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Apr 17, 2007

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1.

This is a great post but for some reason the formatting looks horrid in the RSS feed:

You know, I wouldn'€™t call myself one of those evil academics^TM who €˜studies€™ World of WarCraft (WoW)
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2.

sometimes i wish TN had a "reputation" button :-)

3.

Formatting looks horrid on the web page as well due to windows quotes.

4.


Great post, Florence.

I'm walking the thin line between research and passion with my WoW play myself!

I tried to organise a group discussion with my guild in-game but I just didn't have enough influence (and maybe gold) to get everybody to show up.

I think passion and dedication are attitudes alien to traditional research and I guess academics like Henry Jenkins are trying to change this.

I don't doubt it will take some time, but I'm doing my bit. Strangely enough one of the best places to start is the commercial world, if they think there's a chance for money or influence they'll generally take it seriusly!

5.

Oh, how I feel your pain! I was in a guild but rarely teamed with them until a group was looking for one more to run through Razorfen Downs. I’d never been there before and it was my first group guild activity. We were waiting in a cavern, and I saw this cool looking gong. There are a lot of gongs all over WoW, and none had ever been interactive…before that one. Ooops. Turns out it calls about 12 spiders. We all died. I was mortified. My mortification was real and I was genuinely worried that I might lose face within my much-respected guild or worse, be kicked out.

Fortunately we were on Vent so they all heard my reaction and my guild mates found it absolutely hysterical. “Haha! Dr. D got the team wiped!”

Personal anecdote aside, I whole-heartedly agree that it is hard for me to fathom why some people insist on treating MMOs as “just a game.” Sure, some people jump on WoW and have no emotional investment in anything that happens, but I would be willing to bet that is exceedingly rare. Most people who play MMOs have social networks (established both in and outside the game), they often have a strong sense of attachment to their main avatar, their sense of self, accomplishment, and identity are often directly related to in-game achievements and events. To dismiss this as somehow foolish or childish is to ignore how people are relating to and participating in these virtual spaces.

6.

Florence, and anyone else,

If this happens, just put in a GM ticket and ask that the item be transferred to whoever it "should" have gone to, and it will happen. This has happened several times in my presence and has worked out each time.

7.

Don't worry, everyone is a noob at some point in their lives. That's why you get to make fun of other noobs, when you're no longer one yourself!

I can go on and go with the stupid things I've done in game:

- Once, while healing Stratholme on my priest, I fell asleep at the keyboard. Next thing I know, I open my eyes, and I've run myself into the next room full of mobs, immediately pulling them and killing my group!

- Once on my Level 8 Warlock, I realized I was having a really hard time killing boars in Elwynn Forest. I kept dying. How frustrating! I mentioned this fact to my guild on vent, and someone replied "Don't you have your imp?" to which I replied, after a pause, "What's an imp?" Of course I had totally missed the quest in the starting zone to get this super helpful pet.

- Many years later, I was on my mage in BWL. I'm the DKP officer so I was tabbing in and out of game. I tabbed back into game and was momentarily disoriented, and started running toward (what I thought) was the previously cleared room. As a matter of fact, I was running straight toward the next pull of very very dangerous monsters. I heard my raid leader shriek, his voice full of outright panic, "OMG what are you doing!?!?!" at the same time I realized my mistake. I was the only one that died (fortunately) but I had to laugh over my noobish mistake (embarrassingly) while the rest of my team pulled and killed the mobs.

- The list can keep going...I've enchanted someone's weapon with an expensive spirit enchant instead of intellect (I paid them back for their mats...80g ouch!), I've pulled mobs too quickly in MC on my hunter (my raid got annoyed, sorry!), and I've aggro'ed Maiden of Virtue accidentally on my Priest in Karazhan (but our tank did it himself the very next night!).

In summary, don't feel bad. Everyone does things accidentally, and everyone is learning. The cool thing is that most mature people are tolerant enough to realize this, and as you've shown, willing to forgive and give others another chance. Those are the people you want to play with, and screw the others. After you make such an error, it's likely that you won't ever do it again. Mass scathing, peer judgment, criticism from another human being even if he's in the form of a gnome...online games are so reinforcing, aren't they? :)

8.

The failure to realize (and the subsequent abuse of) the "real" behind and within the virtual is what annoys me so much about groups like W-Hat/Something Awfull goons. It may be "just the internets", but the people and relationships are very real, even behind the mask of anononymity. And I don't have to be an antrhopologist to have figured that out a long time ago.

9.

This is the best article I've read on Terranova in ages.

10.

Don't feel bad, Florence. Everyone does that once. It happens. However, while the GMs perhaps may once have re-distributed things, they haven't for some time.

Most recently, a few months ago I was in an Onyxia raid and our loudmouthed, knowitall teenager insisted that a T2 helm that should have gone to me should go to someone else (who had one) and no amount of shouting would dissuade him. The poor party leader followed the loudmouth.

It happens to everyone.

What this really means is that we need a better UI. The UI people need to get a nice present. Let's all say it together: "affordances."

11.

One of the smart things I did when I started playing WoW (Nov 2005) was to get in the habit of taking a lot of screen shots, WITH the full display on. Tons and tons of these are dated and filed on a couple of CDs. While my intention was to use them for stimulated recall (remember the time when we downed Stitches, just the four of us?), it turns out that they are wonderful little snippets revealing my own learning over time. For instance, through the first 10 levels you can see that I'm almost always in red armor. I didn't realize one needed to "repair" till someone said, "Hang on, I need to repair" and I asked what he meant.

I think EVERYONE who plays has had an unhappy experience with looting, mostly as a result of the lack of shared norms on that. I "grew up" on greed green, pass on blue to discuss. I have lost several blue items in PUGs where folks simply greeded and I passed. Likewise, I think we've all had experiences with guild emo (emotional stuff). ANd, like most serious players, I have slipped real world obligations (like making dinner) because I'm in the midst of a raid and there is a social contract at work there that prevents me from just up and leaving. Let the family starve; I can't leave the party now; it's the big boss. And how weird is this: I'm playing a lvl 34 rogue alt. in Darkshire and I notice this lvl 70 rogue next to me and I wonder what he's doing here killing. I notice his name. OMG it's reunion time. We used to be in the same guild (which we both left apparently). Much hugging and b.s.'ing and I come to find out he's here leveling a new weapon skill. ROFL. I don't even know this guy, or well, I guess maybe I do.

Who says this stuff isn't real culture and identity work. LOL.

12.

>And, like most serious players, I have slipped real world obligations (like making dinner) because I'm in the midst of a raid and there is a social contract at work there that prevents me from just up and leaving. Let the family starve; I can't leave the party now; it's the big boss.

>Who says this stuff isn't real culture and identity work. LOL.

>This is the best article I've read on Terranova in ages.

ummm...well, I'm glad that TN finally has a woman writing about games, and the experiences of battle, instead of being typecast to write about sex.

But...I think there's only so much learning to be mined here.

I'm also wondering if the Virginia Tech shooter played WoW.

13.

To agree with Damion, I immediately dropped this onto a couple other groups I'm in.

But Prokofy Neva said, But...I think there's only so much learning to be mined here.

I think there is much you could learn by reading this.

14.

I'm one of about... two gamers at my office. I'm continually "eyebrowed" about my habits, especially when I discuss Second Life. There's a very, very large dollop of "I just don't get it..." in the punch out there.

I have finally narrowed down my "elevator speech" on describing the reality of MMOs/VWs to folks who aren't in the space. It works especially well in my industry; library land.

When folks express a complete bewilderment (or disregard) for MMOs/VWs, usually coupled with a statement similar to: "I don't understand why somebody would spend time running around, doing stuff, buying stuff, fighting stuff in a completely unreal world," I simply ask, "Do you enjoy reading fiction?"

That stops things pretty quick. Some people figure it out from that one question. Sometimes I have to push it a bit further.

"Well, why would somebody want to spend their time reading about a completely unreal world?" I follow up. "Why would you be interested in taking up your time to experience things that an author created out of his head? It's not history or science or anything. It's not real. How can that move you or excite you or make you laugh or be interesting?"

After a pause, I usually stick in, "MMOs/VWs are like books, but where you get to talk back. And where some of the characters respond. So you get to make friends with the other heroes. It ain't better or worse... it's just different."

Most of my buds get it after that talk. If you grok any value for fiction, you have to give games the same respect. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

Nice post.

15.

Interesting thread, and interesting paper you've linked to, Francis.

My WoW guild looks more interesting (to me!) in light of your post. I moved about 8 characters from my original server to one where a friend was just starting a new char with a couple friends. My friend is a high school teacher, as I am. In the guild would be an adult relative of his and another friend of mine who is also a teacher; they both work at the school where I used to teach. But the kicker is that the guild was to involve about a half dozen of us adults and about a half dozen of the students at the school where my two friends teach. And the idea was to teach the kids how to play together and do well as a group. The school, where 2/3 of the students are boarders, is a pretty close-knit place, but this extension into the virtual world, stringing together someone like me (who left teaching there before any of the current students arrived) and all of them is...interesting. My two teacher friends both live on campus, spending a lot of time with kids. Now they have chosen to extend that into more of their free time in a VW.

