For years I've argued that fantasy in virtual worlds is a special human joy and that everyone (courts, legislatures, players, devs, pundits) ought to do their best to prevent anything that breaks immersion. A chief culprit has been RMT, that practice of using dollars during games that some of us play in order to take refuge from the world of dollars.
This position of mine has gradually eroded and recently has taken some severe hits. The roof is cracking and the lights are dimming. It might be time to get out of here before it caves. Below the fold, the hits and what they mean for the future of living fantasy. There are also some implications for social theory.
Just a brief link & thought. One of the oldest uses of game simulations is strategic training. Tripp Robbins passed this Wired Article along, about how football players are learning new moves from playing Madden. Of course, to the extent we learn things by virtually doing, isn't this just a bit troubling as applied to Grand Theft Auto?
Given that they are the titular players, they don't get much attention, do they?
So, recently accepted for publication, and now cleared for posting on the Interwebs is our paper (no, sorry, not connected to the movie dotting this page) "Behind the Avatar: The Patterns, Practices and Functions of Role Playing in MMOs." You can find a pre-press copy here.
The paper combines the big trove of server-side data and quant analysis of our other EQII papers, with a full-on second step of participant observation and ethnographic interviewing. The result, we hope, is a pretty deep look into who role players are, why they play, and what makes them tick. The chocolate and peanut butter of combined qual-quant methods we think gives the paper good generalizability, but with depth to boot. As always, there were some obvious findings and some unexpected stuff, below the fold:
It used to be Cyberpsychology and Behavior, but now it's Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networks. The Editors say they welcome papers about Twitter, Facebook, games, and VR.
It's an interesting moment. You'll recall a decade ago when newspapers proclaimed that "Someday, computers will be everywhere! Your car, your fridge, your phone..." The funny thing about that kind of reporting is that there's never a followup article. "The day has arrived! Computers are now everywhere, you car, your fridge, your phone..." That's because once processors make their way into ordinary gear, the whole thing is ho-hum. Not news.
The same thing seems to be happening with virtual worlds. A virtual world could be defined as VR with other people, and since Facebook is a type of VR-lite, it is kind of a lite virtual world. The Editors of the refocused journal, and the comment-scape generally, are no longer piqued by the particular form in which virtual worlds first came to our attention: WoW and SL. Rather as media and the social have become blended everywhere, so the focus has become more general, on the idea of mediated sociality.
I sense also that there is less and less interest in the meme of gaming as a personality failure. The bugbear now seems to be (once again on the basis of some limited and methodologically questionable research) multi-tasking.
Now that games and virtual worlds are everywhere, they are increasingly unnoticed.