so hindering to understanding a person?"

I don't think that's so surprising, given the severely limited means of expression available in an MMO. With a vocabulary of action that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, it should be difficult to draw sound conclusions in much detail.

In my experience, grouping with someone does say a lot about the relationship between me and the people I'm grouped with, however, whether they're guildies or a PUG. But it tells me things that are more like: How well do our skills and playstyles complement each other? Do I expect too much from this person, or not enough? Am I trying to impress this guy I've never met before and will probably never see again, just becuase he's several levels above me? And, importantly, since I tend to play with people I also know and/or have real-life interactions with: Is my real-world relationship with this person affecting how I play in a group with them? I actually find that's often the case and that I'm either cutting them more slack or being more demanding, depending on how I feel about them that day. I also find my expectations of them in-world are often geared to what I know about them in the "real" world -- and that these expectations are sometimes met and sometimes not. In any case, it tends to say more about me than about them.

Ted > "if someone gets into PvP ganking, which I think of as kind of a twitchy, low-brain, and actually pretty rude and almost childish way to be in the world, how do I keep that assessment from affecting the way I read a tenure case or a paper proposal? Or should I?"

How does that square with the circle? (Pardon the pun.) If the real world should be kept from bleeding over into the virtual, shouldn't the virtual be kept out of the real?

Personally, I don't think we can ever really separate the two. But (and perhaps this goes back to the VW taxonomy that's been discussed here), in a world like WoW, which is explicitly meant to be removed from the real, I think it behooves us to keep our in-world judgments in-world, in order to give the people who visit there the greatest opportunity to take advantage of the exploration of identity these place make possible.

Posted Feb 16, 2006 12:51:07 AM | link

Michael Chui says:

In any case, it tends to say more about me than about them.

That's true of any social situation, online or not. Dime con quien tu andas, y te dire quien eres. Tell me whose company you keep, and I will tell you who you are. Spanish. I'm sure there are other such maxims.

I don't think that's so surprising, given the severely limited means of expression available in an MMO. With a vocabulary of action that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, it should be difficult to draw sound conclusions in much detail.

This is going out on a bit of a limb, but unless you're already familiar with someone (in which case it's moot), I find you can't decipher most actions in the real world without some broad assumptions and sweeping generalizations, like "People who slouch when they sit are lazy." I mean, so he slouches. What does that mean?

...nothing, unless you know him well enough to understand it.

I also find my expectations of them in-world are often geared to what I know about them in the "real" world -- and that these expectations are sometimes met and sometimes not.

So far, I've met perhaps four or five people in the real world, and spent significant time with them, after speaking to them online. In some of those cases, the online interaction was insignificant, so we'll discard those. But in the others, the situation was exactly reversed. I wondered if my radically different real-world personality would be expected or shocking.

I'm rather outspoken, you might have noticed, when I'm so inclined. In the real world, if we had had this conversation in a room, I probably would've decided not to say anything quite yet about ten times, because I wouldn't be able to form it quite right, wouldn't be able to communicate it right, would expect to be interrupted before I had made my point, etc.

Indeed, one of my friends, when speaking to my dad, responded that the most surprisingly quality about me was how submissive I was.

This difference says a lot about me, and if you understood why it was so different, you'd gain a lot of roughly accurate information about my personality. I'm personally still learning more and more about what it means. Just that. One needs to train oneself to understand and interpret these differences. I'm working on that; others should, too, rather than just dismissing the differences as noise.

Posted Feb 16, 2006 3:30:51 AM | link

Mark Wallace says:

Michael > "...nothing, unless you know him well enough to understand it."

I'm with you on this and most of what you're saying in that post. However, that's just the point: we can't draw conclusions solely from online behavior. Or at least, I can't. We can certainly factor it in, but I think there are so many mitigating factors that it becomes a smaller part of the signal. I don't think of it as noise.

Posted Feb 16, 2006 4:16:45 AM | link

Joe Pinegar says:

After playing WoW for almost a year, I have two observations about this topic.

First, the range of age and maturity of players in WoW is much greater than the workplace. My guild has at least one 13-YO player and many teenagers. The general comments about people being generally good or bad must be weighed in light of this. Average player behavior isn't particularly applicable to discussions of workplace concepts.

Second, I believe that interacting in WoW can provide the same kind of experience that comes from playing golf together. How a person responds to frustration, how they rise to a challenge, do they adhere to rules without external enforcement, and so on. Unlike golf, playing WoW can also give you insight into a person's team/cooperative behaviors.