Brave new world and whatnot, eh?

16.

Florence Chee>it's not a first life or second life, but one life.

It becomes one life. That's the whole point of playing: you pretend it's two lives to start with, but over time, through what you do with those lives, they coalesce into something better than both.

Richard

17.

Prokofy Neva>ummm...well, I'm glad that TN finally has a woman writing about games, and the experiences of battle, instead of being typecast to write about sex.

Typecast by whom? By TN, by the woman herself, or by you?

>I'm also wondering if the Virginia Tech shooter played WoW.

Why?

Richard

18.

The other thing I got from this, besides how real your involvement in a game can be, is how a game can reduce grown adults into petulant, vicious children.

From Lord of the Rings to Lord of the Flies by one simple misunderstanding.

19.

Andy said, "Do you enjoy reading fiction?" as a good way to enlighten those unaware or skeptical of virtual worlds' significance/merit/place in society. A great start to get people to understand why so many "lifeless" individuals spend time in these worlds--placing tremendous value on the fictional escapist possibilities these worlds offer. Yet MMOS are so much more than new media fiction, but an age old embodiment of play manifesting itself in a new skin. Yes i'm talking about competition, chance, mimicry and vertigo. Caillois would be in heaven.

Yet MMOS transcend even these definitions of play, introducing notions of productivity and intra/extra world economies. And the games remain valuable...and fun....As Julian and Jingle have pointed out...Gold farmers stay after hours to play for free! Well, they live in the WoW factory.

MMOS = Communications Medium + Dice + Sports + Fantasy + Film + Economics + Anthro + Ethnogrophy+ YOU NAME IT....IN other words " it's not a first life or second life, but one life [Emphasis most definetely added]." Oh I wish more people could see this Florence.

What makes MMOs so valuable is that they are so inclusive. WoW is tremendously successful because it can appeal to such a wide variety of people. By standardizing the gaming process through simple formulaic structures. However...Blizzard and the like are laying the ground work for a 21st century hollywood, in much the same way the studio system functioned to simplify the film production, distribution and exhibition process almost a century ago. Yet unlike early Hollywood or unfortunantely precisly like them, MMOs offer variety-- a potential we can hoepfully see to fruition.

Yet in the end perhaps games' mimetic factors are those that give devbelopers a longterm advantage over MGM, Paramount and the like. But do we want this? Given how long it has taken to go from Hollywood to emerging forms of play, what are the social consequences of such large conglomerates that control the way we interact with one another? User generated content is not the answer---as of yet....

20.

In summary, don't feel bad. Everyone does things accidentally, and everyone is learning. The cool thing is that most mature people are tolerant enough to realize this, and as you've shown, willing to forgive and give others another chance.

Very true. Though I think another point for it being "one life" is the fact that even mature people can lose their tempers, or be unreasonable, simply because of recent experiences they've had that you haven't.

21.

Surprises me the dulcet tones in which MMOG academics discuss their craft on Terra Nova, in contrast to the venom and bile of the teenagers and social misfits who actually play them :-)

22.

Elle Pollack: They are aware they're hurting real people. They don't care, or believe that those other people shouln't be hurt because it's just a game.

23.

A very interesting article, and I think it's important as a researcher to occasionally step back and consider the reflexive consequences of the influences our gaming experiences might have on the research we are conducting.

I've had WoW experiences which have nearly made me quit the game altogether in frustration, and I've also had game experiences which have left me chuckling for a good few hours. Oddly, the most interesting experiences I've ever had are not to do with the game itself, but always with my interactions with other players in the game and what we do.

One of best best WoW memories was back to back PvP-ing in Arthi Basin with two of my friends where we had a "sportsmanlike" competition to see how many Honor Kills we could get in a game, which, with two warlocks with a druid healer turned out to be 82 (I won, and won 2 pints down the pub afterwards as my reward :-) ) This had nothing to do with the game itself though, it had to do with the people and what we did. The game did though provide the premise and the venue for this shared experience, and it was perhaps after than experience that I finally really "got" some of Nick Yee's work on gamer motivations and indeed, even some of Richard's work on player motivations (I had a small competition on our guild forums where I pigionholed our guild members into certain player types and asked what they thought, interestingly they all agreed :-) )

At the other end of the scale, the bad experience, as a PuG group in an Outland instance which was awful from start to finish. Again though, it wasn't the instance itself which made for a bad experience, it was the other players, and for once I really comprehended that phrase "hell is other people". The setting, the venue, the premise for that shared experience was all provide by the game, the experience itself was provided by the real players. Certainly I spent a few hours after that experience in my research trying to disect what the differences were between the players who can, and those who can't in WoW, about why some groups do work, and some don't at all. Why PuG's so easily disintergrate while a guild group, even with a difficult encounter, may stick with it wiping again and again. Not only did the experience thus annoy me to hell, it reflexively affected my research reading and thoughts.

Though, isn't that as it should be?

As researchers of this media, and users/players we are in that interesting research position of being not only a detached observer, but also a participant. With all of the biases and problems that can entail in research.

24.

@ Prok: I know you have an axe to grind with TN, but please do go back and read my guest posts from last month. I find your selective memory about women on this site somewhat strange. Neither I, nor both of the female guest authors this month, have written a word about “sex” (or gender, which is what I would assume many previous women have been addressing?).

@ Andy: I love the fiction comparison, I will have to work on my elevator speech about why I game. ;) In the same vein, I wrote a tongue in cheek article about what I call “Gamer Shame”.

@ David Grudy: I think you make a very important point. In anthropology there is the expectation of at least some level of objectivity in our research – there is a very good reason we study the “other” and why studies of social groups we belong to ourselves are sometimes questioned. When you are part of something it is more difficult to objectively observe. (Yes, I know this can be questioned and is sometimes hotly debated.)

So, I wonder if the fact that I play, that I care about my avatar and my social network in the game, might all interfere with my ability to study that specific virtual world. Yet, at the same time I would also suggest that someone who has never played an MMO wouldn’t be an effective researcher either. WoW, for example, is such a large and complex virtual world and I don’t know how one could begin research without some existing familiarity. A quandary to me as a potential ethnographer.

25.

>I'm also wondering if the Virginia Tech shooter played WoW.

>Why?

>Richard

Because it's clear to me that playing video games and dehumanizing people by shooting them, and spending long hours in battle, really does have an impact on people's minds and behaviour, and ultimately on the culture of a society. I imagine you ask "Why" because you don't believe that, and may quite vigorously and stubbornly argue against it, but it's the right question to keep on asking, and not expecting professional ludologists like yourself to exhaust, let alone rule upon, as a social and political topic.

I realize it's terribly unpopular among *this* gang here to EVER raise the issue of the relatioship between violence and video games, but if you call yourself scholars devoted to scholarly inquiry, you have to ask these questions over and over again. You have to persist and persist, past this facile study with no real peer review with a small sample, or that study which isn't really a published study but somebody's mutual back-scratching, and keep asking and asking. You have to ask because human life is at stake.

The killer at Virginia Tech had a certain profile -- a loner, a person who spent long hours at his computer online, a person who wrote violent fantasies in his English essays of casually killing people. You're going to tell me this young man never played a single shooting game in his life, and it never had an effect on him if he did?

It's not only the casualness of American gun culture and the ease with which guns can be had in America that causes that erosion of the seriousness about shooting, it's the ease with which you can shoot and kill people in games.

That has got to have an effect on the soul, even if you and your friends can't quantify it in games, Richard. People in Europe are ready with the condemnation of America's laxness about gun laws and cite their own far more strict gun control, but then you don't want to take a look at the virtual equivalent. The gun lobby easily refutes your concerns about laxness of gun control by finding all sorts of examples of how guns helped to save lives when crime was committed. In the same way, the games lobby of corporations and the ludologists whose conferencing they pay for never find any connection between anything negative and a game, and indeed even promote a concept of "serious gaming".

Just as the pharmaceutical industry will want to downplay the side effects, including violent, pathological behaviour caused by the medications that may have been administered to this depressed young man in Virginia, so the gaming industry will want to play down the side effects of a greater propensity for violence and casualness and even lack of empathy about human death that he may have been exposed to. That's all the more reason why we have to keep raising and discussing these issues. Not everybody who watches and plays a killing game goes out and kills; but some do. And even if it's a tiny percent, my God, we have to care.

26.

>I think there is much you could learn by reading this.

Sigh, There is nothing more pompous, aggressive, and violent than somebody spouting Zen, I often find. So...cut it out Michael, it's not the way to win an argument.

I frankly know am not alone when I say that I'm tired of the excessive game-focus and obsession with WoW on TN, to which we look as the only academic center of sorts about virtuality. In part, the problem is that it's a boy-centered focus and having more girls will break up that fascination, but the problem of course goes deeper.

I think I can quite properly say that there isn't an *awful lot* we can learn about a situation involving a woman so caught up in a *game* that she won't make dinner for her children. I fully undertand what that is like. I can understand what it's like even to be caught up in a real-life work deadline crunch, or even caught up in a SL customer's demand, which involve real money, let alone a game. But at the end of the day, there are basic things, like making dinner and feeding the kids. I don't think we can become casual about that, frankly.

