Two announcements –
2. My second book, Exodus to the Virtual World, is also being released today.
More on both below the fold.
1. Release of Arden I to the public.
In Arden I, we implemented the vast majority of content items
that we hoped to. If you run around in Ilminster (our opening
town) and talk to every NPC, you should encounter all of these things fairly
quickly: Shakespearean quest lines; historically
accurate tavern games; NPCs and resources drawn from Shakespeare;
Shakespeare Q&A games that give experience points; Shakespeare text objects
that grant power (text-as-treasure); Shakespeare texts accessed verbatim, in
summary, and in quest/plot form.
In short, lots of Shakespeare. It’s also rather boring, as I’ve
said before. We failed to design a gripping game experience. As several of our playtesters said, Where are the
monsters? -- a good question to ask of any serious-games initiative. We do have monsters, Shakespearean ones even, but they are out in the woods somewhere, not part of the main game experience.
No monsters is a big problem for our larger goal, which is to use virtual worlds to run experiments. No monsters means no fun, no fun means no people, and no people means no experiment. Back to the drawing board. We are taking our experience with Arden I and putting it into “Arden II: London's Burning," conceived entirely as a game. In Arden II, we are not trying to put Shakespeare in front of anyone, nor are we seeking historical or textual accuracy in any way. We are making a game; monsters everywhere. The Bard is there too, but this time, he is not getting in the way of the monsters. We expect a decent population in Arden II, and when we get it, we will run experiments. Results will be presented at the International Communications Association meetings in May 2008.
I am releasing Arden I to the public now for two reasons. First, there continues to be tremendous interest in the basic idea of building a virtual world at a university for the purpose of research and education. Arden I splashes lovingly cold water on the face of anyone who dreams about that. The research and education part is easy, as you can see here. You can also see that fun is not so easy. The second reason to release is to encourage other people to build on what we started. If you want to take a traditionally-conceived Shakespeare world and make it fun, please do. I think it would be cool to see where others would go with it.
2. Exodus to the Virtual World
In this one, I try to project the medium-term impact of virtual worlds on daily life in the real world, especially in regards to politics and policy. To make projections, I rely on the history of human migration: knowing in general what happens when people migrate, we can forecast what’s going to happen as people migrate to virtual worlds. To explain why many will migrate, I propose a psycho-physiological theory of fun. Then I argue that the people who design virtual worlds are actually doing public policy. As such, their innovations will bleed over into real-world policy-making. You get some odd outcomes when you suggest that real world governments will try to please citizens raised in virtual world policy environments: things like zero economic growth, huge estate taxes, and full-employment economies, all at once. Bottom line: big political change is coming.