I don't think we'll see corporate sponsored guilds forming or anything like company golf leagues, and WoW requires enough time commitment that I don't expect to see salesmen playing WoW with clients. It's too specialized to ever replace golf as a primary business socialization tool, but it certainly appears to be just as valid as golf for judging people's personality.

Posted Feb 16, 2006 8:09:31 AM | link

Steven says:

I play with a guild on Lightning Blade server. Most of the members are employees for Harris Corporation, based in Melbourne, FL. The guild expands by bringing in fellow coworkers who play WoW or have interests in WoW. Secondary growth is done thru friends. There is even a min age requirement in the guild because everyone is above 21. At least once every 4 to 6 months, they have a get together. May not be as "powerful" as "We Know", but the premise is still there.

Posted Feb 16, 2006 5:45:30 PM | link

Joi Ito says:

I'm the GM of "We Know. "We Know" isn't that "powerful". ;-) That's just what ends up being amplified in that particular article. There are a lot of us from the tech industry since we're inviting our friends, but many if not most of the biggest contributors to our guild are not "powerful" in real life or even from the tech industry. The fact that many of us are from the tech industry is a very small part of what I enjoy about our guild and I think it would be rather boring if we didn't have the age, geographic, racial and job diversity that we have now. The most important rule for us is "no jerks allowed." ;-)

Posted Feb 16, 2006 6:35:17 PM | link

Mozai says:

I must strongly disagree with speculation of MMORPGs taking the place of "golf" in social interactions. I believe the reason why golf is such a social networking, and even get-to-know-you-better activity is because of the nature of the activity itself. Playing golf is something that takes an afternoon to do, and it takes you out of the social network of the office (cel phones and pagers on the links are for philistines). When you're not taking your shot, your mind is idle, and the physical exercise loosens you up.

Andy Havens had the right idea: I strongly believe you can find out more about a person when they're not busy doing things, distracted by outside stimuli. Business deals take place because you run out of small talk and chit-chat by the fourth hole.

Inside an MMORPG, the environment is designed to keep your attention engaged as much as possible, and there are distractions of random MOBs or PvPers or guildmates on your contact list calling RFPs (request for party-mates?). You never run out of distractions, you never run out of little fiddly bits to fiddle with, and so you never leave that mental state Bhuddists call the "monkey-mind."

I don't think I need to talk here about the importance of picking up on subconcious body language by spending a couple of hours in someone's real and physical presence -- something that an artificial reality might never approach.

Posted Feb 16, 2006 8:17:12 PM | link

Michael Chui says:

Long post.

Mozai:

Do you mean to say that you always ARE remaining distracted in an MMORPG? You never turn off or ignore the chat channels? You never take the time to step away, to solo?

What you describe is often cited as the reason people in real life are over-stressed; simply because there is a wealth of things to do in an MMORPG does not mean you have to do them all. One of the dev GMs for the game I play once told us that training is not the be all and end all of the game; sometimes you should sit down and socialize with each other.

When WoW was still yet-to-come-out, I was considering whether or not to make it the first MMORPG I would ever experience. I had decided to, even though I had written off its design as silly. My reason? I wanted to sit in Elwynn Forest and listen to the music and appreciate the scenery. (I never did; I came to realize that burning further time and money on a game was simply a luxury I couldn't afford. Maybe one day.)

That's it.

If you look closer at Buddhism, you'll note that you're supposed to achieve a state imitating nirvana, such that the wind of illusion is calmed and you achieve perfect clarity. It is not made impossible by external forces: the goal is to transcend beyond those external forces, by your own, personal impetus, such that you can have tranquility in the busiest and loudest of places. A tranquil environment helps; it does not do it for you. A distraction-rich environment hinders; it does not stop you from achieving it.

I don't think I need to talk here about the importance of picking up on subconcious body language by spending a couple of hours in someone's real and physical presence -- something that an artificial reality might never approach.

Because, of course, we have a perfect understanding of what such things mean. I have a biological anomaly in my tear glands that cause them to overproduce when my eyes are dry, and I am tired. People often think I'm crying when I'm tired; I'm not. Do I really want my boss to think that I have emotional issues when I don't? I think not. I'd rather he had a fuller sense of who I am, which means that I want him to "experience" me in both realities, real and virtual, in a host of settings, from IM to chatrooms to virtual worlds, from a game of golf to tennis to business meetings to project oversight. I want him to correlate my little biological oddity with fatigue, as is accurate, rather than with emotion, which is incorrect. I want him to see that I am outspoken, but not when I feel I don't know what I'm talking about, such that when I become gregarious, it's because what I have to say is important and hopefully worth paying attention to.