What's particularly awful about this is that it isn't really the mechanics of WoW as envisioned by its makers that causes these starving children. What causes them is the bullying and collectivitis of the groups gone wild. They are awful to people who have to pull out of them due to RL calling, and they can't realize that they could take a more tolerant attitude and just reassemble or just try again another day. After all, the levels don't go away -- they're always there. Why the zeal and drive and hysteria? Why bully and harass another person because they didn't help you kill this particular monster in this particular instance? It's not as if it won't be there tomorrow and the day after -- those instances are eternal.

Or were you suggesting that it's ok not to feed your kids and not make dinner and play WoW?

Empty *that* Michael Chui, and contemplate what you will do someday, when you have kids yourself. Will you feed them, or will you play WoW?

27.

>@ Prok: I know you have an axe to grind with TN, but please do go back and read my guest posts from last month. I find your selective memory about women on this site somewhat strange. Neither I, nor both of the female guest authors this month, have written a word about “sex” (or gender, which is what I would assume many previous women have been addressing?).

It's not any axe; it's stating the bald facts. And I'm not alone in noticing this, as I've found even to my surprise lately in discussing this with people.

Jen, cast your eyes over to the right-hand side of the page. Count the active authors who are women: 2 out of 16.

Now go to contributing authors: 5 out of the 11, and they rarely appear.

Sure, some women didn't get typecast writing about sex; but some did, too many, really, given the job at hand here.

The fact is, it's a male-dominated enclave. Women have been driven into stereotypes, writing about sex, or relationships, or emotions.

Do a chronological and quantative and qualitative study over the years. It's obvious. Now the question is how you could rectify that. For starters, recognize it and don't be defensive about it.

28.

Prok, fair enough. I haven’t really spent the time to look at TN’s gender history. But, increasing numbers of women are playing, creating, and researching games - which I agree is a very good thing that will, to some extent, change the landscape.

I do, however, hope that the things I play, create, or research are not praised only because they don’t fit the stereotype. It demeans my research (the implication being that only reason my work is good is because I’m not falling into gender role expectations) and at the same time dismisses the legitimate desire to research all social aspects of gaming including sex and gender. I do agree that the gaming industry as a whole has a long way to go before it stops being a boy’s club. The best way to do that is by doing exactly what I see here at TN –3 of the last 4 guest authors have been women approaching games from a variety of perspectives.

29.

There is no question in my mind that the VT shooter did *not* play WoW. Maybe some sort of FPS, but definitely not WoW. Why? Well, beyond the obvious issues with WoW's fantasy setting (if he'd gone after people with a crossbow and a sword, then it would be a different matter), the simple fact is that in WoW, people fight back. They may be outclassed at times, but they still fight back. What happened at Virginia Tech in no way resembles WoW.

It seems to me you have an axe to grind with both TN and WoW, sir, and you dredge up anything that comes to mind and fling it about recklessly. On an actual WoW forum you would be considered a troll.

30.

8 million people, give or take, play WoW. Probably ten times that have played violent video games. How many of them, do you think, have murdered ONE person, much less dozens? I don't know the numbers myself, but I think they'd contradict the "WoW caused VT" hypothesis. Even if he DID play WoW, 1/8,000,000 isn't a statistic worth quoting except in refutation.

As for the actual topic of discussion... What I find most interesting is how much things like "guild drama" can affect me. In fact, I've been affected by it in a way no single-player game has ever affected me. Single-player RPGs offer the satisfaction of progression, whereas MMOs tend to offer the same (perhaps with more reinforcement), but at the cost of frustration with your fellow players. Regardless, I think many people continue to play not despite drama, but because of it.

31.

In EQ2 my raid leader would have handled the entire thing differently and perhaps it is a game mechanics issue.

My raid leader would have chose the 'raid leader loots all' option. Then as a item is looted the raid leader would trade it to the player who deserves the item as determined by roll or need.

If no one wants the item it would have been sent to the noob.

This method eliminates the possibility of someone picking up a 'no trade' item. I'm not sure why this method wasn't used in the WoW raid.

That being said, when I first started raiding I was a very careful person. My DPS wasn't never the highest because I was worried about pulling aggro from the tank. I never strayed from the group fearing getting into aggro range. I didn't click, jump, or move until told by the raid leader.

One weekend my nephew (20 yrs my junior) was watching me raid. He continued to give me directions. Go over there and look at that... pick that up.... try using this spell...

I refused everytime. "I might pull aggro and wipe the raid" I replied each time.

"Oh."

Oh indeed.

32.

>Prok, fair enough. I haven’t really spent the time to look at TN’s gender history. But, increasing numbers of women are playing, creating, and researching games - which I agree is a very good thing that will, to some extent, change the landscape.

Yes, I realize that. I've been reading gamegirladvance.com and other sites like that for ages.

>I do, however, hope that the things I play, create, or research are not praised only because they don’t fit the stereotype.

Don't look to me to discuss that issue, I wouldn't be the one doing the stereotyping because I'm not running a site with a gender imbalance. Normally, I don't get up to feminist rants about gender imbalance, and tend to look for merit-based systems, but sometimes, they really stand out as requiring redress.

>It demeans my research (the implication being that only reason my work is good is because I’m not falling into gender role expectations) and at the same time dismisses the legitimate desire to research all social aspects of gaming including sex and gender.

That's a fair comment, but on the other hand when you're in a setting where they are trying to press you into service, you have to be vigilant.

>I do agree that the gaming industry as a whole has a long way to go before it stops being a boy’s club. The best way to do that is by doing exactly what I see here at TN –3 of the last 4 guest authors have been women approaching games from a variety of perspectives.

I think they've been scurrying to balance the saddlebags as this critique, coming not only from me, is penetrating to their consciousness.

And look for the redress of imbalances to come not from a flurry of guest authors, but permitting women into the sacred realm of the active and contributing authors!

33.

Dear Prokofy,
If you wish to start another topic, such as
-gender participation and journalism and why in order to support equality female writers should not hide behind male sounding names
-the sexual inequality of SL (as only 2 in 5 are female: http://secondlife.com/whatis/economy-graphs.php)
-how reading blogs doesn't make one a specialist in anthropology and gender issues
-why writing about anything other than SL is grossly one-sided, or
-how the dangers of writing playwriting class (http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070418/NEWS01/704180368) may lead people to mass murder on campus..

then please email the TN authors rather than go offtopic at a furious rate of knots.

34.

I've just gotta say, I can't wait to hear about your imaginary cat Florence.

35.

Prokofy Neva>Because it's clear to me that playing video games and dehumanizing people by shooting them, and spending long hours in battle, really does have an impact on people's minds and behaviour

In that case, shouldn't you be worried that he might be a BDSM fan on SL?

>I imagine you ask "Why" because you don't believe that

No, I asked because you gave no explanation as to why you took a pot shot at WoW specifically. It seemed completely gratuitous. However, rather than putting words in your mouth and then attacking them, I thought the sensible thing to was just ask.

>I realize it's terribly unpopular among *this* gang here to EVER raise the issue of the relatioship between violence and video games

You might want to decapitalise that EVER:
http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/06/contradictions_.html.

>People in Europe are ready with the condemnation of America's

Ah, your belief that I'm anti-American has kicked in. Time for me to stop reading.

Richard

36.

Dear Eric,

>you wish to start another topic, such as
-gender participation and journalism and why in order to support equality female writers should not hide behind male sounding names

Unfortunately, because the gender-balancing act at TN is in such full swing now, each time a woman *does* get to write, unfortunately that very fact of her rather rare (or suddenly stepped-up) presence becomes part of the commentary. Not my fault.

I don't see why chosing a male avatar in SL is grounds for a nasty swipe like that, but I'm used to males like you getting bent out of shape at my decision to have a transgendered avatar in SL. You have a double standard on that, as you usually tend not to care about males having female avatars, or berate any male who has comments you don't like about his selection of the opposite gender in SL, or for that matter, any thing he does in SL.

-the sexual inequality of SL (as only 2 in 5 are female: http://secondlife.com/whatis/economy-graphs.php)

The Lindens often comment that females 32 or older is the largest segment of the population they have in SL. I don't see why the Lindens failure to attract females, like most online game thingies, somehow trumps any critique of TN for a lack of gender balance. It doesn't, obviously.

>how reading blogs doesn't make one a specialist in anthropology and gender issues

Who says you have to be a specialist to comment on matters of public interest? If you want to have a closed little discussion group of only credentialed academics, I suggest you shut down the public access to this blog and heavily moderate the comments.

>-why writing about anything other than SL is grossly one-sided, or

No, I think the problem is that TN has a really decided bias *against* SL that some of us have to feel constantly the need to redress it. And it's very disturbing, because the whole Metaverse conversation is so much bigger than just games now, that to be stuck in games is really stubborn ostrich-like behaviour.

>-how the dangers of writing playwriting class (http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070418/NEWS01/704180368) may lead people to mass murder on campus..

Playwriting is an activity that has been around for hundreds of years. The plays manifested the shooter's illness. But what helped him acquire the sense that he was on a mission that had to be media-covered, and that he even had to make his own amateur media production to mail to NBC? what made his sickness *take this form*? Those are the questions you have to ask.

37.

