More bullets on "The Avatarization of you" and user-created content in the digital age...
Meridian 59 is widely considered by many to be the first MMORPG. Which means that even if you’re uncharitable and don’t count older games like Gemstone, MUD and Islands of Kesmai, the industry has now officially been making MMOs for 10 years.
Marvel teams up with Cryptic to make a Marvel Universe massively-multiplayer game.
Next interesting question: just reskin City of Heroes/Villains with Marvel Universe content? Design a whole new game? Just make it another major expansion? (City of Heroes/Villains/Marvel Characters)?
I dibs Galactus!
We haven't spoken much about VERN, the Virtual Economy Research Network ("News, research and discussion on real-money trade of virtual property globally.") We should, because the impressarios Vili Lehdonvirta and Jun-Sok Huhh are putting together some really useful materials and discussion on virtual property and RMT. Go and have a look. The newest posting references a webcast for a mini-seminar on virtual property revenue models and apparently there will be a streaming archive available shortly.
I wrote a while back about the question of originality in games, and about the extent to which it is a result of cross-cultural travel (from the Japanese to North American markets, and possibly vice-versa).
Katamari Damacy, which I talked about in that earlier post, was original in every respect, so it was easy to overlook the particularity of its visual originality. With many console and computer games, critics (both academic and popular) may focus on visual originality to some extent. Virtual worlds criticism, on the other hand, is so focused on non-visual questions of architecture and system that this aspect of the experience of play is often glossed over.
There have been a number of low-key discussions on the web related to Eve-Online and its world-y nature. They dovetail with our recent discussion on the nature of virtual worlds ("My space or yours"). Are world-y worlds (vs. game-y ones, e.g. this discussion) better correlated with virtual worldness? Casual thoughts follow...
A while back, Nate brought up the issue of internet names: Are they goofy? Are they meaningless? What do they say about us?
But instead of reading the person from the name, why not look at things the other way, and ask how the name came from the person? What's the origin behind your online handle(s)?
Regarding our earlier discussion regarding the difficulty of relating the rules of the virtual world to its software ("Guess My Game"), Jeff Atwood forwards an interesting (albeit tangential) follow-on ("When Understanding means Rewriting").
It seems a good opportunity to explore two further questions. Are users programming their virtual world experience, and if so does that also imply an instinct to rewrite the world as they experience it is part of a process of building understanding (?)
Steven Davis posted an interview with Matt ("Iron Realms") Mihaly that provides good insight into one of the oddly surviving niches of the virtual world ecosystem: text mediated worlds. Raph's mention emphasizes their virtual goods/ RMT / business model that apparently inspired the Puzzle Pirates' Doubloon system.
My question for here is different. Are text worlds virtual worlds? More specifically, I wonder about the representation of space and geography in text worlds...
Constance (your home page screenshot scares me) and I recently published a paper (readable online) in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication in which we lay out a theory of why people are socially motivated to play MMOs.
In short, we crib from sociologist Ray Oldenberg's theory of "third places," and suggest not only that MMOs fulfill many of the same functions, but that this period in history is marked by a dramatic need to find community.
The paper is titled
It was widely reported in the past few days that there was a security breach in Second Life's user database. That opened up a discussion in the Terra Nova backchannel about whether this was worth reporting here. It seems to me that security breaches are old news and germaine to a security blog; there's nothing inherently virtual worldy about them. On the other hand, I received emails from people claiming that we are SL fanbois for not posting about it. So, OK, we can post about it. Your thoughts?
The online journal First Monday has just published their 7th special issue, Command Lines: The Emergence of Governance in Global Cyberspace, wherein you will find a number of articles by current and former Terra Novans, including Ted, Richard, T L Taylor, and me. (NB: the articles are appearing in three sets over three months; the complete list of them is at the link.)
The special issue (edited by Sandra Braman and me) grew out of the Command Lines conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (sponsored by its Center for International Education), where we brought together a number of people interested in governance online. In many ways I saw it as a chance for scholars of virtual worlds to contribute their unique perspective to a broader conversation, and the conference was a tremendous success. Anyone interested in how to make sense of the moving target that is governance in and beyond virtual worlds is encouraged to dive in.
Just got back from the Austin Game Conference where I heard several interesting talks. A major theme this year was of course the commercial success of World of Warcraft and the reasons for it. Rob Pardo, lead designer for WoW, gave a keynote on "Blizzard's Philosophy and the Success of WoW" (see Gamasutra summary). Also, Damion Schubert, Lead Combat Designer, Bioware gave a talk titled "Moving Beyond Men in Tights" (see Raph's summary) in which he outlined what makes the fantasy-combat-grind formula of most MMOs work. There was much overlap between these two talks so I've taken the liberty of lumping several of the factors they mentioned together in one list (below). Although there's not really much news here, I think this list is a nice summary of currently popular MMO design principles.
We've all heard it claimed that the video games industry is bigger than the movie industry--and we've all heard it proved that the claim is an artful crock, built on a comparison of apples (total gaming-related revenues) and oranges (domestic U.S. box office figures). Yes, numbers are a tempting but treacherous means of establishing the cultural significance of video games. So even as World of Warcraft approaches $1 billion in annual revenues--potentially "one of the most lucrative entertainment media properties of any kind," according to a front-page article in today's New York Times--one hesitates to claim this figure means the MMO moment has arrived. What then to rely on as an indicator of genuine cultural resonance? Well, front-page coverage in the New York Times is a start. But I would like to submit another, and perhaps ultimately more reliable, marker. Let's call it the Shanghai Taxi Weirdness Index.
In the July Computers in Entertainment (ACM), "How computer gamers experience the game situation..." [1.] presents study results suggesting the goal-oriented nature of First Person Shooters (FPSs). The authors have led me to refresh with this twist to a previous discussion on Situational Awareness: should there be different User Interfaces (UIs) to accomodate different player goals?
This news from GameStudy.org, sent to us by Unggi Yoon. Not surprising that IGE would buy a substantial stake in the Korean RMT market, which must comprise a significant share of the $1b the IGE execs told us constituted the RMT world market. Surprising that a company in what's supposed to be a huge and exploding market, with huge profit margins, would go for $5m. From what we've been told, that's about the size of IGE's janitorial bill at its palatial Manhattan offices.
To me, that's three signs now that the RMT market is changing, in ways that bode well for us roleplayers.
Marjorie Garber's Academic Instincts (Princeton 2001) is the kind of book that ought to be read in a warm and bustling university coffee shop furnished with comfy chairs, preferably during a single cold and overcast rainy (maybe snowy) afternoon. It is a niche book for a niche market: academics who are interested in a collection of anecdotes and thoughtful insights about their role in society and relative to each other. Those looking for something else, e.g. a wealth of rigorous data and empiricism, a tell-all about academic intrigue, a manifesto, or even a coherently defended thesis will probably be disappointed. (You'll see this disappointment on some of the Amazon reviews.) But if Garber's other published titles, like Dog Love and Sex and Real Estate, pique your interest, you might enjoy this book. It is partially a defense of such idiosyncratic investigations.
Which is why I mention it here. Garber is a professor of English at Harvard. The closest her book comes to having anything to do with virtual worlds is the few swipes it takes at "jargon" derived from cyberculture. And yet, in many ways, this book could serve as an important roadmap for Virtual World Studies, and perhaps even for this blog.
I was musing earlier today about people who buy gold. Virtual gold, of course. For real dollars, of course.
Let’s divide the world into buyers, non-buyers, and game companies. (Who cares about the farmers, their employers, or the resellers? I, for my part, shall ignore them here.)
In this issue of The Daedalus Project:
This and more at The Daedalus Project.