When you can measure what you know about a person quantitatively, then you can talk about whether or not one activity reveals a person better or not. Myself, I take a book to airports, because I don't want to talk to other people. I want to catch up on all the reading I haven't gotten around to quite yet. I want to work on the projects I haven't finished yet. If I wanted to talk to people, I'd go to a social. And by Andy Havens' metric, I'm not making the most of my time waiting for the plane to arrive. That's his discretion, of course, and perhaps he needs people who like to meet others everywhere they go. He clearly doesn't need me, therefore.

Perhaps we should dismiss WoW as the next golf. Maybe there will never be a replacement for golf. After all, I'm sure the Scots who invented golf were chatting about land deals by the 4th hole.

There is a lot of presumption going on about the nature of play in MMORPGs, much of which I think is largely invalid. It begins with a denial of the premise of the virtual and its inability to properly mimic real life. This is extended to declaration on the failure of the virtual to create analogies into real life. What it ultimately does, if the poster goes so far, is dismiss the validity of the idea that these environments are non-trivial, which challenges the ludological premise at its very foundation.

I've answered all three of these phases, but to be more explicit:

1. The only reason to mimic real life is so that people are more comfortable in it. The best test of any character is to put it in unfamiliar territory. How do they react? What do they do? Why do they do it? Further, it is arguable that virtual worlds mimic real life TOO well; in other words, the magic circle becomes breached precisely because virtual worlds necessarily require overwhelming real world inputs. (They usually speak English in WoW: there is no England in Azeroth.)

2. Andy Havens' "roleplaying masks the personality" argument epitomizes this. There is an assumption that what happens in the magic circle stays in the magic circle. That's totally false. One's personality always factors into the decisions one makes and the actions one takes. One's personality is further shaped by said actions and decisions, as well as the external influences, which include those that derive from within the magic circle. Ultimately, there's nothing special about virtual worlds deriving solely from their nature as virtual; it is different, of course, but the users are the same. Bob is Bob whether he's learning how to be a good negotiator in a game or on a golf course. This, naturally, percolates down to exactly what Andy says: Make it make sense. You don't examine race choice to decide whether or not you'd like to make a deal with him, unless it's significant (you told him not to be a human, and he snubbed you!)

3. The premise for Terra Nova is precisely that these games are non-trivial. If I have to argue that, here, then there's already no point. Instead, I'll simply point to the years of archives.

There are two separate questions in this thread: (1) Should a person's decisions and actions in a virtual world affect your regard of them outside of it? I say yes. (2) Can an environment such as a virtual world be conducive to the same kind of business conversation that occurs in environments like a golf course during a game? I say it depends on the specific people, but yes, though unlikely.

Posted Feb 16, 2006 9:36:13 PM | link

randolfe_ says:

WoW has not and will not replace golf as the professional networking activity of choice, for one simple reason: outside of a few narrow industry fields, "playing video games" is viewed as an immature, frivolous endeavor. I know this is illogical, especially when juxtaposed to the "legitimate" pastime of prime-time television. But, unless you happen to work in the game industry, for an edgy "young" probably hi-tech firm, or are in certain academic fields, the elder generations will look upon your mere admittance of a "video gaming" hobby as infantile, let alone actually suggesting that your 58 year old [substitute industry archetype here] boss give up the links and instead go "game".

Perhaps in 30 years it will be different. Today, the pronouncement is, at best, premature.

Posted Feb 16, 2006 10:15:02 PM | link

Joi Ito says:

One of the reasons many of my friends like to play golf is to see people under stress. If someone has anxiety or cheats in golf, you should be wary of doing business with them. On the other hand, if people are calm when they play golf and under pressure, it reflects on their personality as well. When people are in stressful situations in WoW it brings out parts of their personality that you wouldn't otherwise see. At least in this way, I believe there is a similarity.