Richard Bartle says:
>In that case, shouldn't you be worried that he might be a BDSM fan on SL?

Absolutely! And I raise this sort of question constantly on my blog, to the great chagrin of BDSMers who are constantly trying to rationalize their violent and enslaving activities. I ask this question about all online activity, because this greatest mass murder in American history *took this particular form*.

Fearless, the idea that if he played Wow, he would have been "trained" to be in a situation where he would encounter people/monsters/NPCs "fighting back" and therefore couldn't be a WoW player is just plain insane. Everyone knows that what WoW encourages is this phenomenon known as "ganking," where higher-level players go and kill lower-level players for absolutely no good reason other than that they enjoy making people suffer. There have been articles to that effect right here on TN, my God.

>No, I asked because you gave no explanation as to why you took a pot shot at WoW specifically. It seemed completely gratuitous. However, rather than putting words in your mouth and then attacking them, I thought the sensible thing to was just ask.

Well, I would hope that by saying "WoW" it's understood that it could be just as well any *other* FPS game, Richard. WoW is the biggest and best known know. Perhaps he played some more obscure (to us) Korean game, being from Korea. Perhaps he didn't play any games at all. We don't know. I do think it's fair to ask the question about whether the culture of FPS shooting which is now instilled in millions and millions of minds as a passtime is having some kind of effect somewhere.

>You might want to decapitalise that EVER:
http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/06/contradictions_.html.
OK, will do! Glad to see it. And...where is it now, now that the greatest massacre ever seen in the US has taken place? I mean, perhaps this is more of a Web 2.0 story, though, Richard, rather than a gaming story, as the shooter definitely was oriented toward user-generated participatory media, consciously planning and acting out the macabre events, filming himself, taking the time in between murders to mail the package to NBC, then going off to shoot more people.

Yes, he's an insane outlier, not everybody engaging in YouTubing and Warcrafting is a nutter who will commit massacres. But the increasing numbers of them, the copycats, the obsession with them, well, we need to ask the question.

>Ah, your belief that I'm anti-American has kicked in. Time for me to stop reading.

Oh, well I haven't:

http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog180407B.html
http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog160407B
http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog130407B.tml

and so on.

38.

Prokofy Neva > Not everybody who watches and plays a killing game goes out and kills; but some do.

Not everybody who eats hot dogs goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who takes swimming lessons goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who visits zoos goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who drives a car goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who smokes cigarettes goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who buys jewelry goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who brushes their teeth goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who votes goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who cuts their hair goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who plays guitar goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who goes to church goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who flies a kite goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who reads books goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who studies physics goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who plays poker goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who washes dishes goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who wears glasses goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who sleeps goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who breathes goes out and kills; but some do.
Not everybody who lives on Earth goes out and kills; but some do.

39.

>Unfortunately, because the gender-balancing act at TN is in such full swing now, each time a woman *does* get to write, unfortunately that very fact of her rather rare (or suddenly stepped-up) presence becomes part of the commentary. Not my fault.

In this particular case, it is in fact your fault. Until you mentioned it, the author's gender was not part of the commentary.

40.

@Jen: Thanks. I've given up "Gamer Shame," as well as "Poet Shame." It took me 35 years to become comfortable describing myself as a poet. For some reason, it felt... oogy. I have finally decided to own my ooginess, and anybody who has any problems with that can kiss my iambic pentameter. Same for "Gamer Shame." Mario ergo sum.

@Prok r.e. Bartle:

If you think those are examples of anti-Americanism... wow... that's some thin skin you got. I've got friends from other lands who lay it on with a shovel about the ways that America is just, well... "not the rest of the world," and those links make us look quaint and cute in comparison.

Pointing out dumb stuff isn't anti-American just because the dumb stuff happens to be in America. Most of the dumb stuff I point out is in America, and I'm not anti-American. I'm just anti-dumb.

I just point out much less dumb British stuff because they're so much smaller than America, and thus do much less dumb stuff because of, you know, statistical averages and stuff. Plus, British culture tends to prefer to keep their dumb on the inside, behind closed-doors. In America, we wear it openly and proudly where we can do market testing on it and then sell the worst of it to, among others, the Brits. We have turned our stupidities into a market advantage in that way. See: "Bay Watch," fast food, natural male enhancement medication, the Thighmaster, professional wrestling, Sea Monkeys, "Rocky" 2 - 5, etc.

@Prok r.e. women bloggers on this site: Yes. More would be nice. Don't frighten off the ones we have, please.

@Prok r.e. the VA Tech killer: As the son of a shrink who grew up with discussions of this kind of stuff around the dinner table, let me make one point only... You cannot draw any reasonable, logical, sane trail of conclusions from the actions of an unreasonable, illogical, insane mind. We can look at stats about all kinds of other stuff related to guns, games, sports, movies, literature, cops, education, homogeneity of the culture, etc. as it relates to violence. But when one individual goes so far off the rails as this guy... making deductions is useless. It's like trying to figure out how to make better wine based on the fact that there's a stone in your shoe on one of the days when you went out to inspect the vineyards. It's just that unrelated to what can be helpful. Insane people do insane things. If you want to make any connections at all about this case, it can only be about how to better identify and help people with severe mental illness. None of the environmental stuff in this kids life "caused" him to murder people. If they did, then everyone who did those things would do more things like that, and we have so few heinous crimes like this that it just can't be shown as a logical link to any other activities. What you can show a link to is people who are severely schizophrenic and who don't get help, and who then have a variety of problems. Many times they just spiral down into lives that are at the "dregs" of society. Many times, if untreated, they suicide. Many times, even if treated, they lead highly depressed lives. We don't treat mental illness very seriously in this country. Read the reports of how this kid's illness was treated. I'm not excusing his crimes; what he did was evil and unthinkable, and he is responsible for his actions. But it would have been nice if all the people in positions of responsibility / authority above him had said, "This guy shows signs of serious mental illness. We need to get him more help." It seems he had a variety of problems that had been diagnosed previously too... and people still just let it lie. Again... not a great idea. So while it's maybe interesting to talk about his gaming, entertainment, writing, cultural, etc. histories... that's all irrelevant when put next to his mental health history. It wouldn't matter if the kid did music instead of drama, or played soccer instead of WoW. If you're sick like that, you're sick like that until you get treatment. And even after that, probably. I've seen all kinds of yap on all kinds of blogs about connections to various activities of his. Nope. He was, to put it starkly, insane. And that's a mental health issue. None of the things he did or had done to him made him that way... but none of the things that *didn't* get done helped him enough.

42.

Florence, if you were playing a Rogue you could just argue you were being in character taking that blue item! I confess I (as a rogue) have patiently camped valuable items (or bosses for drops) while awaiting a full party to come along and clean things up for me so I could get the loot. It's what Rogues do!

PS
> I'm also wondering if the Virginia Tech shooter played WoW.

Actually he apparently didn't play any games at all

43.

I've never felt compelled to comment here before now, but it seems to me that, given the VT shooter's apparently text-book anti-social pathology, it is quite possibly a tragedy that he did not involve himself in MMOs.

Perhaps if he had, he might have discovered a safe social environment that could have potentially diffused the chemical-cross-wiring of his mind that lead to such tragic results.

I've read a great deal of game-bashing over the years (with virtually no actual research to back up the claims of harm that are often presented). What I have not often seen are discussions that center on the positive benefits of MMOs for those individuals who would otherwise be incapable of any "normal" social interaction.

Florence's paper, which describes an individual who claims that EQ "saved my life", is an unusual blip in an otherwise overtly hostile landscape.

44.

@Andy, I like your and Nick's point. If not for games, how many disturbed people would be out on the streets and armed at an even earlier age?
I'd be interested in what philosophers have to say about this, (I recall some have blamed humanism for the breakdown of communitty!) but the only book I read on social alienation by the web was Dreyfus' 'On the Internet' but it is getting a little long in the tooth already, did not apply to games, and its criticisms could have been aimed at TV just as easily. Too much literature only says there is a problem, not how to impartially evaluate to determine if there is a problem and to carefully distinguish cause from effect.

45.

Prokofy Neva>Well, I would hope that by saying "WoW" it's understood that it could be just as well any *other* FPS game, Richard.

That's not how I understood it. Besides, WoW isn't a FPS.

>WoW is the biggest and best known know. Perhaps he played some more obscure (to us) Korean game, being from Korea.

He apparently watched some Korean movies that were quite violent, recreating a classic image from one. I don't suppose we'll be seeing quite the same reaction as if he'd turned out to have been a gamer, though.

>I do think it's fair to ask the question about whether the culture of FPS shooting which is now instilled in millions and millions of minds as a passtime is having some kind of effect somewhere.

So do I, it's just that this thread was a bad place to do it. Now, we don't get to talk about Florence's work any more.

>>Ah, your belief that I'm anti-American has kicked in. Time for me to stop reading.
>Oh, well I haven't:
>http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog180407B.html
>http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog160407B.html
>http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog130407B.html

If only I'd put some kind of post up before my Minneapolis trip explaining the context. You know, like maybe this one?

If those QBlog posts you cited are evidence of my being anti-American, take a look at these (not clickable because typepad thinks I'm spamming if I put them in):
QBlog140207B.html
QBlog260706A.html
QBlog220405B.html
QBlog220905C.html
QBlog130107A.html

By your reckoning, I must be anti-German, anti-Italian, anti-Swedish and anti-Dutch. Oh, and anti-British.

You're looking for prejudice where there is none.

[My apologies to the other readers of this thread, but I think we probably lost connection with what Florence was saying some time ago].

Richard

46.

Huh, and the link I did put in was to my hard drive...
http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog110407A.html

Richard

47.

But...I think there's only so much learning to be mined here.

It is an article about arguably the most how supposedly the most casual-friendly American MMO to date has insanely complex and difficult to navigate social norms, which has many ramifications in terms of how those internal communities are built and grow, and how sticky these communities are for all these 'casual' players. This is relevant for any MMO and virtual world - almost all of them become cliquish over time, with people simply expecting that you'll know the rules, and rejecting, berating or alienating you if you don't. This was certainly something I experienced in my visit to SL, for example.

Absolutely! And I raise this sort of question constantly on my blog, to the great chagrin of BDSMers who are constantly trying to rationalize their violent and enslaving activities. I ask this question about all online activity, because this greatest mass murder in American history *took this particular form*.

The greatest American school massacre of all time was in 1927 and involved no computer games, no television, and only one bullet. Crazy just happens sometimes.

I frankly know am not alone when I say that I'm tired of the excessive game-focus and obsession with WoW on TN, to which we look as the only academic center of sorts about virtuality.

Funny, I personally think that Terranova tends to spend too much time focused on 'virtual worlds' (and especially Second Life) and not enough time examining why the 'gamey games' are sticky or how to leverage those lessons to make the non-gamey games less niche.

Still, I somehow manage to remain overall respectful of divergent viewpoints. There are other sources for those other viewpoints I agree with more consistently, and Terranova's viewpoints on virtual worlds is usually well-rounded, thought-provoking and interesting, and is daily reading for me for that reason.

48.

I know I’m a little late in the game, but concerning the original post it made me think of this:

Two kids, Jill and Bill, live in the city and being friends they’ve developed a game that they play together. On their way to and from school they stop at all the public telephones and check to see if there’s any loose change in the return slot. They have a system where, in the order in which they come across the phones, they take turns checking them. One day Jill and Bill stop in front of a grocery store. Bill goes in to convert his change into dollars. Jill, standing outside, looks over at a phone booth and sees a twenty dollar bill on the floor. Even though it's Bill's phone to check, Jill doesn't want anyone else to get the money and has every intention to give it to Bill. Bill comes out, sees the money in her hand and reaches out to take it but Jill says, "Sorry, I can't. It's bind on pickup."


What's interesting to me here the way the game modifies and/or limits behavior, even generous or altruistic - like behavior. While it's true GM intervention is one way to deal with accidents involving binds-on-pickups, it is then like going to the Pope to get an annulment on your marriage. Where in the first-world, belief systems are used to implement social controls/boundaries (assuming both parties want to, they can't just walk away from their marriage because of religious beliefs [given that the people in the analogy are devout believers in a religion which holds this rule]), in virtual worlds there is the addition of control through code, almost like a control through physics only on some occasions (such as contacting the GM) the laws of virtual-nature can be broken (at the whim/discretion of another human being).

49.

People can treat other people in anonymous virtual worlds without any fear of real (as opposed to perceived) consequences. Virtual worlds might be a good example of virtual world behavior, but they don't correspond 1-to-1 with the real world.

Suspect people blow out of proportion what can be learned from MMOGs. Heard an academic babbling on the BBC about how recently there was a plague in WoW "with blood coming out of orifices" and it showed that disease spreading could be modeled. I wasn't impressed: There have been urban disease propagation simulations done in the past, and I think they were more accurate than anything you'll learn out of WoW. This BBC "Authority" didn't have a clue.

----

There's been a subthread here about the VT shootings: To answer the question asked, according to a Wired Blog police said no games of any sort were found in the shooters room: http://blog.wired.com/games/2007/04/msnbc_dont_blam.html

Really depends on the person. Suspect many/all of us read LOTR and watched SW at a young age, but never felt the urge to mass kill real people. Someone said you cant use logic to understand an illogical mind.

Debate is irrelevant anyway: Nothing will change after this shooting: America loves its guns and video games and neither is going anywhere.I lived in the US. Taking guns in the US is like arguing religion, saw many guns and guns misused.

There will be public hand-wringing after this and the Gun Lobby will say if everyone on campus had guns they would be safe (the 'South Central LA' model). And in a few weeks there will be another celebrity story and everyone forgets. The US will have a big shooting like this every year, and many smaller ones. Sorry to say it, but you might as well get used to it. Talking won't change that. :-|

50.

Richard,

If you have something more to say about Florence's post, well, say it. Nothing stops you or anybody else from doing that. Seriously, it's not a "troll" but a very logical continuation of the essence of her post, which was:

"Things I do online, simulated things, war games, virtualities, affect me deeply, so deeply that I even cry in real life and feel awful."

And in the comments, we saw more:

"Things I do online, simulated things, war games, make me not even make dinner for my children."

So when somebody really goes postal like the shooter in VT, you have to ask why, how, where. There will likely be a variety of things that contributed, but everything about this disaster bears examination, including with an open mind about what video games mean. I've sat in living room after living room or school room all week with kids and parents and THEY ALL say "It must be the video games and violent television".

Why is everybody having this conversation in their church basement or with their neighbours in their living room or the corner coffee shop, but intellectuals won't have it on here? In a post about the effect of simulated happenings on people's emotions, in a thread where somebody says they won't make their kids dinner, the war is so consuming online?

I mean, seriously, do I REALLY have to connect up the dots on this one???

As for WoW not being "FPS," hmm, well I'm just an ignoramus then. I guess I figure if most of the time your character, in the first person, is running down a path shooting at stuff, it's a "first-person shooter game," but I take your point, and stand corrected, if it is a multiplayer game where you are coordinating the shooting with others and not alone with the monsters, it must be an erm multiperson shooter game or something.

As for the anti-American thing, it's a longer discussion, and goes too off-topic here. So often you show so many tics and annoyances and surprises in these posts about basic things like religious feeling in America or public sculptures that apparently feel tacky or kitsch to you, but I feel you should just accept it as a cultural facet the way we have to accept, I dunno, bad food in British restaurants or something and a penchant for socialism. It's not important to argue about.

Could we just use some common sense and logic here, please? Why would "no games in the shooter's room" mean anything? You don't need boxes of games on your desk to be involved in war games online. And in his life, you're saying he never played a war game? The chances of that are mighty slim.

BJ makes the usual facile comment about how this will merely be a rant-fest from the NRA and the gun lobby. Hardly. Every single blog or paper or conversation has both sides of the gun issues aisle being argued. It's really totally facile -- and anti-American I might add! -- to reduce the entire public response in America to "Oh, we need more guns to be able to fight back against these nutters, go NRA!, now shut up, I'm going shopping in my SUV!".

That's HARDLY the case and you could gather this from even the most cursory of watching or reading of media.

The effect that games and virtual worlds are having on people is profound, and nobody seems to want to really look it in the eye and measure it with an open mind.

51.

>Not everybody who eats hot dogs goes out and kills; but some do.

There is not an explosion of 10 million people starting to eat hot dogs at a formative age.

There is not a huge amount of hours of people's lives now taking up by hot-dog eating.

There is not a hot-dog eater who packages up a video of himself eating a hot-dog and mails it to NBC.

There aren't people, even academics, even grown women, sitting on couches and weeping because they ate a hot dog, or somebody thought badly of them seeming to ninja a corpse loot.

52.

"kids and parents... THEY ALL say "It must be the video games and violent television"

Since when do we base any kind of definitive conclusion on the effect of video games or violence in the popular media for that matter on the statements of parents and kids who are in large part trained by the education system to think that video games and popular culture are the root of all evil in society...When will parents and society in general learn that it ultimately comes down to how we teach our nations' youth to deal with phychological and social challenges and how we react when someone needs help. Blaming video games does nothing but scapegoat the problem away from where it needs to be: teachers and parents!

On another note these rampages are NOT UNIQUELY AMERICAN....

Exerpt from cnn website in 2002 (SEE HERE.)

"We cannot find words for what we feel in Germany right now," President Johannes Rau said, according to The Associated Press. "Germany is in mourning in the face of these incomprehensible events."

Gunman sought out adults
The gunman, dressed all in black and armed with a handgun and a pump-action gun, searched corridors, rooms and toilets inside the school, seeking out adults and then gunning them down, police chief Manfred Grube told a news conference.

The bodies were scattered in hallways, classrooms and bathrooms. The dead police officer was shot earlier before the school was stormed, police told CNN. "

It is an international epidemic and the solution is not to ban video games, but to actually improve education by resisting the urge to find the ineffective lazy way out.

For some numbers see (SEE HERE.)

53.

>Since when do we base any kind of definitive conclusion on the effect of video games or violence in the popular media for that matter on the statements of parents and kids who are in large part trained by the education system to think that video games and popular culture are the root of all evil in society...

since when do we close our tiny minds like steel traps and not admit any evidence before our eyes? It's not as if this version of the story is shoveled into our passive faces, we can see it for ourselves.