Posted Feb 17, 2006 12:48:36 AM | link

Michael Chui says:

randolfe_:

I agree, but you have to admit that the entire point of these posts has been that the trend is starting. And it's precisely these companies that matter a great deal in the world today. My father, who happens to be in real estate and plays golf, is unlikely to ever take up WoW. The claim isn't that golf has been or will replace golf, though that's not a farfetched claim; the claim is that it is taking up the same role golf does. There's no reason to think that golf won't continue to exist simultaneously, just like people still play chess and join each other for football games. The important point is that virtual worlds are rising to the point at which they are becoming comparable in a not-insignificant way, and more and more people will either recognize or be forced to recognize their validity.

30 years might be a good estimate: the old guard has to depart the battle stations, and it's a generational shift for computer games to be commonly recognized as valid. (All of my speeches now expended, I'll also say that I'm not actually pleased at this trend. =P But it has its value, and it's not going to stop because I want it to, so I'm not going to waste energy denouncing it.)

Posted Feb 17, 2006 2:05:36 AM | link

Chip Hinshaw says:

randolfe, Michael Chui: I think the landscape may be changing faster than that (though I agree we're a ways off). I work for a trading firm that embraces play as a facilitator of morale enhancement. And the trading industry is, arguably, the quintessential example of "old guard" strongholds. But, my firm is also an exception to the rule. It's hope, in any case. ;-)

Posted Feb 17, 2006 10:02:20 AM | link

Chip Hinshaw says:

(should read: "...quintessential "old guard" stronghold" above. Pardon the redundant expression.)

Posted Feb 17, 2006 10:04:25 AM | link

randolfe_ says:

Michael,

I agree with you on the trend. (I was actually thinking investment-banker when I evoked industry archetype.)

The fundamental difference I see in the VW trend is that it is evolving as a hybrid form of entertainment, with a largely passive component, replacing television and movies as much as encroaching upon golf. How this will develop sociologically is something I leave to better students of the subject such as yourself. But I would profer that RMT and similar debates about what VWs should represent are part of this developmental struggle.

Posted Feb 17, 2006 12:20:01 PM | link

Charles says:

Forgive me if I repeat viewpoints already expressed, but the biggest obstacles to WoW being used to evaluate another person are asynchronous communication and non-verbal cues.

Although WoW conversations do take place in "real time", they also require a typing delay followed by a decision to press "enter" and input the communication. Just as instant messaging in other formats, this allows a huge degree of self-censorship. People can more easily tailor their reactions to what they consider "right", not simply how they would naturally react.

Perhaps teamspeak servers and whatnot eliminate this problem. However, this solution still ignores the undeniable importance of non-verbal cues. Simply: would you hire somebody or sign a big contract after only talking to somebody on the phone? Most people wouldn't, because they want to physically be with a person to "get a feel" for them. Part of this is because we've had several million years to learn to interpret non-verbal communication in person, but part of it is also dependant on the feel of a candidate's handshake, and probably the pheremones they release (a good explanation for why people often try to engage in athletic activities with business associates).

The virtual worlds can replicate a lot of the aspects of a real-world meeting. It can demonstrate activity in non-work environments, adaptibility to unforeseen circumstances, etc. But it (for now) can't service our non-verbal communication needs.

Of course, if you're only ever going to communicate with a client through e-mail and phone, perhaps WoW is a better evaluation tool than any real life activity. Perhaps we should say "WoW is the internet's golf."

Posted Feb 17, 2006 3:07:42 PM | link

Dmitri Williams says:

I think there are a few factors of note. One is whether there is roleplay (If so, I personally wouldn't "golf," ever) and the other is how you communicate.

I just finished some research on VoIP among gamers and without letting the cow totally out of the barn, it's safe to say that it has a rather large impact on how people feel of about one another. So sometimes the medium is the message.

That said, I like to do two things when I play. I use voice whenever possible because it is a richer medium and makes for more effective, personable play. And two, I use my and others' real names. I didn't realize why until reading this thread--I hate the ambiguity of role play and the magic circle, and I hate the idea of not really getting to know people I spend a lot of time with. What a waste. I want to be held responsible for my behavior and I want others to behave equally as well. I also want to get to know them more, and I think that playing with Svargar the Paladin doesn't allow for quite as much human connection as playing with Bob from Accounting. (I acknowledge that some people really don't care about getting to know Bob.)

With those two things in place, I am able to both see my guildmates react under pressure (as Joi notes) and see them in the airport waiting area (as Andy notes) and make a truer assesment of them. One way to look at that is that I'm far more critical and judgmental of my fellows, but I think that what I really get out of it is a deeper, richer understanding and enjoyment out of them. I'm not hiring people so much as learning more about them.