Just because ordinary people with common sense say something doesn't mean they're stupid and academics are smart. They're society, they're the public, and they are asking the right questions. The question has to remain open as more and more and MORE people go online and play more games all day long, and immerse in virtual worlds. I fail to see why we have to stop answering the question, just so ludologists can have careers, and game companies can make fortunes.

>When will parents and society in general learn that it ultimately comes down to how we teach our nations' youth to deal with phychological and social challenges and how we react when someone needs help.

Probably not any time soon, from the hectoring educrat class with a tone like that, but, you're welcome to try!

>Blaming video games does nothing but scapegoat the problem away from where it needs to be: teachers and parents!

Teachers and parents can't hold the hand of a 14-year-old all day long, he or she will go online and play games, consume media, make media, write in Myspace -- this is even done right in their schools now. It's silly to hide from the fact that our kids now inhabit a space continuum from games to worlds to social media that is having a profound impact.

It's measurable. My God, an honest academic right in this thread is saying that even as an intellectual, a grown woman, so to speak, she is curled up sad on the couch having been thought ill of by her guild. Games and worlds have penetrated. They are affecting everything. We need to keep asking questions.

If we can rule out shooting games, great! The readily available guns in Virginia are just to blame or more; but perhaps merely a gene for mental illness is to blame.

We must keep asking the question, when something this awful and big happens, when it happens again, when the shooter even makes am amateur movie of himself of the type people put on YouTube.

54.

>Since when do we close our tiny minds like steel traps and not admit any evidence before our eyes? It's not as if this version of the story is shoveled into our passive faces, we can see it for ourselves.

Its always good to keep an open mind. Of course we need to be asking these questions...just not make assumptions.

>Just because ordinary people with common sense say something doesn't mean they're stupid and academics are smart. They're society, they're the public, and they are asking the right questions. The question has to remain open as more and more and MORE people go online and play more games all day long, and immerse in virtual worlds. I fail to see why we have to stop answering the question, just so ludologists can have careers, and game companies can make fortunes.

We should NOT stop answering the question, but consider both sides of the coin, especially the effect of parenting and education in the face of what ever effects video games potentially cause. And yes we should find out what these effects are...making no assumptions. That was my main point.

>Probably not any time soon, from the hectoring educrat class with a tone like that, but, you're welcome to try!

Speaking of tones? I find it interesting that teachers and the anti crowd are ready to jump on video games when ever something goes wrong. We should have a complete analysis of ALL the effects. Again, make no assumptions.

>Teachers and parents can't hold the hand of a 14-year-old all day long, he or she will go online and play games, consume media, make media, write in Myspace -- this is even done right in their schools now. It's silly to hide from the fact that our kids now inhabit a space continuum from games to worlds to social media that is having a profound impact.

Nor should they. By the teenage years, most people should already be able to make good choices and know how to handle a video game. If they don't this comes back to the education and parenting system in the first place. violence as symptom of a symptom. Yes the metaverse does have profound effects on our nations' youth, but rather than being scared of this and heading towards prohibitionist tendancies, it might be more fruitful to anaylse the effects and develop an eduaction strategy. Teach kids how to deal and appropriately react to internet stimuli.

>It's measurable. My God, an honest academic right in this thread is saying that even as an intellectual, a grown woman, so to speak, she is curled up sad on the couch having been thought ill of by her guild. Games and worlds have penetrated. They are affecting everything. We need to keep asking questions.

Let the measurement begin!

We must keep asking the question, when something this awful and big happens, when it happens again, when the shooter even makes am amateur movie of himself of the type people put on YouTube.

But we must DO more than passively asking the question, saying "oh isnt that bad...."

55.

Prokofy Neva>Seriously, it's not a "troll" but a very logical continuation of the essence of her post, which was:
>"Things I do online, simulated things, war games, virtualities, affect me deeply, so deeply that I even cry in real life and feel awful."

That's not what I saw as the essence of her post at all. What it seemed to me that she was saying was that when, as an anthropologist, you study a culture, then the more you learn about that culture the more that culture affects you, no matter how much you try to avoid it. I've read anthropology books in which similar things happen - the anthropologist is trying to look at a culture objectively and suddenly makes a faux pas which they feel dreadful about as soon as they've done it. They've stopped regarding the Camaroonian villagers as objects of study and started to regard them as the people they really are - the wall of detachment has come down. People who study games can have this same aura of detachment, but it doesn't apply to virtual worlds. In virtual worlds, you can't help but study the people if you stay for any length of time; those are real cultures, not artificial ones, and they're passed on and reappropriated by successive generations of real people.

You focused on the image being used to illustrate the point, not on the point itself.

>So when somebody really goes postal like the shooter in VT, you have to ask why, how, where.

Yes, but you don't have to ask it in what is essentially a discussion of the relationship between those who study and those whom they study.

>I've sat in living room after living room or school room all week with kids and parents and THEY ALL say "It must be the video games and violent television".

That's because those parents didn't play video games when they were younger, so they don't understand them. Give it 20 years and we won't be blaming video games any more than we blame the far more casually violent and emotionally manipulative soap operas that some people watch on TV every day when they should be playing wholesome video games.

>Why is everybody having this conversation in their church basement or with their neighbours in their living room or the corner coffee shop, but intellectuals won't have it on here?

Maybe we would have done if you hadn't hijacked this thread.

>I mean, seriously, do I REALLY have to connect up the dots on this one???

Connect them up and colour them in if you like, just not in this thread.

>As for WoW not being "FPS," hmm, well I'm just an ignoramus then.

FPS is a technical term used in the computer game industry. They have no persistence, they have no third-person view of the player character, and they have no character advancement.

>I guess I figure if most of the time your character, in the first person, is running down a path shooting at stuff, it's a "first-person shooter game,"

Feel free to modify the Wikipedia entry for first-person shooter if you feel that strongly about it.

>As for the anti-American thing, it's a longer discussion, and goes too off-topic here. So often you show so many tics and annoyances and surprises in these posts about basic things like religious feeling in America or public sculptures that apparently feel tacky or kitsch to you

The thing is, I point these things out about everywhere, not just the USA. My posts are far more critical of the UK than of the USA, mainly because I spend so much of my time at home. You only pick up on the USA ones, though. I'm only anti-American in the sense I'm anti-everything, and America is a part of everything.

>And in his life, you're saying he never played a war game? The chances of that are mighty slim.

I don't know what he did in his life. I do know that if we focus on computer games as the cause then we'll miss the underlying cause, and thereby not increase our chances of spotting someone else with his mental problems should they decide to do something similar.

Richard

56.

"The effect that games and virtual worlds are having on people is profound, and nobody seems to want to really look it in the eye and measure it with an open mind."

Until some EVIDENCE is revealed suggesting that the VT killer PLAYED A GAME, you're only indulging in fantasy.

"In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest hypothetical entities." -- Wikipedia, "Occam's Razor"

57.

Richard,

Your comments about anthropology are important and I don't dispute them.

Florence herself signalled that frame for this discussion with her opening graph:

"You know, I wouldn'€™t call myself one of those evil academics^TM who €˜studies€™ World of WarCraft (WoW). Far from it, I play WoW, and the anthropologist in me can't help but analyze what makes that play culture tick. And that would include a little more than a passing academic interest in WoW. So, maybe I am evil after all and I suppose that's why I typically play Horde."

But...her opening graph really is doing something different than what you're saying, ultimately. She can speak for herself about this, of course, but here's what I understood her to mean:

"By day, I'm an anthropologist who studies cultures. But I gotta tell you, I dispense with that role and that notion the minute I get at the controls of a war game. Hey, all bets are off there. I *play* WoW, dude, I don't even pretend to *study* it jeez. But of course while I'm totally playing and immersed, the anthropologist is still some small voice in me saying somewhere, but what makes this tick? but why is it this way? However, immersed and gripped and PLAYING as I am doing, I can only hope to

See, it's like this. If you were forced to study sex only by having it, well, you could never be objective, because so many things would either turn you on or turn you off, and you'd have a hard time explaining why, ever. Fortunately for sex experts, they can study others having it, pool their research to questionnaires, etc. and be more objective and thoughtful without having to be in the grips of "turn on/turn off" themselves.

But a game like WoW doesn't admit for that critical difference or that pontificating. You log on, you are IN the game. You're playing it! And WoW in particular is not the sort of place where you can idly wander and admire the daisies, it's kill or be killed!

So I understand Florence to be frankly making a comment about just how pointless it is to be studying games. At least she's admitting it. She admits that either you are an anthropologist. Or you play. If you play, only by the strongest of willpower can you muster up, in that heady moment of gameplay action, that still, small anthropologist's voice that says, "But why is it like this?"

And she can only later, outside the game, on her couch, crying about her ninja'd loot thing, even hope to put some perspective.

So when I as someone entirely outside of WoW looks at that, I say, wow, that's pretty frigging' amazing that it makes you do that! And you are incapable of really studying it, even, by your own admission! And, wow, how are we going to study it then?

Clearly it has this powerful affect on people, yet they don't wish to admit that it does. Why? Because those ludologists on here playing WoW have styled themselves as Arch and Meta and Above It All yet gotten street cred by becoming conversant. But they are still in the grip. And limited. At least Florence admits it!

Maybe we would have done if you hadn't hijacked this thread.

I didn't hijack the thread, I continued what was the obvious conversation: games have hugely powerful effects on people, so great that even a grown, professional woman will sit on a couch and cry over a faux pas -- and frankly, it's WAY different than the faux pas your archetypical anthropologist has committed. There, he has the goal of getting in, studyign the tribe, not blowing it, and getting out. If he does something to anger them and they don't let him keep studying, he's mad at the frustration of the goal.

But Florence IS in the tribe, Richard! She's in it! She's a player! She's not an anthropologist! She's a guild member in World of Warcraft absolutely in the grip of that tribes morals and necessities because she wants to STAY in the tribe and BE THE TRIBE!

Big difference! That's why I find so much of this ludology for the birds.

I'm only anti-American in the sense I'm anti-everything, and America is a part of everything.

Gosh, glad to hear your an equal-opportunity curmudgeon, Richard! I'll be sure to read your anti-Dutch and whatnot posts very carefully to see if I can subscribe to your theory.

As for your claim that America is part of everything, wow, I find that scary, even being American, and being critical of my country, but being phlegmatic about how it's "the worse except all the others" and not seeing any special reason not to notice the log in the other's eye.

I can't help thinking that a fundamental part of deep and sublte anti-Americanism is this strange belief that America is everywhere and therefore *of course* needs to be opposed. I dunno, Richard, I've traveled and lived in parts of the world where I didn't see any American for thousands of miles. And I mean, even in the desert if the Titanic song happened to be playing on some radio. Maybe you mean to say that human nature is everywhere?

thereby not increase our chances of spotting someone else with his mental problems should they decide to do something similar.

I don't purport to claim that we need to hunt for a game this guy played to prove he was influenced precisely by that game before we can pronounce on his motives.

It's like 9/11. What is the cause of 9/11? Um, America being too powerful? No. Extremists Islamicists with revenge fantasies? No. The ability to buy box-cutters in a store? Yes. The inability of checkers at Logan to spot box-cutters in the hands of people who physically might fall into the class of extremists? Yes. And so on. Yet to claim that America's actions in the world or extremism are irrelevant just because the box-cutters are for sale and the metal detector gal is asleep at the switch would be foolhardy, no? Are we ever to be deprived of looking at larger contexts and causes by the machine-like exactism of the fact that the box-cutter is for sale? I'm not crying, "Ban box-cutters, I say! Make it unlawful to sell those box-cutters!" nor am I saying "Those box-cutter lobbyists who insist that truckers have free access to box-cutters in every gas station and convenience store are perpetrating evil and making our country are evil!"

So what do you do about the box-cutters? You probably can't do much (you could do more about the metal detector watches tho).

But you can keep asking questions about everything else!

Already this shooter has been shown to a) spend long hours on the Internet b) use hotmail c) have an ebay account to buy the ammunition d) be aware of the power of network media and make a YouTube type movie of himself e) use the US mails to deliver stuff f) write violent English essays.

Even being pronounced by a court as insane wasn't enough, and that's why other posters' comments about how "it's just mental illness" are totally insufficient. You have to look at the totality of the culture and its response. Ok, reprimand me if this isn't the thread for it, but by god, it *became* the thread for it.

And ultimately, I have to ask about a) the disconnectedness of modern man who has a thousand identities in a hotmail and an ebay and a YouTube and is everywhere but nowhere b) the inability of people in meat-world to spot trouble among those multiple and diffuse identities that don't manifest their worst features offline anyway c) the dehumanization caused by the disconnected multiple identity which is often found playing shooter games and devaluing human life in the abstract.

58.

@Prok: "Well, I would hope that by saying "WoW" it's understood that it could be just as well any *other* FPS game, Richard. WoW is the biggest and best known

And WoW in particular is not the sort of place where you can idly wander and admire the daisies, it's kill or be killed!

As for WoW not being "FPS," hmm, well I'm just an ignoramus then."

At least you got the last one right. The rest just shows off your ability to pontificate on things you don't know anything about.

59.

Prok said:

But a game like WoW doesn't admit for that critical difference or that pontificating. You log on, you are IN the game. You're playing it! And WoW in particular is not the sort of place where you can idly wander and admire the daisies, it's kill or be killed!

So I understand Florence to be frankly making a comment about just how pointless it is to be studying games. At least she's admitting it. She admits that either you are an anthropologist. Or you play. If you play, only by the strongest of willpower can you muster up, in that heady moment of gameplay action, that still, small anthropologist's voice that says, "But why is it like this?"

I can't even begin to enumerate the number of errors of understanding of how anthropological (well, ethnographic) research works that are embedded here (here's a hint: the secret to understanding ethnographic research is not in how distinctive it is, but in how similar it is to every human's experience, all the time, in all respects). Luckily, I've promised myself not to try to respond at any length to Prok's fishing for contention. After all, after a certain point, the comments speak for themselves. I will say, as others have, that it's unfortunate to see Florence's thread get hijacked, and not even along one particular track; it's revealing that it's serial hijacking on successive topics, with Prok moving onto another presumed candidate for contention with reasoned response in hot pursuit. Andy made the best comment in the thread:

60.

Oops, Andy's comment that I didn't quite manage to paste:

@Prok r.e. women bloggers on this site: Yes. More would be nice. Don't frighten off the ones we have, please.
61.

Ninja looting seems kinda nice in comparison to TN hijacking.

62.

Profoky, I didn't realize disagreeing with you automatically qualified me as "Anti-American". Who is "facile" now?

Let's see:
USA Population 300M Deaths from Firearms last year: 30,000
Japan Population 125M Deaths from Firearms last year: 2
http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/a-cherished-right-to-bear-30000-coffins-a-year/2007/04/20/1176697087512.html

Profoky, If history is any guide soon people will forget this, nothing will change and it'll happen again. I'd love to be proved wrong.

63.

>anthropological (well, ethnographic)

Well, which is it? And who gets to decide what the frame is? I fail to see that any of the basic and obvious points I've made about the dangers of practing anthropology (well, ethnography?) in games are somehow trumped by the credentialed, Thomas. I'm never going to understand enough about ethnography as it is supposed to be practiced as you do. But I think as a consumer of it, I can ask questions about it. Any body of thought can be subjected to reasonable questioning by non-experts.

I mean, my God, it's self-evident: you lose your objectivity by having to become engulfed in the overwhelming subjectivity of a game. And this powerful force is having a powerful effect on our society.

Why don't you be grateful that this thread, which might have ended with the men punching their tickets and feeling like they heard out a weeping woman on a couch and then made a graceful exit then got a longer life with a few more things to think about. Florence herself talks about "passionate detachment". Is this a legitimate concept? What, are you all so frail that if you have a legitimate, robust *other* conversation you can't *have it* instead of whining about hijackers??

>Oops, Andy's comment that I didn't quite manage to paste:
> @Prok r.e. women bloggers on this site: Yes. More would be nice. Don't frighten off the ones we have, please.

Um, typical of the chauvinists of this blog, that you think women are so easily scared off, Thomas! En garde!

>Luckily, I've promised myself not to try to respond at any length to Prok's fishing for contention. After all, after a certain point, the comments speak for themselves.

Thomas, TN needs to change and adapt to the changing Web 2.0 realities, or whatever you want to call them. Reaching for trite phrases like "oh, don't feed the troll" to cover up this urgent need for deeper discussion and branching out is not persuasive.


64.

Provofy Neva>"By day, I'm an anthropologist who studies cultures. But I gotta tell you, I dispense with that role and that notion the minute I get at the controls of a war game. Hey, all bets are off there. I *play* WoW, dude, I don't even pretend to *study* it jeez.

What you're getting at here is something that was debated fiercely for some time in anthropology (Thomas and Florence can correct me if this summary is a little over-simplified - it's nearly 10 years since I last read an anthropology text book). The thing is, you can take as many notes as you want, but for a full understanding of a culture you have to experience it. The reason for not doing this: experiencing it can colour your judgment (people "go native"). The counter-argument: your judgment is coloured anyway by your own culture ("ethno-centrism"). In the end, the solution adopted was to do both: you do the time-allocation charting or whatever and the participant observation. This is where anthropology practice differs from sociology practice: sociologists mainly acquire and run the stats, they don't go live in a rural community for a year before saying how some government policy might affect its members.

>But a game like WoW doesn't admit for that critical difference or that pontificating. You log on, you are IN the game. You're playing it!

No, it does admit for it. When I play WoW, I'm actually playing at being a player playing WoW. I can't play WoW directly for long because I'm a designer, not a player, and the designer in me takes over. At the State of Play mini-conference late last year I warned academics who study virtual worlds that the same fate awaits them, too.

>And WoW in particular is not the sort of place where you can idly wander and admire the daisies, it's kill or be killed!

Try a non-PvP server.

>So I understand Florence to be frankly making a comment about just how pointless it is to be studying games.

Well, there we disagree. I guess it's for Florence to clarify.

>Because those ludologists on here playing WoW have styled themselves as Arch and Meta and Above It All yet gotten street cred by becoming conversant. But they are still in the grip. And limited. At least Florence admits it!