I think about this stuff a lot and it drives my research agenda. If we're in these virtual spaces so much, we're not out doing something else. Sure, many people weren't doing anything community-like or social anyway, so this is a zero-sum game for them. I just happen to enjoy community and I live in a typical isolated suburb where I don't have much unless I put out some serious effort. So if I'm spending all this time with people, I like it to be more social and less about in-game goals. So the best-case scenario is getting a purple drop in BWL while *also* playing with people you really know well and like.

Posted Feb 17, 2006 5:48:21 PM | link

lewy says:

WoW isn't golf, it's model train building. It's a niche hobby that attracts people from a wide range of economic strata.

Golf is widespread, whereas WoW and MMOG's are not. Golf and country clubs are synonymous with wealth and power, whereas MMOG's are associated with college students with way too much time on their hands. If you really wanted to network you'd be a fool, now and for the foreseeable future, to choose MMOG's over golf for your schmoozing.

Posted Feb 17, 2006 9:58:05 PM | link

Dmitri Williams says:

I don't think anyone's saying drop the real world and head to WoW for business connections.

But our best guess of the mean player age is now 27, and as you get the sense here, there are some pretty targeted communities of interest playing together. Co-workers playing together, lawyers playing with lawyers, older players finding each other for social support, etc. This doesn't strike me as foolish.

Posted Feb 18, 2006 3:29:17 PM | link

Michael Chui says:

What has annoyed me, and thus caused me to stop responding (because I've already done the argument, and all I'd do is point to it), is that people are essentially saying that, because it's different, the entire notion should be dismissed.

The first incident of Cory's statement on Terra Nova is in Thomas Malaby's inaugural post, here. And Cory's brief account on the origin of his idea is here.

Posted Feb 18, 2006 7:30:41 PM | link

Michael Chui says:

Erp. Sorry for the double post. First instance of the statement wasn't in Thomas Malaby's post. I got wires crossed while writing that comment. Just ignore that part.

Posted Feb 18, 2006 7:32:01 PM | link

lewy says:

"But our best guess of the mean player age is now 27, and as you get the sense here, there are some pretty targeted communities of interest playing together. Co-workers playing together, lawyers playing with lawyers, older players finding each other for social support, etc. This doesn't strike me as foolish."

My point is that golf is golf because a certain social strata says it is.

To be less facetious, rich people have bought into the idea of country clubs, greens fees, the martini at the club house, etc. etc. The rich and elite believe that golf is a legitimately upper crust activity (a determination which I would guess is probably mostly accidental). The middle class believes that golf is the sport of elites. The lower class believes that golf is the sport of elites. But who cares about them? The point is that the rich and powerful believe that golf is a legitimate activity for themselves. If I wanted to insinuate myself into that social strata does it make sense to go somewhere that the rich and powerful don't want to hang out?

Sure, there are plenty of lawyers and doctors who play WoW. But there are also plenty of janitors and college students as well. WoW is more like the model train hobby--it attracts both elites and proletariats but it is not perceived by either one as being associated with a particular social class, unlike say polo, golf or yachting.

It boils down to signal to noise ratio. You can probably network successfully in WoW with lawyers and doctors, but the ratio of lawyers and doctors to janitors is bound to be higher at the country club.

Posted Feb 27, 2006 9:37:35 PM | link

Thomas Malaby says:

Thank you, Michael, for pointing back to the original post and good discussion that followed.

I've refrained from posting here because I pretty much said my piece there. I'll only add, in response to lewy's comments, that on that thread we pinpointed the issue you mentioned, which is basically about overhead; i.e., country clubs can be exclusive because of the enormous costs to establish, build, and maintain them (this is in contrast to class-specific consumption habits that can quickly become adopted by the next group down, and so on). So the issue becomes, not about WoW exactly, but about the prospects for "gated" VWs in the future, with members drawn from the privileged ranks of people with money who grew up playing WoW. In fact, in that thread several people pointed to some examples that suggest this may be happening now.

Posted Feb 28, 2006 8:24:39 PM | link

Jessica says:

I'm sry if i might sound stupid, but my friend plays warcraft alot and ever since he played the game he has been a whole different person, did some of you experienced some supernaturla stuff when started playing the game?

Posted Mar 7, 2006 1:35:12 PM | link