The cred I went for in playing WoW was credentials, not credibility. As a designer, I have to - indeed, can't help but - be Above It All. You have no idea of the pain I have to endure to play that game world. It's like having to read the same novel time after time after time. I do it, though, because then when I make pronouncements about virtual worlds, people can't accuse me of being out of touch and not understanding them and only talking about the textual worlds of 20 years ago. Now, no-one can say to me "come back and say that when you're level 70". Now, I can say "I have a mage and a pally at level 70 and the warlock made 64 yesterday, so stfu noob" and then go on to make the point I would have made anyway.

It really is possible to be "above it all", and some of us can't help being that way. We're not "in the grip" because we've deconstructed the grip and know it's not a grip at all - for us.

>But Florence IS in the tribe, Richard! She's in it! She's a player! She's not an anthropologist! She's a guild member in World of Warcraft absolutely in the grip of that tribes morals and necessities because she wants to STAY in the tribe and BE THE TRIBE!

Strictly speaking, she's not part of a tribe, she's part of a community. For a tribe, the members of the tribe decide whether you're a member or not - you have no say in it. For a community, you decide whether you're a member.

>Gosh, glad to hear your an equal-opportunity curmudgeon, Richard! I'll be sure to read your anti-Dutch and whatnot posts very carefully to see if I can subscribe to your theory.

Feel free. They're not actually anti-Dutch any more than what I wrote about the USA was anti-American, but if you feel the US posts are anti-American then you'd have to interpret the Dutch posts as anti-Dutch.

I design worlds. That means when I get to a world that's different to my own world, I comment on it. It means that when I find strange things with my own world, I comment on it. Some comments are positive, some are negative, and they may apply either to the world, its inhabitants or me.

>I can't help thinking that a fundamental part of deep and sublte anti-Americanism is this strange belief that America is everywhere

Get over your own ethno-centrism, Prok.

>Ok, reprimand me if this isn't the thread for it, but by god, it *became* the thread for it.

Nobody else seemed to think it was, just you. See, this is ultimately a forum for people concerned with the creation of virtual worlds and their place in the real world. Some issues are just too wide for it.

It's not that what you're saying is not worth hearing, it's just there are far better places to say it than here.

Richard

65.

@Richard. Right on. The issue of being "in the world but not of it" is something I have to really pound into my advertising students. Because being a consumer of advertising (which we all can't help but be) is *vastly* different than being a creator/practitioner in the business of advertising. It is, I first tell them, akin to the difference between being someone who knows how to eat, and someone who knows how to farm, hunt, kill, skin, prepare, cook and serve food.

Because everyone understands how to consume various media (to certain degrees), therefore most people feel qualified to critique them. And, guess what? They are qualified to do so: as consumers. As someone who eats food, you are 100% qualified to say, "I do not like this dish." Nobody can argue with you.

Same for advertising, I tell my students. If you haven't studied it as a science and art, you can certainly say, "I do not like this ad." But that doesn't make you qualified to decide if it is effective; i.e., a "good" ad. Same way your saying that you don't like a dish doesn't qualify you to judge it as nutritious, fattening, a good dish to serve as a palate cleanser, etc.

So... because I understand advertising as a creator, and at a level most consumers do/will not, I can be objective about what will generally make an ad effective, even if it is one that I do not find personally interesting or compelling. That does NOT mean that I am not passionate about both those criteria (i.e., the basics of my profession), and about my own personal tastes. It just means that I can differentiate between the two.

Take, for example, the recent "Axe Effect" ads for Axe Body Spray. I personally (as a consumer of media) find them tasteless and a bit offensive. But, guess what? I knew from the moment that I saw the first one... Oh, yeah... they were gonna kill. And they do. They absolutely rock their demo. They are very, very smart, dumb-ass ads.

Prok: Florence introduced this post with a description of *exactly* this kind of behavioral ability; passionate detachment. The ability to experience something powerfully, yet still observe it critically. That is necessary for someone who will be a good observer and reporter of phenomenon from within any group... but who wishes to maintain some level of credibility. For example, I imagine (correct me if I'm wrong, Florence), that, in time, Florence will transfer to other games and spend time there doing research. She must be able/ready to transfer her enthusiasm to those, too, without becoming a mindless cheerleader for each game she enters. That wouldn't make her a reporter/anthropologist; it would make her a serial fangrrl.

I see in the description she gives us an ability that many good writers seek; the external eyeball. A way to be "in the moment" while preserving those critical faculties that will record both the events, and the emotions, so that they can be understood by self and others (hopefully) upon reflection.

Is it possible for non-trained, regular folk to obtain this level of professional immersion + detachment? Sure. I've seen it in both writers and marketing folks. But it's very, very hard. And by the time they get there, they're essentially "amateur professionals." Mostly it takes the same level of commitment and study that professionals seek as part of their rigor.

66.

@Andy: Well said. I would only add that it's easy to forget that social actors are themselves always capable of critical reflection about the conditions under which they act, even if they aren't frequently prompted to do so; that is, they don't need some experience (like professional education, or the like) to be able to do it at all -- just want to be sure that point of nuance is made. This means that, in a sense, we're *all* social theorists, at least to a certain degree. For lots of reasons, training (and the cross-cultural encounter itself) can prompt you to be critical in this way more often, and training can equip you with tools to develop your insights perhaps further, but the essential point is that there is no qualitative difference between the ethnographer, for example, and the people he or she works with.

@Prok: To answer your question, anthropology is a discipline, ethnography is a research method and genre of writing from that method. In those senses, we're really talking about what ethnography entails here, in my opinion. Not all ethnographers are anthropologists, as it is a method that has been taken up by other fields, such as communication, from which Florence hails (so perhaps it would have been more accurate for her to use the word "ethnographer" where she used anthropologist in the above).

I'm never going to understand enough about ethnography as it is supposed to be practiced as you do. But I think as a consumer of it, I can ask questions about it. Any body of thought can be subjected to reasonable questioning by non-experts.

I mean, my God, it's self-evident: you lose your objectivity by having to become engulfed in the overwhelming subjectivity of a game. And this powerful force is having a powerful effect on our society.

Practically in the same breath you claim to be open-mindedly interested in learning about something you don't know much about, then take that back by asserting what you know to be "self-evident". If I had any reason to think we could have an actual discussion about it, I'd be happy to oblige. But, I don't; in my experience, you're interested in (a) finding points of contention for their own sake (which often involves misrepresenting others' claims), and (b) asserting views that admit of little or no transformation. Participating in such an almost entirely non-productive back-and-forth is not something I'm interested in.

67.

No-trade/Bind on Pickup is a self-evident design flaw. No need to mince words.

UPDATE Item SET Bind_On_Pickup = 0, Drop_Rate = Drop_Rate * 2 WHERE Bind_On_Pickup = 1.

Resolved - Fixed. No more tears. Like a mother kissing a baby's booboo.

If only, eh?

Did EQ have a No-Trade flag? UO? M59?

68.

Prokofy Neva>I can't help thinking that a fundamental part of deep and sublte anti-Americanism is this strange belief that America is everywhere

Re-reading this, I think I may have identified a misunderstanding. When I said "I'm only anti-American in the sense I'm anti-everything, and America is a part of everything", I didn't mean "America is part of everything", I meant "America is a subset of everything". I wasn't suggesting that America is everywhere; rather, I was suggesting that anything I have against America I have against in general, and its being American is immaterial.

Example: if someone asks me "do you like American marzipan", then the straight answer is "no". However, the answer is "no" because I don't like any marzipan, no matter where it comes from.

So when you said that those postings of mine were anti-American, I was attempting to say that they were anti-the-world-in-general, and as America is a subset of the-world-in-general then that's the only sense that they were anti-American.

Richard

69.

Hi everyone - it's my first post here...

@Prok:
Frankly, your willingness to talk at length about the emotional impact of something you're clearly ignorant of is astounding! Have you ever played WoW? I can see your point about objectivity in research, but I think there's a certain kind of understanding you can only get from actually doing something, rather than just talking about it or watching it. Likewise, I think it would be a bit cheeky to call yourself a sex expert if you'd never had sex.

That's why I think it's a bit irrelevant how many times you've heard "It must be the video games and violent television" from people who, for the most part, I imagine, don't play many games themselves, or haven't really given the issue much serious thought. Respecting the opinions of people on this board more than those of people who don't play games/aren't interested/like and respect Jack Thompson isn't 'shutting my mind like a steel trap', it's having an opinion, and respecting the views of those I think are better informed and more rational! The same as disagreeing with you doesn't mean that I've made my mind up and I'm never going to change it. I'll listen to what kids and parents in living rooms have to say, but I'd bear in mind that having had sex doesn't make you a sex expert!

In my opinion, Florence's experience sounds like it would put her in a much stronger position to answer the question of whether or not computer games can cause a massacre than someone who's never played them.

70.

I strongly second Dr Bartle's opinions on marazipan.

71.

Bind-on-pickup is a specific reaction to eBay and sites like it, where people would farm high level gear and sell it, usually for real-life cash. Meridian and UO didn't have it, but EQ did. As far as I know, they pioneered it.

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